The first domino of NFL coaches fell after Week 5 when the Washington Redskins fired Jay Gruden following a 33-7 loss to the New England Patriots. Now, nearly halfway through the season, the margin between NFL coaches on the hot seat and NFL coaches given the pink slip is closing for some.
Gruden entered the season with by far the highest odds to be fired (+333), and it came to fruition. Washington got out from Gruden quickly to give them the advantage in the hiring process. It’s still far enough away from the true push for the playoffs that any coach could, in theory, save their job while others could falter hard enough to lose theirs by seasons end. For now, these are the coaches whose hot seats are warming up.
Dan Quinn, Atlanta Falcons
Frankly, it’s surprising that the Atlanta Falcons still employ Dan Quinn at this point. His team is 1-5 coming off a brutal 34-33 Week 6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. Before the loss, Falcons owner Arthur Blank reportedly said that he “wants to see progress over the next three weeks before the Week 9 bye or changes could come.”
Having already dropped the first of those three games, it’s not a great spot for Quinn to be in. The Falcons have the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks the next two weeks before the bye. If Atlanta can’t win both of those games, it doesn’t seem promising for Quinn’s future with the franchise. Blank is known as a loyal owner, and that’s probably why he hasn’t moved on from Quinn yet despite the horrific start to the season and his defenses never reaching their potential. Another issue at play is Quinn isn’t just the head coach, but the defensive coordinator as well. The team would need to find an interim for both jobs.
The likely firing of Quinn by the Week 9 bye could mean Raheem Morris would take over as interim head coach with Bob Sutton handling the interim defensive coordinator spot. Either way, it’s a quick fall from the highest of highs for Quinn, who is just three seasons removed from a Super Bowl appearance against the New England Patriots.
Freddie Kitchens, Cleveland Browns
Hiring a head coach from the previous staff never seems to work out, but that’s what the Cleveland Browns did with Freddie Kitchens. His success as interim offensive coordinator for the Browns’ final eight games last season was enough to convince GM John Dorsey. With huge expectations before the season, the Browns have been a letdown. They’re just 2-4, and quarterback Baker Mayfield leads the league in interceptions. If Kitchens was hired to keep the progress of Mayfield churning forward and this offenses creativity intact, then his seat might be the hottest.
With Mayfield struggling and the offense just 21st in points per game and 19th in yards per game, there’s a long way to go in Cleveland. Despite the struggles, Kitchens seems confident in himself and Mayfield to get this thing turned around. After their 32-28 Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, he said, “to play QB in this league, you have to be mentally and physically tough, and Baker’s that.” When asked about the teams’ record, Kitchens said, “it doesn’t matter what our record is we would be doing the same thing.” He clearly believes in the process and the approach the Browns are taking this season.
Kitchens has also struggled to balance his duties as a play-caller and head coach. On multiple occasions, he’s either challenged foolish plays, mismanaged timeouts, or shown a lack of urgency. There are murmurs that offensive coordinator Todd Monken could take over as play-caller to lighten the load.
Adam Gase, New York Jets
When the New York Jets hired Adam Gase, most of the country was surprised. Gase was coming off a three-year stint as the Miami Dolphins head coach with a 23-25 record and left very little hope with the franchise. In theory, the Jets hired him to help with Sam Darnold’s development, but then in classic Jets cursed fashion, he contracted mono and they lost their first four games.
Darnold had a triumphant return in the Jets 24-22 Week 6 win over the Dallas Cowboys, giving Gase some hope. After the win, Gase said on Darnold, “he did a really good job today getting to the open guy.” It’s clear Gase knows his future is tied to how Darnold plays the rest of the season, and he even showed some rare emotion after the win. Gase with a reluctant smile said, “it’s pretty good, I think you guys will enjoy going in there,” on the mood of the locker room. Yet, he knows they have a long way to go. “Just got to go back to work tomorrow.”
A win like this is big for his resume in New York. Considering GM Joe Douglas was brought in due to his relationship with Gase, it’s a good sign for more than a one and done. If the offense can stay productive with Darnold continuing to take steps, then it’s hard to see them moving on. At the same time, the team is 1-4, and there have already been multiple issues between Gase and media as well as Gase and previous GM Mike Maccagnan.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys
Speaking of the Jets 24-22 Week 6 win over the Cowboys. It may have given hope for the Gase era in New York, but boy did it ever turn up the heat on Jason Garrett. After an impressive 3-0 start that had Dak Prescott looking like an MVP candidate, Dallas has lost their last three games. If Garrett falls short of the playoffs, then Jerry Jones will have to begin to ponder replacing him seriously. He’s had far too long a leash in Dallas with just three playoff appearances in eight seasons and no consistency from season to season.
It’s been a whole lot of averageness in Dallas, and with strong coordinators on both sides of the ball and a team ready to win now, Jones must make a choice. Every Sunday, it’s clear Garrett isn’t adding much to this team, and even when they were 3-0, it was against teams with a combined record of 3-14. Still, Jones said on Garrett, “it’s not just him,” and he’s, “not even coming close,” on questioning Garrett’s job security.
The long leash of mediocrity doesn’t seem to be shortening in Dallas anytime soon, but Jones could change his tune if the team falls short of the playoffs. They also need to consider that defensive passing game coordinator Kris Richard will be a hot name this offseason, and they could lose him to a head coaching gig elsewhere.
Rob Paul is an NFL writer for Pro Football Network. You can follow his work on Twitter @RobPaulNFL.