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The Neutral Zone – Five NFL Head Coaches Who Need to Win in 2009

Wade Phillips“NFL Coaches on the Hot Seat.” It’s an article done by every football website, every single year. It’s talked about year-round on sports-talk radio and is quite the water-cooler conversation. The cliche line to use would be to say that 2009 won’t be any different. That idea, however, isn’t accurate at all. This 2009 season will be very, very different.

This season will be the year where a record number of coaches will be replaced. This will be the year where more winning coaches then ever find themselves on the unemployment line. Furthermore, this may even be the year that Philadelphia’s own Andy Reid finds himself in a different position at years-end. Why will all of this happen, you ask?

[adinserter block=”1″]The 2010 Free Agent coach’s class rivals that of the quarterback Draft of 1983. The NFL Draft of 1983 saw the likes of three quarterbacks named Elway, Marino, and Kelly all taken in the first round. You may have heard those names before. Their names are no longer found in the NFL each Sunday, but rather in the Halls of Canton, Ohio. Look at the Hall of Fame worthy coaches that may be looking for work in the offseason.

Mike Shanahan. Mike Holmgren. Tony Dungy. Bill Cowher. Bill Parcells.

Those guys are just the beginning of quality coaches that will be available. John Gruden, Herm Edwards, Jim Haslett, and Jim Fassell are just a few more names of people who will be available. It’s no guarantee that all of these guys will want to come back, but it’s safe to say that most of them will interview for a chance. When you’re one of the guys above, you pretty much don’t even have to interview. You essentially decide where you want to go. These guys make it that much more difficult for these current coaches on the hot seat.

1) Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys – Very rarely is a guy who goes 22-10 in two seasons as a coach thought of as a bad fit for a job. Phillips is very different than the guy he replaced, Bill Parcells. Parcells is a hard-nosed, demanding coach to play for. Phillips is a player coach. He is what is known as a yes-man. Did you notice how different Terrell Owens was under Parcells than he was under Phillips? TO got away with quite more under Phillips and it ultimately led to the dismantling of the team. This is the year that Phillip’s must go deep into the playoffs or else he’s gone. It was long thought that Offensive Coordinator Jason Garrett would be the replacement, but not anymore. Mike Shanahan seems to be the guy most often connected with this spot.

2) Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars – How exactly is Jack Del Rio still the Head Coach in Jacksonville? I don’t even know what he has really done to earn the right to stay 6 seasons there. His record over those 6 seasons is a mediocre 50-46. Del Rio was an awesome assistant coach who did a good job in turning Jacksonville around pretty quickly. All of those years of building up the team came crashing down faster than you can say “Byron Leftwich”. It should also be noted that the Jags changed GM’s this year. New GM Gene Smith was given the power to choose the 53-man roster which is normally the position of the coach. Del Rio is a dead man walking. In a division with Indianapolis, Houston, and Tennessee, it’s safe to say that Del Rio won’t be back next year after finishing in the cellar of the AFC South.

3) Dick Jauron, Buffalo Bills – Like Del Rio, Jauron has over-stayed his welcome. Jauron is 21-27 with the Bills and earned a contract extension after the hot start that the team had last year. Buffalo than fell off the face of the Earth in a division that was expected to be a toss-up once Tom Brady went down for the year. Team killer Terrell Owens has been added to the mix this season and the Bills seemingly have many weapons in place on both sides of the ball. Handing all of these tools to Jauron is the Bills way of thanking Jauron for over-achieving in recent years with teams that weren’t expected to do a thing. Unfortunately, it’s a double-edged sword. Jauron must now exceed expectations with these weapons or else he’ll be seeing his way to the golf course in 2010.

4) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals – I’m a big fan of Marvin Lewis, but Marvin should have gotten the boot a long time ago. In recent years, the Bengals have become the laughing stock of the league when player after player was hauled away in handcuffs. The Bengals finally seemed to turn a corner with Marvin at the helm a few years ago. Their offense was high-flying and one of the best units in the league. What is most perplexing, however, is how the defensive-minded genius of a head coach has never been able to have a dominating unit on defense to help the offense out a bit. I believe that Marvin has done enough to earn another head coaching spot in a better situation in the future. He’ll get that sooner rather than later if the Bengals have another dismal year.

5) Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans – Just a few years ago, Kubiak was seen as the next great head coach. He was a bright, young mind groomed by Mike Shanahan. Kubiak has taken Houston from a terrible team to a mediocre threat. There’s no doubt that the Texans have improved under Kubiak, but they’re not at the point where anyone envisioned under him. Kubiak has done a superb job with constructing the Texans roster, but they must find a way to overcome Indianapolis and Tennessee in the AFC South to keep Kubiak’s job.

So they are the five coaches who are on the hottest seat. Before I go, I mentioned earlier that this could be the year that finally becomes the end of the Andy Reid era in Philadelphia. There have been whispers during the past two seasons that the Eagles were simply not going to win that Super Bowl with Reid in charge. Many felt that the Eagles simply needed a new voice.

Now, I’m a big fan of Andy Reid. Aside from Bill Belichick, I don’t think there has been a better coach in football over the past decade. The numbers speak for themselves. Earlier this preseason, owner Jeffrey Lurie stated that the Eagles had the best roster in football. That seems a little far-fetched. It seems that it was simply Lurie’s way of letting Andy Reid know that it’s now or never.

[adinserter block=”1″]I ignored that notion completely until Michael Vick signed with the Eagles and he showed up at the introductory press conference with Tony Dungy at his side. When Reid goes, McNabb will follow. I don’t mean that as in Reid will take McNabb with him either. It’s just that the last ten years have become the Reid/McNabb era. If one goes down, the other follows. The only way Lurie shells out the type of money that he did for Vick is if he plans on keeping him around. I could be totally off-base, but it would not shock me if #7 is running the offence in 2010 with Tony Dungy, his mentor, as the head coach.

Brett is 26 years old and from Millville, NJ. He has is a life-log fan of the Philadelphia sports teams as well as the Boston red Sox and Cincinnati Bengals. Brett is also a big fan of professional wrestling and mixed martial arts. If you would like to comment on one of his stories, please e-mail him at

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