The average head coach only lasts about four years with a team. Only one coach on this list has been with their team substantially more than four years.Every other coach listed here is either just above the four year mark or right under it. Why is this important to note? Head coaches typically have only four years, if that, to execute their game plan and turn a franchise around. And while these plans are supposed to be long-term processes, most coaches and their plans are judged year-to-year by their team's front office, the media, and fans.
NFL coaches maintain the longest tenure of any head coach-types in the four major American sports likely because of the former’s strong emphasis on consistency on offensive and defensive systems. However, this can be a burden in disguise for a franchise. While NFL coaches may be given more time to produce results, franchises likely take longer to rebound when these coaches depart. After all, the new coach has to establish his new systems, as well as draft and develop players that fit into these systems. And we often judge players about three years after they’ve been drafted, which is about the same time they’ve become established to, yes, the coach's systems.
The question that remains is, is it better to stick with a struggling coach and hope he’ll grow on the job or move onto a new coach as soon as the current coach starts to flounder? After all, it seems that a coach needs time to establish his philosophy, but the longer period of time at the helm also means franchises usually take longer to rebound. The answer may lie somewhere in the middle.
In any case, the coaches below are on the hot seat in 2014, and their respective franchises have a big decision to make in the coming years. They will likely address the same conundrum we addressed above. Is it worth it to move onto a new coach?
5 Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
Coughlin just signed a one-year contract extension with the team, so at first glance he doesn't quite seem to be a 2014 hot-seat candidate. However, we’ll use this as a forum to at least bring his name into the discussion. While he’s not a lame-duck coach, he and his team still need to impress next season. Coughlin has too much tenure with the Giants and respect from ownership to be fired, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be forced out of his position off-the-record, especially if his team puts up another dud season.
Since Coughlin took over as the Giants’ head coach in 2004, he has posted a 90-70 record, has made five playoff appearances and two Super Bowls. Those rings have helped him keep his job. However, since he signed a three-year contract extension for around $20 million in 2012, his teams have failed to reach the playoffs. Last year, the Giants posted their worst season under Coughlin when they went 7-9.
This offseason, the Giants needed to upgrade their offensive line to help Manning throw less interceptions next season. He threw an unnecessary 27 in 2013, which was the highest total of his career. New York signed guard Geoff Schwartz to a four year, $16.8 million contract. They upgraded their defense by signing cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie to a five year $35 million contract and also signed cornerback Walter Thurmond. Both graded out positively on Pro Football Focus’ cornerback summary list.
While Coughlin may not be a lame-duck coach next season, that does not mean he is not on the hot seat. He still must prove he can put together a team that will contend deep into playoffs.
4 Rex Ryan, New York Jets
While the Jets technically awarded Ryan with a “multi-year” extension this past January, the length really just disguises the reality of Ryan’s situation. If he doesn’t make the playoffs or the team implodes, like they have in the past, the Jets can cut ties with Ryan with little financial ramifications.
Ryan will make $3.3 million in 2014 and is guaranteed to coach the team at least through 2015, but can coach the Jets for additional years if he hits certain incentives. Basically the deal theoretically eliminates Ryan’s lame-duck status next season.
The Jets needed major help and it starts at quarterback. Few had confidence in Mark Sanchez’ ability to be the Jets' franchise quarterback, even after he was under center for the team’s consecutive AFC Championship appearances. Geno Smith, New York’s current quarterback, is also a question mark. So, in comes Michael Vick. He’ll be an upgrade over both of Sanchez and Smith, but how much of an upgrade? He doesn’t have the same weapons to help support his inconsistent style of play like he had in Philadelphia.
3 Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins
In two seasons with the Dolphins, Philbin has won little, but has been questioned a lot for his seemingly passive leadership style. In two years as the Dolphins’ head coach, he has a .469 winning percentage.
Philbin took over for former head coach Tony Sparano who managed one winning season in his four years with the club. In two seasons with the club, Philbin has failed to do much better. He’s recorded 7-9 and 8-8 seasons. The Dolphins haven’t reached the AFC Championship game in 21 years and have failed to reach the Super Bowl in 29.
Philbin’s on the hot seat for both his poor record and leadership qualities. The last time I remember a coach telling the press he’d become more accountable for his locker room was when Pete Carroll was head coach of the New England Patriots. It’s probably happened numerous times in between. The big question is this: Why wasn’t Philbin accountable for his team's poor actions in the first place?
Last season’s bullying-scandal between offensive lineman Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin rocked the Dolphins' locker room and spelled the team’s mid-season doom. Earlier this off season, Philbin reportedly almost quit when the Dolphins’ organization forced him to fire offensive coordinator Mike Sherman, one of Philbin’s good friends. The second-year coach is on borrowed time.
2 2.Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
When Garrett took over for former Cowboys' head coach Wade Phillips midway through the 2010 season, many believed he could better control the Cowboys’ dysfunctional roster. Garrett did control them, but he’s failed to take them to the next level, so to speak. Garrett went 5-3 as the Cowboys' interim coach, but has led the team to three straight 8-8 seasons. That record does not ooze improvement. Former coach Wade Phillips has coached the same number of games as Garrett (56) and tweeted this earlier in March in recognition of such a lofty achievement (insert sarcastic joke here):
“Jason Garrett is tied with Wade Phillips for 56 games as the @dallascowboys head coach. Phillips: 34-22; Garrett: 29-27. #suprisesMe.”
In Wade Phillips three years before his team’s downward spiral, he led the Cowboys to records of 13-3, 9-7 and 11-5 and two playoff appearances.
This offseason, Dallas lost all-pro defensive lineman DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, but signed Henry Melton, Jeremy Mincey and Terrell McClain to hopefully fill the voids. Team owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he’s taking a more cautious approach to this year’s free agency, in hopes of acquiring valuable, but less risky talent. Garrett’s career with the Cowboys partly rides on Jones’ "valuable" acquisitions, but mainly rides on his ability to fit Jones' new pieces into his current team to win games. After all, this is Jones' team.
1 Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders
Dennis Allen and general manager Reggie McKenzie ushered in a new era of Raider football after the passing of long-time owner and general manager Al Davis in 2011. That era may not last as long as many originally hoped. While both will keep their jobs in 2014, their future with the organization remains uncertain.
Back in 2012, when Mark Davis, the late Al Davis’ son, took over as a managing general partner, he began to rewrite how the Raiders do business. Unlike his father, who often hired the coaches, their assistants, and also handpicked the personnel, Mark Davis empowered the Dennis Allen and Reggie McKenzie to operate the team as they see fit. Davis allowed Allen to hand pick his coaching staff, many of whom accepted one-year extensions this past January. Originally, offensive coordinator Al Saunders was the only assistant under contract for the 2014 season. Davis also allowed McKenzie to acquire the personnel.
Allen had success as Denver’s former defensive coordinator; however, that success has failed to translate to the Raiders. Last season, Oakland ranked 29th in the league in points allowed, 22nd in yards allowed and 28th in passing yards allowed.
McKenzie and Allen’s off season started out with a whimper. They lost key players and failed to replace them, even while they had $60 million in cap room to play with. McKenzie’s stance on the spending was simple:
“The philosophy is not to dump every dollar and cent into one or possibly two players. That’s not my philosophy. We’re going to figure out how we can best get as many good players as we can. If that, by chances, leaves enough money or cap space to get that one player, then we’ll do that, too.”
So, why bring McKenzie into this argument? His personnel decisions likely will affect, in some part, Allen’s job status. The two have been highly scrutinized and seem joined at the hip. If Allen fails to improve on last year’s 4-12 record, he’ll have a hard time convincing Davis to keep him around.