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Five NFL Coaches Who Need To Hit In The Draft

See why this year’s NFL draft is important for coaches on the hot seat.

Mark Gunnels



NFL Draft week is finally upon us.

While fans and media members prepare for the thrilling drama that’s sure to ensue over the next few days, certain head coaches are banking on this draft class to essentially save their job.

What have you done for me lately?

That saying is what the NFL is all about nowadays. It doesn’t matter if you’ve had previous success as a head coach, i.e, guys like Jeff Fisher, Lovie Smith and Ken Whisenhunt or if you’re a newer coach like Joe Philbin or Gus Bradley. At the end of the day, organizations and especially fans expect a winner rather quickly.

Gone are the days of automatically giving a coach at least three years to build a contender. Without further ado, let’s take a look at the before mentioned coaches on the hot seat.

Lovie Smith: The previous two coaches before Lovie Smith were ran out of Tampa Bay fairly quickly. Raheem Morris was fired after three seasons and Greg Schiano got the boot after accumulating an 11-21 record during his two seasons.

There was speculation of Lovie Smith possibly getting the boot after just one season, where the Bucs finished 2-14. Despite that putrid record, Tampa’s front office is sticking with Smith for now.

However, Smith’s tenure in Tampa will probably lie in the hands of Jameis Winston and he seems to be fine with that.

“I believe in second chances, after I’ve done my research. We feel very comfortable with who Jameis Winston is, what he’s done, and what he can become,” Smith said a few months ago.

Relying on a rookie quarterback is risky, but it’s something Smith and the Bucs must do.

Joe Philbin: Most will tell you Philbin is fortunate to still have a job. Expectations in South Beach have risen over the past few years, but the Dolphins haven’t been able to live up to the hype.

It’s not as if Miami has been horrible. The problem is that they have been the defintion of average over the last three seasons. Philbin has a record of 23-25 with no playoff appearances, which is totally unacceptable. The Dolphins haven’t reached the playoffs since 2008.

Unlike Tampa Bay, the Dolphins have their quarterback of the future in Ryan Tannehill. In 2014, Tannehill threw for over 4,000 yards to go along with 27 touchdowns to only 12 interceptions.

However, in order for the Dolphins to take that next step there are a couple areas they must address on the offensive side of the ball. Those areas include wide receiver and guard.

The guard position has been the weakest link of Miami’s offensive line for the past few seasons and with Mike Wallace out of the picture, Tannehill doesn’t have a legit receiving threat to throw to.

To be fair, Jarvis Landry had a productive season in 2014. The second year receiver caught 84 passes for 758 yards with five touchdowns. At the same time, Landry is limited at the size of 5-foot-11.

During this weekend, if Miami is able to sure up their offense and add more quality to their secondary, a playoff appearance could be in store for Philbin’s squad.

Gus Bradley: If you haven’t noticed the trend yet, all of the Florida teams are in complete disarray. Although things ‘appear’ to be heading in the right direction for the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Just like Miami, the Jags believe they have their quarterback of the future with Blake Bortles. The only difference here is that Bortles hasn’t proven why the front office believes in him thus far. During his rookie campaign, Bortles had an intercpetion to touchdown ratio of 17 to 11.

Jacksonville ranked 31st in total offense last year, which is why they had a complete overhaul to their offensive coaching staff. Newly acquired offensive coordinator Greg Olson understands the pressure that comes with developing Bortles.

“Knowing the expectations of where this kid was taken and the expectation level and the talent level, if everything we do is not with Blake Bortles’ development in mind, then we’re selling the franchise short and we’re selling the team short,” Olson said.

It’s all about changing the losing culture in Jacksonville and by acquring guys like Julius Thomas, Jared Odrick and Davon House, the organization is moving in the right direction.

Bradley is pleased with the direction they’re heading towards.

“We felt like we could provide a great culture, do it the right way with our organization and make good decisions. The wins and losses haven’t followed through but we can compete and change that part of it. I think we’re seeing signs of that, of the interest level (from free agents). But I also saw it from the coaches, you know the pool of coaches that were available and their perception of Jacksonville now interviewing was maybe a little different than when I first got hired.”

If the Jaguars have another 3-13 season in 2015, you can expect Jaguars owner Shad Khan’s patience to run out.

Ken Whisenhunt: Just like Lovie Smith, Whisenhunt’s faith may rest in the hands of a rookie quarterback.

Tennessee trotted out four quarterbacks in 2014 and none of them appear to be the long-term solution, so don’t be surprised if they take Marcus Mariota with the number two pick.

Whisenhunt basically said none of his current quarterbacks is the answer.

“If he comes to us at No. 2, he’s definitely going to be the Day 1 starter. I’m very impressed by Marcus.”

Unfortunately, offense isn’t the only problem in Tennessee. The team ranked 27th in total defense, allowing 373 yards a game to go along with 27.4 points.

It’s easy to see why the Titans finished the year with a dreadful record of 2-14. There’s no doubt Whisenhunt has his work cut out for him.

Jeff Fisher: This isn’t a name you expect to see on this list, but it makes sense as to why he is. Initially, St. Louis experienced a dramatic change when Jeff Fisher came to town. During his first season, the Rams finished 7-9, which was a five win improvement.

However, since then the Rams have been stuck in neutral.

The Rams defense has been solid, but the other side of the ball is a different story. They ranked 28th in total offense in 2014.

Sam Bradford was supposed to be their franchise quarterback, but he wasn’t able to remain healthy on a consistent basis.

On the first day of the NFL’s new league year, St. Louis traded Bradford to Philadelphia for Nick Foles. With that being said, Foles shouldn’t get too comfortable.

“It’s our intention to draft [a quarterback],” Fisher said. “The Nick trade has no bearing over what we do in the draft.”

Another thing working against the Rams is the division they’re in. Sure, the San Francisco 49ers appear to be on the decline, but you still have the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals to compete against.

As the NFL Draft gets closer, make sure to keep these five coaches in mind. This weekend in Chicago could make or break them moving forward.

Mark Gunnels is an NFL columnist for Football Insiders. He has several years of experience covering the NFL and NCAA football. He's the radio color commentator for Lincoln University football. Mark's work has been featured on Sports Illustrated, Fox Sports and Yard Barker.

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