Black Monday: Evaluating the Job Security of Every AFC Team’s Head Coach

Tomorrow is the most dreaded day of the year for NFL head coaches, “Black Monday.” Each year head coaches hold their collective breaths as a handful of their peers are relieved from their duties. The end of 2017 observed seven new vacancies and this year another handful of vacancies are expected to be opened between now and Monday night. Let’s evaluate the NFL and attempt to predict what “Black Monday” and beyond holds for each NFL franchise in the AFC. As part of the analysis, each head coach will be given a grade of safe, hot seat or unsafe.


New England Patriots (11-5) – Bill Belichick (261-123)

Job Security: Safe

At this point in his career, Belichick could burn down Gillette Stadium and still have a job. The weakness of the AFC East hasn’t hurt the Patriot’s unrivaled run of sustained excellence, but the most successful head coach in the history of the NFL won’t lose any sleep this offseason.

Miami Dolphins (7-9) – Adam Gase (23-25)

Job Security: Hot Seat

Gase’s Dolphins were plagued by injuries at the quarterback position this season (and last season). Ryan Tannehill missed a lot of time and was hampered by injuries when he able to play. Gase was hoping for a bounce-back season after winning only six games last year and ten in his rookie season but fell short of expectations for the second straight year. I don’t think his fate is tied to Tannehill’s (who may be on his way out in Miami), but a bad loss to the Bills to close out the season may have left a bad taste in the mouth of ownership. I think there is a chance he comes back in 2019, but he will need to compete next year to keep his job.

Buffalo Bills (6-10) – Sean McDermott (15-17)

Job Security: Safe

The Bills got off to a rocky start in 2018, with the continuation of the Nathan Peterman Chronicles highlighting their first half. Fortunately for second-year head coach Sean McDermott, the offense picked up in the second half with an emergent Josh Allen under center. McDermott still has the blessings of Bills Mafia after leading the bills to their first playoff berth in over a decade last season, so I anticipate that he will be back for 2019 but his job will be dependent on the growth of franchise quarterback Josh Allen.

New York Jets (4-12) – Todd Bowles (26-41)

Job Security: Unsafe

There are already reports suggesting that Jets head coach Todd Bowles has been informed by ownership that he will be relieved of his duties. Bowles has won 5 games or less in each of the last three seasons, and although franchise quarterback Sam Darnold showed Improvement at the end of the year, his progression isn’t enough to save Bowles’ job.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens (10-6) John Harbaugh (104-72)

Job Security: Safe

John Harbaugh only has one losing season in his 11 years as head coach of the Baltimore Ravens. In a year in which his team won the division and took the bold step of starting rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson over veteran Joe Flacco, Harbaugh has silenced those that were suggesting he was on the hot seat earlier in the year. I don’t anticipate Baltimore’s offense being able to get them deep into the playoffs, but another division title ensures his future with the organization is solidified for at least one more year.

Pittsburgh Steelers (9-6-1) – Mike Tomlin (125-66)

Job Security: Safe

In his 12 years as head coach of the Steelers, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season.  After being eliminated from the playoffs following Sunday night’s game, it is the first time since 2013 that the Steelers have missed the playoffs. Mike Tomlin’s future is safe in Pittsburgh. Since 1969, the Pittsburgh Steelers have only had three head coaches and of those, Mike Tomlin has the highest winning percentage (Noll and Cowher being the other two). 

Cleveland Browns (7-8-1) – Interim HC Greg Williams (5-2)

Job Security: Hot Seat

Greg Williams has done enough as the interim head coach to earn himself an opportunity to interview for the position in Cleveland. I am confident that the Browns will explore all options before making Williams the head coach, with Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley being a top potential candidate as Baker Mayfield former college coach.  Williams only had one other season as a head coach which spend three unremarkable seasons in Buffalo but has become one of the game’s most prolific defensive coordinators. It’s unclear whether or not Williams would be given any control over the roster, but it’s clear that the Cleveland Browns play differently under Williams than they did under previous head coach Hue Jackson.

Cinncinatti Bengals (6-10) – Marvin Lewis (131-122)

Job Security: Hot Seat

Three consecutive losing seasons have landed Marvin Lewis on the hot seat. He’s the second-longest tenured head coach in the NFL and is known to have a great relationship with Bangles ownership, but a last-place finish in the division has cast doubt on whether or not the team is going in the right direction. Continuity is important in the NFL, but Lewis has failed to demonstrate that he can get the Bengals over the hump. He’s probably out.

AFC South

Houston Texans (11-5) – Bill O’Brien (42-38)

Job Security: Safe

After a dismal 4-12 campaign last season, O’Brien has led a resurgent Texans team to a  division title and the three seed in the playoffs. Despite starting the season 0-3, the Texans won their next nine games and solidified themselves as one of the best teams in the AFC. Propelled by the successful return of Deshaun Watson after suffering a season-ending injury last year, the Texans look to have the makeup of a team poised for success in the future.

Indianapolis Colts (9-6 [one game to play]) – Josh Mc-Frank Reich (9-6)

Job Security: Safe

With a win tonight against the Titans, the Colts will have secured a playoff berth in Reich’s first year as head coach. Luck is unquestionably going to earn comeback player of the year, and the tandem appears to have great chemistry. It will be exciting to see what Andrew Luck can do with continuity in his coaching staff, and Reich might just be the guy that can elevate Luck’s game to the next level. I suspect Reich has bought himself some credit this year by exceeding ownership’s expectations and will stick around even if the team fails to take a significant step in year two.

Tennessee Titans (9-6 [one game to play]) – Mike Vrabel (9-6)

Job Security: Safe

The AFC South is chock-full of talented new coaches. Vrabel (the latest branch of the Belichick coaching tree) has brought an energy to the Titans that the team and city have fed off of all season. Similarly to their counterparts in Indianapolis, a win tonight and they’re in the dance. In his first year as head coach, Vrabel has his team on the doorstep of the playoffs and capable of competing with any team in the NFL.  Further solidifying Vrabel’s role, since his arrival, he has silenced much of the doubt surrounding Marcus Mariotta’s future as the signal caller for the Titans.

Jacksonville Jaguars (5-11) – Doug Marrone (31-35)

Job Security: Hot Seat

It’s hard to place all of the blame for Jacksonville’s five-win season on Marrone’s shoulders. Jacksonville was cursed by some of the poorest quarterback play in the NFL and will look to address that need in this spring’s draft. I anticipate that Marrone will get a chance to help rebuild the franchise with a veteran or rookie signal caller in 2019, but he will need to address his locker room issues starting with star cornerback Jalen Ramsey first.

AFC West

Kansas City Chiefs (12-4) – Andy Reid (195-124)

Job Security: Safe

Reid is known as the quarterback whisperer for good reason. Today, Patrick Mahomes reached 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns on the season. A feat reached by only two other players, Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Reid hasn’t had a losing season since 2012, which was his last year in Philadelphia, and he has won less than 10 games only once during his tenure in Kansas City.

Los Angeles Chargers (12-4) – Anthony Lynn (21-12)

Job Security: Safe

It’s not very often you win 12 games and get saddled with the fifth seed in the playoffs. In almost any other division in football, the Chargers would’ve been the division winners and rewarded with a first-round bye. Lynn has the Chargers primed to go on the road to Baltimore in the wild card round and might even be favored to win despite losing to the Ravens at home a few weeks prior. With how well the Chargers have been playing under Lynn, this season might be Phillip Rivers’ best chance to win a Superbowl.

Denver Broncos (6-10) – Vance Joseph (11-21)

Job Security: Unsafe

Joseph will likely lose his job tomorrow. Broncos President of Football Operations John Elway is ultra competitive and anything less than excellence is grounds for change under his management. Joseph has been stuck with poor quarterback play during his tenure in failed former first-round pick Paxton Lynch and now veteran quarterback Case Keenum signed this past offseason.  Further compounding Joseph’s challenge, the Broncos are forced to play in one of the tougher decisions in football, but there were a number of games this season where the Broncos failed to be competitive. 

Oakland Raiders (4-12) – Jon Gruden (99-93)

Job Security: Safe

Ten-years and $100 million. After signing the largest coaching contract in NFL history, Gruden will oversee Oakland’s rebuilding efforts for the foreseeable future. Gruden is happy that 2018 is now in the rearview and he can begin his complete reconstruction of the Raiders roster which will be highlighted by three first-round picks, two of which acquired in blockbuster trades with Chicago and Dallas. 

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