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AFC Coaches On The Hot Seat

Continuing with the league wide review of Coaches that are in danger of losing their jobs (or not), we conclude with the AFC.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

There is only one division in the AFC with some coaching turmoil expected.  We'll start there.

AFC South

(Along with the NFC South, the Bolts also care about this division this year.)

Jacksonville -€”Gus Bradley may need a playoff appearance to be around next year.  Bortles looks like he has the ability, but this issue has been defense, which is kind of a surprise, given Bradley's background.  This may be Bradley's last shot at doing something special with the Jaguars.  You can see the smoke coming off of this seat.

Houston -€” Bill O'Brien was helped by a division filled with weak teams. Make no mistake, he is a capable coach; if you doubt that, look at who he had quarterbacking the team in 2015, all without the services of a credible RB.  Unless the team regresses badly, he should be back in 2017.  This seat is room temperature.

Indianapolis -€” Chuck Pagano and his front office had a visible split last season over the composition of the roster.  His future will be determined by the health of Andrew Luck and improvement in the his defensive and offensive lines (hey, that sounds familiar for some reason).  He may choose to quit on his own, given the real questions about whether he would be brought back this season (he got extended through 2019 in January) and with what seems to be a pretty deep disagreement with GM Grigson about the roster.  This seat is about to combust and Pagano is probably 2016's favored candidate for a mid-season termination or resignation.

Tennessee -€” Mike Mularkey returns after shedding the interim label acquired after the mid-season firing of Ken Whisenhunt in 2015.  At this point, it is all about the development of Mariota and seeing some play that actually reminds people of a professional football team.  Football has been woefully off-key in Tennessee for a few years, so Mularkey will get a chance to turn things around in what remains a fairly weak division.   This is a cool seat, unless gross incompetence rears its ugly head.

AFC East

New York -€” Would you fire a coach that turned a 4-12 crap fest into a 10-6 team that dammed near made it into the playoffs with Ryan Fitzpatrick playing QB?  Yeah, me neither and not the Jets for that matter.  Todd Bowles is not really being helped by the interesting contract and draft games his front office is playing with the QB position.  This seat is pretty cool and he has the QB situation acting as fire retardant.

Miami -€” Joe Philbin was coaching for his job last year and managed to make to the game before the bye week.  Dan Campbell, unlike Mularkey, did not shed the interim label and the team hired Adam Gase away from John Fox and the Bears.  This seat is first year cool, as long as Gase can show that the dumpster fire is being put out.

Buffalo -€” Rex Ryan made the best of his QB situation as Tyrod Taylor was effective for stretches last year.  Ryan has enough of a rep in the state of New York to probably make it to season 3 no matter what.  Another cool seat.

New England -€” Beelzu-bill is not going anywhere and I suspect he will be doing this job as long as he still wants to do it.  This seat is colder than a Siberian glacier in February.

AFC North

Baltimore -€” Yeah, the Ravens had a bad season.  It happens to pretty much every coach not named Belichick. This is still a really cold seat.  John Harbaugh is not under any serious pressure to win or be fired, but he will need to demonstrate that the team is returning to its perennial playoff ways or the seat will start to get warmer (see "Payton, Sean").

Pittsburgh -€” Mike Tomlin is employed by an organization that has had 3 head coaches since 1969.  The team was not horrible last season and should not be horrible this season.  This seat is about as cold as Belichick's is and remains colder than the one Harbaugh sits in.

Cincinnati - Marvin Lewis STILL has yet to win a playoff game.  It does not seem to make any difference to the front office.  I do wonder if the Big Cats in the front office would make if a move if the Bengals end up missing the playoffs though.  There is some warmth on this seat.

Cleveland -€” Hue Jackson replaces Mike Pettine (who may prove to be a good NFL coach if he can get a gig with a functioning QB), Johnny Crackhead is gone, and now Coach Jackson gets to see if he can resurrect RGIII's career.  Cleveland is a long way away from competing for the playoffs in a very tough division with some of the best run organizations in the league, but hey, they have to get better sometime, right?  This is another first year cool seat, but with the Chud caveat that this is Cleveland, where firing a coach after one year is not unheard of.

AFC West

(The division we always care about.)

Kansas City -€” Andy Reid will be back, even if the Chiefs struggle this year.  He has built up at least one season of grace among a fan base that loves its team and saw some really ugly football before Reid's arrival.  This seat has a chill about it.

Denver -€”It did not take Gary Kubiak long to confirm Elway's thought that a different coach could get more out of a loaded team.  A fresh Lombardi Trophy has a way of refrigerating any coach's seat for at least 2-3 years.  It would take two seasons worth of terrible football to get Elway's favorite clipboard carrier bounced.  This seat could act as a really good beer cooler.

Oakland -€”Jack del Rio coached the team to a 3rd place finish last year and got brought back to nobody's surprise.  If the rivals continue to show improvement, Mark Davis will no doubt bring him back in 2017, as the Oakland front office seems to have realized that the coaching carousel was part of the problem.  He may be permitted the 3rd year, even if Oakland regresses in the W-L metric, as long as there is a solid passing grade in the eyeball test.  This seat is cool to the touch.

San Diego -€” I have to believe that McCoy is coaching for his job this year.  The Chargers lost a lot of close games last year, but losing close games is hardly an endorsement of a team's head coach; in fact, it is quite the opposite.  Given the (hopefully) once in a lifetime political situation that will be front and center for the team this fall, a poor record through September and October could result in an "October Surprise" to try and positively influence votes on the stadium matter.  This seat is uncomfortably warm.  (Or at least it should be.)

BONUS COVERAGE (Last Year's Prediction about the Chargers)

There are some reports out there that McCoy's seat is getting warm.  I'm not buying it.  This is the ownership group that kept Norval around for at least a year too long.  Prediction:  Unless the offense improves markedly this season, the front office will try to lure Whiz back as OC when the Titans can him next January.

(Look at that!  I got a couple of things right! Although I did miss on when the Titans fired Whiz.)

Which Seats Catch Fire In January?

Things are a little less obvious here than they are in the NFC.  Chuck Pagano, Gus Bradley, and Mike McCoy need to have pretty dramatic turnarounds to save their jobs; I could imagine scenarios in which any or all of them return or are looking for new jobs in 2017.  For Bradley and Pagano, if their teams fail to get into the playoffs, expect the axe to fall on January 3, 2017.

McCoy's future is harder to predict.  If the team makes the playoffs, he's back, but if they don't, how many games would they need to win for him to keep his job? 9? 7?  I don't have a feel for where Telesco and Spanos are setting the bar.

I am also predicting that the Bengals miss the playoffs this year and that Marvin Lewis is let go.