WASHINGTON — The Philadelphia Eagles didn’t wait for Sunday’s end of the NFL regular season to oust Chip Kelly as their coach. They announced Tuesday that owner Jeffrey Lurie had released Kelly with one game remaining in the Eagles’ season.
Kelly became the third NFL head coach dismissed since the season began. The Miami Dolphins fired Joe Philbin in October and the Tennessee Titans parted with Ken Whisenhunt in November.
The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Tuesday that they will retain Gus Bradley as their coach for next season, removing one name from the list of coaches with uncertain job security beyond the weekend. But there undoubtedly are more moves to come, most of them soon after Sunday’s games. Here’s a look at the coaches whose job status is most in doubt, with a best guess in each case as to whether he stays or goes:
Mike Pettine, Browns
Pettine has a record of 10-21 as he finishes his second season in Cleveland. The Browns are 3-12 this season after being competitive for most of last season before finishing 7-9.
Pettine has not exactly been dealt a winning hand. The Browns used a first-round draft choice last year on Johnny Manziel, the former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from Texas A&M whose improvisational playing style might not ever work in the NFL. Pettine has had to deal with Manziel’s off-field issues while being given more experienced options at quarterback, in Brian Hoyer last season and Josh McCown this season, that never were going to be long-term solutions.
But Pettine has left the Browns in the worst possible position: They haven’t won and as Manziel’s second NFL season winds down, there still is no way of knowing with any degree of certainty whether he can succeed as a starter. It’s clear that Pettine never trusted Manziel as his starter, which is understandable given Manziel’s failure to establish that he is trustworthy and the fact that coaches must win games to keep their jobs.
Pettine was right to sit down Manziel after he reportedly was not truthful with the team about his bye-week partying this season. But that was only one instance when not playing Manziel was the proper course. Pettine owed it to the organization to play Manziel sooner and find out about the young quarterback’s staying power, or lack of staying power, as an NFL starter.
Best guess: The Browns fire Pettine.
Chuck Pagano, Colts
This felt like a Super Bowl-or-bust season in Indianapolis after the Colts brought in aging veterans last off-season such as tailback Frank Gore, wide receiver Andre Johnson, offensive lineman Todd Herremans and pass rusher Trent Cole. They’d reached last season’s AFC title game before losing in lopsided fashion to the New England Patriots in the game that produced the DeflateGate saga, and they needed to find a way to put a better team around franchise quarterback Andrew Luck.
If that’s indeed what this was, it has gone decidedly bust. The Colts have a record of 7-8 and almost certainly will miss the playoffs. There is only the longest of long-shot scenarios left for them to overtake the Houston Texans in the AFC South.
Pagano’s dismissal has seemed inevitable since his fake punt that went so awry against the Patriots. There indeed have been injuries, with Luck sidelined for much of the season. But Luck and the team were playing poorly first. The injuries have not been the reason for the Colts’ disappointing results. The Colts have been the reason for the Colts’ demise.
Pagano might not take all the blame when owner Jim Irsay decides what to do. General manager Ryan Grigson also could be held accountable by Irsay. But standing pat no longer seems like an option for Irsay.
Best guess: Pagano gets fired.
Mike McCoy, Chargers
Things fell apart for the Chargers this season. They’re 4-11 this year after a pair of 9-7 seasons under McCoy.
If this indeed was the Chargers’ final season in San Diego, it came with a whimper. They rarely were competitive and few outside the organization seemed to care too much about it. That sort of malaise never is a good sign for a coach.
Best guess: The Chargers could be headed to Los Angeles and, if so, McCoy does not get to accompany them there.
Tom Coughlin, Giants
This is the toughest call out there.
Coughlin might be the NFL’s best and most accomplished coach this side of Bill Belichick. He and quarterback Eli Manning have teamed for two Super Bowl triumphs.
Giants ownership is as patient as it gets. This is a classy, well-run organization not prone to hasty decisions or knee-jerk reactions.
Close observers have said that Coughlin, 69, is not eager to move on from coaching the Giants and the Giants are not eager to move on from him.
But there might not be much choice. Co-owner John Mara made it clear entering the season that more was expected. The Giants had a chance — so many chances, actually — to be quite good this season. A weak NFC East certainly was there for the taking by them. But they handed it away by repeatedly squandering fourth-quarter leads.
Coughlin’s failure to do much about the Odell Beckham Jr. episode, mostly just observing while Beckham was in the process of having a series of on-field confrontations with Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman, doesn’t help either.
Best guess: Coughlin and the Giants move on in what might actually be a mutual and amicable parting.
Jason Garrett, Cowboys
Things have come unglued for the Cowboys this season on the heels of last year’s NFC East title.
But Garrett is only one season into a five-year, $30 million contract extension completed in January. And owner Jerry Jones has received every bit as much criticism as Garrett has for what has gone wrong for the Cowboys this season, from their failure to have a viable alternative to Tony Romo at quarterback to their signing (and, to some, subsequent enabling) of defensive end Greg Hardy.
Best guess: Garrett stays.
Jim Caldwell, Lions
Caldwell is not the problem in Detroit. He coached the Lions to the playoffs last season and he probably deserved better this season. The Lions were victimized by what the NFL acknowledged was a missed call, the failure to penalize the Seahawks for illegally batting the football out of the back of the end zone, that cost them a late chance to win in Seattle. They also were on the wrong end of a questionable face mask penalty that led to their Hail Mary defeat to the Green Bay Packers.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford has spoken in complimentary terms of Caldwell as a coach. She left Caldwell in place when she dismissed Martin Mayhew as general manager and Tom Lewand as team president.
But those November moves by Ford signaled that a housecleaning is under way in Detroit. Rarely does a coach remain under such circumstances.
Best guess: Right or wrong, the new football brain trust probably will want its own coach and Caldwell is fired.
Sean Payton, Saints
Payton has won a Super Bowl with the Saints. He had four straight seasons with 11 or more victories (interrupted by his one-year absence while serving his BountyGate suspension) and he has had consistently productive offences with Drew Brees as his quarterback.
But the Saints are finishing up their second straight losing season, and there has been persistent talk that the run of success might be over for Payton and Brees in New Orleans. The Saints should be careful about that. It’s not all that easy to find winning head coaches and record-setting quarterbacks. But other teams might be willing to offer draft-pick compensation to lure Payton, and the Saints will have to decide what to do.
Best guess: Who knows? What would other teams offer and what would the Saints deem enough to let Payton out of the remainder of his contract? Let’s say he stays. But that clearly is less than definite.
Jeff Fisher, Rams
The Rams again failed to turn high expectations into winning on-field results.
But they still might be able to salvage their first .500 season under Fisher. And their focus right now is on their prospective relocation to L.A., not their coach.
Best guess: Fisher stays.
Jim Tomsula, 49ers
It was Jed York, the team’s chief executive officer, and Trent Baalke, the general manager, who failed to make things work with Jim Harbaugh and failed to keep Harbaugh as the Niners’ coach. It was York and Baalke who passed over Adam Gase as Harbaugh’s successor and gave the job to Tomsula. So it is York and Baalke, not Tomsula, who are primarily responsible for the current state of the 49ers.
Tomsula inherited a bad situation. He has failed to make things work. But anyone who expected anything more this season was not being realistic.
Best guess: Tomsula probably, not definitely, is given one more season since firing him so quickly would be admitting that hiring him in the first place was a mistake.