A warm seat ahead of winter isn’t the most inviting thing for NFL head coaches.
With the 2021 regular season entering its home stretch, some teams may be looking ahead to 2022 to find out who will lead their franchises in the future. That sound you hear isn’t sleigh bells ringing: It’s the bell of the unemployment line door.
The 2021 has been a year of disappointing returns for a pair second-year guys in Joe Judge and Matt Rhule: Both head coaches are scrapping and clawing for wins with just five weeks remaining in the season, and if they don’t come in a hurry, both could be looking for their next job come January. Meanwhile, some veteran coaches could be shown the door: Some surprising, some not.
Here’s who may be in danger of losing their job:
MORE: Will the Vikings fire Mike Zimmer?
NFL coach hot seat rankings 2021
Joe Judge, Giants
Judge’s uber-conservative approach to game management has rubbed fans the wrong way and has resulted in a less-than stellar 4-8 season. The Giants have just 19 total offensive touchdowns in 2021, and that figure led to the firing of offensive coordinator Jason Garrett.
It’s not all on Garrett, though: Judge hasn’t done much to change minds of fans and analysts who question his in-game management and his grating rough-and-tumble persona. He may keep his job, though, should the organization decide to part ways with Dave Gettleman this offseason (as has been reported to potentially happen) and hire a guy who’s more in line with Judge’s thinking.
With Garrett fired and Gettleman also potentially on the way out, Judge could be running out of meat shields to use while the Giants keep losing games. Don’t be surprised if the organization decides to move on from him this offseason if they continue to falter down the stretch.
Pete Carroll, Seahawks
Carroll, 70, probably won’t be given the full-on boot-to-butt treatment, but rather a generous and friendly, “the Seahawks and Pete Carroll have mutually decided to part ways” Tweet statement following the 2021 season.
Seattle had to navigate a Russell Wilson finger injury and a very bad defense to start the year, but still sit at just 4-8 and a longshot for a playoff appearance this season despite recently knocking off the 49ers.
Between a down year, Russell Wilson’s reported desire to get out of Seattle and a general feeling like the organization is heading for a reset, Carroll may be coaching his last games for Seattle — unless they finish strong in 2021.
Urban Meyer, Jaguars
The biggest question: So, where does Urban Meyer go from here?
With the top head-coaching vacancies across college filled (included Meyer’s reported dream job Notre Dame), it seems like both the Jaguars and Meyer are stuck with each other through at least the end of 2021, and probably 2022.
Meyer’s reputation as an offensive guru hasn’t much helped Trevor Lawrence: Lawrence’s 59.4 PFF grade is one of the worst QB grades in all of football, and the third worst of the rookie class (Jets’ Zach Wilson trails with a 58.5, while Davis Mills is the worst with a 56.2 mark). Lawrence has thrown just nine touchdowns to 10 interceptions on a 58 percent completion rate this year.
With Lawrence scuffling and the drama and controversies which have followed him since essentially Day 1 in Jacksonville, the Meyer experiment may come to an end sooner rather than later. Shad Khan is traditionally a very loyal owner, though, so Meyer will probably get at least one more season to figure things out in Florida. Still, Year 1 of the Florida Man’s return hasn’t been especially inspiring.
Vic Fangio, Broncos
The Broncos had a hot 3-0 start, then traded wins and losses to land right back to .500 entering Week 14.
While the Broncos’ high-priced defense is performing well enough, Denver hasn’t been able to do on offense has been more of the story. That may fall on offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur more than Fangio, but the decision to bring in Teddy Bridgewater this offseason (rather than draft a quarterback) falls on Fangio’s head as much as it does GM George Paton’s.
Sitting at 6-6 and with matchups vs. the Bengals, Chargers and Chiefs remaining, the Broncos need to show they’re more contender than pretender in the AFC West — especially if their defense can’t hold down the high-scoring offenses of Los Angeles and Kansas City in the future.
Matt Rhule, Panthers
Rhule signed a seven-year deal prior to the start of the 2020 season, seemingly giving him ample time to turn Carolina’s fortunes around. However, his relationship (and subsequent firing) of Joe Brady and the Panthers’ middling results since the start of the season may make that contract meaningless.
Carolina’s QB carousel has doomed the Panthers just as much as the coaching has, but Rhule has been generally uninspiring since taking the the job last year, coming from the college ranks. His firing of Brady could either be viewed simply as a philosophical difference in how the offense should have been run or a scapegoat to hide from Rhule’s lack of grasp on a 2021 NFL offense.
Heralded as a program builder, Rhule hasn’t built much of anything yet in Carolina, despite having a very talented defense and some pieces to work with on the offensive side of the ball. While his gaudy contract says he’ll probably get at least another year to figure things out, money is no object to Carolina owner David Tepper, who could choose to go for another, bigger higher this upcoming offseason to get these win-now Panthers, well, winning now.
Mike Zimmer, Vikings
2021 record: 5-7
You should never judge a player, coach or team by a single game, but Minnesota’s last-second loss to the Lions in Week 13 more than likely sealed Zimmer’s fate following the 2021 season.
While the Vikings are still technically alive in the NFC playoff picture, they scream “one-and-done” more than Super Bowl contender.
A lot of that seems to be the Vikings’ tendency to play down (or up) to their opponent rather than really putting the hurting on teams, despite having a very talented squad: Minnesota games have been decided by one score in 11 games this season — they’ve played 12 games total. That’s pretty remarkable stuff.
While Zimmer’s put together a really nice stay as Vikings head coach over the last eight seasons, as is the case with Pete Carroll in Seattle, sometimes a change of voices in the building is needed. That will likely come to pass this offseason.
Matt Nagy, Bears
2021 record: 5-7
It’s almost something of a surprise that Nagy hasn’t been canned yet, especially with rumors circulating on more than one occasion that the Bears head coach would lose his job ahead of a game.
Nagy’s Thanksgiving turned out to be a pretty happy one after all: Rumors indicated that the head coach would be let go following Chicago’s matchup with the Lions, a game which they won, albeit in a very disgusting and unentertaining fashion (similar to many other Bears games during the Nagy era).
While the quarterback situation with Justin Fields and Andy Dalton isn’t exactly all that the Bears had hoped it would be at this stage of the season, that falls almost exclusively on the way Nagy and Co. have handled their rookie passer.