John Fox

NFL preseason coaching heat check

NFL coaches on the hot seat is a topic that fans and media alike never seem to stop talking about. NFL preseason is a good time to take an inventory of coaches that could be in trouble if the upcoming season goes poorly.

The NFL never stops surprising us. Thus, the coaches mentioned here are by no means the only ones that might be relocating in 2018. These are just the situations that jump off the page immediately.

Dead men walking

John Fox

John Fox is a hugely underrated coach who has engineered massive turnarounds and deep playoffs runs everywhere he has been. Everywhere except Chicago, that is, as he is just 9-23 in two seasons with the Bears. These days, coaches rarely get more than three seasons to be awful in the same spot.

Unfortunately for Fox, the front office has given him his worst Bears roster yet. The already murky quarterback situation was only made messier by the surprise drafting of rookie Mitchell Trubisky with the second overall pick. Outside of running back Jordan Howard, there just is not much talent on this roster.

There are a lot of projects. Fox does not have time for projects. Despite going 3-13 last year, Chicago did not make much of an impact in free agency and only ended up with five draft picks.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: nydailynews

It is not entirely his fault, but this is not the recipe for the kind of turnaround Fox needs to keep his job. Right or wrong, the head coach is always the first to go.

Todd Bowles

Minus the established track record, Fox and Todd Bowles are in very similar spots. Bowles is 15-17 in two seasons with the Jets.

With a quarterback race that features Bryce Petty, Josh McCown and Christian Hackenberg and a receiving group in which no one has caught 60 career passes, a winless season is very realistic for the Jets. No coach survives that. Bowles will likely land on his feet as defensive coordinator somewhere in 2018.

Not likely, but not impossible

Mike Zimmer

Mike Zimmer is one of the most respected coaches in the game. He had the back story of assistant coach who paid his dues in the NFL for almost two decades before getting a shot to be a head coach.

However, the reality is that Zimmer is slowly becoming Rex Ryan without the brash and bold guarantees. The defense has always been elite during Zimmer’s time in Minnesota. It even carried them to a 6-0 start last year.

Much like Rex Ryan’s teams though, the offensive side of the ball just is not very good. They have never ranked inside the top 20 in total offense under Zimmer. Even in 2015 when Zimmer’s Vikings reached the playoffs, they were 31st in passing offense.

Rex Ryan has a 61-66 record with four playoff wins as an NFL head coach. He’s now a commentator for ESPN. Zimmer is 26-22 without a playoff win. If Zimmer does not figure out the offensive side of the ball this year, his record will creep closer to .500 and he could join Ryan at ESPN.

Adam Gase

Two weeks ago, Gase would not have been in any article like this. He did an outstanding job in leading the Dolphins to the playoffs last year in his first season.

NFL preseason coaching heat check

Photo: espn.com

However, bringing his favorite pupil Jay Cutler out of retirement to save the day after the injury to starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill is pretty bold. Yes, Cutler had his best statistical season when Gase was his offensive coordinator with the Bears in 2015, but that team still managed only six wins. Last year, Cutler only started five games due to injury and poor performance.

Cutler’s lack of passion for the game of football has always been painfully apparent. Despite a wealth of natural talent, he is only led a team the playoffs once and has losing record as a starter.

He will no doubt fill the stat sheet with touchdowns and interceptions in Miami. Even so, there is nothing to suggest that he will fare any better than original backup quarterback Matt Moore in terms of winning games.

Gaze really stuck his neck out for Cutler. It is only a one-year deal. Even so, if the experiment blows up in his face and muddies the future of the quarterback position in Miami, ownership having a quick hook would not be all that surprising.

Unique Situations:

In addition to the four coaches mentioned above, 2017 is also a big year for several coaches that have been with their current teams for many years. Marvin Lewis, Sean Payton, John Harbaugh, Bruce Arians and Chuck Pagano have all experienced significant success in their current coaching stops. However, they all missed the playoffs last year.

Some of them are on a streak of unsuccessful seasons. They have all done great things for their respective franchises over the years and have immense respect of ownership. Thus, I cannot see any of them getting fired. If the upcoming season goes poorly though, a mutual parting of ways is certainly possible.

 

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Draftmas Colts

Indianapolis Colts 2017 NFL Draft Profile

Day 14 of TGH’s Draftmas takes us to the Indianapolis Colts. What will the Colts do in the 2017 NFL Draft?

Summary

After posting another 8-8 season, frustrations in Indianapolis are beginning to boil. With a legitimate franchise quarterback in place, the Colts still couldn’t make the leap with Andrew Luck in 2016. Plagued by inconsistency, the Colts could never get things going in 2016, winning back to back games only once.

But fans have hope for 2017 with the firing of General Manager Ryan Grigson. He will be replaced by former Kansas City Director of Football Operations Chris Ballard. After seeing the success of the Chiefs, fans are hopeful Jim Irsay made the right hire. And Chris Ballard has certainly given Colts fans hope.

Ballard has signed 10 free agents since he became the GM of the Colts. That is the most in team history, and certainly shows he’s willing to do whatever necessary to return the Colts to contention. But with most of the signings being more about depth and less about immediate impact, Ballard will have to make some savvy moves come draft day.

Colts Picks and Needs

The Colts have seven picks in April’s draft. With the opportunity to find some solid players throughout the draft, Indianapolis will need to make good use of each of the following picks.

1st Round: 15th Overall

2nd Round: 46th Overall

3rd Round: 80th Overall

4th Round: 122th Overall

4th Round: 137th Overall

4th Round: 144th Overall

5th Round: 158th Overall

The Colts have a solid offense, finishing 10th in the NFL in yards per game in 2016. But the offensive line is one of the glaring weaknesses of the Colts offense. After the offensive line gave up 40 sacks in the first 13 games of the 2016 season, they could use an influx of talent. But after finishing 30th in the NFL in yards per game allowed, the defense definitely needs some attention in the 2017 NFL Draft. Here are the needs for both offense and defense.

Offense

Right Guard

Right Tackle

Running Back

Defense

Defensive End

Defensive Tackle

Inside Linebacker

 

Cornerback

Colts Targets and Thoughts

As with the previous Draftmas profiles, we will examine the first three rounds and there will be no trades.

Draftmas Colts

We will be seeing a lot of this from Derek Barnett in the NFL (Larry McCormack/The Tennessean).

First Round:

15th pick: Derek Barnett DE, Tennessee

After starting three years at Tennessee, Derek Barnett would be an excellent pick for the Colts at 14th overall. He would give Head Coach Chuck Pagano a legitimate pass rusher on the outside, one that could put his hand in the dirt and also play standing up. Pro Football Focus had Barnett pressuring the quarterback on 20% of his rushes in 2016, so he is a more than able pass rusher. Barnett was also a solid run stopper in his time at Tennessee, giving him an edge over other outside pass rushers. If Barnett lasts to the 14th pick, the Colts would be wise to grab him.

Second Round:

46th pick: Dan Feeney G, Indiana

While Dan Feeney isn’t the top rated guard in the 2017 draft class, he would be a good pick up for Chris Ballard. Feeney had an up and down 2016 at Indiana, missing some games due to injury. But when he has been on the field, Feeney has been a wall in pass protection. Over 1,239 pass block attempts in the past three seasons, Feeney has only allowed two sacks and four hits on Indiana quarterbacks. He has also logged some time at right tackle, giving him the ability to play at right tackle if need be. But with his innate pass blocking skills on the inside of the offensive line, Feeney could help put Andrew Luck’s mind at ease.

Third Round:

80th pick: Sidney Jones CB, Washington

After tearing his Achilles at Washington’s Pro Day, Sidney Jones has seen his draft stock plummet. Once a first round talent, many are predicting him outside the first three rounds. But if Chris Ballard and Chuck Pagano are willing to wait to let Jones heal, he could be a major steal in the third round. Jones didn’t allow a single touchdown in 2016, and Pro Football Focus gave him an impressive 86.1 coverage grade. He would be an excellent addition to a depleted secondary, and would play well across the field from Vontae Davis. The Colts could get a potential top flight corner back in the third round, but Ballard and Pagano will have to be comfortable with using an early round pick on a player who might not play in 2017.

Conclusion

The Colts have some major holes to fill on both the offensive and defensive side of the ball. If they can land some solid players in the early rounds, don’t sleep on the Colts to make some noise in 2017. And with a franchise quarterback already in place, all the Colts need are the pieces to help carry Andrew Luck and the Colts back to the playoffs.

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