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NFL Head Coaches Roasting On The Hot Seat

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Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans is commanding an underachieving team. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.
Head coach Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans is commanding an underachieving team. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

Which coach will be the first to be fired?

At this point the odds-on favorite has to be the Bucs’ Greg Schiano. The former Rutgers coach has left a trail of destruction, from terrible losses to burning bridges behind him to being ridiculed by the press.

Tampa Bay is winless, which is bad enough. But the team has talent, especially on defense. Their decline is unexpected.

The whole saga of Josh Freeman is puzzling. What happened between him and his coach? It’s hard to know. We don’t know if Schiano or someone else leaked damaging and erroneous information to the press about Freeman flunking drug tests. But what is known is that Freeman was just let go, with the team getting nothing in return. Now Mike Glennon is starting (and flailing).

A logical candidate for the chopping block might seem to be Tom Coughlin. After all, he’s been rumored to be on the hot seat plenty of times. The Giants are among the very worst teams this year, and that didn’t seem to be in the cards. It seemed likely that the team would be in the mix of teams vying for a division crown, at least.

But Coughlin’s been on the hot seat before, and he’s won two Super Bowls. This team just isn’t very good. You can’t blame the coach for a complete inability to block.

Which brings me to the situation in Minnesota. Maybe some commentators didn’t much like the Vikings, but fans had high expectations after a 10-6 campaign in 2012.

The Vikings have plenty of talent, at least on paper. Seven players made the Pro Bowl last year. The team appeared to have a great draft. The team’s one weakness seemed to be at quarterback.

Last year Christian Ponder didn’t have a good enough receiver corps. This year that’s not the case. Greg Jennings, rookie Cordarrelle Patterson, ex-quarterback Joe Webb, a healthy John Carlson, Jerome Simpson for the entire year have joined Kyle Rudolph and Jarius Wright.

Ponder’s made some terrible plays, and Matt Cassel has too. Now Josh Freeman will give it a shot.

If Freeman, too, fails, someone will have to be accountable for poor personnel decisions.

But it’s hard to explain how this team got so bad so quickly. Defensively, the secondary has been terrible. The supposedly strong defensive line hasn’t put enough pressure on the quarterback, and the whole defense looks slow. What’s more, the defense looks disorganized.

Usually this means heads will roll. The logical ones would be defensive coordinators Fred Pagac and Alan Williams, and perhaps offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave as well – the play-calling has been unimaginative.

But head coach Leslie Frazier is a decent man, the kind you’d like to work for. He doesn’t like to throw anyone under the bus. He treats people humanely. This may hurt him in the end. If the team keeps losing and none of his coordinators are fired, Frazier’s seat will keep getting hotter. Remember that he was coach when the team was 3-13 in 2011.

The next few games are crucial. The team plays in one of the worst Monday night matchups in recent memory when they head to New York. If they lose there and are slaughtered by Green Bay, well, the buzzards will begin to circle.

I can think of at least two more coaches whose seat is getting, if not hot, at least warm: Gary Kubiak in Houston and Mike Smith in Atlanta. Both of those teams went to the playoffs and underperformed, and expectations are high, as they are (were) in Minnesota.

The Falcons, like the Vikings, are 1-4 after a crushing home loss to the Jets. (That was the day the Braves lost the National League Division Series to the Dodgers, so some have said that was the worst day in Atlanta sports history.) The team is a mile behind the Saints and has a lot of tough games left.

Atlanta doesn’t have quarterback issues. Matt Ryan has played well, but the defense has been weak. They fell behind 13 points to the Jets, scored two touchdowns, then watched as the Jets scored a winning field goal.

But the Falcons are not playing horribly. They might make a run at a wild-card position.

Finally, there are the Texans. They have, with the Vikings, one of the most disappointed fan bases. Like the Vikings, they suffered a devastating, crushing home loss to a beatable team, the Rams.

Houston fans have been all over quarterback Matt Schaub, but he played well against the Rams. Backup T.J. Yates was terrible.

Before too long, the ire of the fans will be directed at coach Gary Kubiak. If the losses piled up – especially humiliating ones like last Sunday – his time could be up.

Oh, yeah, there's Gus Bradley, coach of the Jaguars. But that team was known to be terrible. I think management will be patient. The team has shown improvement.

But the clock’s ticking in Tampa, Minneapolis and Houston, in that order. If I were a coach in those cities, I might start looking at the terms of my lease and make sure my savings account had enough money to last awhile. I think all three of those coaches have a good chance of being gone either during the season or about three seconds after it ends.