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#pounditSunday, March 7, 2021

10 NFL head coaches under pressure to deliver in 2018

Jon Gruden

The NFL coaching carousel never truly stops. Some guys survive a bad year with the understanding that their seat will be warm to start the next season, putting them under heavy pressure from Week 1. Then there are coaches who had bad years and aren’t on the hot seat, but much is expected of them and failure could make them sweat a bit. It’s all about expectations and improvement, and if coaches don’t show it, then questions will inevitably follow.

Here are ten NFL coaches who, for various reasons, will find themselves under a good bit of pressure to deliver results in 2018.

10) Andy Reid, Chiefs

The big knock on Reid has always been his inability to translate his regular season success into postseason wins. Reid now faces a challenge to keep that regular season success going. Alex Smith has been shipped off to Washington, replaced by second-year quarterback Patrick Mahomes. Trading Marcus Peters won’t help the secondary no matter how justified it was. Reid’s job isn’t in jeopardy, but the team is under pressure to win after getting rid of Smith and investing heavily in Mahomes.

9) Mike McCarthy, Packers

The Packers’ lost 2017 season wasn’t really McCarthy’s fault, as the Aaron Rodgers collarbone injury derailed the year. The biggest threat to his reign seemed to be the hiring of a new GM, but despite some fears that he’d be pushed out the door, that didn’t happen. McCarthy is signed through 2019 and the Packers will be expecting a quick turnaround in 2018. If it doesn’t happen, McCarthy’s seat could start to get warm toward season’s end.

8) Jon Gruden, Raiders

Gruden will not be fired if he fails to deliver success in year one. That said, Mark Davis isn’t paying him a reported $100 million over 10 years not to make a quick impact. Gruden seems to know this. Chucky has already started to put his stamp on the organization, and the expectation will be to at least see tangible improvement from last year’s 6-10 finish. With high expectations comes high pressure.

7) Marvin Lewis, Bengals

It’s amazing Lewis still has this job after years of playoff failure were followed up by consecutive losing seasons. Still, his two-year contract extension shouldn’t be viewed as a huge amount of job security, especially if Cincinnati has another losing season. Lewis was dogged by rumors of his imminent demise for much of the season, and there was probably something behind that. He can’t afford another bad year.

6) Jason Garrett, Cowboys

Garrett appears to have a sturdy backer in Jerry Jones, but the Cowboys owner can be a fickle man and his patience will be tested if Dallas gets off to a slow start. Garrett has just two playoff appearances and one postseason win in eight years at the helm. The 9-7 season last year was definitely a disappointment, albeit with a lot of extenuating circumstances. That likely factored into Jones’ thinking, but if the Cowboys put up another mediocre season without any external explanation, Jones may change his mind on Garrett.

5) Vance Joseph, Broncos

Joseph’s job was said to be in some jeopardy after just one season in Denver, but the team opted to stick with him and upgrade his roster. Adding Case Keenum at quarterback should eliminate the Broncos’ biggest weak spot, as well as a lot of Joseph’s excuses. Improvement is likely in 2018, but if Denver gets off to a bad start and has a mediocre season, it’s hard to see Elway and the Broncos tolerating two consecutive sub-par seasons.

4) Pete Carroll, Seahawks

Some still regard Carroll as one of the NFL’s best coaches, but there’s some evidence that his message had grown old to some of his veteran players. It is perhaps not coincidence that a number of the team’s established veterans have subsequently left the team, putting Seattle into a sort of retooling mode. Along with Russell Wilson, Carroll is the big name still in Seattle who can be associated with the Seahawks’ mid-decade successes. There’s no reason to believe his job is in danger, but he’s had some criticism lobbed his way, and his job is to keep the Seahawks relevant and answer it.

3) Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers

Koetter’s job appeared to be saved last offseason by the fact that Tampa Bay’s first choice wanted more than the Buccaneers were willing to offer. Subsequently, Koetter gets a third year that will likely make or break him. Tampa Bay would have been justified in letting him go after a step back in 2017, and his season is already off to a bad start with Jameis Winston’s suspension. Perhaps that will be taken into account when evaluating him, but it’s hard to envision Koetter losing double-digit games again and keeping his job. In fact, a bad start might be enough to sink him.

2) Hue Jackson, Browns

Jackson has won one of his last 31 games as the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. The fact that he still has a job is down to some very patient decision-making and an understanding that the roster has been barren. Cleveland has been aggressive in upgrading the roster for 2018, and while nobody’s really expecting the playoffs, there is an expectation that the Browns will at least win a few games and show tangible progress in 2018. It would be hard for them not to. Jackson definitely must be a part of that, however, and if he doesn’t, he’ll be out the door.

1) John Harbaugh, Ravens

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti openly and publicly admitted that he contemplated firing Harbaugh after missing the playoffs for a third straight year, which is the last thing any coach wants to hear put out in the public domain. Thus, it’s no stretch to say that Harbaugh is coaching for his job in 2018. His fate seems quite tied to Joe Flacco. If both fail, Baltimore could easily turn to Lamar Jackson at quarterback and bring in a coach who will tailor the offense around him. A push for a playoff spot seems like the bare minimum expectation for Harbaugh in 2018 with an organization that expects to contend. If that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen, he might not even last until December.

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