Which of the Veteran Coaches (Fisher, Lewis, McCarthy, Pagano, and Tomlin) Is In the Most Trouble?


In today’s Big Lead group chat, we discussed the NFL hot seats and which coaches are most likely gone by season’s end. (Earlier this week, we had a giant cluster arguing college football playoffs). Ryan Glasspiegel, Ryan Phillips, and Jason Lisk (along with a cameo by noted coaching hot take artist Stephen Douglas) discussed which coaches could be gone, and who is most likely.

Ryan Glasspiegel: Here is a list of people I think are candidates for a midseason firing, in order of how likely I think that is: Gus Bradley, John Fox, Todd Bowles, Mike McCarthy, Mike McCoy, Hue Jackson, Chip Kelly. Bradley is clearly the most meritocratic on this list. How many people get to go 8-22 and have their team show zero signs of upward trajectory in the fourth year and live to tell about it? Fox is feuding with the media, and seemingly daring his bosses to fire him with two years and $9 million left on his contract. One or two more losses now should do it for Bowles.

What is your ranking?

Jason Lisk: I think we can agree on Bradley in fairly short order, for the reasons you laid out. I’m not sure there are many coach who have followed his path and turned into a success with the same team. You would probably have to go all the way back to Tom Landry starting with an expansion team in Dallas.

I find it interesting that you, as a Packers fan, have McCarthy near the top, but you have neither Mike Tomlin or Marvin Lewis on this list. I believe that they are the three longest tenured coaches (non-Belichick division), and all have been disappointments. What do you think the difference is?

Ryan Glasspiegel: Maybe it was passion and heat of the moment? I could see Marvin Lewis gone at the end of the year, but it just doesn’t seem like they would do him midseason given that they’ve stuck with him for so long. Tomlin was probably an omission. The Steelers organization loves having continuity in their coaches, but if McCarthy should be out then so should Tomlin. Both have won a Super Bowl but haven’t done much for us lately.

A reason the Packers should now consider it with McCarthy is that their season is very salvageable, and the team could use a spark.

Jason Lisk: Okay, I was thinking in terms of not back next year, and not necessarily fire someone in the next two weeks. Other than as a ceremonial gesture or if fans just don’t show at all, I don’t see much difference in firing Bradley next week or as soon as week 17 ends, for example. I don’t think any of those veteran coaches get the axe mid-season, out of respect, as long as they don’t just completely collapse.

Ryan Glasspiegel: Hmm, I think you’re wrong about John Fox.

Jason Lisk: Well, I should clarify–veteran coaches with the same organization (Tomlin, McCarthy, Lewis)

John Fox is now on his 3rd team, the axe could be coming soon because this is a franchise in need of a complete change of everything, I think.

Ryan Glasspiegel: True, I don’t necessarily think it will happen with McCarthy, but the Packers have been listless the last two weeks. They are on Sunday Night Football this week against a decent Washington team. If they go out there and lay an egg, one could make a sound argument that he should be on the chopping block.

Stephen Douglas: Bill Belichick.

Jason Lisk: We know where you stand, Stephen. (Here was my counterpoint.) They did lose at home this week.

Stephen Douglas: [exits chat]

Jason Lisk: We think Stephen is serious, right? He didn’t use the required sarcasm font or clearly disclose that he was engaging in satire.

Ryan Glasspiegel: Clearly.

Ryan Phillips: These days you have to label everything as satire Lisk, remember?

Jason Lisk: The Chargers season has been labeled as satire on a grand scale

Ryan Phillips: Thanks for reminding me.

Jason Lisk: Speaking of which, I would put McCoy on the “most likely gone” scale

just behind Bradley. I don’t see an out after Sunday.

Ryan Phillips: I’m going to exit the chat and go wander into traffic.

Look, McCoy should have been fired after last season. And after pretty much every loss this year. There is no way he survives. He and Bradley are the two guys who are definitely already gone.

Well, and Belichick of course…

Jason Lisk: I think the intrigue is at #3. John Fox is up there. You can’t be a veteran disciplinarian and look like the Bears do in the second year.

I would put him on the highly likely end.

Ryan Glasspiegel: The Bears can finally move on from Cutler this offseason. They should just blow everything up.

ARLINGTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 25: Head coach John Fox of the Chicago Bears during the first half against the Dallas Cowboys at AT&T Stadium on September 25, 2016 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Jason Lisk: The Bears are his rebound relationship, after he got rejected by the hot girl (Denver) when he had a nice job, nice car, and a timeshare in the Bahamas. It’s just not working out.

Ryan Phillips: The intriguing element is the long-time guys. McCarthy, Lewis, etc. After a lot of years sometimes teams just need a new voice.

McCarthy was my “hottest seat” in Bests and Worsts this week FYI.

Jason Lisk: I would add Sean Payton as well. Saints could go 7-9 for the 4th time in 5 years.

He’s kind of got the “tied to Brees and the offense” thing going, but how many of those before you just decide to try something else?

Ryan Phillips: Honestly there could be a fairly large bloodletting at the end of the season. There are a lot of teams playing terribly.

Jason Lisk: Oh, and speaking of longterm guys, I noticed you didn’t put Jeff Fisher in the initial list, Ryan G. Do we assume that he just goes in perpetuity?

Ryan Glasspiegel: Yeah, I don’t think he’s a midseason firing. The end of this season will determine his status.

Ryan Phillips: One bad team whose coach is safe I think is the 49ers. With what Chip Kelly is getting paid and the fact that they’re still paying Jim Tomsula…no way he goes.

Jason Lisk: I think Chip is back as well. Might need to win one more and just not post a 1-15.

Ryan Glasspiegel: There’s always the chance Chip decides to bail for college, though. What if Phil Knight offers him a dumptruck full of money?

Jason Lisk: Okay, that’s a different story. I’m thinking hot seat like they will be fired, but yes, he could choose to leave.

Ryan Phillips: Here’s an interesting one: Hue Jackson.

Yeah, in his first year but the Browns are horrendous

Jason Lisk: I would say it is way too soon for Hue Jackson in Cleveland. They have had like 5 different QBs. I guess you could say he didn’t bang the drum for Wentz over trading down. But that is a multi-year project no matter who is around.

He inherited the Manziel mess, which they moved on from, and the Josh Gordon mess.

Ryan Phillips: I agree you need to give the guy time, but he’s got to show me something this year. Some improvement or vision offensively at least.

Jason Lisk: Then again, Haslam probably doesn’t want to issue any “rebates” if ticketholders bail. And he’s had a quick trigger finger. So I won’t bet anything there. If Hue is out though, I don’t know how anyone with any options whatsoever going forward chooses to work for that owner.

(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports)
(Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports) /

Ryan Glasspiegel: Yeah, but we could’ve said that last time around and Hue took that job.

Ryan Phillips: Josh McDaniels would probably take any head job he’s offered right about now.

Jason Lisk: We haven’t even mentioned a guy that should be top 5: Pagano in Indy. If they lose at home to Tennessee on Sunday …

Ryan Phillips: The only thing Pagano has going for him is that they extended him in January. But he and Grigson both have to be squarely on the chopping block.

Jason Lisk: Grigson has to be out, but I don’t see how it’s an either/or situation. Pagano is supposed to be a defensive guy. They show nothing there. When the side of your ball that is your background is a major issue for multiple years, I don’t see how you survive. I think it’s playoffs or bust.

Ryan Phillips: Agreed, Irsay is an instant gratification type of owner who loves to make a splash. He’ll hit the reset button and try to bring in two big names as replacements.

Irsay is Diet Jerry Jones

Ryan Glasspiegel: The Colts are also one of those teams where the franchise is the whole family business, and dead money is a consideration.

The Steelers too, for that matter. Mike Tomlin is signed through 2018.

And Tomlin makes over $7 million per year.

Jason Lisk: I think we’ve hit all the names. So let’s rank the guys who have had *success* in the past, been on the current job at least 5 years: Tomlin, Payton, McCarthy, Lewis, Pagano, Fisher.

I’ll go McCarthy #1, weight of expectations, Aaron Rodgers in prime, multiple disappointing seasons recently, been there 11 years.

Ryan Glasspiegel: There has been a lot of grumbling about Tomlin; I just don’t see him out.

Ryan Phillips: I think Tomlin is in the least trouble out of that group

Jason Lisk: I think the Steelers make the playoffs and he survives. The schedule is favorable down the stretch

I agree, he’s last. I would still put Pagano #2, extension or not

Ryan Phillips: McCarthy is No. 1, I’ve got Lewis No. 2

Ryan Phillips: Fisher is like the cockroach in WALL-E, somehow he always survives.

Ryan Glasspiegel: Sean Payton wouldn’t stay out of work long. I’d be curious to see how long McCarthy and Lewis stayed without jobs.

Jason Lisk: We would lose a lot of jokes if Fisher gets fired, but I think he’s 3rd. I would put Lewis 4th. (he would be 1st if the Mike Brown wasn’t the owner, but Lewis for his faults brought them to respectability)

and Payton and Tomlin 5th and 6th. But I think at least 3 of that group is gone if I could parlay it.

Ryan Phillips: That’s fair. I think Payton is relatively safe this year.

Jason Lisk: he falls under the “star QB” thing. They are afraid of alternative. He’s there until Brees falls off, I think. And Brees is still rolling even though the team is 4-5.

I’ll check my history, but I think Lewis will have passed Jim Mora with the Saints for longest tenure without a single playoff victory. [checks] Mora had 11 years with the Saints. Lewis is at 14, so it’s not even close.

Ryan Glasspiegel: McCarthy shouldn’t be off the hook if the Packers win this weak division and eke into the playoffs. He should be vulnerable if they do not at least reach the NFC title game.

Jason Lisk: Well then he’s gone, if the team had just one owner, Ryan Glasspiegel.

Ryan Phillips: OK lets go brass tacks here: who do you think is the first guy fired on Black Monday?

Jason Lisk: My list of most likely fired is (1) Bradley, (2) McCoy, (3) Fox, (4) Bowles, (5) McCarthy, (6) Pagano (7) Fisher (8) Hue Jackson (9) Lewis. And I’d set over/under at 6.5.

Ryan Glasspiegel: I’d agree mostly with Lisk’s list. Will go slightly over 6.5.

And we’ve eliminated Tomlin from contention?

Jason Lisk: No. I’m basing it on my guess that they finish strong. I don’t think he’s fired unless they just collapse.

I would put him and Payton 10a and b, but I think they survive unless it changes for the worst. And then Chip Kelly is his own beast.

Ryan Phillips: For the record, Tomlin would be hired immediately if the Steelers dumped him.

As of today I’d take the over.

If there is a sweet, merciful God, the first guy fired will be McCoy. If we’re alone in this cold dark universe, it’ll be Bradley.

Jason Lisk: Jacksonville is further East than San Diego, Ryan, let’s not base our belief system on that result.