The coaching carousel was most certainly in play after the 2012 NFL Season. Aptly called Black Monday, the Monday after the end of the season would come to be the first day that an eventual total of 8 announcements would be made divorcing an NFL team from their head coach for the past few seasons—that’s a total of 25% of the league’s teams. While the complexion of these hirings is a different matter altogether, it’s a safe assumption to assert that these head coaches will be safe for at least a year. Still, at the end of this season, the coaching carousel will be sure to start back again—with fewer stops—but with a different group of coaches.
Rex Ryan, NY Jets- The blustery head coach who took the Jets to unprecedented heights is not in a good place with the media, the team, or the fanbase, with media types speculating that he’s losing the team and fans being fed up with his antics and lack of success. After consecutive appearances in AFC championship games, expectations were much too high. He and “franchise” quarterback Mark Sanchez are irrevocably linked, as he trusted Sanchez to develop into a great player, and that was a failed investment. Sanchez and Ryan suffered from achieving too much, too quickly, and after a season that shows more glaring doubts than promising signs, Rex may receive his walking papers. Since those first two seasons, Rex Ryan has made more empty promises as the Jets have steadily deteriorated from 11-5 to 8-8 to 6-10.
Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans- The unique, and even perplexing, thing about the NFL is that even if a coach sticks with a team through thick and thin and brings that team to franchise-defining moments, ownership may feel that it’s time to move on, amid overblown aspirations for a new guy and a sense of desiring newness. This may be how we describe Gary Kubiak’s departure from the Texans. This will be Kubiak’s 8th year at the helm of the Houston Texans, and the expectations for the Texans are only rising. After two straight trips to the playoffs, many are looking for them to get to the AFC Championship Game and maybe even the Super Bowl with their highly-skilled offense and punishing defense. Kubiak job’s security was a highly-discussed topic in 2009 and 2011, but he navigated those murky waters by bringing the Texans to the playoffs the last two years. If he doesn’t deliver this year, however, we may see those discussions of yesteryear unfortunately morph into action.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions- With a fairly talented team, and one season with a record over .500, some would say that Jim Schwartz has grossly underachieved. With both Nick Fairley and Ndamukong Suh on the D-Line and Matt Stafford and Calvin Johnson on offense, the team should be better than a combined 22-42 under Schwartz. They are a much beleaguered team, having faced foolish penalties, injuries to Stafford, and off-field arrests to key members of the secondary all while being in one of the most difficult divisions in football during Schwartz’s tenure. If Schwartz doesn’t find a way to get players to remain singularly-focused on winning football games, both on and off the field, he may not be in Detroit after this season.
Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers- As all owners do when they hire a new coach, the Panthers expected Ron Rivera to inject new blood and a new identity. These expectations were produced in the aftermath of John Fox’s head coaching stint, where he had essentially been a Panthers lifer serving as a coach for all of 9 years, half of the franchise’s existence before the 2013 season. However, for whatever reasons one may want to identify, the Panthers have been struggling, going 6-10 and 7-9 in the last two seasons. Yes, they are trending toward 8-8 if the seasonal improvements continue and yes, they’ve had a rookie QB at the helm, but other rookie QB’s have been able to lead their teams to immediate success with the help of their coaching staffs. Given that Cam Newton had a historically memorable rookie season, the question becomes “Why wasn’t a structure built around him to propel the team into winning based on Cam’s performance?” The new Panthers GM declared that winning is the priority, and 8-8 isn’t winning. After hesitantly identifying his starting QB as a franchise-builder, the new Panthers GM made it clear that he’s trusting in Cam Newton’s ability. Thus, if the Panthers don’t get it done this season, there’s one reasonable change that will be made. (“Reasonable” by the warped standards of NFL front office behavior.)
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys- Already Jason Garrett has been undermined in his all-encompassing role as the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys—Jerry Jones has appointed Bill Callahan to be offensive play-caller, a role that was Garrett’s strong suit—after there was much talk about Garrett potentially losing his job in this past offseason. Garrett was supposed to come in and bring immediate success in the wake of Wade Phillips’ tenure, but two seasons of mediocre, commonplace 8-8 records have national media wondering how much longer Jerry will remain quiet before pursuing a course of action. There was heavy conjecture about Garrett’s job security this offseason, so another middling record would likely result in an unfortunate announcement.