Every year there is some turnover in the NFL, as head coaches are among the most visible and, therefore, criticized members of any team. Here is one take on three coaches who will be fired this season.
1. Mike Smith
The Atlanta Falcons' head coach may be a surprising first pick to lose his job. He is one of only six coaches in NFL history
to take a team with a losing record and improve it by at least seven games during his rookie season.
An accomplishment like that will extend your leash for a couple seasons; but Smith is in trouble because he has failed to capitalize on it.
Despite reaching the playoffs three times in four years as coach, the Falcons have never won a playoff game.
In 2008, Smith made rookie Matt Ryan the starting quarterback, and the move proved effective. They finished the season 11-5 before losing to the Cardinals in the playoffs. Two years later, right after a 9-7 season in '09 in which they missed the postseason, Smith again took the Falcons to the playoffs with the NFC's best record (13-3).
After a first-round bye, however, they were destroyed 48-21 by the Green Bay Packers. Similarly last year, despite an admirable 10-6 record, the Falcons again looked very outmatched in the postseason, as the Giants walked all over them, 2422.
It does not help Smith's case that all three of his playoff losses have come to teams that went on to make the Super Bowl, two of them winning it. If he manages to win one of those games, maybe that's Atlanta in the Super Bowl instead.
Hypotheticals are just that - but with opportunities at the NFL's biggest stage being hard to come by, the Atlanta organization will not wait long for Smith to capitalize on the talent on his team. Matt Ryan is now 27 and still could have many good years left in him with a talented wide receiving corps, but Smith will not be a part of that future if he fails in his task this year: win a playoff game.
It's a hump he will need to get over if he hopes to keep his job. I believe the organization behind him will feel comfortable switching head coaches, given the talent they have on the team, if Smith does not produce in the playoffs.
2. Norv Turner
The first pick may be surprising. Norv Turner - not so much.
The case is pretty straight-forward. During his debut year with the Chargers in 2007, the team won two playoff games and made it to the AFC Championship, but lost. In '08, the team won one playoff game and made it to the Divisional Round, but lost. In '09, the team made it to the playoffs, but did not win any games. In 2010, the team missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record; and last year they missed the playoffs with an 8-8 record.
Yes, it's been a slow decline from year-to-year for Norv and the Chargers. On top of that, many believe quarterback Philip Rivers to be among the best in the league, and when the quarterback is good, but your record is not, its typically the head coach that gets let go.
Tony Romo is a great example of this - him being one of the league's most underrated quarterbacks
, but the record of his teams and their lack of playoff success has had Romo playing under three different head coaches in his career as a starter.
I would expect Rivers and the San Diego organization to show a similar trend if Turner does not produce this season - especially in what is regarded as a lacklustre AFC West division with question marks surrounding every team.
3. Rex Ryan
This pick is half logical, half personal. I am not a Rex Ryan fan. I do not enjoy coverage of the Jets as a team; I do not like their attitude; I do not like Ryan's arrogant style of interacting with the media and opposing teams; and, now that they have Tim Tebow especially, all we have heard about week-in, week-out is Jets, Jets, Jets.
Really annoying - probably even to some Jets fans.
Picking up Tebow seems like an accident waiting to happen given the controversial status of current starting quarterback, Mark Sanchez. The Jets' defense has been stout, and their run game effective; but Sanchez has been the question mark for a lot of people, despite his youth. With Tebow behind him now, one has to wonder, if this season goes like last season - which it very well could - does Tebow get the nod at some point?
At the very least, both Sanchez and Ryan will be under a lot of heat from a team that gets tons of press. And after the Jets made it to the AFC Championship two years in a row in '09 and '10, Ryan's leash has grown shorter after a disappointing 8-8 season last year.
Expect New York to hover around the .500 mark this year as well, which means the cacophany of media coverage that this popular East Coast team already gets, combined with the religion of Tim Tebow and his cult of followers, will lead to heads rolling. If the Jets miss out on the postseason in 2012, the organization will show just how tired they are of Rex's antics and his inability to control the locker room.
I've heard after a beheading, the head is still technically alive for about 10 seconds. So we can certainly expect Rex to utilize all 10 of those seconds to babble and yap and generally carry-on after the Jets axe him this year.
But, hey, at least Tebow will say a couple hail mary's for the guy.