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NFL 2015 Musings: Head Coaches on the Hot Seat

Forget about who won and lost this past weekend in the NFL. The hottest news this week may be the coaches who are taking a beating for those teams that haven’t fared so well as the league heads into Week 4 already.

While New England spanked Jacksonville, and now has a week off to prepare for Dallas, after the Cowboys lost a lead to the Atlanta Falcons, the Patriots are the team to beat in the NFL. All other teams are trying to keep up. Some are just trying to get out of reverse. It’s a bad thing to think that in the first month of the NFL season, as many as seven (possibly eight) NFL coaches could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs at the end of the year. And some may not last the entire season, given the way things are going.

If you consider the fact Miami, Indianapolis and Washington are about as sure a bet as any team to make a coaching change – with all three potentially not waiting until the end of the year, 2015 could be remembered as the most tumultuous season on record. And it may get worse after the playoffs are over.

Here is a look at team and coaches who are already feeling the burn from the seat they sit in.

It’s hard to believe, but the NFL is already about to reach the corner post and with four games about to be under the belts of teams, there is a pretty good barometer of how franchises are faring.

For some, the nightmare continues.

It’s hard to believe teams like Baltimore, Philadelphia, Seattle and Indianapolis are amongst the question marks in the league while Atlanta is the surprise franchise to watch. I know this is the half-full approach to the NFL season, you can only sit back and watch it all unfold – hoping the teams expected to be there in the post season turn it around.

This is the NFL, so as expected, Cleveland, Miami, Washington and Jacksonville are all searching for answers, hoping to find them in the next few weeks before these teams take on even more water than they seem to be treading right now.

And coaches are already feeling the heat. Here are a handful of coaches who are already on the hot seat with less than a month in the NFL regular season.

JOE PHILBIN, MIAMI – The team looks inept and for reasons that I do not understand, Philbin was brought back this season after the franchise lost its last two games last season.

Philbin has been at the center of controversy for the past two-plus seasons. The offense could be very good and the defense is supposed to be better.

There hasn’t been the results this team should be producing. Stephen Ross, team owner for the Dolphins, will probably let Philbin coach out the season and gauge progress, if any, but there should be a change at the top of the coaching staff for 2016.

JAY GRUDEN, WASHINGTON – This marriage was almost over once the two sides said, “I do.” Think of it this way. Team owner Daniel Snyder brought Jay Gruden in to clean up the soap opera mess Mike Shanahan created with management. Gruden inherited a quarterback in Robert Griffin, III – who he does not like. Snyder is enamored with RG III and continues to dangle him in front of Gruden, who has since moved on to Kirk Cousins, who isn’t much better.

Just so you know, Colt McCoy is the red-headed stepchild in all of this and could soon be involved in the drama, that wasn’t supposed to be present once Shanahan left the organization.

In the end, both Gruden and RG III will more than like be jettisoned and the new coach will get a new quarterback to deal with the pushy owner and the soap opera all over again.

CHUCK PAGANO, INDIANAPOLIS – Even Pagano has acknowledged he probably will not be back as the head coach of the Colts next season. Let’s hope he can make it through 2015.

This is not the most thrilling team on paper, but when you have offensive weapons and Andrew Luck behind center, there is a chance you are going to win more times than not. But this season, the Colts look oh so average.

The Colts won their first game of 2015 against the Titans, a game Tennessee gave away. Just think what would have happened had the team lost? Now, it would appear Pagano is a lame duck and his relationship with Ryan Grigson, the team’s general manager, is as uneasy as the current state of the AFC South. Something will happen. It won’t be until after 2015, but Pagano is as good as gone.

SEAN PAYTON, NEW ORLEANS – I hate to say it, but last season we all began to see a crack in the Saints armor. I thought there might be some underlying tones after Payton voiced his displeasure about the team by calling players into his office during the season.

The cracks are getting bigger in the Big Easy.

This is a team that has been the darlings of the NFL for the past seven seasons. Most franchises would kill for seven winning seasons. There had to be some point where the crystal ball broke. It looks like that might be happening.

Whether it might be age and wear on Drew Brees, a defense that is suspect (bye, bye Rob Ryan) and poor drafting (Zach Strief instead of Danny Shelton) the problems get bigger and bigger for Mickey Loomis and the New Orleans Saints. Add to it a nasty battle amongst the Benson family over ownership and this is a balloon that could pop and ooze all over the state of Louisiana.

Payton (and Ryan) may fall on the sword for the organization.

GUS BRADLEY, JACKSONVILLE – Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots may have proven a point I did not want to acknowledge as a Jaguars fan.

Sometimes the best coordinators are not the best head coaches.

Jacksonville has one win this season – against Miami. They also got waxed against the Patriots. I still think Bradley is the right man for the job, but it will take longer than expected and frankly, team owner Shad Khan and the fan base cannot wait for time to stand still.

There is so much to like about his coaching style, but the reality is Atlanta Falcons head coach Dan Quinn replaced Bradley in Seattle as defensive coordinator and is doing a better job this season. Jack Del Rio, the coach Bradley indirectly replaced in Jacksonville, is doing a better job in Oakland.

Peripheral things mean more than you think in the NFL. Khan, the media and everyone knows this.

Bradley was the only coach ever to get a third season with only seven wins in two seasons as a head coach. If Jacksonville cannot turn it around, I doubt he gets another kind of look next season.

JIM TOMSULA, SAN FRANCISCO – When the 49ers hired Tomsula, I honestly did not know who he was and why the organization made the move other than to make sure Trent Baalke was in control as general manager. After continually butting heads with then coach Jim Harbaugh, you can understand why.

Tomsula is in a no-win situation unless the 49ers make the playoffs. Too many retired players, questionable play at quarterback and just a lot of mediocrity is not a good thing to be surrounded with in your first head coaching job in the NFL.

This was a 49ers team that until last season was a playoff and Super Bowl contender. Now, this is a team that will be lucky to contend for a .500 record and not the first pick in the 2016 Draft.

The York Family may want to rethink its decision next year and find a big-name coach to get things rolling again on the west coast.

MIKE PETTINE, CLEVELAND – Two losses by Josh McCown, one win by Johnny Manziel. How in the world do you explain that by the Cleveland Browns?

Pettine took a team last season to a 7-9 record. An amazing accomplishment for a perennial losing franchise. Now, he needs to show he can take another step forward, which is really unlikely. What in the name of Sam Rutigliano is going on in Cleveland? Honestly, it is the same stuff going on since the early to mid-1980s and does not look to be getting any better.

Cleveland’s saving grace right now is the division looks weak and the team could benefit from it. But quarterback play must better and the need for a tougher defense is obvious.

If Cleveland falls back to double-digit losses, as it usually does, will it means management makes a change at the top again?

TOM COUGHLIN, NEW YORK GIANTS – Let me say I have the utmost respect for Coughlin as a man and a coach. But at some point, he will leave the New York Giants. It may come from management, but I really see him walking away on his own. That said, the past few seasons have been dreadful and his roster has not helped to make it better.

The Giants got their first win of the year on Thursday night, but there are still huge questions on defense and the erratic play of Eli Manning. It also does not help the New York Jets look to be a better team under a rookie head coach in Todd Bowles.

The NFC East might be the NFL’s least when it comes to competent teams to play, but a losing season by Coughlin again will not make the masses in New York happy. He could be forced out or asked to exit on his own. Two Super Bowls and a cloud of dust. He deserves better.

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