Posted August 27, 2013

Job Insecurity: Rex Ryan, Jason Garrett among NFL coaches on the hot seat

AFC East, AFC South, AFC West, Carolina Panthers, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions, NFC East, Tennessee Titans
Rex Ryan and Jason Garrett in 2011, when prospects were brighter for both men. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Rex Ryan (left) and Jason Garrett in 2011, when prospects were brighter for both men. (Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

Change is an absolute in the NFL, and for teams in need of major change, the replacement of a head coach is often the first shot fired. While other coaches may be looking over their shoulders for various reasons in 2012, here are the gentlemen we think have the most to be worried about if their teams underperform in the new season.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets

There are times when the evaluation of Ryan’s NFL future reads more like a psych paper than like anything to do with football, but that’s what happens when you coach the Jets. There are those who believe that Ryan should have been fired right after his decision to play Mark Sanchez in the fourth quarter of his team’s 24-21 overtime win against the New York Giants last Saturday, or that his decision to play a guy due $8.5 million in guaranteed money behind a fourth-string offensive line will be used as justification when he eventually is canned. Sanchez’s appearance and subsequent injury are most likely the result of an impatience within the entire organization to prove that previous moves are not as franchise-killing as they seem, but if the Jets’ 2013 is the disaster most people assume it will be, it’s tough to imagine Ryan as the team’s head coach in 2014. And few would be surprised if he ends up gone before then.

However, let’s dial back on the notion that Ryan could be canned in the preseason — even owner Woody Johnson and new general manager John Idzik have to understand that replacing your head coach with such short notice is a damaging and needless move. No NFL head coach has been fired in the preseason since George Allen was sent packing by Los Angeles Rams owner Carroll Rosenbloom in 1978. Allen was a brilliant coach with a propensity for rubbing some people the wrong way. As the LA Times recalled in 1991, Allen “chewed out players for failing to properly clap chalkboard erasers and could be distracted from a blocking drill by the sight of crumpled paper cups strewn across the practice field.”

Ryan has no such clean-freak issues, but one could say that he needs a bit more organizational acumen. The Jets he inherited in 2009 reflected his personality perfectly — a skilled defense made even better by his presence, a tough running game and a rookie quarterback in Sanchez who took the “Just don’t screw it up, kid,” ethos to its logical conclusion. Now, with Sanchez overvalued and the roster negatively affected by a number of questionable decisions — not to mention an ownership situation that had several general managers bailing on the notion of replacing Mike Tannenbaum when he was fired in January — Ryan is left to redefine the franchise with a paradigm he does not understand. In the end, he’s a brilliant defensive coach who is out of his depth when taking on a higher calling, and there’s nothing wrong with that. The NFL would be a better place if Rex Ryan were calling the shots as a defensive coordinator again, and I’d bet Rex would be happier, too.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones opened the team’s 2013 training camp by insisting that Garrett is not coaching for his job in his third full season of doing just that. One is always on the hot seat to a point in JerryWorld, especially when Mr. Jones chooses head coaches more inclined to bend to the owner’s will.  After a number of strange late-game decisions in 2012, Garrett was stripped of his play-calling duties (to what degree is arguable), and now offensive coordinator Bill Callahan is calling the shots there.

Garrett has minimal say in personnel decisions; those are handled for the most part by Jones and his son, Stephen. How have those decisions played out? The Cowboys are 128 -128 since the end of the 1997 season, and Jones is the primary reason — he has cycled through five coaches since then, and only one (Bill Parcells) has been allowed to shop for the groceries. There were heavy rumors of a serious disconnect between the Joneses and the team’s scouting department when the Cowboys traded down and selected Wisconsin offensive lineman Travis Frederick in the first round, and that’s not an indictment of Frederick — just a realization that it appears to be more of the same for the Cowboys.

Were he a more compelling name, or if he had a history that popped off the page a bit more, Garrett might take the money and run, but he won’t — he’ll stay through the 2013 season, hope for the best, and most likely start looking at moving agencies if the ‘Boys repeat the 8-8 record they’ve posted in each of the last two years.

Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders

Put simply, the Raiders had nowhere to go but up when they hired Allen as their head coach after the 2011 season. A series of horrendous player contracts had GM Reggie McKenzie bailing out from a salary cap perspective from Day 1, and the depleted talent on the field insured that Allen would be working uphill. From that perspective, Oakland’s 4-12 record seemed to be a reasonable accomplishment. McKenzie has preached the gospel of rebuilding over time, and that involves the kind of reconstruction that will test the patience of most in a league where worst-to-first stories are fairly common. McKenzie has said all the right things about believing in Allen’s vision, but there may come a point when it isn’t his choice.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

Schwartz is a sabermetrics geek with a degree in economics from Georgetown, and when you talk to him, it’s pretty clear that you’re dealing with a very intelligent individual. This, of course, makes the way in which his team plays even more confusing. While Schwartz and general manager Martin Mayhew (who has a J.D. from Georgetown Law) have made some very smart personnel choices since Schwartz was hired in 2009, a lack of discipline on the field has caused the team to underperform in an overall sense. That has to do with more than the obvious late hits, and fringe players getting in Tom Brady’s face during preseason games. Schwartz inherited an 0-16 team and turned it into a playoff squad in three seasons, but last year’s 4-12 campaign speaks to a schism between talent and results that generally has people looking at the coach.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Rivera makes this list for one simple reason — he was almost swept out the door after the 2012 season, when the Panthers finished 7-9 and more was expected. Ex-general manager Marty Hurney didn’t even make it out of October before he was fired by owner Jerry Richardson, but Rivera got a reprieve. He’s always been a defensive coach, and the Panthers’ front seven looks very solid. But all eyes will be on quarterback Cam Newton in his third NFL season. Last year, Carolina got away from the run-first-to pass schemes that worked so well for Newton in his rookie campaign. New offensive coordinator Mike Shula may put Newton back on the good foot, but if that doesn’t happen, it’s easy to see new GM Dave Gettleman talking to Richardson about getting a head coach more attuned to what he wants.

Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans

Munchak has been with the Titans/Houston Oilers organization since 1982, when the now Hall of Fame offensive lineman was taken eighth overall in that draft out of Penn State. He was on the offensive staff from 1994 through 2010, when he was given the nod to replace Jeff Fisher, who had been the league’s longest-tenured head coach. Munchak will not be able to replicate Fisher’s 16-season reign in that position if the Titans don’t improve on last year’s 6-10 mark. Owner Bud Adams is capricious at best — Fisher’s departure was tied in part to Adams’ misguided insistence that Vince Young was his franchise quarterback — and Munchak’s fate is likely similarly tied to his ability to mine team-defining results from quarterback Jake Locker, who the Titans took in the first round of the 2011 draft. It would be a shame to see a guy get booted from a franchise he’s been with since Van Halen was relevant, but when you’re a head coach, things happen for all sorts of interesting reasons.

GALLERY: One and done NFL head coaches

33 comments
DennyCrane
DennyCrane

Of course Seattle will do well this year. They have the highest number of juicers on the defense. One thing Pete learned at USC is that if he wants to win he has to get his guys to break a few rules.

ClevelandRocks
ClevelandRocks

If loving Rex for the entertainment he provides is wrong then I don't want to be right.

SanteeJack
SanteeJack

I very much doubt Dennis Allen is in trouble. The Raiders were put in a horrible position by Al Davis as a result of cap limits, poor drafting, over paying for talent that did not exist, and so on. The Raiders had to suffer with the consequences. They really cannot start to rebound from this until the 2014 season.

PS: I hate the Raiders but I understand the position they are in.

gary41
gary41

As soon as I see an article with 'hot seat' in the title, I know it's not worth reading....

Dana2
Dana2

Garret-Top is dead meat by Christmas.

Fatboy Rex will be sniffin' toes on the unemployment line soon after.

Jon8
Jon8

Woody Johnson made a huge fumble when he did not fire Ryan at the end of last season!

Ryan is a Def Coordinator not a HC!

Ason
Ason

cowboys problems the same as the past 3 seasons...no O-line & no safeties. until we fix that it s gonna be the same story..

PWINGS
PWINGS

Aside from my comments on Garrett, here are my thoughts on Rex and Jim Schwartz:

1) Rex will be the "fall guy" when Woodie has no choice but to admit failure on the Sanchez experiment.

2) Schwartz is gone for the simple reason that his team has no discipline. They've drafted a number of immature, selfish players like Suh, Fairley, Lewis, Berry and Young (since cut) who can't play with any discipline or intelligence on the field because they can't conduct their personal lives with any maturity or intelligence. They may be talented but they're still losers and they'll cost Schwartz his job.

mike63
mike63

Come on anyone could write this. Now if ya really have balls name us their replacements. oh ya one more thing..... SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 2014 SUPER BOWL CHAMPS!!

ksb8886
ksb8886

I believe that one of these guy's maybe both of these guy's gets fired before the 10 week of the season.

Just to see how that works out I am sending myself a reminder. Also San Francisco 49'ers will win the SB this season. Just a couple of ways to pick up some EZ cash   Good Luck

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

You look at the teams Farrar talks about here and the common thread is they (with the possible exception of Tennessee) are screwed up organizations. Jets, Jaguars, Raiders and Cowboys have had the same difficulties for years. The Jets had two good years under Rex, but really, the  rest have done nothing at all recently. The teams that are consistently successful have a history of good organization.  Washington isn't on the list, but they've sucked for years,and only RGIII is saving them. (A good decision, finally, to go for broke after him).  As long as JJ runs Dallas they will be little threat to get past the first round, at best, of the playoffs. The Jets and Raiders are virtually dysfunctional. I don't see much changing.

UnitedRed
UnitedRed

Personally, I think Jason Garrett's job is safe barring a complete disaster season. I think there is also some evidence pointing to the fact that the personnel decisions aren't all "Jerry and Stephen" ever since JG has taken over the reins at Dallas. For example, we can look at the drafts. 

During Wade Phillip's tenure here, he took a grand total of 5 players in the draft that are still with this team. It's been 5 years since he first took players in the draft for the Dallas Cowboys, and in a time when those selections are supposed to be hitting their prime and starting for the Cowboys, only four of those are starting--Anthony Spencer, Doug Free, Sean Lee, and Dez Bryant.

Compare that to Bill Parcells' tenure here at Dallas, where names such as Jason WItten, Demarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Tony Romo, and Jason Hatcher are still starting 7-10 years later.

Currently, though, Jason Garrett's drafts have turned out quite a bit better. Tyron Smith, Bruce Carter, and Demarco Murray were all taken in his first draft here for the Cowboys. His next draft included Morris Claiborne, Tyrone Crawford (who unfortunately tore ligaments and will be out for the year), and Kyle Wilber.

Those are only the first two drafts. I don't think people realize how bad this Dallas team really was. In the 2008 and 2009 drafts combined (18 picks in all), only one player has come back to start for the Cowboys. It really is hard to manage a team when there hasn't been young talent in so many years. That's why I think that Jason Garrett will get at least two more years. Of course, if they go 8-8 again his job will be in real danger, but as long as he makes the playoffs, I think he's fine.

Theo
Theo

The fringe player getting in Uggboy's grill says more about Brady the crybaby 37 year old than it does the kid. Smarten up slurper. 

rma101560
rma101560

I personally like Jason Garrett but the problems here may be too big for him to overcome.  Between an owner with an ego on steroids and a quarterback who tanks on the big stage, I think that Garret is gone this year.

I still can't figure out why Rex Ryan still has a job.  He must have the goods on the owner.  Mark Sanchez and Ryan will both be history by the end of the season, if not much,much earlier.  Tebow may be out of football by the start of the season, but at least he didn't have to endure the circus that the Jets have become.  How many Super Bowls were you gonna win, Rex?

jason2
jason2

yup- rex sure has a foot out the door

geoAZ
geoAZ

If it weren't for the Rex "gaffe-a -thons" the J-E-T-S would be completely irrelevant !!

SanteeJack
SanteeJack

Surprised it didn't happen after last season.

CoryWells
CoryWells

@mike63 technically, the seahawks would be the 2013 world champs if you're talking about the jan 2014 super bowl in new york. just sayin. 

PWINGS
PWINGS

@Rickapolis I agree with you on all counts. RGIII will save the 'Skins for awhile until he gets hurt again running the pistol / option offense and then he'll be severely compromised by his immobility. But you're right, Rick, bad organizations always find a way to spend too much, get too little value in return and listen to no one with a differing opinion.

CoryWells
CoryWells

@UnitedRed your last sentence is basically what farrar wrote, or anyone could've written. i think it's pretty obvious to the entire world that garrett's gone with another horrible season. i just don't buy the fact that garrett has any influence with the drafts. he has done absolutely nothing to merit such a role in the organization. how can someone that can't even call plays have any kind of authority in the personnel department? as you can tell, i don't like garrett and wish he was fired years ago.

Dustin3
Dustin3

@UnitedRed This writer appears to be re-hashing the same perceptions about J. Jones and the Cowboys based mainly on his own opinions. The truth is, when the HC has had strong views on personnel, Jones doesn't ignore the HC. Under Parcells and JG, Dallas has had some good drafts. When he had a HC who didn't want to be too involved in drafts like Wade Phillips, JJ is left on his own and we saw what happens in that case. Of course Jones will always have the final word and is in charge, but to portray Garrett as a puppet isn't fair or accurate.

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@Theo Uh, ted, Tom Brady did not force the kid to get in his face.  He also did not whine about it.  The Lion player admitted it was wrong.  The Lions coaches said it was wrong.  Stating facts does not mean that the writer is a Brady acolyte.  It simply means that he is stating who was right and who was wrong.  Something that you don't seem to get.

rma101560
rma101560

@geoAZ : they are completely irrelevant in the overall scheme of the NFL.

UnitedRed
UnitedRed

@CoryWells @UnitedRed 

You said it yourself. He's gone with another "horrible" season. However, I don't think he's really, "on the hot seat", as in, if this team starts out 1-4 he's going to get fired midway through the season. I'd wager he gets at least another season beyond this one.

I don't really get the sentence you put near the end of your statement.

"How can someone that can't even call plays have any kind of authority in the personnel department?"

Last I checked, Bill Belichick doesn't call his plays (Josh McDaniels does), yet he is regarded as one of the finest talent evaluators around.  Jimmy Johnson, during his short tenure in Dallas, didn't call plays (Norv Turner did), yet he was responsible for turning around the franchise from 1989-1993 through talent acquisition. 

I am willing, however, to admit that I completely butchered my last sentence. I meant to write a sentence that conveys this message:

"As long as Jason Garrett's team doesn't bomb, i.e. 6-10, 4-12, his job will be safe. Making the playoffs would be nice, but it's not a requirement for his job security."

Apologies.

PWINGS
PWINGS

@Dustin3 @UnitedRed I agree with you that "when the HC has had strong views on personnel, Jones doesn't ignore the HC." You're right. He doesn't ignore him. He punishes him! You make it seem like Jerra only gets involved by default as in the case of Wade Phillips. Jerra is ALWAYS involved and the HC is seldom heard. As for Jason Garrett's future with the 'Boys, I can best describe it as being like the punchline in an old Chris Rock routine in which he says that "a man is only as faithful as his options". If Jerra has big-name options such as Cowher or Gruden interested after the season, Garrett is gone. Garrett only comes back if no one else wants the job. For that matter, if Jerra had options, Garrett would already be gone!

eddie767
eddie767

@Dustin3 I think your point about JJ are valid. He wants a strong HC,but he isn't JJ goes insane with his picks. I'm a Skins fan and i want all the Cowboy HC's to be weak,it makes for compelling games/quotes from JJ. HTTR ALL DAY!!!!

Mark112
Mark112

@JoeCabot  

It's unfortunate, but what you're saying is accurate.