When we use the term "hot seat" in reference to an NFL coach, it implies that he is in danger of losing his job in the near future. It doesn't just mean that his team is struggling or under-performing, because there are a number of coaches who are in that position but aren't really in imminent danger of being fired.
Unless things turn horrific on and off the field for first-year coaches like Chip Kelly, Doug Marrone and Gus Bradley, whose teams are off to a bumpy start, should be safe this season, because they were hired to build their teams into contenders and that is presumed to take time. Veteran coaches also get a safe pass, which is why guys like Jeff Fisher, Mike Tomlin and Tom Coughlin are highly unlikely to get axed, no matter how bad things get during the season. Their futures may be revisited during the offseason, though, if things continue to spin downward.
That leaves us with only a handful of coaches who genuinely could be shown the door in the coming weeks. Here are the top three I think are in danger of not making it through October:
- Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: There was a brief period of time when it was fair to wonder whether Schiano or Josh Freeman would last longer in Tampa. Now that Freeman is gone, Schiano will have to find a way to repair the locker-room friction that reportedly exist and get his 0-4 squad headed in the right direction. He gets one week to breathe easy during their bye, but the Bucs return for a series of potentially difficult matchups: Philadelphia Eagles, @ Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers, @ Seattle Seahawks. He may need to come out of that stretch at 2-2 or better to keep his job.
- Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers: His seat was smoking hot heading into Week 3, when his Panthers humiliated the New York Giants. Now they are coming off their bye week and face a series of teams that are entirely beatable: @ Arizona Cardinals, @ Minnesota Vikings, St. Louis Rams, @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The catch there is three of those four games are on the road, and if they come out of this stretch with a losing record, the heat may be too much for Rivera to handle.
- Rex Ryan, New York Jets: I do think the Jets front office will tough it out with Ryan the rest of this season -- they've stuck with him through an awful lot already -- but things could get dicey. Turnover-prone rookie QB Geno Smith likely will face the Atlanta Falcons on Monday night without his top two receivers (Santonio Holmes, Stephen Hill). If that game turns ugly, Ryan will have to get his Jets turned around against the Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots, (@) Cincinnati Bengals and New Orleans Saints or fans will be calling for his head during their Week 10 bye.
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