All 32 NFL head coaches are in the midst of training camp. They are, they hope, preparing for a long and successful season. They dream of hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, and making their jobs secure for as long as they want them. Things will only play out that way for one guy, though. And on the other hand there are several guys who are going to be out of a job by the end of the year - or sooner.
Having a coach who is on unstable ground, and who could get fired on any time, can act like an anchor on a team. They don't have to respect a guy who they don't think will be around anymore, and that has a big impact on how the team performs and how effectively they play and cover spreads.
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As we enter the season there are eight guys - fully a quarter of the league's boss men - who are on hot seats in my eyes. Here's a look at each:
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati: It was a miracle - and a horrible decision - that Lewis wasn't fired at the end of last season. It seemed like a foregone conclusion after yet another early playoff exit and yet another round of ridiculous behavior from his players. He survived, but sooner or later patience has to wear thin - or thinner than it already has - in Cincinnati. Lewis has been in town a long time, and after a while it gets harder to be heard. This could easily be the last year in the Lewis era - though I have been saying that for several years now.
Jason Garrett, Dallas: Garrett's another guy who has enjoyed a lot more loyalty from an owner than he has earned on the field when it matters. Tony Romo being made of glass hasn't helped Garrett, but still he enters every year with some reasonably high hopes and ends it with nothing. The NFC East isn't exactly a powerhouse this year, so it should be winnable. If it comes up as a weak league and Garrett still can't win it then it could quickly become time for a change.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit: This is Caldwell's third year in Detroit. He went from 11-5 to 7-9, and he isn't exactly entering the season with the most inspiring squad he has had. The best receiver in football has retired, and they have taken a lot of gambles in roster construction. At this point I would be downright surprised if Caldwell got a fourth year.
Rex Ryan, Buffalo: Ryan's a goof, and his big talk only earned him eight wins last year. He responded by hiring his brother Rob, perhaps the most overrated defensive coordinator in football, for his staff. Bad choice, and not a great situation. Buffalo has good ownership that would like to be patient, but Ryan may not make that possible.
Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles: The team is spending an impossible amount of money on a new stadium. They have to establish in a new market. They have a first overall draft pick to break in and plenty of talent on defense. In four years in St. Louis the guy has yet to win more than seven games. If he falls short of success again then I don't see how he can stick around.
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville: The Jaguars have very high hopes this year, and many - including me - are thinking of them as a potential division winner. They have always found ways to disappoint when they have shown promise, though, so success is far from guaranteed. Bradley has averaged four wins per year in his first three years. If it looks like he is heading towards another season like that then he just can't stick around any longer.
Sean Payton, New Orleans: Everything was going right in New Orleans for so long - they had everything but a title. They have won just seven games each of the last two years, though, and will be lucky to reach that level. He flirted with leaving this year, so he damaged the organization's loyalty to him. Drew Brees is closer to the end than the beginning, so the team could view it as a good time to make a sweeping change and reinvent.
Mike McCoy, San Diego: Three years. No traction at all - nine very non-threatening wins each of the first two years and just four wins last year. I was very high on him when he took this job, but by the end of last year I was ready to fire him - and perhaps they would have if their future had been clearer. The Chargers are going to be forgettable again, and McCoy will quickly be forgotten once he's fired.
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