The NFL produces good teams only if it also produces bad teams. And most if not all of the bad teams want to become good teams. For the bad teams, the quickest path comes from firing the coach.
Every year, multiple coaches lose their jobs; it’s a harsh but basic reality of life in the NFL. Every coach knows when he signs his first contract that the chances of getting fired from the job far outweigh the chances of retiring in it.
As the 2018 season starts, here’s a look at the coaches who are in realistic danger of not being in their current jobs after the 2018 season ends. If not sooner. In no particular order.
Hue Jackson, Browns: Some would say that Jackson faces no real jeopardy at all, given that he has survived 1-15 and 0-16 seasons, and in light of persistent comments from owner Jimmy Haslam, who has fired plenty of people, that Jackson is the long-term answer. But new G.M. John Dorsey surely wants to hire his own coach, and another bad season could prompt ownership to let Dorsey do it. Some already think that Jackson will end up out during the season, with offensive coordinator Todd Haley taking Jackson’s place until a new coach is hired after the season.
Todd Bowles, Jets: Before the Jets traded quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Saints, there was a strong belief in league circles that Bowles wanted to play Bridgewater, and that the front office wanted to go with rookie Sam Darnold. Bowles’ goal, obviously, was and is to win as many games as possible so that he’d have a chance to stick around for 2019 and beyond. Now that it’s Darnold, Bowles’ seat gets inherently warmer — especially since several coaches have lost their jobs in recent years at the end of season with a would-be franchise quarterback who passed the eyeball test as a rookie, but didn’t win enough games to make the team a contender.
Jason Garrett, Cowboys: Owner/G.M. Jerry Jones completely, totally, unequivocally supports his coach, until the precise moment when Jones doesn’t. So let’s not put too much stock in anything Jones says about Garrett’s job security. If the Cowboys underachieve again this year, Jones easily could decide that enough is enough with Garrett, no matter what Jones says in the days and weeks preceding what would seem to be (and indeed may be) a sudden decision to make a change.
Vance Joseph, Broncos: Joseph seemed to be one and done in 2017, after several blowout losses and G.M. John Elway referring publicly to the team as “soft.” But Elway decided to give Joseph another chance, possibly because it was Elway who made a beeline for Joseph after Gary Kubiak retired.
Jay Gruden, Washington: The Fired Football Coaches Association currently lacks a president, what with Jon Gruden employed. His kid brother could be filling the vacancy if Washington can’t compete in an ultra-competitive NFC.
Mike McCarthy, Packers: It’s now eight years since the Packers last advanced to the Super Bowl, despite having one of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history. Although the Packers in the past have seemed content to be contenders, the changes to the coaching staff and at the top of the organization — including a new direct reporting obligation from McCarthy to CEO Mark Murphy — could make it even more important for the Packers to finally fulfill their potential again under McCarthy.
John Harbaugh, Ravens: Owner Steve Bisciotti admitted after the 2017 season that he considered making a coaching change. That doesn’t bode well for the coach, if this year ends up being a disappointment. I don’t think it will be; I’ve got the Ravens going to the Super Bowl. But if they don’t make it to the playoffs, the passing of the baton from Ozzie Newsome to Eric DeCosta could result in a new coach in Baltimore.
Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: If Mark Davis hadn’t lured Jon Gruden back to Oakland, he likely would have landed back in Tampa. Which means Koetter needs to do something to persuade a team that doesn’t hesitate to prematurely fire coaches to stay the course after 2018. Much of Koetter’s future will hinge on how Jameis Winston plays after his three-game suspension ends. If the Bucs decide to keep Winston in 2019, they’ll be more likely to keep Koetter, too.
Pete Carroll, Seahawks: A rash of overdue changes came the first time the Seahawks missed the playoffs since 2011. If those changes result in the Seahawks plummeting to third or fourth place in the division, owner Paul Allen may decide that the time has come to use the presence of franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to lure an offensive mastermind to Seattle.
Adam Gase, Dolphins: Many believe it’s up-or-out for Gase this year. But let’s not forget that he took the Dolphins to the playoffs in his first year, and that last year’s team went through a long list of adversities and challenges. Beyond his success in 2016, Gase has gone a long way to stabilizing an organization that was rife with dysfunction before his arrival. While this may indeed by the make-or-break year for quarterback Ryan Tannehill, Gase likely gets a chance to find another quarterback, if Tannehill and the Dolphins can’t get it done.
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: As long as Lewis has a contract with guaranteed money beyond the current season, he’s safe. Owner Mike Brown simply doesn’t like to pay people to not work, and his ongoing commitment to Lewis, via a two-year contract signed after the season, means that Lewis has two more years on the job, at a minimum.
There could be others. Chances are that, in an effort to create an exhaustive list, I’ve left out the first guy to go during the season. After the remaining 255 games of the season are played, it’s a given that multiple coaches will be heading for the exits, involuntarily.