Ross Tucker
Wednesday November 11th, 2009

With at least eight games in the book for every NFL team, here's a trend that has caught my eye: I can't remember a year in which the calls for so many coaches to be fired began so early. Or a year in which so many solid head coaches were placed on the hot seat simply because their teams got off to subpar starts.

I'm not talking about Dick Jauron and Jim Zorn. They came into this season on short leashes and haven't done enough to quiet their critics. I get that. What I don't understand is how quickly fans and media place otherwise secure coaches on the proverbial hot seat.

I grew up outside Philadelphia and remember seeing the press conferences of Ray Rhodes and Rich Kotite after they were named head coach of the Eagles. They talked about how they were going to build the team and mentioned things like a "five-year plan." Can you imagine someone saying that today? They'd be laughed right out of the building. Five-year plan? Nowadays, you'd better have a darn good five-game plan or the vultures will start circling.

My point is that Jeff Fisher, John Fox, Eric Mangini, and Josh McDaniels are just a few of the coaches who have drawn public criticism this season that I think is unwarranted.

Let's start with McDaniels. People placed him on the hot seat in Denver before he'd coached a single game. That has to be a record. Yet because of the way the Jay Cutler saga played out and the path on which the Brandon Marshall situation appeared to be headed, people said McDaniels was out of his element and not ready for the job. Well, the Broncos are 6-2 and atop the AFC West, and even though they've lost their last two games, I think it is safe to say that McDaniels was a very good hire. Even if all he did was bring Mike Nolan aboard to improve a horrendous defense, McDaniels would have been a success in my book.

Then there's his former colleague, Mangini. Like many, I thought this hire was curious, but if an owner makes that decision, you have to give the coach a legitimate chance to implement his system and run things the way he likes. I know the fans in Cleveland are disgruntled and calling for Mangini's head, but what did they think this season was going to look like? Did they think the Browns were going to be good? If so, whose fault is that? It was pretty apparent that the rebuilding job in Cleveland would be long and hard.

But neither of those early scenarios have been as bothersome as Carolina's and Tennessee's. The idea that a coach should be fired or on the spot within the first five games of a season, after leading his team to division titles, is preposterous. Why should such a coach be on the hot seat? Because the team got off to a bad start?

Fox and Fisher have shown their mettle time and time again this decade. Each has a proven ability to win on the road in the playoffs and get to the Super Bowl -- the only Super Bowls, I might add, in the histories of their respective franchises. Yet because their teams suffered slow starts this year, the word got out that their messages had gone "stale" and it was time for a change.

When exactly did their messages go stale? In March? These are the same guys who had their teams poised to make Super Bowl runs last season. Yet we are supposed to accept that now their messages are falling on deaf ears. Sorry, I'm not buying that.

My guess is that each would be hired quickly if their franchises were shortsighted enough to let them go. If this was the second season in a row in which their teams struggled, I would agree that there is a problem. But that's not the situation.

I've heard several respected members of the media say every coach has a shelf life with a certain franchise before it is time to go. I don't really understand why. Keep in mind that one of the supposed stars on the coaching free-agent market right now, Bill Cowher, had his best years near the end of his lengthy tenure in Pittsburgh, and he didn't leave because he was forced out.

Maybe the tougher question to answer is why we are so apt to put a coach on the hot seat? Without going too deep, perhaps part of it is just a reflection of the lack of patience inherent in society these days. In the iPhone and internet age, people want what they want and they want it immediately. The expression that "good things come to those who wait" seems out of touch.

Or perhaps it is just an easy topic for the local media covering the team, a pot they can keep stirring. If so, that is a shame. I'm not saying that there is never a time when coaches should be fired, because change is the only constant in the NFL. All I'm saying is if you are calling for change, you should have a pretty good reason and a viable alternative in place, because just making a change for change's sake won't get an NFL franchise anywhere.

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