Yes, it’s that 2013 NFL Hot Seat time of year, let’s look at the NFL’s 32 teams, from players to general managers, and then decide who enters the 2013 NFL season sitting on that proverbial hot seat. As we here at SafePicks.com continue to go through our mountain of NFL offseason homework, in advance of the 2013 NFL football season, we believe we have a good stranglehold on this year’s cold-like scenario of NFL hot seats. Mind you, only time will tell in which seats get truly that hot. After all, winning is the best remedy in the NFL. We’re ranking these from 1st (hottest seat) to 10th (still a hot seat, but not as hot as the 1st spot though). So here it is… here is our top ten hottest seats in the NFL for the 2013 NFL Football season, heading into Week 1:
1) Rex Ryan, Head Coach, NY Jets: In our books, Rex takes the number one spot, sitting on the hottest seat in the NFL heading into the 2013 season! Certainly, many are feeling the same sentiments in most NFL circles we know of. After two consecutive terrible seasons, Rex Ryan’s days are clearly numbered. You have a team owner who changes the GM post, but retains head coach Ryan? Could it be because Rex is quickly approaching the final year of his contract? We believe so, so why be on the hook if you’re the Jets? Behind Rex’s macho like character is nothing except an under-performing 38-32 record. He has nothing to show for his well-voiced (and well heard) Super Bowl expectations except a 4-2 postseason record. Rex’s greatest blunder was probably the quarterback circus in which he let get out of hand over the last year. Jettisoning Tim Tebow was the right move this offseason maybe, but Ryan approached the entire matter in such a controversial manner. While Tebow continues to draw pay, combine that mistake with not one, nor two, but several ill-advised contracts-gone-wrong, we probably have a sitting duck here. As well, other Rex-like antics in the last three seasons have done him no favors. Rex Ryan has accomplished a narrow winning record in his fifth year as NY Jets head coach. But this year will probably be his last, even as an NFL head coach altogether. He will have to work with 11 new assistant coaches and potentially 15 new starters entering the 2013 NFL season, quite the challenge if you’re Rex who couldn’t get it done with the prior assistants. Sitting duck, hottest of hot seats, or call it what you will, Rex only has himself to blame for such a demise with the NY Jets and his inevitable exit from New York.
2) Mark Sanchez, Quarterback, NY Jets: Prior to last season, Mark signed a strange three-year contract extension, with almost $21 million in guaranteed funds. Whatever the reason for Rex Ryan and former GM Mike Tannenbaum’s new-found enthusiasm for Sanchez, all indicators point to this plan of backing Sanchez backfiring. He would not even be on this roster if it weren’t for the almost $8.5 million owed to him, the Jets are merely doing a financially sensible thing in this case. The fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL draft has seen his fair share of the sideline bench due to his inaccuracy, untimely mistakes, decision making, and his proneness to unravel. Since being drafted, he sports one of the worse TD:INT ratio in the league (68:69). With the 2nd round selection of Geno Smith in this year’s draft, Sanchez’s days are probably numbered in New York. A premature release is not out of the question. But unless something magical is to happen here, his run is over. Period.
3) Blaine Gabbert, Quarterback, Jacksonville Jaguars: Here is another quarterback that has failed to deliver overall and potentially could be playing out his last year here. Although he does have some ‘legit’ excuse cards he could play when defending his 5-19 career record, (i.e. from offensive line poor performance, to lack of coaching stability, etc.). The Jaguars’ draft class this year may be nothing compared to next year’s crop, assuming the strategy was to let Gabbert have another year to go at it – in advance of a better draft class to bloom in 2014. We’ll see. But in his third year, it’s time for Gabbert to take a huge step forward, get tough, (many would argue his lack of fortitude and/or physical toughness) and play well. With a new coach, general manager, and even team owner, chances are they’re more in line with wanting to bring in a QB of their own, making it all the more reason why we believe Gabbert, (barring some ridiculous performance miracle) plays his last year, then the Jags move on.
4) Ron Rivera, Head Coach, Carolina Panthers: Now this is a guy we have grown to respect and like very much. He’s a laid back and relaxed kind of guy who has this silent fire about him for winning. But in the end, it has nothing to do with his likeability, not when many in Charlotte were speculating if team owner Jerry Richardson would even let Rivera return for this year’s Panthers campaign. Rivera begins his third year in Carolina sporting a 13-19 record. Rivera’s Panthers have won games that mattered least, yet they’ve lost games that mattered most. For team owner Richardson, yearning for NFC representation in the Super Bowl, or even a chance to play in any playoff game, patience is running out. There is no denying Rivera’s defensive coordinator talent, and unless something changes, a DC is what he’ll be next season. If the Panthers miss the playoffs, our prediction is that general manager Dave Gettleman will go out and hire his own head coach for the 2014 NFL season. But, we’re rooting for Rivera and always will.
5) Jeff Ireland, General Manager, Miami Dolphins: Frankly, it’s hard for us not to view this season as a do-or-die type of scenario for GM Jeff Ireland, especially after four straight seasons absent from the playoffs. The Dolphins spent a whopping $248 million on new talent acquisition via draft and free agents this offseason. The question is whether or not this year’s new investments for the team will pay dividends, this time around, in terms of a playoff berth or Super Bowl appearance. It’s hard to figure that there won’t be a hefty price to pay if all that flurry of Dolphins’ offseason activity does not pan out. But it’s not quantity but quality that helps a team to win a Super Bowl trophy. However, given the turmoil happening in New England, this year’s Dolphins should give the troubled Patriots a legit run for their money. Team owner Stephen Ross has patiently given GM Ireland four years to help the Dolphins succeed, four long seasons, but the excuses and patience ends this season. Let’s see. However, the talent-filled Fins just might secure a Wild Card spot this season, at the very least. If not, Ireland’s seat is no longer hot, it’s just gone. It has to be.
6) Jason Garret, Head Coach, Dallas Cowboys: In his third year as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, Jason Garrett has seen his team have two consecutive 8-8 seasons. Now, not all of that is Garrett’s fault, there is plenty of blame to go around in Dallas, starting with team owner Jerry Jones. Garrett is 22-26 over the last three seasons with the Cowboys. With another season in the cross-hairs for the Cowboys, Jerry Jones decided to keep Garrett (rather than fire him) and Jones implemented a different approach. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan was hired by Jerry, and Garrett’s offensive play-calling duties have been turned over to Callahan? And so it goes with the annual circus that seems to stop in Dallas. Just not sure what Jerry Jones is thinking, nor do we ever know what goes on in Jerry’s mind. It looks like this year, Garrett won’t have much of say on anything except to stand on the sideline and make like he is the head coach. His role will be more of a walk-around coach, and judging from our sources, this did not sit well with coach Garrett initially. In fact, Garrett was bitter about this change and he is ‘sucking it up’ these days. Frankly, for Jason, it was either accept the change or get fired. Whatever the case, this season for the Cowboys will be another challenging one, with even more heads to throw blame around to at the end of the season. If the Cowboys fail to make the playoffs once more, forget the hot seat, Jason Garrett is gone.
7) Jay Cutler, Quarterback, Chicago Bears: This one comes with an ‘if’ condition, but it makes our hot seat list nonetheless. Jay Cutler is on the hot seat, the seat will get the hottest if the Bears don’t make the playoffs and at least make a legitimate push into the playoffs. He is entering the final year of his five year near $50 million dollar contract. It has not been renewed because in hindsight, many will tell you that he has not lived up to his billing. He has played in the postseason only once, and has one win in the playoffs. Granted, his blind-side protection was not the best in recent memory so the Bears made some acquisitions to address that. Cutler already has his go-to receiver in Brandon Marshall among other go-to weapons. Cutler’s pocket discipline and presence will hopefully improve with the better protection he will have heading into this season. If Cutler can stay healthy and make good fundamental decisions, he might last beyond this season in Chicago. A big ‘if’. But in the end, there are no more excuses for Cutler. The mentality of most fans now is ‘put up -or- get out’ and until the ‘put up’ is accomplished, Cutler’s seat is hot.
8) Leslie Frazier, Head Coach, Minnesota Vikings: This NFL Coach of the Year candidate in 2012 did not earn enough respect by ownership to land him a big multi-year contract. Instead, Frazier signed a one-year contract extension with the Vikings which will take him to the 2014 season. But, the decision not to sign him beyond that leads us to wonder why? Does Leslie have to prove something more in Minnesota? Maybe. There is a calming relaxed way about him when it comes to coaching and developing his team. Leslie is a hard-working contributor and although it might not show on his version of a game face, winning is all that matters to him. But the numbers tell the story. In his third year as head coach of the Vikings, Frazier is 16-23 overall and 0-1 in the playoffs. Team owner Zygi Wilf wants to see more from his Vikings, so this will either be the year Leslie delivers or fails to deliver. Whatever the case, until then we have him on the hot seat.
9) Jim Haslett, Defensive Coordinator, Washing ton Redskins: Yes, this one was a tough one as we get closer to the end of our hot seat list. But we have to go with the rumblings hitting our sources. Fact is that Haslett is a seasoned veteran coach, with 21 years under his belt. But Haslett is under the gun to produce and field a more successful, results-oriented defense. In 2011, the Redskins sported a respectable 13th overall defense only to fall to 28th overall defense last year. Now, although they won the NFC East, the rest of it is history with their Wildcard loss to the Seahawks. Granted, injury woes plagued the Washington defense – this year, Haslett should have the services of a healthy full bunch, so the defense will need to deliver. Plus, he has Raheem Morris leading the secondary who could potentially replace Haslett should the opening appear. Haslett has to know that threat exists with Raheem. Anything short of a much better defense could potentially make Haslett’s hot seat a missing one, come the end of the season.
10) Josh Freeman, Quarterback Tampa Bay Buccaneers & Jake Locker, Quarterback Tennessee Titans: To tell you the truth, we have two quarterbacks that were qualified enough to make this spot. But since we’re publishing a top ten list here, we decided just to simply put them both in here. Let’s first start Josh Freeman. The Josh Freeman of old most certainly does not look like the current version of Josh Freeman. In 2010, Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns coupled with just 6 interceptions and he quickly became a threat for the deep ball and even rushing. That year, the Bucs went 10-6 but failed to crack the playoffs. Then, Freeman returned to have a less productive year in 2011. In 2012, Freeman threw for over 4000 yards, with 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions (and a near 55% completion percentage). Not much of an improvement and certainly a glowing contrast from Freeman’s 2010 season. This season, Freeman has been surrounded with more talent, so he is expected to deliver the goods. If not, the Bucs are poised to turn elsewhere at QB in 2014. We especially believe Bucs coach Greg Schiano won’t be tolerant to another sub-par season behind Freeman. So yes, for us… hot seat for Freeman. As for Titans’ quarterback Jake Locker, tied with Freeman in this hot seat spot, it’s a different story. Locker replaced Matt Hasselbeck in the 2012 season, but Locker was prone to injury and inconsistency then. Locker, to his credit, did not have the benefit of a strong offensive line, but results are results nonetheless. The Titans have made some offseason acquisitions to bolster the offensive line and help Locker even further in terms of receiving talent. For Jake Locker, year three has to be a more productive year or else, Locker might be released in 2014. Both Freeman and Locker are tied for our 10th spot in the hottest seats of the 2013 NFL Season and we close it there. There you have it! Of course, if you feel there is a hot seat out there that we might have missed, or you want to scream in disagreement, feel free to comment. By Bo Jamison, SafePicks.com