There is about one month left in the NFL season. This means that rumors will start to emerge about head coaches who may be on the hot seat and could be fired by the end of the season. There have already been two head coaches let go 14 weeks into the 2021 season. During these last few weeks, one or two vacancies could occur before the end of Week 18. There are a few other teams that could look into bringing in a new head coach. Here are the teams that can shock the league by firing their head coach without really giving him ample time to turn the team around.
This season has gone exactly how many thought it would go in Houston. They have a 2-11 record to this point of the season and will most likely land a pick in the top-5 this offseason. Houston has been rotating veterans on and off this roster to see who could be a piece of this team long-term. This year the team wasn’t expected to have much success but they are trying to rebuild this team from the bottom up.
Since the offseason, Houston has parted way with notable players like J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus, Mark Ingram, Nick Martin, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Bradley Roby, Randall Cobb, Duke Johnson Jr., Gareon Conley, Phillip Lindsay, Bernardrick McKinney, Zach Cunningham, Andre Roberts and Charles Omenihu. All 15 of those players were considered starters or major contributors for the Houston Texans over the last two seasons. This isn’t even including former Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson who has been benched for the season due to off-the-field legal issues.
For the second offseason in a row, there could be major turnover for the Houston Texans in the personnel department because a majority of their starters were average veterans signed to one-year deals to fill out the roster. A notable free agent likely to leave the team includes quarterback Tyrod Taylor who was benched for the rest of the season for the team to see what they have in 2021 third-round pick Davis Mills.
A major question this offseason for Houston will be if they will retain head coach David Culley next season. Culley was the Baltimore Ravens wide receiver coach before being hired by Houston. He was an underwhelming and possibly under-qualified hire because he has never been more than a position coach in his 27-year coaching career. Houston could not land one of the highly regarded coaching candidates because candidates were turnover off by working with Texans Vice President of Football Operations Jack Easterby and they wanted to avoid the Deshaun Watson drama. At the time Watson demand to be traded regardless of who they hired for the position. Watson would have been a major selling point for a candidate to be interested in the job.
One year after last year’s drama Houston hopes to continue to keep the low profile they have managed to keep throughout the regular season. If that is the case Houston may be able to attract an upgrade at the head coach position to take over and be a part of their rebuild long-term. That being said Culley hasn’t done awful with the job. His team has played hard every week and stayed out of the (negative) headlines. Houston’s record is a reflection of the talent on the roster. It is impossible to say how much of an impact Culley has had on this roster because of the low expectations that this team had going into the year.
This team will officially begin their rebuild next year when they bring in veterans and use their draft capital to rebuild this roster. They are expected to have even more draft capital after a possible Deshaun Watson trade to shape this roster top how general manager Nick Caserio wants to build it. Caserio and ownership must ask themselves if they view Culley as the team’s future head coach and not just a stop-gap until the end of the 2021-22 season.
After the first month of the NFL season if someone would have said the Panthers may be looking for a new head coach in the offseason that person would be called crazy. The Panthers appeared to be ahead of schedule with their rebuild and ready to compete for a playoff spot. After winning their first three games of the year in dominant fashion Carolina has won only two of their last ten games.
A lot of the team’s failure could be blamed on the severe injuries to starting quarterback Sam Darnold and star running back Christian McCaffrey. During weeks 1-3 Darnold completed 68.2% of his passes for an average of 296 passing yards per game. He also had three passing touchdowns (six touchdowns total) and only one interception during that span. But it became clear that Darnold was a major reason for the team losing after how he performed from Weeks 4-9. During that stretch, Darnold only completed 54.8% of his passes for an average of 183 passing yards per game. Darnold threw only four touchdowns and ten interceptions during that span.
Since Darnold’s injury, the Panthers have been a bigger mess offensively because they have been rotating P.J. Walker with former MVP with the Panthers Cam Newton. Carolina signed Newton after Darnold’s injury hoping he would be able to keep this team alive. Instead, the Panthers have gone 1-3 since signing Newton (the team is 0-3 in Newton starts).
The rollercoaster the team has had at quarterback along with the fact that Christian McCaffrey was limited to seven games this year is enough to explain their woes on offense. But head coach Matt Rhule decided to place the blame on offensive coordinator Joe Brady by letting him go during Carolina’s bye week. It is unfair and ridiculous to place the blame for the team’s struggles on Brady and to let him go mid-season because of it. Apparently, Rhule and Brady disagreed on how frequently they should run the ball. But that shouldn’t have resulted in his firing. Last offseason Brady had interviewed for multiple head coaching jobs and this season was fired because of offensive problems that are unfair to place on him.
Panthers head coach Matt Rhule seems like a smart and rational person, his track record at Baylor and Temple proves that. So why would Rhule make a rash decision to let go of their highly regarded offensive coordinator mid-season? The answer is that Rhule could be receiving pressure from ownership to make a major change to get this team back into the playoff picture.
Owner David Tepper and General Manager Scott Fitterer have shown to have tendencies to be extremely aggressive to get this team to contend as soon as possible. Examples of this include trading a second-round pick for Sam Darnold because they feared missing out on a rookie quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft, trading for 2020 9th overall pick C.J. Henderson, and trading for Stephon Gilmore shortly before he would be officially waived by New England. Letting go of Brady could be the latest example of this team being aggressive to win as soon as possible. If that is the case who is to say that Matt Rhule couldn’t be fired this offseason
Rhule is extremely respected in the football community and has a track record of turning around poor football cultures. Over the last two years in Carolina, Rhule has a 10-19 record as the head coach. If Tepper and Fitterer are not happy with what they have gotten out of Rhule they wouldn’t be afraid to let him go. They could rationalize it by saying that they got Rhule his quarterback in Sam Darnold this offseason and that didn’t work. Now the Panthers are out of a package of draft picks including a second-round selection from this year’s draft that went to the Jets for Darnold. Carolina is expected to make an upgrade at quarterback and the team may want to pair that quarterback with a new head coach.
Also, it is possible that Rhule looks to get out of Carolina. If Tepper and Fitterer continue to put too much pressure on Rhule to succeed and keep him on the hot seat, he could try to return to college football. Rhule was one of the best college football head coaches before being hired by Carolina in 2019. He may be interested in returning to college where he has had success. Another appeal of returning to college could be the lucrative deals that college head coaches have been getting in recent weeks.
It feels unlikely that Carolina could fire Rhule considering he hasn’t been given a fair amount of time to turn this team around and that this team has shown flashes of being competitors at times. However due to the volatility of the people running the organization anything is possible including the parting of Rhule with the team.
Other Potential NFL Head Coaching Vacancies