We’ve got a few days to kill before minicamp starts next Tuesday. Let’s make a list of the NFL coaches we expect will get fired at the end of the season. I’ll go first.
THE LAME DUCKS. These coaches almost certainly will get the axe.
1. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. I’m surprised the Saints haven’t fired Payton already. He hasn’t won more than seven games in a season since 2013 and he can’t hire a good defensive coordinator. He still is living off the Super Bowl he won in 2010, which was long ago, before Bountygate and the accusation that Payton is a “molly-abuser drunk hooked on prescription pills.” I think the Saints will fire him after they inevitably miss the playoffs for the fourth-straight season.
2. John Fox, Chicago Bears. Fox will make the argument to Bears management that he had to work with two new quarterbacks, including a rookie, and deserves one more season after 2017. I don’t think the Bears will give him one more season, though, unless the team makes significant strides. And I don’t think the team will make significant strides. The Bears roster is no good.
3. Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have a new G.M., Chris Ballard, who probably can’t wait to hire his own head coach.For Pagano to hold onto his job, he’ll have to keep Andrew Luck healthy and lead the Colts to the playoffs for the first time since 2014. Good luck.
4. Todd Bowles, New York Jets. It seems the Jets already have given up on Bowles, who is entering his third season with the team. Management has gotten rid of almost every good player and seems to be tanking to get a quarterback with the first pick in the draft next year. Bowles won’t be around to coach that quarterback. The Jets will replace him with someone who has an offensive background.
5. Ron Rivera, Carolina Panthers. Rivera is entering his seventh season with the Panthers and is coming off a last-place finish in the NFC South. Rivera will need to make the playoffs to keep his job, but the roster hasn’t improved. I expect another sub-.500 season from the Panthers.
THE LONG SHOTS. These coaches could get fired if their teams don’t make the playoffs.
1. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers. Recently, I picked the Packers to represent in the NFC in the Super Bowl next season. They clearly upgraded their roster and they have Aaron Rodgers. But, they have underachieved since they won the Super Bowl in 2011. If the Packers miss the playoffs next season or make the playoffs and lose in the first round, I think they’ll fire McCarthy. They can’t waste any more time with him. Their window to win a Super Bowl is slowly shutting.
2. Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans. O’Brien has been with the Texans for three years and they haven’t improved. Their record has been 9-7 every season. They need to take a step forward next season or else management might decide the team has reached its limit under O’Brien.
3. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings. Zimmer is a Bill-Parcells style coach, and that style doesn’t work in today’s NFL. Zimmer grinds his players and wears them down. Last season his offensive coordinator, Norv Turner, quit, and the Vikings lost eight of their final 11 games. The defensive players even ignored Zimmer’s play calls toward the end of the season. He lost that team. He better find it quick, or else.
4. Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Koetter is entering just his second season as Buccaneers head coach, so he’s an ultra-long shot to get fired. But, he’s a limited head coach. He’s obsessed with passing. Doesn’t understand you throw for show and run to win. If the Bucs fall short of the playoffs next season — they have more than enough to make it — I think they’ll fire Koetter and replace him with Josh McDaniels, or some other top offensive coordinator.