8 NFL head coaches facing make-or-break seasons in 2019

By Jesse Reed
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

NFL head coaches don’t have a heck of a lot of job security these days outside of a few rare organizations that have either had long-term success or just don’t like change.

This past season saw eight NFL head coaches get the ax as teams moved on hoping to get better. Looking ahead, we’re focusing on eight more NFL head coaches who are in desperate need of a breakthrough in 2019.

Sean McDermott, Buffalo Bills

Since taking over in Buffalo before the 2017 season, McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have cleaned house in a major way. The roster is almost completely devoid of any prior influence and is comprised of players hand-picked by these two men, who came into their positions at the same time.

Buffalo has put its hopes in quarterback Josh Allen, who may or may not be the answer. The team has ample cap space to make moves in free agency, and the draft will be immensely important to bolster the overall talent level long term. McDermott might not be around long term, however. He’s gone 15-17 his first two seasons, and lately we’ve seen teams moving on after three years of sub-par results.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Perhaps all you need to know about where Garrett stands is that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has refused to extend the coach’s contract. He’s a lame duck in 2019, and given the team’s overall level of talent and financial commitment to it, Garrett needs to do something special this season.

In nine seasons at the helm, Garrett has a respectable regular-season record of 77-59. However, he’s 2-3 in the playoffs and has never guided the Cowboys past the Divisional Round. Needless to say, Jones and Co. expect more. If Garrett once again comes up short next season, it could be his last.

Matt Patricia, Detroit Lions

Patricia’s first year as the head coach in Detroit did not go smoothly. Even before the season began there were rumors that Lions players were already growing tired of the way he was running things. Things didn’t get much better during the season, and Lions fans soon became very frustrated by what they saw on the field.

In the end, Patricia went 6-10 in his rookie season — a three-game drop-off compared to what Jim Caldwell got out of this team one year before. If Detroit once again fails to reach .500 next season, it won’t be surprising to see Patricia get the ax.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had a Super Bowl-or-bust mentality heading into the 2018 NFL offseason. They broke the bank to bring in Kirk Cousins. They featured one of the league’s best defenses and were coming off a 2017 season in which they were true contenders.

Then, they went 8-7-1. Nothing went the way anyone within the organization expected. Cousins was not the savior the Vikings hoped he was, and Zimmer’s dominant defense took a major step backward. Through five seasons, the coach has sandwiched two excellent campaigns with three mediocre ones. Another poor showing in 2019 could spell the end of his tenure in Minnesota.

Doug Marrone, Jacksonville Jaguars

Marrone has been the head coach in Jacksonville ever since he replaced Gus Bradley in 2016. The next season, the interim label was removed. As the leader in Jacksonville, Marrone has overseen quite a spectacular failure following a surprising 2017 season that saw the Jags nearly get to the Super Bowl.

Last year, Jacksonville was supposed to take the next step. Featuring one of the best defenses in football and an offense that could grind opposing defenses into the dust, expectations were sky high. Then the games actually happened, and the Jaguars went 6-10. Along the way, players unraveled as Marrone appeared to lose his locker room. It’s hard to imagine him surviving another bad season in 2019.

Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons

Since being hired by the Falcons in 2015, Quinn has had success, to be sure. He guided the team to Super Bowl LI and famously led one of the biggest choke jobs in NFL history. Overall, he has a record of 36-28, which is good.

However, Atlanta is coming off an extremely disappointing 7-9 season which caused Quinn to revamp his entire coaching staff and take on defensive coordinating duties himself. With even more responsibility on his shoulders, Quinn is absolutely entering a make-or-break campaign.

Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers

Following a disheartening 2018 season that saw Carolina lose seven of its last eight games to finish 7-9 after starting out 6-2, Rivera’s seat is scorching hot. It was rumored that the Panthers were considering letting the veteran coach go, but he is back for another go-round in 2019.

One of the longer-tenured coaches in the NFL now, Rivera’s Panthers have been a mixed bag since he was hired in 2011. Of course, he led his team to Super Bowl 50, which was the high point. Since then, however, Carolina has two losing seasons sandwiched between an 11-5 2017 campaign.

Kyle Shanahan, San Francisco 49ers

Shanahan didn’t have a quarterback until midway through his first season. Then, his quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, was injured in just his third game of last season. So, he’s had a good excuse for starting his career in San Francisco with a 10-22 record.

This coming season, however, is huge for the young coach. Garoppolo is going to be ready for OTAs. The team has a ton of cash to spend in free agency, and it owns the extremely aluable No. 2 overall pick. Barring another catastrophic injury, this team needs to start winning, and it needs to start winning now. The pressure is on for Shanahan to deliver.