Ranking the NFL coaches most likely to be fired this year

The NFL is reaching the homestretch of its season. At one end of the spectrum, contenders are separating themselves from the pack. On the other end, the league’s bottom feeders are starting to be officially eliminated from the postseason picture. With five weeks to go in the regular season, the Cleveland Browns, New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers are left to play out the string.

When organizations are forced to start focusing on next season, tough decisions must be made. Suddenly, player evaluation takes more of a long-term view. Underperforming veterans are benched (ahem, Eli Manning) so the team can see what its younger guys can do.

The same approach is often taken when assessing the coaching staff. Almost every NFL season features at least one midseason head coach firing. Last season, the Rams kicked Jeff Fisher to the curb when Los Angeles was 4-9. In 2015, it only took the Dolphins four games for them to move on from Joe Philbin.

It’s only a matter of time before we see the first coaching casualty of the 2017 NFL campaign. The gallery below lists 10 coaches who might not return to their teams next year, ranked from the least likely to be fired to the man with the hottest seat in the league.

11 PHOTOS
NFL coaches who could be fired during 2017 season
See Gallery
NFL coaches who could be fired during 2017 season

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals

Season record: 5-6

Career record with team: 46-28-1

The 65-year-old Arians has denied rumors that he’ll retire at the end of this season. But Arians, who is only signed through 2018, might not have a say as to whether he’ll coach Arizona through the end of his contract.

The Cardinals have fallen sharply since reaching the NFC Championship after the 2015 campaign. Carson Palmer looked like a shell of himself before getting injured (again) and Arizona’s rushing attack is the worst in the NFL, having failed to replace the injured David Johnson.

But Arians, who became the winningest coach in Cardinals history last week -- with Blaine Gabbert throwing passes to the Jaguars’ stout defense, no less -- has earned a good amount of leeway in the organization.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Adam Gase, Miami Dolphins

Season record: 4-7

Career record with team: 14-12
 

Gase guided Miami to a surprise playoff appearance last year, but the team has floundered following the loss of quarterback Ryan Tannehill to a torn ACL during the preseason. Luring Jay Cutler out of retirement to fill in has gone about as well as chortling Bears fans expected.

The team’s 4-7 record doesn’t tell the full story here, as the Dolphins possess the league’s second-worst point differential (-115). If Miami’s current five-game losing streak extends to the end of the season, the powers that be could very well opt to move on from Gase. Then again, this is the team that gave Joe Philbin (career record: 24-28) more than three seasons at the helm.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Todd Bowles, New York Jets

Season record: 4-7

Career record with team: 19-23

Many predicted the Jets would finish near the bottom of the league in 2017, but they’ve actually managed to exceed expectations. Their -29 point differential is tied for 19th in the NFL.

But if New York limps to the finish line, it wouldn’t be totally surprising if the Jets cut ties with Bowles, who was fiercely criticized after the Jets went 5-11 last season.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos

Season record: 3-8

Career record with team: 3-8

It’d be out of character for Broncos GM John Elway to fire a coach after one season, but it’s been an absolute mess in Denver this season.

The team is 0-7 since their Week 5 bye, and that losing streak includes some truly embarrassing defeats. Which is worst -- a 23-10 setback to the previously winless Giants at home, a 51-23 blowout against the Eagles that was even more of a blowout than the score indicates, or a 41-16 beatdown from the Patriots in Denver?

The once intimidating defense has sagged to allow 25.5 points per game, which ranks 26th in the NFL. The quarterback situation got so bad, the Broncos extended an olive branch to Brock Osweiler and let him start a few games. Joseph only had one year of experience at the coordinator level prior to this season, a one-year stint as the Dolphins' defensive boss. He might be in over his head here.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

Season record: 0-11

Career record with team: 1-26

Jackson was always going to be given a long leash as the Browns committed to yet another rebuild when they hired him before the 2016 season. But he’s really testing the patience of Cleveland’s brain trust.

The Browns have the worst point differential in the NFL, ranking last in points scored (15.1 PPG) and second to last in points allowed (26.3 PPG). The biggest problem is they haven’t been able to develop any of their quarterbacks, even to a level of mere adequacy -- rookie DeShone Kizer and second-year players Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler have thrown a combined nine touchdowns and 20 interceptions this year.

It’s not like the team’s front office was expecting to compete for the playoffs this season, but it’d be hard to imagine Jackson surviving a winless campaign. If that nightmare scenario comes to fruition, Jackson would have the worst winning percentage among coaches in the Super Bowl era with at least 48 games under their belt.

(Photo via Diamond Images via Getty Images)

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Season record: 5-6

Career record with team: 123-111-3

Will the second-longest tenured coach in the NFL finally see his time in Cincinnati come to an end after this season, his 15th with the organization?

The Bengals rank last in the NFL in yards gained (274.3 YPG) and seem destined to miss the postseason with several tough games still remaining on their schedule. If they do, it’d be the first time since 2006-08 they’ve failed to qualify for the playoffs in consecutive seasons.

(Photo via USA Today Sports / Reuters)

Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Season record: 4-7

Career record with team: 13-14

The Buccaneers were a trendy playoff pick during the preseason. However, an underachieving defense (last in the NFL with 395.5 yards allowed per game) and quarterback (Jameis Winston threw just 10 touchdowns in 8 games before injuring his shoulder) have left Tampa Bay at the bottom of the NFC South.

Koetter was promoted to head coach two years ago after serving as offensive coordinator for predecessor Lovie Smith in 2015 to provide Winston with some continuity. But Winston’s regression in his third NFL season doesn’t speak well to Koetter’s credentials.

(Photo via Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Season record: 3-8

Career record with team: 52-39

Pagano won the war with former Colts GM Ryan Grigson, whom he battled with for years and was fired by team owner Jim Irsay in January. But Pagano might follow him out the door soon.

Indianapolis’ defense has been the worst in the league by points allowed (27.3 PPG) – not a good look for a team led by a former defensive coordinator -- and the offense is 27th (17.7 PPG) by the same measure.

The Colts have always looked pretty hapless without a healthy Andrew Luck, but at least managed .500 records the last two years. Now, the bottom has fallen out, and Pagano might pay the price for it.

(Photo via Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

John Fox, Chicago Bears

Season record: 3-8

Career record with team: 12-31

The Bears are doomed to their third consecutive last-place finish in the AFC North under Fox. Even though the blame can’t be completely laid at his feet -- any coach would have trouble winning with the amount of talent on Chicago’s offense -- the team has a bit of a hopeless aura around it right now.

That shouldn’t be the case with a No. 2 overall draft pick in Mitchell Trubisky under center, but the rookie hasn’t looked like a top-shelf prospect. Chicago might opt to hire a more offensive-minded coach to help groom Trubisky in the next stage of his career.

The team's remaining home games against easy opponents in San Francisco and Cleveland feel like must-wins, and even victories in those matchups might not be enough to save Fox.

(Photo via Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Ben McAdoo, New York Giants

Season record: 2-9

Career record with team: 13-14

McAdoo did just about the only thing that could fire up New York’s fan base during a long-lost season -- bench two-time Super Bowl champion Eli Manning. Most Giants fans have a love/hate relationship with Manning, but they were all up in arms after McAdoo cast aside Manning for Geno Smith, of all quarterbacks, this week.

That decision only grew the chorus of voices calling for McAdoo's head, which has been present since the team's 0-5 start. The team now plans to split time at quarterback between Smith -- who already ran out of chances with one New York team -- and 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb. At this point, it seems McAdoo will only be retained if Smith or the rookie out of California provides a sustained spark for the offense, which would be shocking given the unit’s total ineptness this season.  

(Photo by Dustin Bradford via Getty Images)

HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.