It’s not likely that many NFL head coaches have great job security. Most are either on the hot seat, or a losing streak away from being there.
While a case could be made for plenty of NFL head coaches to be fired, these five have all hit their limits. If the teams that employ these coaches are interested in taking a step in the right direction, they must move on from their current coach no later than right after the 2015 regular season ends.
For the sake of this discussion, we’re only looking at full-time guys, so Miami’s Dan Campbell and Tennessee’s Mike Mularkey aren’t in the mix.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
At one point, Tom Coughlin was one of the best coaches in the league. With two Super Bowl wins, the resume is certainly there. But do you know what’s also there for Coughlin and his Giants? Regression, and a lot of it.
The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since their last Super Bowl win in the 2011 season and haven’t had a winning season since the following year’s 9-7 mark. For New York to have a winning season in 2015, they’d need to win the remainder of their games (at Dolphins, vs. Panthers, at Vikings, vs Eagles), which just seems highly unlikely.
A defense of Coughlin is that despite their record, the Giants have scored more points than their opponents this season (307-296), an indication that things are headed in the right direction. But New York is 1-7 in games decided by eight points or fewer this year, and that’s an absolute reflection on the coach.
Also, it’s pretty well known at this point that the NFC East is a wretched division. None of the four teams are even .500 against non-divisional opponents and they’re collectively 10-20. Within the division, the Giants 2-3 and the only team below, as the Cowboys are 3-2, while the Redskins and Eagles are 2-2.
It’s possible that New York could sneak in to the playoffs this year because of a putrid NFC East, but that can’t make a difference. Playoffs or not, it’s time for Coughlin to go.
Chip Kelly, Philadelphia Eagles
Not to rain on the parade of the Philadelphia Eagles after beating the Patriots, but Kelly belongs in college. The 10-6 records in his first two seasons could hint that Kelly knows what he’s doing, but let’s look at this a little more carefully.
- Nick Foles led the Eagles in passing in 2013. While Mark Sanchez passed for more yards in 2014, Foles was the quarterback through Philadelphia’s 6-2 start, while Sanchez finished at 4-4. Foles was drafted by the Eagles before Kelly’s arrival. He is now gone.
- LeSean McCoy led the Eagles in rushing in 2013 and 2014, running for 2,926 yards with 14 touchdowns over those two seasons. He added 694 receiving yards and caught two additional TD passes in 2013 and 2014. Like Foles, he was drafted before Kelly’s arrival. Like Foles, he is now gone.
- DeSean Jackson led the 2013 Eagles in all major receiving categories. He caught 82 passes for 1,332 yards with nine touchdown receptions. Likewise, Jeremy Maclin led the 2014 Eagles in all major receiving categories, catching 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. Like Foles and McCoy, Jackson and Maclin were both in Philadelphia before Kelly. Like Foles and McCoy, both receivers are now gone.
Kelly inherited a roster with good players and won with them. Three years in, we’re getting a sense of how he’d shape a roster, and the team isn’t winning. This can’t be spun as anything other than regression. Like the Giants and Coughlin, the Eagles could win the awful NFC East and make the playoffs, but it doesn’t matter.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports has reported that Kelly’s job is likely safe. Jeffery Lurie and the rest of the Eagles front office really needs to reconsider that. Kelly needs to go.
Jim Tomsula, San Francisco 49ers
Most NFL head coaches deserve more than one year, especially if it’s their first full time coaching job. Jim Tomsula is not most NFL head coaches, though.
Like all NFL head coaches, Tomsula is shown a lot on the sideline during his team’s games. The overwhelming majority of the time he’s shown on television, Tomsula just looks completely overwhelmed by his job. Body language isn’t the end all and be all, of course, but when you weigh body language with a 4-8 record, it becomes far more relevant.
Do you know what else is relevant?
- Trailing by the Seahawks by 16 points in the fourth quarter, Tomsula twice punted. I’ll grant you that 16 points is a tall order, but it’s still within the realm of possibility, especially against a team that’s struggled finishing games at times this year. More importantly, the absolute worst-case scenario in either of those spots would be missing the conversion, leaving Seattle a short field and losing by 23 instead of 16. Are there any 49ers out there content with losing by 16, but unwilling to lose by 23?
- Against the Bears (a win, by the way), the 49ers seemed unprepared for Chicago lining up for a 51-yard field goal. After sending a punt return team on the field, the 49ers scrambled around and ended up with only 10 men. If you’re an optimist, I suppose you could say no harm, no foul. The Bears made the kick and the result would likely have not changed with 11 men, but how does that happen? Also, when defenses are unprepared and running guys in and out, it’s just as likely they’ll end up with 12 men on the field than 10. On a fourth-and-two, that would’ve been a huge mistake.
- In the same game, Tomsula challenged a play that he had no chance of winning on a punt. He either took advice from someone who doesn’t quite understand the “illegal touch” rule, or he himself doesn’t understand the rule.
Now, the best defense for Tomsula is that the 49ers had a mass exodus this off-season. But despite that, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Ann Killion reminded us that the 49ers brass had high hopes for 2015.
Last May, at the owners' meetings, Jed York told some writers that he expected the team to go 11-5.
— Ann Killion (@annkillion) November 1, 2015
The best the 49ers can do is 8-8, and even that would come with some meaningless late season wins against bad teams. He might be a good position coach. Heck, in the right spot, he might even be a decent coordinator. But Jim Tomsula is not a qualified NFL head coach.
Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions
After Thursday night’s heartbreaking loss to the Packers, Albert Breer of the NFL Network raised an interesting question.
Trying to figure out why Lions have 2 guys defending the boundary on an untimed down … Result: 5-on-5 in end zone pic.twitter.com/DsOQnCHCxU
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) December 4, 2015
I have to admit, I was curious to hear the answer. Well, thanks to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, we have an answer.
“In that situation we have a couple different things that we do,” Caldwell said. “That was one where you’re kind of looking for more of that pass back and forth kind of thing because of the range.
Okay, now that we have an answer, does anyone have a good answer?
There are two real problems with what Caldwell said.
- The obvious: 61 yards in a dome is a throw that most NFL quarterbacks can make. They may not all be able to perfect arch and accuracy on the ball that Aaron Rodgers had, but most can get the ball to the end zone. Without anyone in front of him to block his view, Richard Rodgers had a much better look at a Hail Mary than any receiver should have.
- Even if you’re expecting a lateral play, why are guys on the sidelines? In that case, they should be in the middle of the field and ready to cover the most ground.
On top of all of that, you also have guys like Calvin Johnson (6’5) and Eric Ebron (6’4) on your roster. Given that there’s no real coverage to a Hail Mary other than jumping up and either catching the ball or knocking it down, wouldn’t you want a couple of your tallest players on the field in that spot, especially if you’re leaving a few guys up to defend a lateral play?
Now, a bad loss shouldn’t get a coach fired. But those were inexplicably bad coaching decisions which led to a bad loss. More importantly, the Lions are also 4-8 after an 11-5 playoff season in 2014. That’s regression and when that happens, it’s time for a new coach.
Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams
We can’t talk about regression without highlighting Jeff Fisher. In 2008, the Fisher-led Tennesse Titans went 13-3 to win the AFC South, becoming the only team besides the Indianapolis Colts to win that division from 2003-2010. Since then, Fisher’s marks have been a little less than impressive.
- 2009, Tennessee Titans: 8-8, 3rd place in the AFC South.
- 2010, Tennessee Titans: 6-10, 4th place in the AFC South.
- 2012, St. Louis Rams: 7-8-1, 3rd place in the NFC West.
- 2013, St. Louis Rams: 7-9, 4th place in the NFC West.
- 2014, St. Louis Rams: 6-10, 4th place in the NFC West.
- 2015, St. Louis Rams: 4-8, 3rd place in the NFC West.
Unless you’re incredibly moved by that jump from 6-10 to 7-8-1, that’s just steady regression. There’s a very good chance that the Rams winning percentage will decrease in all four years under Fisher.
While they certainly have issues on offense, the Rams’ defense is just too good to finish in the 4-12 to 8-8 range on an annual basis. Fisher’s got an ok resume, but most of his greatest achievements came in 2008 and before. Assuming the Rams miss the postseason this year, Fisher will have missed the playoffs in each of his last six years as a coach, including all four with the Rams. It’s time for a change.