NFL head coaches are always under the pressure to win, but each year it can be said that pressure is never equal. Some have a grace period. Some don’t.
There are a variety of factors that go into why a coach is in such a situation. Maybe it’s elevated expectations. Maybe it’s at the end of an extended drought of losing. Then again perhaps it’s a mix of several different things. Either way, everybody knows that coaching jobs are fleeting in this league. One where even guys who win but don’t win enough are safe. So who among the 32 names this year are under the most pressure?
Freddie Kitchens (Cleveland Browns)
Kitchens found his way to the head coaching job for the Cleveland Browns after successfully reviving their offense last season and establishing a connection with quarterback Baker Mayfield. He’s still in the honeymoon phase at the moment, but with each blockbuster move the team has made, expectations grow. Olivier Vernon and Odell Beckham arrived from New York. Kareem Hunt and Sheldon Richardson signed as free agents. On paper, this looks like a playoff team.
If he can’t deliver that, especially in a division that looks weaker than its been in years? Let’s just say this ownership isn’t known for its patience in the past.
Kyle Shanahan (San Francisco 49ers)
The hype is wearing off fast with Kyle Shanahan. Things were looking up at the end of 2017 and going into 2018. Then Jimmy Garoppolo got hurt. The 49ers once again finished with one of the worst records in the league. Going into an all-important third season, Shanahan has to prove he can finally get this team to January. His offenses are good but winning will take more than that. One cannot expect the NFC West to be cooperative either with the Rams and Seahawks both coming off playoff appearances
Doug Marrone (Jacksonville Jaguars)
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Things change fast in the NFL. Marrone had the Jaguars just minutes away from a Super Bowl appearance in 2017 before falling in the AFC championship. Expectations were sky high last year but it was apparent their weakness at quarterback could not longer be masked. Now Blake Bortles is gone and Nick Foles, a former Super Bowl MVP, is in his place. They have stability under center and still have one of the top defenses in the league.
There are few excuses left for them to not get back to the playoffs. If they fail, don’t expect the hyper-competitive Tom Coughlin to show restraint at making a change.
Jay Gruden (Washington Redskins)
The Redskins being a mismanaged team at the top is nothing new. How Gruden has survived this long is a testament to the excellent work he’s done with a frankly average roster. Now the team is spending lavishly in free agency on the likes of Landon Collins and trading for Case Keenum with apparent expectations this will help the team turn the corner in the NFC East. They’re delusional if that’s the case. Those two won’t be enough. Yet it doesn’t erase the facts.
Gruden survived last season thanks to a brave surge down the stretch that got them to 7-9. Daniel Snyder’s patience only goes so far though.
Matt Lafleur (Green Bay Packers)
One would think being a rookie head coach gives Lafleur a certain amount of leeway. Not in this case. The Packers are growing desperate. They know the window with Aaron Rodgers is closing and they must take advantage. That’s why Lafleur was hired. To reinvigorate the offense and get the superstar back to his MVP level. The problem is the division isn’t nearly as weak as it once was and Rodgers has developed a reputation for being difficult to work with.
If Lafleur fails in his debut season, costing Green Bay another precious year of the Rodgers window? They may run out of patience fast.