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NFL Coaching Heat Seat: The End is Near (For Some)

As Black Monday approaches, several coaches are likely to join Jay Gruden and Ron Rivera among the ranks of the NFL's former head coach club.

We’re now three days away from the end of the regular season, which means we’re three days from finding out which teams will join Washington and Carolina in the search for a new head coach.

We’ve documented some of the ups and downs over the past month and, despite some resurgent performances from some embattled coaches, it seems the league’s radar is still locked on a handful of names heading into the weekend. For a good franchise, situational momentum shouldn’t swing a decision, though we’ve seen owners and general managers kowtow to the moment in the past and keep a coach who was able to finish a bad year strong. But, if the league was made up of 32 good and competent franchises, we wouldn’t have watched the Patriots win more Super Bowl rings since 2000 than can fit on a single hand.

Without further ado, let’s get into it….

Which coaches have already been let go:

Jay Gruden, head coach, Washington

Ron Rivera, head coach, Carolina Panthers

This is an odd year in that the two head coaches who were let go in the middle of the season have some serious cache and could factor heavily into the next hiring cycle. Gruden will almost certainly have his pick of high-end coordinator jobs and Rivera should pocket some serious airline miles during the head coaching interview process (although, as we saw with Mike McCarthy back in 2019, perhaps we get surprised and Rivera opts to wait for the right opportunity).


Which coaches are on the hot seat, and why?

Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns: The mounting, visible dysfunction in Cleveland leads us to believe that it’s either Kitchens or a few of the team’s more vocal talents who end up not returning in 2020. It’s probably harder for Kitchens to legitimize the mess given that star talents like Odell Beckham have underperformed. Quarterback Baker Mayfield may end the season throwing for fewer yards and touchdowns and more interceptions, should the team show poorly in the season finale. This, despite starting an entire season. Kitchens has been in a few sideline spats with his biggest star players. The team has committed the third most penalties in the NFL. Myles Garrett was suspended for the season for striking an opponent with his helmet and Kitchens’s donning of an anti-Steelers t-shirt in the wake of the fight seemed to backfire significantly.

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Pat Shurmur, New York Giants: This was a disappointing season in New York, despite the fact that Shurmur had a nearly impossible situation at his disposal. He had to handle both the grooming of a rookie quarterback and the heroic sendoff of a franchise legend. He had to basically run two offenses, sidestep the injury of Saquon Barkley and power through a slower-than-expected development of his offensive line. That said, one could argue that, like the year before, the Giants did not do enough to maximize the star power on the field. The team is staring down a make-or-break offseason and needs to decide if they’ll remain set in their ways. General manager Dave Gettleman will also be a topic of discussion when the team’s power brokers convene at the end of the season.

Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars: Marrone may end up a good coach caught up in a bad situation. It was his arrival at the end of the 2016 season that helped turn a potential-packed roster into a conference title contender. However, the arrival of Tom Coughlin as executive vice president also ushered in a period of conflict with some of the team’s star players. Marrone will no doubt end up somewhere next season as a position coach should the Jaguars decide to clean house, but their next steps will be telling.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys: This move has been discussed ad nauseum over the second half of the season and likely comes down to the final moments of the 2019 season. Should Dallas stumble into the playoffs and string together a few wins, Garrett may legitimize his place at The Star. Should the team whiff on a season when the roster is packed with talent, and owner Jerry Jones will have no choice but to make a separation from arguably one of his favorite coaches.

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons: Quinn’s players seem to be openly campaigning for the one-time Super Bowl contender to keep his job. The vibe in Atlanta has always been player-friendly and there seems to be a notable cohesion between the front office and coaching staff. However, time is running out for any coach to win with Julio Jones and Matt Ryan. Making it to a second Super Bowl with those two could factor in significantly in owner Arthur Blank’s decision.

*UPDATE: Falcons owner Arthur Blank says Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff will return in 2020.

Anthony Lynn, L.A. Chargers: Like we’ve noted in the past, putting Lynn’s name here is not in any way an advocation for getting rid of him. It’s simply an acknowledgement that the Chargers are in a horrible situation as they move into a new stadium with no fan base and an aging quarterback. Lynn could be a casualty in the kind of attention-grabbing hire that bad owners think will drive fan engagement. It would be ludicrous, but, as many players say on a regular basis: The NFL is a business, man.

Who is out there to take the job?

Here is our list of 25 candidates. From coordinators to position coaches to college head coaches, we have you covered.

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