The NFL Coaches Who Should be Fired

With Black Monday around the corner and rumors of firings pretty rampant I thought I would look pretty quickly at the teams whose coaches potentially deserve to get fired. How am I going to do that?  Simply by looking at payroll and estimating what teams should have expected to win based on their spending. If an average team should win 8 games then added dollars should increase minimum expectations and it, in theory, is up to the coach to deliver that much and more. 

Who Should be Fired

Hue Jackson, Browns– The Browns spent enough to win around 6 games and will likely end up at 0, the worst differential in the NFL. While the Browns ownership already placed a good chunk of the blame on the front office when they fired the GM I cant see how Jackson can survive two years in a row of this. He plays in a division with a bad Bengals team, played the terrible AFC South, the Jets, Bears, and Packers. Even our efficiency ratings say a team like the Browns should win 2.7 games this year. The fact that they are so far below indicates either a run of bad luck or a bad coach. I’d lean towards the latter.

Ben McAdoo, Giants– This one already happened and was well deserved. While they dealt with some injuries the Giants are 6 games under baseline expectations let alone their lofty goals for the year. He also made a gigantic problem with the way he handled Eli Manning. The job was too big for him.

Bill O’Brien, Texans– There are some excuses for the -3.5 wins this year, in particular the devastating injuries suffered by the team, but after years of sideways movement I’m not sure if he can get a pass again. Years ago when sentiment went against Matt Schaub at quarterback eventually ownership made the move just a short time after signing him to a lucrative extension. My feeling is that even if those players were healthy the team likely would have only finished with 7 or 8 wins and I don’t think  that would have been considered good enough even if their spending is below average.

Chuck Pagano, Colts– Pagano was pretty much on the hot seat from day one and likely only kept on to be the fall guy if Andrew Luck was out for most of the season. I think it is very fair to say that if he had his QB he would have won an additional 3 games but he has a track record of not exceeding expectations and this year the results were bad.

Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers– Unlike Pagano and O’Brien there is no real excuse here. Winston was banged up a bit and even after their IR splurge at the end of the year the team was basically average in the amount of money on IR. This should have been around an 8 win team at the minimum and expectations were likely 10 or 11 wins with Winston taking a step forward. Considering how low expectations were for the Browns the Bucs ended the year as the third most disappointing team. It’s hard to survive that.

John Fox, Bears– The Bears signed some of the worst contracts of 2017 in an attempt to give Fox something to work with and pretty much all of those players didn’t even meet the low expectation mark let alone their contract value. The Bears are 3 games off the pace and I cant see retaining a veteran head coach for what should be a youth movement and rebuilding effort. Both GM and coach should get significant blame here.

Vance Joseph, Broncos– This was Joseph’s first year on the job but it is hard to see the organization being happy with him. The Broncos spend enough to be slightly above average and instead are staring at a top 5 draft pick. While the QB situation is pretty bad, the team did go into this year thinking it would cripple the team like this and that blame is going to go on the coach. The Broncos window may have closed with this group but given the contracts of some guys its doubtful they accept that its closed and could look for a new coach to spark the team.

Jack Del Rio, Raiders– IIRC the Raiders jumped the gun and signed Del Rio to an extension after last season which is a cardinal sin in the NFL off one year. If they did that I doubt he is going anywhere. That said the Raiders have one of the most expensive rosters in the NFL and are currently a 6 win team. The team was generally healthy and 4 of the 6 wins came against the Broncos, Jets, Giants, and Dolphins, among the worst teams in the NFL. If you want to defend Del Rio then the GM needs to be scrutinized for giving him a very overpriced roster.

Adam Gase, Dolphins– The Dolphins are likely going to miss their minimum threshold by nearly two or three games this year. Had the Dolphins simply gone with Matt Moore rather than Jay Cutler I think this was more defensible, but Cutler was brought in because of his connection to Gase so he gets the blame there. The roster itself is insanely overvalued but the front office had playoff expectations, spent to get there, and are lucky to even have 6 wins.

Marvin Lewis, Bengals– Lewis lasting all these years has been pretty amazing. While the franchise is better off than before he took over Im not sure if there has ever been a head coach to win less meaningful games and stay employed with one team for this long. The Bengals are about 2 games under and I am sure they felt that he has more to work with than an 8 win team. Its probably time for a new voice in the room.

The Rumored List

Jay Gruden, Redskins– While most are disappointed in the Redskins season, the Redskins spending indicated a pretty average team and that is more or less where they are. Gruden is basically a neutral factor in my opinion. The team itself isn’t constructed that well and allowing all their receivers to walk proved to be a mistake. This was really an organizational failure and if Gruden goes he’s just a scapegoat for a bigger problem.

Todd Bowles, Jets– Bowles is a tough one. Based on what he was given to work with he doesn’t deserve to be fired but the Jets were in a large number of games that they lost and that doesn’t reflect well on the coach even if he should get credit for being in some of those games in the first place. There doesn’t seem to be a high ceiling for Bowles which is probably the reason he should be let go, though I expect him back next year.

Bruce Arians, Cardinals– This is a somewhat top heavy roster that gets more press than it deserves. They have far too much money sunk in old players and a few bad contracts. Arians, when  you consider the injuries, didn’t far too badly this year and like with Gruden should likely only go if those above him go as well.

Jim Caldwell, Lions– Everyone gets wrapped up in Matt Stafford, the highest paid player in the NFL, but quite frankly it’s a pretty average team around him. Caldwell did exactly what should have happened in Detroit. In a sense he is like Bowles in that there doesn’t seem to be a high ceiling but he has more of a negative track record to fall back on which I think makes him more likely to get fired. The reality is the Lions are still sorting out their contracts and should keep him on only until they are in a position to get a better roster.

Mike Mularkey, Titans– The Titans are cheap. That’s the first thing to remember when looking at anyone coaching this team. It is hard to win in the NFL when the organization is cheap so expectations should never be high. Mularkey will actually finish above the minimum expectations though he has also been bailed out by his field goal kicker more than a few times. His firing should be based more on the development or the QB, but the overall problems within the organization wont change until they open the wallet and with Mariota nearing veteran status it will likely be worse if they feel they already spent too much on the QB. With that in mind maybe they can catch lightning in a bottle with a new coach while he is still on the rookie contract.

Jason Garrett, Cowboys– I get it that this is the Cowboys and the expectation there is excellence, but this is one of the lowest cost rosters in the NFL. They are hamstrung by past bad contracts and still are finding ways to compete. They are going to finish well above expectations and had the QB had a better season they would have probably made the playoffs. They should be able to spend a little in 2018 and will be more open in 2019. There is no reason to think they cant win with Garrett next year. If they did fire him I think he would get a job pretty quickly.

Here is the overall list with the Vikings leading the way in performance over minimum expectations:

TeamRoster ValueMinimum WinsProjected WinsDifference