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NFL Hot Seat: Head Coaches Who Don’t Deserve the Axe

Sam Spiegelman believes that many coaches on the NFL hot seat should get another chance to lead their teams to victory.

Rex Ryan hot seat
Rex Ryan hot seat

Dec 8, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Jets coach Rex Ryan reacts during the game against the Oakland Raiders at MetLife Stadium. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Every year a host of head coaches find themselves on the “NFL hot seat,” waiting and wondering if on Black Monday their team’s general manager will decide they are no longer their choice to be on the sidelines.

In recent years and especially this one, it seems like more coaches are getting labeled as on the hot seat. And largely, it’s due to owners and front office personnel developing less patience for results.

Consistency is key for any coach. It takes time for a coach to insert the right personnel, to implement the right schemes and then allow team chemistry to build. That, of course, does not happen overnight.

A number of NFL coaches are reportedly on the hot seat this season, with Mike Shanahan, Dennis Allen, Jason Garrett, Rex Ryan, Leslie Frazier, Jim Schwartz and Greg Schiano leading the conversation. Also in the mix is Mike Munchak.

For some coaches, the hot seat designation is fitting. Shanahan has butchered his relationship with Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and quarterback Robert Griffin III, two cornerstones of the franchise who aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If there was ever going to be an odd man out, without question it’s the head coach. With an  owner like Snyder, only a coach on the same page as he is will do.

Garrett should also feel uncomfortable in Dallas. While the Cowboys still have a shot at the NFC East title and a playoff spot, it’s going to be an uphill climb without Tony Romo under center. And despite all the criticism Romo gets week in and week out, Jerry Jones signed him to a major long-term deal, so he’s not leaving town anytime in the near future. Garrett was once one of the most coveted assistants in the league, but as the head coach he’s never gotten talented Cowboys teams to play better than .500 or make the playoffs. Jones has been very patient with Garrett, to his credit, but eventually a line in the sand has to be drawn and the reality is Garrett can’t get it done with one of the better rosters in the NFL.

Both Shanahan and Garrett, in my opinion, have to be divorced from their organizations. But for the rest of the coaches facing the heat, there’s really no one verdict out just yet.

Schwartz is one of the most-discussed coaches, and for good reason. His Lions have suffered a second-half collapse this season, giving away the NFC North with an overtime loss to the lowly Giants on Sunday. Detroit had a clear path to the division title and a spot in the playoffs this season, but when the pressure was on, the team faltered, miserably. That blame should be placed on the coach.

But it’s hard to part ways with Schwartz, who resurrected the Lions from the laughing stock of the league to a perennial playoff contenders. There’s no doubt the Lions’ return to relevancy is due to Schwartz, but like Garrett and the Cowboys, the Lions have yet to overcome the hum. My thought is that Schwartz has done so much for the organization that he deserves another year, that his entire body of work should be considered rather than his recent pitfalls.

Ryan is in a similar position. While nobody or their grandmothers expected the Jets to win more than three games this season, Ryan had the Jets as a competitive team behind an elite defense and a rookie quarterback under center. There’s no question that the Jets players love to play for Ryan, so you have to wonder if you risk losing the locker room by making a switch. First-year general manager John Idzik didn’t hire Ryan, so he has no allegiance to him as the future coach. But what Ryan has done with a turnover-prone rookie and a talent-depleted offense is impressive, especially when you consider the joke the team was during the offseason.

Munchak is an interesting name on the chopping block. Early in the season, the Titans were among the league’s surprising teams, but an injury to Jake Locker derailed them a bit and they’ll finish the season below .500. Rumors earlier this season suggested the front office was considering cleaning house, meaning not only would Munchak leave but there was uncertainty surrounding Locker, Chris Johnson, and more. While the record doesn’t indicate it, I believe this team made a huge leap forward this season, and their play at times gave them the look of a team on the rise. Consistency, again, should be a consideration, as Munchak needs more time and some healthy weapons in order to keep moving forward.

I find it interesting that Frazier is on the hot seat, especially considering who is playing quarterback for the Vikings. Should a disappointing season be pinned on the coach or the fact that neither Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel, or Josh Freeman have stepped up to lead the offense? The Vikings have been competitive in a lot of their games and have surprised us all at times, but I don’t believe Frazier should be judged until he has a capable arm under center. Greg Jennings was a free-agent bust and Adrian Peterson, despite what he thinks, cannot shoulder an entire offense alone. Give Frazier some real players, then let’s see what he can do.

If you asked what team was the most disappointing through the first two months of the season, there’s no doubt the Tampa Bay Bucs would’ve been my first response. The front office dropped a pretty penny adding players in the offseason and making the big splash to acquire Darrelle Revis, but the team’s play on the field didn’t even come close to the amount of checks cashed for the players. In the second half of the year, Schiano’s team played well, and did so with Mike Glennon at quarterback and a host of no-names stepping up on both sides of the ball. The team began to win some games, against lesser opponents, but did show more signs of life than it did at the start of the year. I wouldn’t blame management for wanting to part ways with Schiano, but it’s hard to argue this team wasn’t better off with Glennon, not Freeman, at quarterback. And Glennon is Schiano’s guy, so maybe give them a full offseason to regroup.

The final hot seat belongs to Dennis Allen, the first-year coach of the Oakland Raiders. It’s honestly comical that Allen’s name finds its way to this list of veteran coaches whose teams have disappointed or refused to improve. Allen has had one offseason with the team, doesn’t have a true answer at the quarterback position and at times actually didn’t play half bad. Firing Allen would ascend Mark Davis to Al Davis status almost immediately, as making a change this early in his tenure is the definition of a knee-jerk reaction. Keep in mind the Raiders play in the AFC West, so six times per year they face Denver, San Diego, and Kansas City, three of the best teams in the conference. So, Mr. Davis, let’s not be rash about firing Allen in the same calendar year as you hired him.

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