The sad joke among head coaches in the National Football League is that the acronym “NFL” secretly stands for “not for long.” That’s just the cold reality of being a professional football coach. You’re only as good as your most recent performance, no matter how much you might have accomplished in the past and what you might have done for the franchise. That’s why the Monday after the concluding Week 17 of each NFL regular season is morbidly nicknamed “black Monday,” as somewhere near a quarter of the NFL’s head coaches are fired that day, if the team’s management feels their performance wasn’t to their liking that season.
Here’s a quick look ahead to coaches who are sitting squarely on the “hotseat” entering the 2017 NFL season, and could very well find themselves in the unemployment line early in 2018:
3. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts — Bill Parcells made famous the idea of “if they want you to cook dinner, they ought to let you buy the groceries,” when it comes to the notion of building a football team. The big news in Indianapolis this offseason was the team firing former General Manager Ryan Grigson, and replacing him with highly respected personnel man Chris Ballard, while concurrently deciding to still retain the services of head coach Chuck Pagano. Even with a budding superstar at the quarterback position in Andrew Luck, the Colts have failed to make the postseason for the last two seasons, in a division that could very well have been the worst in the NFL over the past two seasons. The rest of the AFC South made significant improvements during the 2017 offseason, meaning the Colts road to the playoffs became that much more difficult. If Pagano fails to lead Indianapolis to the postseason for the third year in a row, look for Ballard to dismiss Pagano at year’s end, and bring in a head coach whom he better trusts to make a meal out of the groceries Ballard gives him.
2. Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns — In all fairness, it’s a shame that Hue Jackson is on this list in the first place. It was only 16 months ago where Jackson accepted what might be the most difficult coaching job in professional sports: trying to turn the Cleveland Browns into a winning football team. He was tasked with overseeing a football team that’s been the laughingstock of the NFL since its reinception in 1999. He’s being forced to partner with a front office that’s experimenting with the idea of using baseball-style analytics and statistical analysis in the realm of football personnel acquisition, which has already led to rumors of dissension between them and the coaching staff. On the surface, everyone knew that bringing the Browns out of the cellar of the NFL would take multiple years. But after winning only one game in 2016, Jackson suddenly found himself under pressure to immediately — and drastically — improve the team’s performance on the football field, even though he still has one of the most impoverished rosters in the league at his disposal. It wouldn’t be the slightest bit of a surprise to see Browns owner Jimmy Haslam decide to install yet another head coach after the season is over, if he’s not pleased with what Jackson is able to coax out of his painfully young and inexperienced roster.
1. Todd Bowles, New York Jets — In truth, Bowles has not really gotten a fair shot at coaching a competitive team, given the shortsighted way General Manager Mike Maccagnan has assembled the rest of this roster, and the fact that the Jets still don’t have a viable answer at quarterback for the umpteenth year in a row. But the facts that the Jets went from 10 wins in 2015 to five wins in 2016, and that 2016 season for the Jets was basically characterized by the inmates running the asylum, simply doesn’t bode well for Bowles’ job security in Gotham. Jets owner Woody Johnson is notoriously fickle and impatient, and it was actually somewhat of a surprise that Bowles and Maccagnan were retained after the disastrous 2016 season. Johnson publicly stated that his benchmark for success in 2017 is for the team to show tangible and marked improvement from last year’s debacle, but given the fact that they have one of the least talented rosters in the entire league, it’s really hard to see Johnson wanting to stay the course with the current regime into 2018.