Originally Published: July 25, 2018 11:33 p.m.
NEW YORK — The NFL season doesn’t start for another six weeks and already job security is an issue for some coaches.
Yes, even in late July.
Every season, teams that entered with low expectations show significant improvement and make unexpected deep postseason runs. Last season, Jacksonville with coach Doug Marrone went to the AFC championship game and held a late lead at New England before Tom Brady rallied the Patriots. And, of course, the Eagles and coach Doug Pederson, despite losing Carson Wentz to a torn ACL, beat Brady and Bill Belichick in the Super Bowl.
There’s always pressure on NFL coaches to win. And win now.
Here are a few who enter the 2018 season on the hot seat:
JASON GARRETT (67-53, 1-2 in playoffs)
There’s always pressure on the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, especially with Jerry Jones as owner. The franchise that has won five Super Bowls has not advanced past the divisional round of the playoffs since the 1995 season, the last year it won the NFL title. Garrett has 67 regular-season wins since taking over in the 2010 season. He has had only one losing season as head coach. However, he has reached the postseason only twice and won one game in the playoffs.
The Cowboys were 13-3 two seasons ago and will be expected to be in playoff contention with a full season of quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott. But the Super Bowl champion Eagles are in their way in the NFC East.
HUE JACKSON (9-39)
Jackson has one win — one — in two seasons in Cleveland; the other eight came as head coach of the Raiders in 2011. The Browns beat the then-San Diego Chargers in overtime in Week 16 of the 2016 season. Otherwise they’d be looking at consecutive 0-16 seasons.
The team also has to find a way to replace longtime star left tackle Joe Thomas.
The Browns hold the NFL’s longest active playoff drought at 15 seasons and fans don’t really trust this process. Jackson, a highly regarded offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, is counting on top overall draft pick Baker Mayfield being the team’s longtime answer at quarterback. The challenge for Jackson and the Browns is going against the rugged defenses and Super Bowl-winning QBs in Pittsburgh and Baltimore in the AFC North.
TODD BOWLES (22-29)
Life in the AFC East having to deal with the never-ending juggernaut in New England is almost unfair. Facing Brady and Belichick twice every season is not good for any opposing head coach’s job security.
Bowles, who received a two-year extension after the 2017 season, is coming off consecutive 5-11 records and has yet to make the playoffs entering his fourth season. Overall, the Jets have failed to reach the postseason for the past seven years.
The Jets have to decide on their starting quarterback — Josh McCown, Teddy Bridgewater or first-round draft pick Sam Darnold — and need to show progress in 2018.
JAY GRUDEN (28-35-1, 0-1 playoffs)
Job security in DC is always an issue. But Gruden will set the record for the longest-serving coach (65 games) since Dan Snyder took over as owner in 1999 in Week 1 of the upcoming season against Arizona.
Gruden has made the playoffs once in his first four years and lost to Aaron Rodgers and the Packers in the wild-card game after the 2015 season.
Gruden’s biggest challenge could be at quarterback after Kirk Cousins signed with Minnesota. The team traded for Alex Smith, and the comparisons at the position in the NFC East can be daunting: Dak Prescott, Eli Manning and Carson Wentz — not to mention Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles. As with Garrett in Dallas, Gruden also has to contend with the champs in his division.
And there will be comparisons to Jay Gruden’s Super Bowl-winning brother, Jon, who has returned to coaching with the Oakland Raiders.
DIRK KOETTER (14-18)
Koetter will enter his third season in Tampa Bay without starting quarterback Jameis Winston, who will miss the first three games while suspended for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy after a league investigation of an accusation that the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner groped a female Uber driver during a ride in Arizona in March 2016.
Koetter also is in a division with two teams with recent Super Bowl appearances (Carolina, Atlanta), and getting past them and the New Orleans Saints in the NFC South, especially with Ryan Fitzpatrick making three starts for Tampa Bay, will be tough.
VANCE JOSEPH (5-11)
Only entering his second season, Joseph’s Denver debut was a dud at 5-11 — an avalanche of disappointment by Broncos standards, especially so closely removed from a Super Bowl title.
In an attempt to stabilize the QB position that’s been troublesome since Peyton Manning retired, the team signed Case Keenum, who led the Vikings to the NFC championship game last season. Joseph needs big production from Keenum and the rest of the offense to support an overworked defense.
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