Which NFL Coaches Find Themselves on the Hot Seat?

Dec 13, 2020; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy during the second half against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

With 3 1/2 months, until the season starts, it’s time to take a look at which coaches are already on the dreaded “hot seat”. The latest odds from Vegas have the following coaches, as the favorites to be the first to be sacked in the 2021 season. I will be taking a look at the 5 coaches deemed most likely to lose their job.

  • Mike McCarthy – 15/2
  • Vic Fangio – 8/1
  • Matt Nagy – 17/2
  • Jon Gruden – 10/1
  • Mike Zimmer – 11/1
Mike McCarthy – Dallas Cowboys – 15/2

It’s no surprise to see Mike McCarthy as the favorite. It wasn’t a good first season in Dallas, finishing with a 6-10 record and 3rd place in the weakest division in football. The injury to Dak Prescott took the heat off McCarthy last season, as they stayed competitive in the division. It was hard not to, truth be told when Washington won the division with a meager 7 wins. I feel they should be making the playoffs this year.

With Dak back and surrounded by weapons, there should be no excuse this year. McCarthy just needs a defense to be at least average. It was Defensive Coordinator Mike Nolan who lost his job due to last season’s performance. Dan Quinn has been brought in to fix that defense, and in taking defensive players with their first 6 draft picks this year. The Cowboys are making a concerted effort to fix their glaring weakness. If they fail in their attempt, it is fair to think it’s McCarthy’s job who will be on the line this year.

Vic Fangio – Denver Broncos – 8/1

It has been 4 years of losing seasons for the Broncos, the last 2 with Vic Fangio as Head Coach with a win percentage of .375. In year 3 Fangio needs to take his team to the playoffs, I personally predicted that to happen. The big question mark in Denver is that ever so important Quarterback position. With good Quarterback play, this is a team that has playoff potential.

As Defensive Coordinator, he’s consistently coached some of the best defenses around, for over 2 decades. I expect the Broncos defense to be good, and they have weapons on offense. To make sure Fangio’s tenure as Head Coach makes it to year 4, he has to find the answer at Quarterback. Whether that be Drew Lock, Teddy Bridgewater, or someone else…like Aaron Rodgers.

Matt Nagy – Chicago Bears – 17/2

Matt Nagy is probably fortunate to still be in the job, but he’s there for another season. His regular-season win percentage of .583 isn’t bad, but losing first time in the playoffs both times hasn’t been what the Bears are looking for. Recapturing the form of the 2018 season, when their phenomenal defense led them to the top of the division is what’s required this season. Since then the Bears defense is getting older and hasn’t been able to make up for poor play on offense, and a revolving door at Quarterback. They’ve now moved on from former 2nd overall pick Mitchel Trubisky, and presumably Nick Foles.

So the big decision for Matt Nagy is when does 1st round rookie Justin Fields get to start? The sensible option is to start the season with Andy Dalton, but the first defeat will bring calls to put Fields in. On the flip side if the team is playing well, do you still pull the trigger on Fields. A conundrum the Dolphins found themselves in with Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tua Tagovailoa. The good news is they managed to keep star receiver Allen Robinson in Chicago when it looked for a while that he might leave. If I was a betting man this is where my money would be going.

Jon Gruden – Las Vegas Raiders – 10/1

Despite only being in year 4 of a 10-year contract, the seat has to be warming up under Gruden. It has been anything but a triumphant return after 10 years away from coaching. A win-loss record of 19-29 can’t be what ownership is wanting after the move to glitzy Las Vegas. Decisions made back in 2019 are hanging over Gruden like a dark cloud.

The return on the draft picks hasn’t helped soften the blow of losing Khalil Mack. Running back Josh Jacobs has had a couple of solid 1000 yard rushing seasons, but there’s not much else to shout about. With Kansas City arguably the best team in football right now. The LA Chargers riding the wave of Offensive Rookie of the Year Quarterback Justin Herbert, and the Denver Broncos rumored to be trying to trade for reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers. Things look pretty grim for Gruden and the Raiders.

Mike Zimmer – Minnesota Vikings – 11/1

The phenomenon of Mike Zimmer’s Vikings making the playoffs in odd years, and not in even years continued in 2020. Zimmer needs that to keep going in 2021 to keep his job secure. It’s very unlikely that Zimmer becomes the first coach fired. It would take a start even worse than the 1-5 of last season, but failing to make the playoffs could see him in trouble as the season finishes.

After losing in the championship game in 2017, Kirk Cousins was supposed to be the final piece of the puzzle. Unfortunately, for the Vikings that hasn’t proved the case. Cousins has been statistically good, but as a team, they just haven’t refound the magic of 2017.

The defense has gradually got worse, to the point of being terrible last season. With key players back from injury and new additions, the defense should be better. If rookie linemen Christian Darrisaw and Wyatt Davis can make an immediate impact, the Vikings offense can be very good. A run to the playoffs would be a distinct possibility, and Zimmer’s job would be safe.