One of the most unpleasant days on the NFL calendar has come and gone. Black Monday is the Monday after the NFL regular season ends, and when owners will decide to part ways with their head coach. It's a day when families of not only the head coach, but of all of the coaching staff realize that they’ll have to pack up their homes and move to another town for a new job—if they are lucky enough to land one. This day serves as a brutal reminder that even though football is a game, the NFL is a business, and a cold one at that.
We now have six head coaching openings in the NFL, with the Atlanta Falcons, Houston Texans, Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and the New York Jets all moving on from their coaches on Black Monday or earlier this season. Even with the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, owners showed no hesitation to make a move that they feel will help their football team win.
Knowing how these owners think, we know that next year’s Black Monday will also be a day in which many coaches lose their job. Here are six coaches that I believe are on the hot seat entering this offseason and into the 2021 season who will need to perform better in order to avoid being a Black Monday casualty next year.
Could it be possible that McCarthy, a Super Bowl-winning head coach, could possibly be on the hot seat after just one season? Well, yes, it is very possible and, in my opinion, he is squarely on the hot seat entering 2021. In McCarthy’s first season with the Cowboys, the team finished 6-10 and missed the playoffs. In a normal situation, this record wouldn’t be too bad for a first-year head coach, but when you begin to consider the expectations that this team had entering the season, that is where things get bad for McCarthy.
Entering 2020, the Cowboys were thought to be a legit Super Bowl contender and a shoo-in for the playoffs. Obviously, things didn’t go as planned, and losing star quarterback Dak Prescott in Week 5 to a season-ending injury didn’t help, but even before Prescott went down the team didn’t look like a playoff team. McCarthy’s Cowboys were 1-3 prior to losing Prescott, and their defense was amongst the worst in the NFL. McCarthy was supposed to come in and be the missing piece for a team that had made the playoffs just two seasons ago and had a roster with loads of talent. Knowing that Jones is an aggressive owner who wants to win and win now, McCarthy got a pass for this year due to Prescott’s injury, but if his team misses the postseason next year, Jones won’t be so forgiving.
The Arizona Cardinals were considered a team that belonged in the postseason for most of the year. The team started out hot this season with a record of 5-2, but then ended up losing six of its final nine games. The Cardinals had a respectable 8-8 record but missed the playoffs in an expanded field. I believe Kingsbury should definitely be on the hot seat.
His team declined throughout the season, rather than get better, and I think that reflects on the head coach. Additionally, Kingsbury routinely has game management blunders and questionable in-game coaching decisions. There is also the question if Kingsbury ever deserved this job to begin with. Before being named the head coach of the Cardinals, he had just been fired by his alma mater Texas Tech, where he had just a 35-40 overall record. The pressure is on for Kingsbury in Year 3 to make the playoffs with a talented young quarterback in Kyler Murray. If he fails to do so, expect a change to be made.
This is one where many were surprised that there wasn’t a change this offseason. In Zac Taylor’s first two seasons as a head coach, he has amassed a 6-25-1 record. Taylor’s Bengals were abysmal in 2019 and wound up going 2-14 and earning themselves the No. 1 pick. That No. 1 pick turned into quarterback Joe Burrow, who is the sole reason for the team’s improvement in 2020 with a 4-11-1 record. Burrow is an extreme hit as a franchise quarterback, and this team was competitive in most games he played in. Unfortunately, due to the lack of quality talent on this offensive line, Burrow was hit on a sack that resulted in a season-ending knee injury. Taylor is also responsible for this injury to Burrow, as he had Burrow dropping back more than any quarterback in the NFL, all while playing behind a bad offensive line.
The lack of success for the Bengals is not all on Taylor. This roster has major holes and the talent that they do have is young and green for the most part. I’m not necessarily saying Taylor needs to make the playoffs to keep his job, but I think we do need to see measurable improvement and a clear step forward.
It's pretty wild how far Pederson has fallen. I remember when the scouting team at The Draft Network ranked all 32 coaches, we unanimously ranked Pederson in the top 10. However, things change fast in the NFL, and Pederson now enters 2021 squarely on the hot seat.
Pederson’s Eagles finished 2020 with a 4-11-1 record, missing the playoffs after winning the division just a season ago. Pederson, who is an offensive and quarterback coach by trade, oversaw an offense that ranked near the bottom in almost every statistical category in the league and also had a quarterback who regressed as badly as we have ever seen a quarterback regress. Carson Wentz went from being one of the best young quarterbacks in the league to now being, quite literally, one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL last season. While Wentz’s decline is most likely due to his injuries, Pederson definitely bears a lot of responsibility.
What really makes Pederson’s seat red hot now is the move he made on Sunday Night Football against Washington, where he took out Jalen Hurts, who had played very well in the weeks prior, and put in backup Nate Sudfeld when the game was in reach. These are types of moves that lose locker rooms, and if I am an Eagles player, I’m not sure how I could play for him again.
Perhaps the most interesting coach on this list. Gruden has just completed Year 3 of a 10-year, $100 million contract he signed back in January 2018. In that time, Gruden has compiled a 19-29 record and has yet to make the playoffs.
Entering the 2020 season, expectations were high for Gruden’s Raiders. Many, including myself, thought this team should be a playoff team this season, as the team just had too much talent to miss in an expanded field. Early in the season things were promising, with the team starting with a 6-3 record, however things took a turn for the worst and they would end up losing five out of their last seven games. This implosion in a season that they had every chance of making the playoffs falls directly on Gruden's shoes.
Additionally, one of the main reasons the team struggled this year was due to the defense, which was awful this season. Gruden had to fire his hand-picked defensive coordinator Paul Guenther, a person many thought should have been fired last year, and this type of decision to hire and then remain loyal to Guenther for so long is another knock that can’t be forgotten.
The interesting thing is, I truly don't think Gruden is feeling pressure internally yet. He and owner Mark Davis are very tight, and he is not even halfway through his 10-year deal. If the Raiders miss the playoffs again, I’ll be very curious to see the vibes Davis puts out in regard to keeping Gruden moving forward.
Fangio is another coach who will just be entering his third year as a head coach, but after the team took away the general manager title from John Elway, the pressure is on for Fangio. Fangio has gone a disappointing 12-20 in his first two seasons and has failed to even remotely compete for the playoffs.
Now, injuries certainly played a role here this season, as the team suffered many key injuries with receiver Courtland Sutton and linebacker Von Miller suffering season-ending ailments. However, there were far too many times where Fangio just appeared a little over his head as a head coach and he may just be an all-time great defensive coordinator.
Perhaps Fangio is getting judged too harshly, and he is just at the mercy of the Broncos' awful quarterback situation. Drew Lock did nothing to instill confidence in him moving forward, and it’s just hard to win games in this league with poor quarterback play. The Broncos’ ownership is ready to win, and if Fangio doesn’t produce in 2021, I think he will be gone.
-- Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
-- Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings