The Monday after Week 17 of the NFL season has become synonymous with a career guillotine for coaches around the league, so much so that it has been given the moniker of “Black Monday”.
Not surprisingly, several coaches did not survive Black Monday this year, as Jack Del Rio, Chuck Pagano, Jim Caldwell, and John Fox were given the pink slip. (Ben McAdoo was fired in early December, and Mike Mularkey and the Titans mutually agreed to part ways. Bruce Arians retired from coaching).
It all generates confabulation as to which coaches will be next in the unemployment line, and those who will survive the intense scrutiny.
So, which NFL head coaches have the jobs on the line this year, or are running out of time?
Todd Bowles is certainly one of the coaches who falls into the aforementioned categories. After a 10-6 2015 season in which the Jets narrowly missed the playoffs, Bowles has since sported a 10-22 record, with many questioning his ability to make crucial in-game decisions. Whether he remains on the sidelines with the Jets hinges on the pace of rookie quarterback Sam Darnold’s development, who was just given the keys to the team following a Teddy Bridgewater trade. Another losing season will likely result in the dismissal of Bowles.
Dirk Koetter is the next one on the list, and an argument can be made that he should be ahead of Todd Bowles. In 2016, Koetter led the Buccaneers to their first winning season (9-7) since 2010, and then regressed to 5-11 last year, with reports of an acrimonious relationship between Koetter and quarterback Jameis Winston. An injury to the latter was likely deemed as a sufficient defense of retaining Koetter as coach, but now with a looming three-game suspension for Winston, Koetter will be facing a brutal schedule (Saints, Eagles, Steelers) with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center. An 0-3 start is very likely, and that alone could cost Koetter his job; and regardless, another season without a playoff appearance probably means the end of his time in Tampa Bay anyway.
Hue Jackson is living on borrowed time as the Browns’ coach, as there is no euphemism for a 1-31 record. New GM John Dorsey traded for Tyrod Taylor, Jarvis Landry, and drafted Heisman-winning Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick in the draft, while also bringing in Carlos Hyde. Josh Gordon is back and ready, and the Browns now field a respectable level of talent on the roster. It is a stretch to expect a winning season from a team that, while significantly overhauled and bolstered, just completed only the second 0-16 season in history, but a season that falls short of six or seven wins spells the end of Jackson’s tenure in Cleveland.
John Harbaugh has been, without question, one of the most successful coaches of the past decade, as he boasts the seventh and second-best winning percentage among all active head coaches in the regular season and playoffs, respectively, and he is a Super Bowl champion. But since winning Super Bowl 47, the Ravens are just 40-40 with one playoff win, and Joe Flacco has been among the worst quarterbacks in football in the same time span. Similar to Todd Bowles, much of Harbaugh’s job security will depend greatly on his quarterback’s performance, and Flacco should feel no safer about his job, either. While rookie Heisman-winning quarterback Lamar Jackson could very well be Flacco’s successor, his presence under center would likely mean the team’s season is in jeopardy, and that would signal the end of the Harbaugh era.
Vance Joseph inherited a team that was just a year removed from winning Super Bowl 50 with largely the same roster. Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch all proved to be incompetent (as if no one didn’t know that already), and the team finished 5-11 and had its worst season since 2010 (4-12 that year). John Elway vested his faith in Case Keenum, and if Keenum fails, so too will Joseph. Since being named Executive VP of Football Operations in 2011 ( and de facto GM), Elway has demonstrated that he is not patient with coaches, as the Broncos have had three different ones since he took over, and will be looking for a fourth one if Vance Joseph and his squad have a season similar to last year.
Naturally, there are other coaches whose jobs are in question right now, but none of those positions are at risk as much as these. The fate of these coaches remains to be seen as the season approaches.