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NFL head coaches who need wins the most in the final four weeks

NFL coach hot seat
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 could be looking to hire a new head coach during the offseason if they don’t finish the regular season on a high note and miss the playoffs.

Minnesota Vikings

NFL coach hot seat

Mike Zimmer is the longest-tenured NFL Head Coach without a Super Bowl ring. (Courtesy of John Autey/Pioneer Press)

The Minnesota Vikings are in the thick of the playoff race in the NFL. They are just as likely to make the wildcard as they are to miss the playoff completely. On both sides of the ball, the Vikings have shown flashes that make them appear to be one of the better teams in the NFC. But Minnesota has struggled to close out close games. It seems like every game this year for the Vikings has been a nail-biter. This season 12 of the Vikings’ 13 games have been decided by eight points or less. Their seven losses this season have all been because the Vikings failed to maintain a lead or fell just short of scoring late in the game. That is shocking considering all the talent Minnesota has on this roster especially on the offensive side of the ball.

Minnesota feels a lot like the Los Angeles Chargers last season. That does not bode well for head coach Mike Zimmer. After the Chargers had a similar performance last season they let go of head coach Anthony Lynn. Zimmer has been the Vikings’ head coach since 2014. The Vikings haven’t been a legitimate Super Bowl contender since the 2016-17 season. After that season the Vikings signed Kirk Cousins in free agency to be the upgrade at quarterback that would get them to the Super Bowl. Instead, they have only been to the playoffs once in his first three seasons with the team.

If the Vikings miss the playoffs someone needs to be held accountable for the struggles that have held this team back from reaching their ceiling. Quarterback Kirk Cousins has had an outstanding season statistically so it is hard to imagine the blame being placed on him. Zimmer would likely get the most criticism for this team not making the playoffs.

On top of that over the last three seasons, Minnesota has struggled on defense as the veterans who once carried this unit have either moved on or regressed. Zimmer has failed to retool this defense especially the secondary where he has invested a lot of capital. Zimmer is a defensive coach so the poor and inconsistent play by that unit does not help his case to stay in Minnesota.

Zimmer has been one of the better coaches in the league for a while. There are only six coaches who have been with their current team longer than Zimmer has been in Minnesota. Those coaches are Bill Belichick, Sean Payton, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Pete Carroll, and Andy Reid. All of those coaches have two things in common which are that they have won at least one Super Bowl with their current teams and are likely going to all be future Hall of Famers.

It may be good for Minnesota to get a new voice in that locker room. Zimmer has been in Minnesota for eight years and his message may be getting stale. This isn’t an inditement on Zimmer as a coach in recent years this has happened to Mike McCarthy, Ron Rivera, and Jason Garrett in recent years who were well-respected coaches with their previous teams.

If the Vikings were to let go of Zimmer he would be a hot coaching candidate or an elite defensive coordinator hire. But it may be good for the Vikings to change up what they are doing to take advantage of the talented roster they have built over the years.

Seattle Seahawks

NFL coach hot seat
It could be time for the Seattle Seahawks and Pete Carroll to part ways this offseason. (Courtesy of CNN)

This season the Seattle Seahawks appear to finally have had their inevitable collapse. It may be a blunt truth but their performance this season has been a long time coming. Seattle’s defense has not played well since Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor left the team in 2017.

Over the last three seasons, Seattle’s defense hasn’t just been bad, they’ve been one of the worst in the league consistently every year. Russell Wilson has been able to mask their awful defensive play by being an elite playmaker on offense that has single-handedly won the Seahawks games over the last couple of years.

Seattle didn’t start the year hot by starting the season 2-3. Then Seattle lost two of their next three with Geno Smith under center because of Russell Wilson’s finger injury. Then Wilson returned much earlier than expected and it showed because he did not play well. During his first couple of games back he could not carry the team as he has over the last couple of seasons. They lost Wilson’s first three games after returning from injury. However, since then Seattle has won their last two games.

The Seahawks have tried to fix their defensive problems over the years investing multiple assets in defensive players. They also have traded draft picks including first-round picks in the 2021 and 2022 draft for defensive veterans to bolster this defense. Those veterans include former Pro Bowlers Jadeveon Clowney, Carlos Dunlap II, Quandre Diggs, and Jamal Adams. Those additions haven’t worked out very well.

The truth is that Seattle’s defensive scheme that dominated the league in the 2010s is outdated. Many teams have hired defensive coaches from Seattle’s staff during the last decade and have made their defensive scheme a common one among teams running 4-3 defenses. Their schemes have been figured out and aren’t as affected as they once were. That falls on head coach Pete Carroll who appears to be too stubborn to make changes to his coaching schemes to put his team in a position to win. Carroll and his schemes are living in the past. His defenses that used to dominate the league have not been affected in a long time. Also, his offensive philosophy to completely commit to the run hasn’t worked either.
On offense, this team always starts hot. Russell Wilson has been an MVP candidate for the first half of the past few years (excluding this year). Then as the season goes on Seattle tends to get more conservative on offense. Wilson then becomes an afterthought in the MVP conversation.

Carroll has lacked the ability to base his offensive play calling off his personnel. Despite having one of the league’s elite playmakers at quarterback Carroll will not plan for Wilson to completely take over their offense. This is even though the Seahawks have two Pro Bowl wide receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett on their roster. Over the past few seasons, Carroll has gone run-heavy late in the year despite multiple season-ending injuries to his running back group every season. Back in 2019, Seattle signed Seahawks legend Marshawn Lynch out of retirement to help them finish the season.

Carroll’s philosophy of winning low-scoring games led their running game fails to work also because their defense gives up a lot more points than they did in the early 2010s. Seattle also has an elite quarterback talent in Russell Wilson who they don’t mind bottling up to run the football.
The Seahawks have made a lot of head-scratching moves over the last few years when it comes to personnel decisions, use of draft picks, and schematic philosophies. This has gotten Russell Wilson close to his breaking point. Over the last few years Wilson went from Mr. “Go Hawks” to a disgruntled player who has twice had his agent expose potential trade destinations where he would waive his no-trade clause to go.

If the Seahawks fall flat the rest of the season and don’t run the table to make the playoffs they may have to make some major changes. It may be time to let go of head coach Pete Carroll and bring in a coach who could keep Wilson happy. This offseason Russell Wilson and Pete Carroll may be headed towards a breakup and it is easier to find a head coach that will take Russell Wilson to a Super Bowl than to find another quarterback that Pete Carroll can take to the Super Bowl. Even if Seattle keeps their recent hot streak going down the stretch this team is in need of some major changes and the head coach could be a place to start.

Denver Broncos

NFL coach hot seat
Denver may want to upgrade from their current head coach Vic Fangio this offseason. (Courtesy of Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports)

For the second straight season, the Denver Broncos have made this list of potential head coaching vacancies at the end of the year. However, this year feels different than last year. Denver has looked a lot better this season and is in the playoff hunt. There is a good chance Denver misses the playoffs and finishes with a. near .500 record. The Broncos would be the best landing spot for a quarterback this offseason because of all of their great offensive weapons and extra draft capital that they could use to trade for a disgruntled star quarterback that is rumored to move this offseason.

Denver’s front office may ask themselves if Vic Fangio a head coach that could lead this team to a Super Bowl if they made a major upgrade at quarterback. If they add a star quarterback to their roster they have a season or two to capitalize on the cheap young star players they have on their roster and potentially win a Super Bowl with a loaded roster. They cannot afford to have their coaching hold the team back.

That being said Fangio has done a solid job during his tenure in Denver. He is currently tied with his career-high of seven wins in a season with four games left to go. He can also lead Denver to their most wins in a single season since they went 9-7 in 2016-17.

It is important to note that Broncos general manager George Patton did not hire Fangio. If an obvious upgrade is available he may look to hire his own head coach to pair with the quarterback they add to their roster this offseason.

Denver may gamble this offseason by letting go of a good coach to potentially get a great one. If Fangio was made available he would be the best defensive coordinator candidate available this season. He may even land another head coaching job with a team looking for stability and growth on the defensive side of the ball.

Other Potential NFL Head Coaching Vacancies
NFL Teams likely to hire a new head coach

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