In the NFL, coaching remains the most fluid of situations. While players need to execute, NFL coaches remain solely responsible for scheme construction. As a result, the annual hot seat usually contains room for several coaches. FPC editors Smith, Rolfe, and Ray discuss which coach may need to upgrade the LinkedIn account.
I am going to go with Bill O’Brien. After some speculation that O’Brien was on the hot seat, the Texans gave him a four-year extension, likely due in part to the quick development of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson. Quarterback-coach relationships mean a lot in today’s NFL; see how Carson Wentz and Jared Goff flourished in 2017 as examples.
Here is the thing though: there is little in O’Brien’s past that suggests he is an expert in quarterback development. In Houston, he has had one guy start more than 12 games in a year, and that was Brock Osweiler in 2016. No one has stuck under his tutelage. Additionally, it was not any better for O’Brien before taking the Texans’ job. Sure, he worked directly with Tom Brady for a few seasons, but Brady was already in his 30s, a three-time champion and an MVP by that point. So really, O’Brien’s best work as a quarterback whisperer came in 2013 when he got the best season of Christian Hackenberg’s career out of him at Penn State.
Now, the Texans have hitched their wagon to the O’Brien-Watson marriage. To be fair, O’Brien has not exactly been a total failure as the Texans’ coach. He won two division titles in a row, winning nine games both times in a bad AFC South. He even won a playoff game with Osweiler at quarterback. Currently, O’Brien goes in with some extra expectations because of what Watson showed last season. The AFC as a whole is wide open, and any combination of teams could conceivably come out of the South.
It is the perfect opportunity for O’Brien to reward the Texans’ faith in him. He needs to show that he can reign in Watson’s occasionally turnover-prone style while also allowing him to show off his greatest strengths: athleticism and big-play ability. It will not be easy; Houston projects to have one of the worst lines in the league this year. Nevertheless, O’Brien also has some exciting toys to work with alongside his flashy young passer. For the first time as an NFL head coach, O’Brien gets to really show off what he can do.
It may seem crazy given what we have seen from him in Atlanta and then with Jimmy Garoppolo, but Kyle Shanahan still has plenty to prove in 2018. No matter what Shanahan did as an offensive coordinator with the Falcons, this is still his first gig as a head coach. 2018 marks the first time the team really has his fingerprints on it. He is now responsible for paying a decent amount to acquire the QB. Moreover, he inked their lead running back, top two wide receivers. Also, he was in the draft room when they bolstered the offense.
The 49ers entire plan centers on Garoppolo being able to run this offense. If he cannot, fingers will point quickly at Shanahan. 2018 may yet be a year too soon. Matt Ryan took a full year in the system before he fully embraced it. However, everyone wants to see major improvements from the 49ers. However, if they stumble again this season, Shanahan should worry. In a way, they are playing with house money. No one expects them to win the division, with the Rams throwing money about. However, with the Cardinals rebuilding and the Seahawks flailing, they need to show they can step up going forward.
The acquisition of Garoppolo and the contract he signed has probably guaranteed Shanahan a job through into the start of the 2019 season. Meanwhile, what happens in 2018 will go a long way to deciding how comfortable the 2019 offseason will appear.
Let’s go with the obvious choice and go with the man who has one win in two seasons, Hue Jackson. The team has been irrelevant for years and they continue to be under Jackson’s control. A combined record of 1-31 in two years. That one win was because of a last second missed field goal by the Chargers in 2016. They are the second team in this millennium to go 0-16 along with the 2008 Detroit Lions.
Many thought that Jackson would be handed the pink slip at the end of the season of 2017. The fact that Jackson regressed, with only having one win the year before is an embarrassment. Jackson needs to win games this year. Not just one, two, or three. In order to keep his job, he may have to get the Browns up to seven or eight wins.
The Browns were a busy club this offseason. They were one of the few teams who were making trades and acquiring free agents left and right. Tyrod Taylor and Jarvis Landry arrived to give an instant upgrade to their offense. They also selected Baker Mayfield #1 overall in the draft and continue to upgrade their secondary by selecting Denzel Ward to pair him with Demarious Randall, also a new addition. There should also be a running game with a mixture of Carlos Hyde and Nick Chubb.
The team gave Jackson many weapons, and being an offensive minded coach, the offense looks to show promise. They have nowhere to go but up. Entering the season as the coach on the hottest seat in the NFL, all eyes will be on Jackson and his team.