There are 32 head coaches in the NFL.
The NFL is a performance-based business. If a head coach performs well, they get to keep their job. If performance is lacking or the team isn’t progressing enough, there is always someone waiting in the wings for one of those coveted 32 head coaching positions.
Five head coaches (Jim Caldwell, Jack Del Rio, John Fox, Ben McAdoo, Chuck Pagano) were fired during or after the 2017 season. One coach (Mike Mularkey) mutually parted ways with the organization that employed him while another (Bruce Arians) decided to call it a career.
NFL head coaches are perhaps the most scrutinized among the four major North American sports. It is customary to hear about coaches on the proverbial hot seat each week in the NFL. There are only 16 games on the schedule, which doesn’t give a head coach many chances to show his fitness for the job.
A common misconception is that only head coaches who are in danger of having their services terminated are on the hot seat. Sometimes, coaches who don’t have to worry about job security as much as others can find their seats a little warm if the team underperforms or something else is going wrong.
Three weeks of the NFL season have passed, with a little more than three quarters of the season remaining. There are three undefeated teams, three winless teams, 11 teams with two wins, and 15 teams with a single win. It is still very early in the season but never too early to speculate which head coaches are sitting in seats with the temperature rising.
Here are the NFL head coaches whose seats are a little warm after three games:
Gruden was linked to virtually every NFL head coaching vacancy in the nine years he spent in the Monday Night Football broadcast booth. It took the Raiders (who he coached from 1998-2001) and a 10-year, $100 million contract to lure him back to the sideline. Thus far, the results on and off the field are problematc.
Oakland currently resides in the AFC West basement as one of the three winless teams. They started their games well enough, outscoring their opponents (Los Angeles Rams, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins) 35-17 in the first half only to get smoked 64-17 after halftime. This includes an absurd 37-3 in the fourth quarter.
There is definitely something amiss with the Silver and Black and it all traces back to Gruden.
He had a highly publicized beef with linebacker Khalil Mack. The 2016 NFL Defensive Player of the Year desired a new contract and held out of the entire preseason. There were also rumblings that Gruden didn’t get along with Mack and didn’t talk to him once after being named head coach.
The Raiders did the unthinkable and dealt Mack to the Chicago Bears (who subsequently made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history) for draft picks in 2019 and 2020.
Derek Carr, an NFL Most Valuable Player candidate in 2016, has completed 76.6 percent of his passes in the Raiders’ three games but has also thrown five interceptions. Gruden has publicly called out his quarterback, especially after the Dolphins loss, and there are rumors that the two don’t see eye-to-eye.
He has also ruffled feathers in the front office by selecting his own staff for talent evaluation. This has created a disconnect with the scouts who work under general manager Reggie McKenzie and have been with the team for years.
Gruden is a Super Bowl winning head coach and, arguably, the team’s biggest star. The Raiders are heavily invested in him, financially and otherwise. They will need Gruden’s marquee value when they relocate to Las Vegas in 2020, especially since the move will offend a portion of their historically ardent fan base.
In the interim, Gruden and the Raiders need to win. He is not a new head coach and the fans will not go easy on him if the losing continues. Gruden will be forever linked by the decision to deal away the team’s best defensive player. With every loss, trading Mack will seem more and more foolhardy.
Houston has been the victim of the injury bug in recent years. Defensive stalwart J.J. Watt only played eight games in the previous two seasons. Whitney Mercilus missed the final 11 games of 2017. Deshaun Watson, heralded as a savior at quarterback, was lost for the season seven games into his rookie campaign.
The Texans seemed poised to finally show the NFL what they can do entering the regular season. They just haven’t played like it…at least not for all four quarters. They lost their three games by a combined 15 points. As safety Tyrann Mathieu so eloquently put it, they are “really beating themselves”.
Houston has a tendency for slow starts. They’ve scored 19 points with 482 total net yards in the first half of their three games. In the second half, however, they scored 40 points with 707 total net yards. These slow starts resulted in losses to the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans, and New York Giants.
The Texans led the NFL in rushing over the first two weeks of the regular season despite the losses. The Giants loss was especially numbing because the Giants defense virtually eliminated the Texans ground attack.
Houston is already down two games in the loss column to Tennessee and Jacksonville. The Texans have too much talent at their disposal for an 0-3 start.
O’Brien is in his fifth season as Texans head coach with an overall record of 31-36 as of Week 3. Gary Kubiak was let go after a 2-11 start in 2013 and he was on the sideline for the two winningest seasons in franchise history. O’Brien should not think his job is safe especially after three letdown losses to start the season.
The Steelers have resembled a reality show more than the franchise that owns six Lombardi Trophies.
Running back Le’Veon Bell, after umpteen franchise tags, is holding out. Top receiver Antonio Brown is disgruntled and has made no secret of his disgust. Even Ben Roethlisberger grumbled at the notion of mentoring a quarterback (Mason Rudolph) selected in the 2018 NFL Draft.
The play on the field reflected the circus going on around the team.
They played their first game to a tie with the Cleveland Browns, a team coming off a winless season that Roethlisberger beat in 21 of his previous 23 games against them. In Week 2, they lost a shootout with the suddenly surging Kansas City Chiefs in spite of 452 yards from Roethlisberger. The ship was righted in Week 3, however, when they got their first win of the season against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Is Tomlin’s job in any jeopardy? Absolutely not. This is the franchise with a grand total of three head coaches in the last 50 years. Pittsburgh has made the postseason in four consecutive seasons. They have a future Hall of Fame quarterback and a roster that can advance deep in January.
At the same time, this season may be Tomlin’s toughest as Steelers head coach. He has to guide his team through off-the-field issues as well as put them in a position to compete for Lombardi No. 7.
The AFC North is surprisingly more competitive than anybody thought before the season started. The season opening tie with Cleveland could come back to bite them. They still have to worry about Belichick, Brady, et al in Foxborough, the aforementioned Chiefs, and the team that knocked them out of the playoffs in ’17 (Jacksonville).
Tomlin has job security but it doesn’t mean his seat isn’t a little warm.
– Curtis Rawls is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the NFL, the New York Giants, and the NBA. Please like and follow on Facebook, Twitter, and Twitter. Curtis can be followed on Twitter @CuRawls203.