I am a big believer in the importance of coaching in the NFL. Not all coaches are created equal. In fairness, neither are the circumstances they coach in. So, here are my top five coaches under the most pressure to win this season.
Jeff Fisher- Fisher has coached four seasons yet he has a 27-36-1 record. Most coaches would already be gone. However, the Rams have stuck with the man who put the Oilers/Titans franchise on the map. Given the Rams relocation to LA, it is understandable. Fisher has been here before. He led the Titans to within a yard of a Super Bowl title just three years after their move from Houston. With rookie quarterback Jared Goff now at the helm, a solid defense, and bruising running game led by impressive youngster Todd Gurley, Rams ownership may not be so patient in the team’s return season to LA goes poorly.
Chuck Pagano- This is a tough one. Pagano has been masterful in helping this franchise rise out of the ashes of the Peyton Manning era. In fact, he did not miss the playoffs until last year. Quarterback Andrew Luck has carried the franchise for the last several years along with Pagano. Last year though, the Colts could not keep Luck or any other quarterback upright. Due to injuries, they used four of them while stumbling to an 8-8 finish. When you consider that the Colts were a trendy preseason Super Bowl pick, it was a massive disappointment. To their credit, the Colts addressed their biggest issue, drafting four offensive lineman, including Alabama center Ryan Kelly who will be an immediate starter. Pagano was all but gone at the end of last season, but was given a four-year contract extension at the 11th hour. Contracts mean very little when it comes to coaching in the NFL, and considering it took ownership so long to decide that they were keeping him, I have to include him on this list. His future hinges on Luck staying healthy.
Jason Garrett- Given Jerry Jones’ meddlesome nature and the constant drama that surrounds the Cowboys franchise, I feel like their coach makes some kind of list like this every year. Jason Garrett gets a pass for last year’s 4-12 record as far as I am concerned. He lost Tony Romo and Dez Bryant for almost all of last season. When healthy though, this roster is good enough to go to the Super Bowl. Jerry Jones wants that, and he wants it now. Need I say more?
Bill O’Brien- This may surprise some, but hear me out. Someone had to benefit from Indy’s struggles last year. Houston rode J.J. Watt and their defense to a 9-7 record and won the division. At times though, the offense was dreadful. They switched between Brian Hoyer and Ryan Mallett throughout the early part of the season at quarterback. Then, they brought back a familiar face in T.J. Yates and also signed Brandon Weeden. Everyone was given a chance and failed miserably for one reason or another. Houston trailed two separate games by 30+ points at the half. Eventually, they were absolutely dismantled at home by Kansas City in one of the most lopsided playoff games I have ever seen, losing 30-0. They struggled to get first downs, forget about scoring. O’Brien has a reputation as an offensive guru. Last year, the offense got progressively worse. He has essentially bet his job on Brock Osweiler bringing stability to this offense. Osweiler kept the Broncos together last season while Peyton Manning was injured. He got a huge payday for it. Denver was more than content to let him walk. Only time will tell which organization was right. The roster in Houston is too good to be held down by pathetic quarterback play.
Marvin Lewis- No coach must win more this year than Marvin Lewis. He has been the head man since 2003. He has coached six playoff games and has an 0-6 record. His seat really started getting hot after their embarrassing playoff collapse against the Steelers, you can relieve it below thanks to the NFL’s YouTube channel. I was there. It was the most surreal thing I have ever experienced in sports. Lewis should not have to be a babysitter, but must take the blame for thing like that. To his credit, he did. However, for a roster loaded with talent and an organization that has not won playoff game in 26 years, it is now or never.