As the calendar reaches mid-July, NFL coaching staffs are preparing for their upcoming training camps. There are a handful of NFL head coaches – and maybe even a few more – that need to get it right in 2021 or else they will be looking for a new job. Firing NFL head coaches is bound to happen before the regular season hits its end next January.
From Week 4 of last season all the way through the Super Bowl and into February of this year, seven NFL head coaches were fired. That means seven new head coaches will be roaming the sidelines this year. Those seven may be safe in 2021; however, in today’s win-now-or-else NFL who knows?
Which NFL head coaches have to produce in 2021 or they will be out of a job? Here’s a look at the coaches on the hot seat in 2021.
Second-year Dallas head coach Mike McCarthy didn’t expect to play the majority of his first season without starting QB Dak Prescott. That is exactly what happened as the Cowboys limped to a 6-10 finish in 2020. Prescott went down with an ankle injury in Week 5 after becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 450 yards plus in three consecutive games.
However, even with Prescott in Weeks 1 through 4 Dallas went just 1-3. The big problem for Dallas was defense. The Cowboys finished 23rd in total defense and a disappointing 31st against the run. When you can’t stop the run in the NFL, you tend to give up a lot of points which Dallas did. The Cowboys allowed 29.6 points per game in 2020 which ranked 28th in the league.
McCarthy did hire a new defensive coordinator in former Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, but if something doesn’t change fast McCarthy might hit the unemployment line. The Cowboys open the season against defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay. If McCarthy’s Cowboys get off to a poor start early in the season, they will likely be McCarthy’s no more.
Defense Doesn’t Win Championships
If the old saying were true, Denver head coach Vic Fangio wouldn’t be sitting on a hot seat. Fangio has built a solid defense in Denver but despite his best efforts, the Broncos finished 25th in points allowed and 21st in total defense in 2020.
Fangio went defense in the first round of the 2021 draft banking on QB Drew Lock to improve. The first three weeks of the 2021 schedule – Giants, Jaguars, and Jets – favors Denver. Anything less than a 3-0 start will probably lead to another mediocre Broncos season which will lead to Fangio no longer sitting on the hot seat. That’s because he’ll be gone.
When you win just six games in two seasons in the NFL, you have a reservation for a hot seat. That is the case for Cincinnati’s Zac Taylor, who took over the struggling Bengals only to struggle some more. The organization has done a good job of building the roster, especially on offense. The problem for Taylor is the schedule which starts with the entire NFC North plus Pittsburgh and Jacksonville. If Taylor can’t start to turn the tide in Cincy, this year is likely his last.
The Lukewarm Seat
Remember when Jon Gruden was leading the FFCA? That was the Fired Football Coaches Association that Gruden chaired while in the broadcast booth before returning to the field. He might be going back.
In three seasons with the Raiders, Gruden has a winning record at 57-55 and exactly zero trips to the postseason. Anything short of a playoff berth – which will be tough to nail down in 2021 – will probably spell the end for Gruden in Las Vegas.
Also sitting on a lukewarm seat is Arizona’s Kliff Kingsbury. The Air Raid guru is 13-18-1 overall and had the Cardinals in the thick of the NFC West Division race through nine games last season. Arizona was 6-3 but then fell apart finishing 2-5 and missing the postseason. It’s time for Kingsbury and the Cardinals to break out, which is easier said than done having to play in the NFL’s toughest division.
The Hottest Seat of All
The one NFL head coach that has to win in 2021 is Chicago’s Matt Nagy. After going 13-3 and winning the NFC North in his first year, the Bears have gone 8-8 in consecutive seasons. The big reason why is offense, which is supposed to be Nagy’s forte. Remember, he was an offensive coordinator in Kansas City which is why he was able to get the Bears job in the first place.
Over the past two seasons, the Bears’ offense has been ho-hum at best. The Bears ranked outside the top 20 in points scored in each of the past two seasons. At some point, Nagy is going to have to turn the offense over to rookie Justin Fields. That could be good, but it could also turn out bad. The Bears open the season with the Rams and play the Browns in Week 3. Chicago has a midseason run that includes Tampa Bay, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore. That could spell the end for Nagy.