Everybody can feel like a winner during the offseason. In fact, it can be extremely easy to fall in love with a team’s draft, free agent additions and other offseason moves regardless of their actual value. However, and as always, a handful of teams’ offseasons will eventually prove to be less than what was needed to have an impressive record in the ever-so-competitive NFL. When goals are never achieved and expectations fail to be reached, head coaches are often the first to be blamed. Whether or not the lack of success is truly their fault or not, somebody must land on the sword. Although this time of year allows for every team to feel positive about their chances to succeed, optimism can’t prevent these coaches’ seats from heating up.
Seat Level: Hot
Mike McCarthy – Dallas Cowboys
So how can Mike McCarthy be on the hot seat? The Cowboys went 12-5 last year and have the best quarterback in their division. That’s correct, but none of that stopped the rumors surrounding his job security following the playoff loss to Jimmy Garoppolo and the San Francisco 49ers in Dallas. That loss confirmed that much of Dallas’ success was due to dominating its weak division, but it also exposed some of McCarthy’s weaknesses. To start, the clock is not McCarthy’s friend. The former Super Bowl-winning coach has a long history of clock management issues and it’s hard to believe they will suddenly change this late in his career. Outside of the clock, there are three big factors that will influence the temperature of McCarthy’s seat.
First, the Cowboys’ offseason was anything but ideal. Notable losses include Amari Cooper, La’el Collins, Randy Gregory, and others. Can McCarthy have a better season than last year with a worse roster? Second, the division improved. Dallas’ NFC East foes the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders, and New York Giants all made serious plays in free agency and the draft that could make a division title for Dallas much more difficult. Lastly, how patient can Jerry Jones be? He’s been patient in the past, but can he afford to watch the Cowboys disappoint once again with an expensive franchise quarterback in his prime and a rapidly aging offensive line and running back? If there’s one thing McCarthy should worry about lacking this season, it’s time, and not the type on the scoreboard.
Matt Rhule – Carolina Panthers
Matt Rhule has posted a 10-23 record over his first two seasons as head coach of the Panthers and looks to be entering the season with Sam Darnold as his quarterback. If there was a recipe to be on the hot seat, it might sound something like that. While it would be a fantastic story for both Rhule and Darnold to have success this season, the mountain they’d have to climb seems too steep. A healthy Christian McCaffrey could potentially help Rhule’s offense improve this fall, but even the most optimistic fans must be concerned about his health and overall durability. Regardless of how it happens, some serious measure of improvement must happen for Rhule to feel comfortable about his job security both during and after this upcoming season.
Seat Level: Warm
Robert Saleh – New York Jets
The Jets went 4-13 in Robert Saleh’s first season as the head coach. The campaign was also the first season for quarterback Zach Wilson, who may be the most important piece in predicting Saleh’s job security despite being a defensive head coach. If the other quarterbacks from Wilson’s draft class like Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, Davis Mills, Trey Lance, and Justin Fields rapidly improve in year two, it could cause the Jets to feel pressure to transition to an offensive-centric head coach. Likewise, there’s nothing that could insure Saleh’s job security like a big season from Wilson. It will surely be tough with a brutal early schedule. New York will be unable to afford a slow start in what will be a very competitive AFC, placing early pressure on a young roster and coaching staff. Combine all of that with the lofty expectations of playing in New York City and you can see why Saleh’s seat could be a little warm heading into the fall.
Frank Reich – Indianapolis Colts
In four years as the head coach of the Colts, Frank Reich has found success despite the question marks at the quarterback position since the departure of Andrew Luck. Whether it’s been Jacoby Brissett, Philip Rivers, or Carson Wentz, Reich has led the Colts to a .569 winning percentage during his tenure. In other words, Reich has helped the Colts overcome a lot. However, stability at the quarterback position has finally made its way to Indianapolis once again, this time in the form of former MVP, Matt Ryan. In theory, the combination of Reich and Ryan should help lead the Colts into contention for the AFC South title, and the playoffs. While Reich has myself and others convinced that he is the real deal, Colts owner Jim Irsay has proven to make drastic moves when things don’t go as planned, just ask Carson Wentz. With a steady quarterback in town and a stout defense, now is the time for the Colts to take the next step. If they don’t, somebody will be blamed, possibly Reich.
Seat Level: Watchlist
-Dan Campbell – Detroit Lions
-Pete Carroll – Seattle Seahawks
-Dennis Allen – New Orleans Saints
-Lovie Smith – Houston Texans
-Arthur Smith – Atlanta Falcons