After Black Monday: What happened to the early-season “hot seat” coaches?



A look back at which coaches the bookmakers had as favorites to get fired entering the 2018 season and how that turned out.

Six teams replaced their head coach last year, down from the seven head coaches fired each year from 2014-2016. This year, eight head coaches (a full quarter of all head coaches in the league) have been relieved of their duties or gave them up, and more coaching changes could be in store.

But how do those moves compare to the early season “hot seat” candidates?

Two games into the season, on September 19, the BetOnline sports book released the odds on which of the 32 NFL head coaches would be fired first.

That dubious distinction ended up going to Hue Jackson, whom the Browns dumped after Week 8 and a 2-5-1 record. The Browns are 5-3 since.

But at the time the odds were published, Buffalo’ Sean McDermott was listed as the most likely head coach to be fired first, likely due to the reactionary nature of the NFL and his team’s 0-2 start. A mere three weeks later, the Cowboys had just lost to Houston in overtime, Jason Garrett felt the full wrath of the NFL’s reactionary nature and became the betting favorite to be the first coach fired. Garrett went on to win his division, McDermott didn’t, but neither was he fired (so far).

So how did the rest of those early season odds turn out this year? Here’s an overview of what happened to each head coach since the early odds were released.

Rank Coach Team Odds Comment
1 Sean McDermott Buffalo 4/1 Just one season removed from an improbable wildcard berth (yes, the Bills were in the playoffs in 2017!) he gets one more chance – but no quality QB.
2 Hue Jackson Cleveland 5/1 The Browns were 2-5-1 with Jackson and went 5-3 the rest of the way. That’s all we really need to know.
3 Bill O’Brien Houston 10/1 Signed to a four-year contract extension in January last year, O’Brien looks to be the long-term guy for Houston. Three playoff appearances in last four years.
3 Matt Patricia* Detroit 10/1 Patricia’s first season as head coach in Detroit went so poorly, some were wondering if he’d even get a second one.
3 Jay Gruden Washington 10/1 Gruden was the first, and only, coach to get a contract extension under owner Daniel Snyder, so there’s that. But the Redskins also suddenly have a hard time selling tickets, and Snyder doesn’t like that. At all.
3 Steve Wilks* Arizona 10/1 Wilks became the first one-and-done coach since Chip Kelly was fired by the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.
3 Dirk Koetter Tampa Bay 10/1 The Bucs haven’t made the playoffs for the 11th straight season, and two consecutive 5-11 seasons signaled the end for Koetter.
3 Vance Joseph Denver 10/1 John Elway will now be on his fourth head coach in eight years, but still has no clue how to find a QB – maybe the GM is the issue in Denver, not the coach.
9 Todd Bowles NY Jets 12/1 Bowles has been hamstrung by an atrocious roster during most of his tenure with the Jets, and you can make an argument he actually got his team to exceed expectations.
10 Mike Tomlin Pittsburgh 16/1 The feeling is growing in Pittsburgh that Tomlin hasn’t gotten enough out of a talented roster. It may soon be time for a new face as the roster is heading towards a major transition anyway.
11 Jason Garrett Dallas 20/1 A deep playoff run and Jerry Jones will give him a multi-year extension.
11 Pete Carroll Seattle 20/1 NFL’s oldest head coach shows no signs of slowing down and just signed a contract extension worth $11 million per year.
13 Marvin Lewis Cincinnati 25/1 If you go 16 years without winning a playoff game, you’re not going to have job security anywhere. Even in Cincinnati.
13 Ron Rivera Carolina 25/1 The Panthers started the season 6-2 and finished 1-7, but Rivera’s record (70-55-1 in eight seasons, four postseason berths) is enough for him to keep his job under the new ownership.
13 John Gruden Oakland 25/1 I have no idea why Jon Gruden, who signed a 10-year, $100 million contract in Oakland, would have these kinds of odds. Even by Raiders standards, canning a guy in year one of a 10-year deal is a bit much.
16 Frank Reich* Indianapolis 33/1 First-year coach Reich made the playoffs after the Colts missed the playoffs the past three seasons.
16 Adam Gase Miami 33/1 The past two years, Gase compiled a 13-19 record. After jumping out to a 3-0 start to the 2018 season, Miami finished 7-9.
16 John Harbaugh Baltimore 33/1 The Ravens announced Harbaugh would remain their head coach in 2019. But no word on anything beyond that, which drives speculation Harbaugh might get traded. The Ravens won their final three games to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014.
19 Pat Shurmur* NY Giants 50/1 Ben McAdoo went 11-5 his first year but Eli Manning cost him his job in his second. If the Giants stick with Manning (and it looks like they will) he could cost Shurmur his job too.
19 Matt Nagy* Chicago 50/1 First-year coach takes team to playoffs, keeps job.
19 Mike Vrabel* Tennessee 50/1 First-year coach narrowly misses playoffs, keeps job.
19 Doug Marrone Jacksonville 50/1 Followed up a 10-6 season with a 5-11 season. Gets one more season to show which of the two previous seasons was a fluke.
19 Dan Quinn Atlanta 50/1 Falcons fired the OC, DC, and special teams coordinator. Quinn is on thin ice.
19 Kyle Shanahan San Francisco 50/1 The 49ers are staying the course on their rebuild, and that includes Shanahan.
19 Anthony Lynn LA Chargers 50/1 Former Cowboys assistant makes the playoffs in his second season as head coach.
19 Mike McCarthy Green Bay 50/1 Hugely successful for a long time in Green Bay, but missing the playoffs for two straight years and his inability to adapt to the modern NFL are what ultimately cost him his job.
27 Doug Pederson Philadelphia 66/1 It looked really bad in Philly for a while, but then thankfully Carson Wentz got injured and Nick Foles took them to the playoffs.
28 Sean Payton New Orleans 100/1 Still under contract until 2020, no signs that he’ll be going anywhere else anytime soon.
28 Mike Zimmer Minnesota 100/1 Zimmer has publicly declared that he is not resigning or retiring. That he would feel the need to say that is not a good sign.
28 Andy Reid Kansas City 100/1 Nicely set up in Kansas City for years to come.
28 Bill Belichick New England 100/1 Belichick is clearly not going anywhere any time soon unless he steps down himself – though it’ll be interesting to see what happens once Tom Brady retires.
32 Sean McVay LA Rams 200/1 Everybody is looking for their version of McVay. Until they start looking for their version of the next guy.

From this list, it looks like the preseason odds were a good early indicator of what would eventually happen during and after the season.

The obvious surprise on this list is Mike McCarthy, who was fired during his 13th season as the head coach in Green Bay. But two straight seasons without a playoff berth will do that to you in Green Bay, plus there were rumors that Aaron Rodgers wasn’t 100% behind McCarthy anymore, and that didn’t help either.

Overall though, you don’t want to be at the top of this list: only one of the top 10 coaches on this list, Houston’s Bill O’Brien, made the playoffs, and five others were fired.

In Dallas, things were looking grim for a while for Garrett.

But after finishing 7-1, Garrett’s job appears to be safe, and there’s even talk about getting him an extension this offseason, though that might depend on how well the Cowboys do in the playoffs.

Garrett is now the sixth longest-tenured coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick (2001), Sean Payton (2006), Mike Tomlin (2007), John Harbaugh (2008) and Pete Carroll (2010). That’s a pretty impressive peer group.

All five of the coaches ahead of him have won Super Bowls, maybe this is the year Jason Garrett makes it six out of six?





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