The NFL regular season ends Sunday, and so do the head coaching careers of several familiar faces patrolling on the sideline. Breitbart Sports carts out its job-o-meter to gauge who sets down his headset. What hot-seat head coaches can put the job-o-meter’s “1-Alarm Fired” brushfire out? Who is burnt toast in the job-o-meter’s “5-Alarm Fired” conflagration?
Detroit Lions, Jim Schwartz
The Detroit Lions boast superior talent but a mediocre record. That’s a recipe for a coaching change. Lions fans have to be disappointed to finish third in a very winnable NFC Central. The starting quarterbacks for all three of their division rivals fell to injury. Yet, the team failed to make the playoffs just as they’ve failed to do every year save one since 1999. Opportunity squandered. Schwartz’s players love him. Anybody else? The Lions coach can at least claim to have led his team to the playoffs during his stint, an accomplishment that eluded his five immediate predecessors, and, as Matt Millen’s disastrous yet strangely long GM tenure shows, the organization possesses a high tolerance for failure. Even still, expect to see Schwartz in line at the local unemployment office soon (When in Detroit, do as the Detroiters.). Do the Fords still have Wayne Fontes’ number?
Job-o-Meter Rating: 4-Alarm Fired
Washington Redskins, Mike Shanahan
The best thing Mike Shanahan has going for him to save his job, which he doesn’t seem too keen on saving, is his $7 million contract. If that’s the best thing he’s got going for him, he doesn’t have much going for him. Dan Snyder ate Deion Sanders’ money. He can eat Mike Shanahan’s, too. From his costly misuse of franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III to embarrassing leaks about the team’s meddlesome owner that the owner no doubt finds meddlesome, Shanahan has bought himself reserved seating on the Washington unwelcome wagon. His Washington winning percentage has essentially turned his winning percentage from his halcyon Denver days upside down. Sorry, but 24-39 doesn’t cut it. You can’t fire the owner, so, once again, it’s time for Dan Snyder to move on.
Job-o-Meter: 5-Alarm Fired
Minnesota Vikings, Leslie Frazier
Leslie Frazier made his case by finishing strong. The Vikings second-half 3-3-1 record, which contains notable victories over Chicago and Philadelphia, provides hope for the franchise as it exits the Metrodome. But ownership may want to a new coach to go along with the new stadium. Alas, the Vikings face a transitional phase of playing two seasons in TCF Bank Stadium before moving in to a more permanent home. Is this musical-chairs stadium situation, not to mention the Freeman-Ponder-Cassel quarterback carousel, one that a marquee coach desires to inherit? Frazier may hold on to the job he wants simply because few want that job, at least right now. But by finishing last in three of his four years at the helm, Frazier strongly suggests through his record of running aground that it may be time for the Vikings to abandon ship.
Job-o-Meter Rating: 4-Alarm Fired
Tennessee Titans, Mike Munchak
Mike Munchak coached a 6-9 caliber team to a 6-9 record. You want Jake Locker or Ryan Fitzpatrick behind your center? As long as there has been a Tennessee Titans, Mike Munchak has received a check from the Tennessee Titans. So, put your money on Munchak entering year thirty-three of employment with the Houston Oilers-Tennessee Titans next season. Just don’t put all your money on it.
Job-o-Meter Rating: 2-Alarm Fired
Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Greg Schiano
Two months ago, his dismissal seemed a fait accompli. By midseason Tampa Bay had not only sunk to 0-8, Schiano had engineered the starting quarterback’s exit, elicited an agnostic “I don’t know” from Darrelle Revis on whether the coach had lost the locker room, and endured “Fire Schiano” billboards reminiscent of “Throw McKay in the Bay” signs. Could Schiano have safely walked through Ybor City in October without disguise? But the resilient Schiano sports a winning record since the halfway point of the season. Is that enough for the Glazer brothers to reward him with a third year?
Job-o-Meter: 4-Alarm Fired
Oakland Raiders, Dennis Allen
Dennis Allen is on track for his second 4-12 season. That’s about par for Raiders coaches as of late. A 4-12 campaign justifies walking papers in most parts. But this is Oakland, and sadly, the NFL’s once winningest team has become a perennial loser. They are the West Coast Washington Redskins, a powerhouse-turned-powderpuff franchise. Lane Kiffin? Norv Turner? Tom Cable? It doesn’t really matter who coaches this team. If Oakland breaks up with Allen, surely an “It’s not you, it’s me” is in order.
Job-o-Meter: 3-Alarm Fired
New York Giants, Tom Coughlin
The Giants should talk about firing Tom Coughlin. The last time they did so, he responded well. “In everything from running hardhitting practices to dictating what players wear to demanding they show up early to meetings, Coughlin’s style is grating,” the New York Sun editorialized in calling for Marty Schottenheimer to replace Coughlin in 2007. “Just this week, Tiki Barber said Coughlin’s hard-driving ways are one reason he decided to retire while still in his prime. Barber was the Giants’ best player, and if Coughlin drove Barber away, he harmed the team more than he has helped it.” Two Lombardi Trophies later, Tom Coughlin’s still here. The New York Sun isn’t.
Job-o-Meter: 1-Alarm Fired
Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett
Jason Garrett “has a bright future with the Cowboys,” Jerry Jones said on 105.3 The Fan a few days ago. But after hearing almost weekly reiterations of the Cowboys owner/GM’s support, Garrett has to wonder just how stable his position really is. Coaches enjoying the complete trust of ownership generally don’t hear such repetitive professions of faith. When has Robert Kraft felt called to remind the public of the safety of Bill Belichick’s job? If Garrett doesn’t find this reasoning persuasive that he, like his team, should treat Sunday as a win-or-go-home game, he should think back to the circumstances of his hiring. A few weeks into the season in which he changed horses midstream, Jerry Jones emphatically declared, “I’m in the saddle with Wade and in the saddle with the staff and the team.” Sound familiar?
Job-o-Meter: 2-Alarm Fired
New York Jets, Rex Ryan
Rex Ryan is the Bill Clinton of coaches. Once Jets fans move past the personal scandals and charismatic personality, they may remember the substance of the Ryan era more fondly. Once upon a time, Rex Ryan led the Jets to consecutive AFC championship games. But then weirdness followed, followed by mediocrity. You can’t take your eyes off the Jets off the field; you can’t keep your eyes open with them on it. This team was built for Hard Knocks, not Sunday Night Football. Like Schiano and Frazier, Ryan has fought gamely for his job. And let’s face it: the Geno Smith-Jets are worse than their record. In a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league, and a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately city, it matters more that Ryan hasn’t had a winning season since 2010. A new GM deserves a new coach.
Job-o-Meter: 4-Alarm Fired
Houston Texans, Wade Phillips
With Super Bowl expectations coming into the season, and as few as two wins exiting it, the Texans rate firing two head coaches in one season–a canned coach for every victory. In fact, two coaching casualties aren’t enough bloodshed to satiate the understandably sanguinary fans in Houston. After the Texans fire the well-travelled Phillips, they should hire Rich Kotite, Mike Nolan, and Bobby Petrino just so they can cathartically fire them, too.
The good news for this year’s endangered coaches is that since so many of their brethren got terminated last year it’s unlikely that as many get fired this year if for no other reason that new coaches generally enjoy a grace period to rebuild franchises. The bad news that this year’s coaches could glean from last year’s departed pack is that of those lost their jobs in 2012 just one (Andy Reid) currently holds a head coaching position at any level of football.
So, Jim Schwartz, may the Schwartz be with you; Wade Phillips, you were no bum, and Rex Ryan, you were more than our buddy; and Leslie Frazier, Dennis Allen, and Greg Schiano: farewell, then, if this be the last we meet, we hardly knew ye.