The end of the 2018 regular NFL season was also the end of a career, at least temporarily, for eight head coaches who were fired after their team’s sub-par performances.
Professional football head coaches know that keeping their jobs is never a given, and all it takes is one or two losing seasons to get the boot, but despite that six brave and accomplished NFL men have stepped up and filled most of those empty positions.
However, there are still a few NFL head coaches who, without a big turnaround in 2019, are likely to be fired during or after the next season, and here we take a look at why.
First, though, a quick introduction to the six (of eight) newly hired 2019 NFL head coaches and the two remaining vacancies.
Six new 2019 NFL head coaches:
1. Kliff Kingsbury – Arizona Cardinals
Previous job: Texas Tech head coach (2013-2018)
Replaced: Steve Wilks
Analysis: After the Arizona Cardinals finished the 2018 season with an NFL worst 3-13 record, first-year head coach Steve Wilks was relieved of his duties.
Hired in his place was Kliff Kingsbury, who, after spending the 2013-2018 seasons head coaching the Texas Tech Red Raiders, was let go with an overall record of 35-40.
Wilks was hired by the Cleveland Browns as their defensive coordinator.
2. Freddie Kitchens – Cleveland Browns
Previous job: Cleveland Browns offensive coordinator (2018)
Replaced: Interim head coach Gregg Williams, who replaced the fired Hue Jackson
Analysis: Halfway through the Browns’ 2018 season, head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley were both fired and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams and running backs coach Freddie Kitchens took over their respective duties.
After going 5-3 to finish the season and continuing the development of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, interim Williams was let go and Kitchens was given his first crack at head coaching.
Williams has been hired by the New York Jets as their defensive coordinator, while Haley has yet to be picked up by another team.
3. Vic Fangio – Denver Broncos
Previous job: Chicago Bears defensive coordinator (2015-2018)
Replaced: Vance Joseph
Analysis: After the Denver Broncos finished the 2018 season 6-10 and in a distant third place in the AFC West, second-year head coach Vance Joseph was fired and Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was brought in.
Under Fangio, the Bears defense was ranked 3rd in the regular season and the Bears became the 3rd seed in the playoffs, though they lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by just a point in the NFC Wild Card Game.
Joseph has been hired by the Arizona Cardinals as their 2019 defensive coordinator.
4. Matt LaFleur – Green Bay Packers
Previous job: Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator
Replaced: Mike McCarthy
Analysis: The Green Bay Packers never looked like themselves in 2018, going 6-9 under the on-field leadership of a banged up Aaron Rodgers, so after 13 seasons head coach Mike McCarthy was released and Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur was brought in.
Under LaFleur, the Titans’ offense was ranked 25th in the league, averaging 19.4 points and 312.4 yards per game, though they finished their season 9-7 and without a playoff appearance.
McCarthy has yet to be hired by another team for the 2019 season.
5. Adam Gase – New York Jets
Previous job: Miami Dolphins head coach (2016-2018)
Replaced: Todd Bowles
Analysis: The New York Jets ended 2018 with a 4-12 record and in the AFC East basement, so third-year head coach Todd Bowles was let go and fired Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase was hired instead.
Gase’s Dolphins were plagued by injuries during his three years there, and with a banged-up quarterback Ryan Tannehill the Dolphins only managed to win 7 games and failed to make the playoffs for the second season in a row.
Bowles has been hired by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as their defensive coordinator in 2019.
6. Bruce Arians – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Previous job: TV Announcer (2018), Arizona Cardinals head coach (2013-2017)
Replaced: Dirk Koetter
Analysis: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers spent the 2018 season bouncing between quarterbacks and winning just five games, which was enough to cost third-year head coach Dirk Koetter his job.
Pulled from his comfy TV analysis desk for the job is Bruce Arians, the former Arizona Cardinals head coach who had retired from professional football at the end of the 2017 season after a career record of 50-32 and a winning percentage of .608.
Koetter has been hired by the Atlanta Falcons as their offensive coordinator in 2019.
Still vacant 2019 NFL head coaching positions:
1. Cincinnati Bengals - head coach: vacant
Fired head coach: Marvin Lewis
Years with team: 16
2018 record: 6-10
Career record: 131-122-3 (.518)
Playoff record: 0-7
Analysis: After sixteen frustrating seasons, the Cincinnati Bengals decided to go a different direction and fired head coach Marvin Lewis, who has never won in the postseason despite seven tries.
Rumors that deposed Cleveland Browns head coach Hue Jackson would be hired for the job after assisting Lewis for the second half of the 2018 season turned out to be false and the position still remains unfilled.
Though not yet verified, it’s rumored that Los Angeles Rams quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor will be offered the job once his playoff run is complete.
2. Miami Dolphins – head coach: vacant
Fired head coach: Adam Gase
Years with the team: 3
2018 record: 7-9
Career record: 23-25-0 (.479)
Playoff record: 0-1
Analysis: Three years of sub-500 records, the Miami Dolphins fired head coach Adam Gase as part of their organizational changes.
Not helping Gase in Miami was sub-par quarterback output, the result of various injuries to starter Ryan Tannehill.
In January, Gase was hired by the New York Jets to be their head coach.
NFL head coaches on the 2019 hot seat:
1. Kyle Shanahan – San Francisco 49ers
Career record: 10-22
Record in 2018: 4-12
Winning percentage: .313
Notable Accomplishment: Turning the team around in 2017 by finishing with 6-of-7 wins.
Last playoff appearance: N/A
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers were hoping the magic of the second half of 2017 would continue in 2018, but all that ended when starting quarterback Jimmy Garopolo’s season ended after Week 3 with a knee injury, a torn ACL.
Shanahan was then forced to go with quarterback C.J. Beathard and it did not go well, with ten of the next thirteen games lost and no postseason play again.
Depending on how well Garopolo heals up and how improved the 49ers become over the offseason, Shanahan will either return them towards the direction of winning or he will have to start looking for another job.
2. Sean McDermott – Buffalo Bills
Career record: 15-17
Record in 2018: 6-10
Winning percentage: .469
Notable Accomplishment: Took the Bills to the playoffs in 2017 for the first time in 18 years.
Last playoff appearance: 2017, lost 3-10 to the Jacksonville Jaguars, AFC Wild Card Game.
Analysis: In 2017, McDermott gave Bills fans something to cheer about, which was their first playoff appearance in eighteen seasons, and though they lost that game, it gave the city of Buffalo hope that their football team was heading in the right direction.
In 2018, however, after some major personnel changes, mainly with the starting quarterback(s), the Bills went 6-10 and never looked like a team who deserved to play in the postseason.
The 2019 season will have to be a winning one for McDermott and the Bills, including the proper development of young second-year quarterback Josh Allen, or else general manager Brandon Beane will have to find a new head coach who can get the job done.
3. Doug Marrone – Jacksonville Jaguars
Career record: 31-35
Record in 2018: 5-11
Winning percentage: .471
Notable Accomplishment: AFC Coach of the Year, 2017
Last playoff appearance: 2017, lost AFC Championship to the New England Patriots, 20-24
Analysis: The Jaguars went from being five points away from the Super Bowl in 2017 to being 5-11 and an afterthought in 2018, which can’t look good on head coach Doug Marrone’s resume.
Jags general manager David Caldwell will be watching how Marrone handles the team’s major dip in wins despite their fifth ranked defense.
If Marrone can’t iron out his team’s quarterback situation – mainly whether to start Blake Bortles or to move on – and return the team back to its winning ways, his job will most likely be in jeopardy.
NFL head coaches too new to fire:
1. Pat Shurmur – New York Giants
Career record: 15-34
Record in 2018: 5-11
Winning percentage: .306
Notable Accomplishment: Won 4-of-5 games between Week 10 and 14
Last playoff appearance: Super Bowl XXXIX, 2004, as the Philadelphia Eagles quarterbacks coach, lost to the New England Patriots 21-24.
Analysis: Proving that having a few star athletes on your NFL roster does not necessarily guarantee a winning season, the 2018 New York Giants struggled from the get-go.
Shurmur had a first round pick at running back, Saquon Barkley, and a Pro-Bowl receiver, Odell Beckham Jr., but couldn’t get his veteran quarterback, 2x Super Bowl Champion Eli Manning to play well enough to win games.
New York city gives few second chances, but Giants’ general manager David Gettleman has given Shurmur 2019 to turn the ship around, but if Manning truly has no gas left in his tank then it will be up to Shurmur to figure out a different solution or he’ll be looking for a new line of work.
2. Matt Patricia – Detroit Lions
Career record: 6-10
Record in 2018: 6-10
Winning percentage: .375
Notable Accomplishment: Beat his former head coach/team, Bill Belichick and his New England Patriots, 26-10 in Week 3 this season.
Last playoff appearance: January, 2018, as the New England Patriots defensive coordinator, lost to Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl, 33-41.
Analysis: The Detroit Lions went from a winning 9-7 record in 2017 to a losing 6-10 record in 2018 under new head coach Matt Patricia.
Though four of their ten losses were by a score or less, five of the Lions’ six wins in 2018 were against teams who didn’t make it to the postseason.
It’s too early to tell if Patricia is a solid head coach, but general manager Bob Quinn has at least given him another season to turn the Lions into winners, which hasn’t been an easy task for any of the team’s previous head coaches.
NFL head coach too expensive to fire:
Jon Gruden – Oakland Raiders
Career record: 98-93
Record in 2018: 4-12
Winning percentage: .513
Notable Accomplishment: Coached the 2002 Tamp Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl Championship over the Oakland Raiders who had shockingly traded him, 48-21
Last playoff appearance: See above
Analysis: Besides his Super Bowl win fifteen years ago, one of the biggest accomplishments Jon Gruden had was his head coaching contract with the Oakland Raiders, which is a 10-year, $100 million, no-trade deal that’s one of the biggest ever in the NFL.
Some doubted Gruden could be effective after spending about eight years in the broadcast booth, and after a season filled with losses and questionable trades (Khalil Mack to Chicago Bears, Amari Cooper to Dallas Cowboys) even more doubts abound.
Gruden has nine more years to go on his contract, so it’s doubtful general manager Mike Mayock will can him anytime soon, but since Gruden claims he doesn’t want to get paid until he starts winning, 2019 would be a great time to start.
NFL head coaches whose 2018 saved their jobs…for now
1. Bill O’Brien – Houston Texans
Career record: 42-38
Record in 2018: 11-5
Winning percentage: .525
Notable Accomplishment: Turned the Texans around from being a 2-14 team in 2013 to being a 9-7 team in 2014.
Last playoff appearance: 2018, lost the Wild Card Game to the Indianapolis Colts, 7-21.
Analysis: O’Brien’s first three seasons ended with respectable 9-7 records and two playoff appearances.
After losing starting quarterback Deshaun Watson in Week 8 last season to a torn ACL, though, O’Brien couldn’t figure out how to help his backup Tom Savage win games, and the team’s 2017 record was a miserable 4-12.
But in 2018, with Watson’s healthy return, O’Brien’s Texans returned to playoff form with an 11-5 record, and though they couldn’t make it past Wild Card Weekend, it guaranteed O’Brien his head coaching job for the next several seasons at least.
2. Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys
Career record: 77-59
Record in 2018: 10-6
Winning percentage: .566
Notable Accomplishment: Was named NFL Coach of the Year for the 2016 season when the Cowboys went 13-3 and to the playoffs.
Last playoff appearance: 2018, lost to the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Divisional Game,
Analysis: Coaching for Cowboys’ far-reaching, loss-hating, constantly meddling owner Jerry Jones is a difficult job that Jason Garrett has had since 2010.
After ending the 2017 season in second place in the NFC East with a 9-7 record and no playoff appearance for the sixth time in Garrett’s eight years, rumors that the 2018 season was do-or-die for the head coach began to circulate.
Garrett didn’t flinch, though, and with his quarterback Dak Prescott playing well, his star running back Ezekiel Elliott finally playing all sixteen games and mid-season pickup receiver Amari Cooper delivering the goods, the Cowboys ended up first place in their division and made it to the divisional game of the playoffs, making Garrett’s job safe for at least another season.