The NFL is an unforgiving work place for head coaches these days. Gone are the times of patience, of trusting the process. Owners and general managers have a hair-trigger these days and it has resulted in six or seven vacancies cropping up every season. We already have one opening in New York thanks to Ben McAdoo’s utter failure of a season, but the question is who will be joining McAdoo on the unemployment line by the new year?
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Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders
2016 was a stellar year for the Raiders right up until Derek Carr broke his leg. They were in line to challenge the Patriots and Steelers atop the AFC and bring some postseason success to Oakland before they left.
That disappointment led to massive confidence and expectation coming into 2017 though. They coaxed hometown hero Marshawn Lynch out of retirement, they had the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and an MVP-candidate of a quarterback. What could go wrong?
As it turned out, everything could. The dominant offensive line came down to earth. Carr has been unwilling to hold the ball and drive it down field, the defense might as well not be on the field.
Kansas City’s collapse opened the door for the Raiders to make the playoffs despite their own poor year. They went to Arrowhead on Sunday tied at 6-6 and with a chance to put the Chiefs to bed for the year, and failed massively. They couldn’t muster any resistance to a Chiefs team that just a week ago seemed to be in meltdown. Kansas scored 26 points unanswered, racked up 408 yards, dominated time of possession and forced three turnovers. Rather than the Chiefs season being over it was the Raiders, and for that, Del Rio has to go.
Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos
Speaking of AFC West coaches that have to go… Vance Joseph’s Broncos may have picked up a 23-0 win over the Jets on Sunday, but that shouldn’t erase all the awfulness that has gone on this year.
While Joseph isn’t to blame for the poor choice of quarterbacks he had at the start of the season, Trevor Siemian has regressed under his stewardship and the defense has gone from world-beater to battered and bruised in 2017. The collapse of the Broncos has been egregious given the talent on the roster. From the trio of cornerbacks, to Von Miller and Derek Wolfe up front, to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders at wide out, there are a lot of teams doing more with less this season while the Broncos flounder at the foot of a very winnable division.
Dropping a coach after one year is a very, very rare thing but it is pretty clear that Joseph is in over his head in Denver and has only been a negative to the health of the organization.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
When was the last time you paid attention to what the Colts were doing? Week 4? The preseason? It’s a legitimate question because Indy may have been the least consequential team in the NFL this year. Not horrifically bad, not making interesting trades, not pulling off exciting upsets. They sit at 3-10 in the basement of the AFC South having done very, very little with their season.
Their -131 point differential is better than only Cleveland’s (and that is only just) and Chuck Pagano, who should have been fired last year, has been nothing but a lame duck barely steering the ship. The franchise has some huge decisions coming up, with Andrew Luck’s injury situation setting the path for them for potentially the next decade. If he plays or if he doesn’t, you need new blood in charge of the Colts. Someone who can actually coach up a defense to support him, someone who will ensure he isn’t absorbing 70 hits a year. The Colts have to make a change.
John Fox, Chicago Bears
Speaking of lame ducks, John Fox has been hobbling around and quacking for a while now. The hyper-conservative coach is only just starting to take the shackles off Mitchell Trubisky, but it’s too little too late. Years of poor coaching, inattention to detail, and an extreme lack of development from almost anyone on the roster necessitates a change.
Even if Fox was doing an ok job, the example the LA Rams have given of revitalizing a young quarterback by firing an old coach for a young offensive-minded guy is looming large over the NFL right now. The Bears would be very wise to follow that example and chase the likes of Josh McDaniels and Matt Nagy this offseason.
Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Koetter, however, is a counter-point to the Sean McVay example. He was brought in with the express aim of improving Jameis Winston’s play. Under Koetter’s tenure the Bucs have struggled to create any consistency running the ball and the defense has been left to fend for itself. That would be just about acceptable if Winston was on his way to an All-Pro season, but he isn’t. He is still making the same reckless errors he was as a rookie and is missing throws that he should be making.
Tampa were busy in the offseason adding pieces to help Winston put up incredible numbers but it just hasn’t materialized, and for that Koetter must go.
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