They are the helmsmen. They are the strategists and the planners – they are the ones who spend countless hours analyzing film so that their Quarterback can pick apart a zone-scheme or which hole a Running Back should hit. They are NFL Head Coaches and they are (for the most part) very good at their jobs. However, there are some coaches who are feeling the pressure after disappointing 2012 campaigns.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions, Last Year’s Record (4-12):
Yes, Schwartz inherited the worst franchise in NFL history after they went 0-16 in 2008, but the Lions have been compensated with eight top-ten picks in the last decade of drafts. 2012 was supposed to be Detroit’s year what with true Superstar Calvin “Megatron” Johnson at Wideout and former number one-overall pick Matthew Stafford throwing to him. A rejuvenated defense with Ndamukong Suh brought balance and competitiveness on both sides of the ball. The Lions played without intensity and behaved more like the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz as they finished the season on an eight-game losing streak. Schwartz even cost the team a game by not understanding the rule (even if it was a ridiculous one) against the Texans by throwing a challenge flag that perversely meant there couldn’t be a challenge. Now that they’ve added an accomplished Running Back (Reggie Bush) and rid the team of its distractions (Titus Young), Jim Schwartz can get focused on football…and saving his job.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys, (8-8):
Garrett is the prince to the kingdom. The kingdom is vast and valued at about $1.3 billion. The townspeople love the King, who goes simply as Jerry, and gives them the plushest, most comfortable and luxurious place to spend a Sunday afternoon relaxing. Jerry Jones, King, gives the townspeople of the state of Texas exactly what they want: football. However, over the last few seasons, it hasn’t been good football. Cowboys Stadium – er, AT&T Stadium – is a beautiful, ornate palace, but built for a small, insignificant country. Garrett appears to be the only one with the pressure at his heels because underachieving Quarterback Tony Romo signed a 6-year, $108 million extension. The 47-year old Garrett took over for Wade Phillips in 2010 and led them to a 5-3 finish. Since then, he’s been mediocre, exactly mediocre in fact after 2011 and 2012 saw the ‘Boys finish 8-8. And in Texas, they won’t tolerate anything less than resounding success.
Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans, (12-4):
After being added to NFL via expansionism in 2002, many knew it would be a rough road for the Texans to travel. And it was lowlighting in 2005 when the team went 2-14. The problems began in Week 16 of 2012 where the Texans needed to win one of their remaining two games to cinch a first-round bye. Kubiak wouldn’t be on this infamous list if he had, now would he? The Texans lost, but recouped to win their Wild Card playoff matchup. However, in testing time, they were obliterated by the might of the New England Patriots as they were blown out in Foxboro by a score of 41-28, and the game wasn’t even that close. Kubiak has arguably the second-best Running Back in the NFL in Arian Foster, he has decent Quarterback Matt Schaub to throw to bon-a-fide Superstar Andre Johnson. He also presides over one of the NFL’s prickliest defenses. All in all, Kubiak has the ingredients to win, he just can’t seem to bake a winning recipe – and he has to, soon.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets, (6-10):
Ryan, when he signed with the Jets in 2009, proclaimed his plan was to eliminate outside distractions as well as build team chemistry. After carrying out a slew of moves to ensure so, he began to deliver on them, helped by his franchise Quarterback, Mark Sanchez. He even made it to the AFC Conference Championship his first two years as coach. Then came the Super Bowl guarantees, the proclamation of a foot fetish (that one got weird…and laughed it thanks to Wes Welker), the Hard Knocks episodes, the Tim Tebow publicity stunt, the poor play of Sanchez, and, equally as strange as the fetish, his tattoo. That’s right, the shoulder-blade ink he sported with a sultry representation of his wife wearing nothing but…the jersey of his flailing starting Quarterback? Huh? The one-hundred ring circus that Ryan has brought to town has prompted Jets ownership to feel that he has put undue pressure on the locker room, especially after former Running Back LaDanian Tomlinson blamed Ryan for failure as a direct result of his antics and guarantees. But, get this, after his initial success Owner Woody Johnson added two more years onto Ryan’s contract as an extension. The Jets have Ryan through 2014. They don’t want to sacrifice financially, but they will if it gets horrific. Of anyone on this list, Ryan may be the most directly responsible for the applied pressure.
Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons, (13-3):
An interesting way to close out the list, Smith’s Falcons did quite nicely last year, reaching the NFC Conference Championship game. The Birds also went 13-3 in 2012. What puts Smith’s job in jeapordy is his inability to close. In that last playoff game of 2012, the Falcons went into halftime with a commanding 24-14 lead. They were shut-out in the second half, had an opportunity to win with only ten yards to go and an expiring clock, but were, in the end, defeated. Smith, hired in 2008, won at least 10 games in each regular season except 2009, including another 13-3 season in 2010. However, Smith’s first – and only – playoff win came last season. The Falcons, with aging core members (namely Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez) need Smith to come through…now.