Tuesday, May 28, 2024

NFL coaches on the hot seat: Panthers’ Matt Rhule, Commanders’ Ron Rivera in most trouble entering Week 5

One game doesn’t define a season, but a couple of them might, and just four weeks into the 2022 NFL campaign, a few head coaches are struggling to elevate their respective teams. Much like quarterbacks, coaches often get too much credit when they win and too much criticism when they don’t. At the end of the day, however, a staff is built — or torn down — based on results.

With that in mind, here’s our view on which coaches are currently on the hot seat, and which ones aren’t quite there yet:

The Cool Chaps: Under fire but totally safe (for now)

John Harbaugh, Ravens (2-2): With Lamar Jackson back in peak physical form, there’s no reason his team shouldn’t be cruising atop the AFC North. Baltimore’s defense has crumbled twice — and almost thrice — in four games, and his once-vaunted aggressiveness has hurt, not helped. But Harbaugh is far too battle-tested, with way too much history in town, to be written off.

Mike Tomlin, Steelers (1-3): His stubborn commitment to Matt Canada at offensive coordinator — or an old-school philosophy in general — may spoil parts of Kenny Pickett’s rookie season. A quarter of the year is already gone to the Mitch Trubisky experiment. And they probably should’ve went all in on the rebuild. But 15 years of steady leadership buys you lots of time.

Brandon Staley, Chargers (2-2): He can’t control injuries to star players, and Los Angeles survived against Houston in Week 4 despite them. But he remains the biggest question for a theoretical contender, and his preferred side of the ball has allowed the most points in the AFC. As long as Justin Herbert is slinging it, though, his club should remain competitive.

Dennis Allen, Saints (1-3): A three-game losing streak has them on a fast track to a top 2023 draft pick they’ve already traded away, and there’s no clear path to redemption with Andy Dalton and/or a banged-up Jameis Winston under center. But ownership isn’t gonna can Sean Payton’s old buddy after basically making him a stopgap for 2022 anyway.

The Lukewarm Lads: Trending toward trouble

Frank Reich, Colts (1-2-1): It’s not all his fault Indy has cycled through starting QBs on an annual basis, but they’re on pace to make a single playoff appearance (with no wins) from 2019-2022. He just got an extension last fall, but that was unofficially predicated on him resurrecting Carson Wentz, who’s already been swapped out for an older, potentially worse signal-caller. He and general manager Chris Ballard are probably a package deal, having run the QB carousel while failing to fix other horses on the carousel. Regardless, owner Jim Irsay is notoriously aggressive when it comes to addressing leadership problems.

Nathaniel Hackett, Broncos (2-2): After their lucrative Russell Wilson addition this offseason, he’s gonna get a decent leash to make that pairing work, even if it takes until 2023. But if the wonkily conservative game plans and ill-timed decisions keep haunting the offense to the point not even Russ can keep them competitive, perhaps the new ownership group will get impatient.

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The Burnt Rumps: Positively endangered

Matt Rhule, Panthers (1-3): He says all the right things, but his teams rarely do them. The chief issue, as anyone with eyes could’ve predicted, remains the QB spot, where every one of his gambles — Baker Mayfield being the latest and current — have come up short. The Panthers are now a combined 11-26 since he took over.

Ron Rivera, Commanders (1-3): You can be a beloved teacher and still fail as a head coach. Like Rhule, Rivera has shuffled through QBs as is the Washington tradition, and he still seems lightyears away from landing a true franchise arm. His once-tough defense is also a sieve. He is now 27-38 since 2017, his last winning season as coach of the Panthers.

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