Originally Published: December 28, 2016 11:27 p.m.
Should he stay or should he go?
That's the clash some teams are considering as the NFL season winds down. Here are the pros and cons for keeping seven coaches in their jobs; it would have been eight except that Rex Ryan was fired Tuesday.
TODD BOWLES, JETS
PROS: In just second season as coach in New York after establishing himself as highly sought coaching candidate following several years as widely respected defensive assistant. Might be too soon to fire Bowles, who dealt with awful quarterback play and decline of aging stars this season. Two years after changing direction by firing Rex Ryan, is owner Woody Johnson ready to do it again by parting ways with even-keeled Bowles?
CONS: Things were looking up one year ago when Jets were 10-6 and missed playoffs by one game — loss in season finale. Things have gone way south since, with questions whether he has full respect of players and his in-game strategy raising the heat on Bowles. Some late-season blowouts and half-empty home games also haven't been good looks for frustrated franchise missing postseason for sixth straight year.
JOHN FOX, BEARS
PROS: Track record. Fox has proven his turnaround skills with Carolina and Denver, getting both to Super Bowls. Bears played hard despite so much losing and lack of talent. Pass defense ranked sixth and young D came up with 37 sacks in Fox's second season in charge.
CONS: Chicago took big step backward this season, and Fox is not QB expert, something Bears could use. Tough NFC North competition makes rebuilding project more challenging. Franchise has recent history of impatience with coaches, firing Lovie Smith and Marc Trestman since end of 2012 season.
HUE JACKSON, BROWNS
Pros: Jackson appears safe despite difficult first season with Cleveland. Browns went 0-14 before beating San Diego last week, ending 17-game losing streak stretching to Dec. 13, 2015. Owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam have preached continuity, and Jackson was saddled with young, inexperienced roster after team's front office decided not to sign any of club's free agents to build for future. Still, Jackson kept Browns together as losses — and injuries — mounted, and team continued to play hard as it chased its first win. Emotional scene in Cleveland's locker room following Sunday's win showed how much players care for Jackson.
Cons: Jackson's forte is offense, but Browns are averaging just 16 points per game and have scored 20 points once in past seven games. There were some questionable in-game decisions throughout season — Cleveland won toss in overtime, but gave ball to Miami — and Jackson may have taken on too much by also handling play calling.
CHIP KELLY, 49ERS
Pros: After firing Jim Tomsula after only one year, do 49ers want to go one-and-done again with Chip Kelly? San Francisco is only franchise since merger to fire coaches after just one season in consecutive years, having axed Monte Clark in 1976 and Ken Meyer following season. Kelly had little talent to work with and might deserve another chance with upgraded roster.
Cons: Niners took step back after winning just five games under Tomsula. They could match franchise record for losses if they lose season finale to Seattle, and have set franchise worsts in points allowed and yards rushing allowed. If team cuts ties with general manager Trent Baalke, it might make more sense to let new GM pick his coach instead of being saddled with Kelly.
MARVIN LEWIS, BENGALS
PROS: Loyalty. Owner Mike Brown is fond of Lewis, who is under contract through 2017. Lewis has indicated he wants to be back. At some point, Lewis will retire — he talked about succession plan that would have kept Hue Jackson from going to Cleveland one year ago — but apparently wants at least one more season before that occurs. Brown always seems to oblige.
CONS: Any place else, Lewis would have been fired after going NFL-record 0-7 in playoff games, including five straight first-round losses through 2015 season. He wraps up 14th season in Cincinnati with still no playoff win and team that underperformed this season. After yet another home loss to Pittsburgh eliminated Bengals, Lewis acknowledged that "I've not found the right buttons to push to get us to where we need to be. It's my job to figure out why we don't get it to where it needs to be." Any other team would be looking for replacement at this point, someone who can take the team to that next level.
MIKE MCCOY, CHARGERS
PROS: McCoy's under contract for 2017, and chairman Dean Spanos doesn't like eating contracts. If he's retained, it's good sign Chargers are staying in San Diego. If he's fired, it could be nod that Chargers know they need stronger personality as coach if they move to Los Angeles. He was given one-year extension through 2017 after last year's 4-12 nightmare, although most of his offensive staff was fired.
CONS: McCoy is solidly on hot seat after last week's loss to previously winless Cleveland, and Chargers have secured second straight last-place finish in AFC West and will miss playoffs for third straight time under McCoy. He is 27-36 in four seasons. McCoy has been criticized for being conservative and for poor clock management; Chargers have blown several fourth-quarter leads this year. Chargers went to playoffs his first season, 2013, and were 8-4 going into December 2014. They've gone 10-25 since.
CHUCK PAGANO, COLTS
Pros: Pagano took what was supposed to be worst team in football to the playoffs in 2012, delivering one of biggest turnarounds in league history in first season as head coach. He reached AFC championship game following 2014 season and managed to pretty much break even despite series of debilitating injuries. Indianapolis players continue to fight for coach they revere. And coaching change would likely give QB Andrew Luck fourth offensive coordinator in six seasons.
Cons: Colts have missed playoffs in back-to-back seasons for first time since 1997 and 1998 and have done it under same coach for first time since Ted Marchibroda in 1993 and 1994. Luck has been sacked 37 times in 2016, and defense Pagano was supposed to fix is ranked No. 24. Pagano has been dogged by questionable play calls, poor execution and continual mistakes.