With Gary Kubiak being fired from Houston, the first ax has fallen in what will likely be a number of head coaching changes happening after the season. Granted, no other coach had higher expectations and failed as miserably to live up to them as Kubiak did this year, but there are quite a few coaches who have outlived their stay.
Here are the five coaches sitting on the hottest of seats:
5. Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans – The late Bud Adams had quite a seat to fill when he decided to let go of Jeff Fisher so he went with someone he was familiar with in Munchak. Munchak was a HOF player for the Oilers and the offensive line coach for a unit that helped make Chris Johnson CJ2K, so it seemed like a logical choice for him as the new coach.
Unfortunately, things have not worked out as well as he had hoped. The Titans took second place in the AFC South in Munchak’s first year with a 9-7 record, but dropped to 6-10 last year. Currently he has them sitting in second place with a 5-8 record, but the Titans are all but out of the playoff race. What really put Munchak’s coaching career in the coffin was the two losses to Indy in which Indy rallied from behind to win. If the suddenly resurgent Jaguars overtake the Titans in the AFC South, it’ll be the final nail in Munchak’s coffin.
4. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins – Shanahan was one of the great coaches of the 1990s, winning two Super Bowls (maybe three if it weren’t for the Jaguars) and having an unmatched eye for talent (think Terrell Davis and Rod Smith). He was just the sort of coach Washington needed after the failed Jim Zorn experiment.
While Shanahan showed last year he still has the eye for talent by picking Alfred Morris in the 6th round, his time in Washington has been generally a disaster. He is on his way to a third fourth-place finish in four years. This season has been mired by talks of dissension between him and Robert Griffin III, especially in the off-season regarding Griffin’s injury and rehab. It’s time for Washington to move on.
3. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings – Of all the coaches on this list, Frazier comes closest to the Kubiak-level of failed expectations. A playoff team a year ago, many expected Minnesota to challenge again behind the legs of Adrian Peterson. Apparently someone forgot to tell the Viking’s brass that this is a passing league now, and no matter how superhuman Peterson is he can’t do it by himself again.
The Vikings were aggressive in the draft this past year, including drafting the raw but explosive WR Cordarelle Patterson, but for most of the season he was a non-factor in the offense because Frazier simply wasn’t putting him on the field. Then there was the Freeman disaster in Week 7 against the Giants, where Frazier’s decision to start the newly-acquired QB just two weeks into his Vikings career essentially handed the Giants their first win of the season.
The biggest disappointment for Frazier, however, is how pitiful the defense has played. When Frazier was hired, it was because he led one of the stoutest defenses in the league. The Vikings defense are ranked 30th overall.
2. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Schiano was known for his well-disciplined teams at Rutgers, so he was seen as a Godsend for a Buccaneers team that lacked any discipline in their last year under Raheem Morris. Despite his disciplined manor, there have been few coaches more scrutinized over the past two seasons than Schiano.
The Josh Freeman fiasco was an inexcusable lack of professionalism from Schiano, and I felt he should have been fired back then. Even though the Bucs have won 4 of their past 5 games, it should not be enough for him to keep his job. The only good that came out of this season was the Tampa front office eventually had the opportunity to see that Mike Glennon could be the future face of the franchise.
1. Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Who else would top this list? Ryan has been on the hot seat for years following back-to-back AFC Championship appearances. His questionable decision making (like relying on Sanchez for so long) and lack of success since then make this a no-brainer.
Last year everyone expected Ryan to be fired after the Jets released GM Mike Tannenbaum, but new GM John Idzik decided to keep him around for another year. The old phrase ‘The more things change, the more things stay the same’ is a perfect definition for the Jets this year. Mark Sanchez was injured in preseason, so Ryan turned to rookie QB Geno Smith. As was the case with Sanchez on the field, Smith struggled mightily most of the time, but Ryan kept Smith on the field despite other promising options at QB. Geno eventually was benched in favor of Matt Simms, but the damage has been done. This should be the year Ryan finally gets his pink slip.
Every year it seems there is at least one surprise firing in the league. Last year Lovie Smith fell victim to the chopping block despite his team posting a 10-6 record. So here is a quick look at some possible surprise firings:
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – This one isn’t so much a firing as him leaving. Coughlin has an option in his contract to leave after this season. He has been one of the most successful coaches of his generation, winning two Lombardi Trophies but given the way the Giants have played, he may just opt to walk.
Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons – Smith is the Kubiak of the NFC right now. The Falcons were expected to make a Super Bowl push this year, but injuries have derailed any hope of that. Atlanta currently sits in last place in the NFC South. If it wasn’t for the fact injuries played a more prominent role in this year’s disappointment and the fact that Smith is the most successful coach in Falcon’s history, he probably would be joining Kubiak.
Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams – Fisher had a storied career with the Oilers and Titans and the Rams were hoping he would be able to bring some of that success with him when they hired him. Things have been tough for the Rams thus far with their oft-injured star QB as well as playing in the suddenly competitive NFC West. The Rams are still in a rebuilding stage but Fisher has set them up nicely for the future. The issue is the NFL is more concerned with what have you done lately, which in Fisher’s case is post back to back mediocre seasons.
Jason Garret, Dallas Cowboys – Garret seemingly always is on the hot seat except in the eyes of Jerry Jones. If the Cowboys falter in December again and miss the playoffs, this could finally be the season Jones fires him.