Three potential Jets replacements if Zach Wilson misses extended time

Jets second-year quarterback Zach Wilson suffered a bone bruise and a meniscus tear during Friday night’s preseason win over the Eagles. He is expected to miss 2 to 4 weeks with the injury, which puts his status in jeopardy for the season opener.

Wilson missed four games in 2021 with a PCL injury in his right knee. (Atlanta Falcons)

Hopefully, this will truly be a short-term injury and we will all get a chance to see how much Wilson has developed from his rookie season to now. However, the Jets expected Mekhi Becton to only miss 6 to 8 weeks last season and he never played again. The need for a replacement seems less dire if Wilson is able to return early in the regular season, but it is possible the Jets would be in the market for a new quarterback. The other quarterbacks on the roster at the moment are Joe Flacco, Mike White and Chris Streveler.

It is important to note that head coach Robert Saleh is a fan of Flacco’s. He heaped praise on the former Super Bowl MVP not even two weeks ago, calling him a starting-caliber quarterback. It would not be a shock to see New York ride it out with Flacco while looking to add a third quarterback to the room for depth, but the Jets really hoped to take a step forward in Saleh’s second season. Keep in mind that Flacco is 0-5 as a starter for the Jets.

It is tricky to know which direction the Jets would head here. They are not really ready to contend, but I also believe this coaching staff and front office believes in doing everything possible to win. Let’s say general manager Joe Douglas decides that he wants to get aggressive and find someone to bridge the gap for Wilson’s return or perhaps find an insurance policy with a bit more upside given that this is now the second time that Wilson has suffered an injury to the same knee. There are not a ton of feasible options, but here are three quarterbacks the Jets could target.

Garoppolo went 31-14 as the 49ers starting quarterback. (Alexander Jonesi)

Jimmy Garoppolo
This might seem obvious, but the 49ers quarterback has ties to the Jets coaching staff. Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur both worked with him for three seasons in San Francisco. While Garoppolo would unquestionably have to build rapport with his new teammates, he should have a good understanding of LaFleur’s offensive system.

The Jets do not have a ton of cap space available, so it is likely Garoppolo would need to restructure his contract if the deal were to be done. San Francisco would likely be looking for a Day 3 draft pick and maybe a future conditional pick to move the 30-year old quarterback. It is clear they have moved on to Trey Lance as the starter and have been openly shopping Garoppolo for months. What’s more, Garoppolo is on an expiring contract, which means the Jets would still be moving forward with Wilson for the long term.

Love was a first-round draft pick in 2020. (All-Pro Reels)

Jordan Love
It is unclear what Love’s future in Green Bay is at this point. Entering Year 3 in the NFL, it seems he is no closer to being the Packers’ starter than he was when they selected him. Aaron Rodgers is the two-time reigning MVP and signed a two-year extension this offseason. I’m not positive the front office in Green Bay will want to move on from him, but if he is available, he could be a cheap option in terms of cap space, to help the Jets stay competitive. New York would likely have to give up a bit more to acquire him than they would Garoppolo given his rookie contract situation and the fact that Love won’t turn 24 until November.

However, it could be a win-win for the Jets and for Love. For Love, he would at long last get a chance to prove he can be a starter in the NFL. Meanwhile, the Jets would be able to trade Love again next offseason, possibly for more than they paid if he plays well enough. In the event that Love plays so well that Wilson becomes available, he will still have enough upside and youth on his side to garner serious interest. Keep in mind that Josh Rosen netted a second-round pick for the Cardinals when he was acquired by the Dolphins.

I expect New York to stay loyal to Wilson, but having two starting-caliber quarterbacks under the age of 25 is a good problem to have. If Love does not pan out, the Jets will only be on the hook for the final year of his rookie contract. That cap hit is just under $4 million, which is pretty reasonable for a backup quarterback.

Rudolph has spent his entire career with the Steelers. (Erik Drost)

Mason Rudolph
While I’m not altogether sure this would be much of an upgrade from Flacco or White, it is possible that the Steelers would be willing to move on from the former 3rd-round pick. The 27-year old is in the final year of his contract and Pittsburgh brought in Mitchell Trubisky and Kenny Pickett this offseason. Rudolph is part of the quarterback battle for the team’s job this preseason, but feels like the least likely candidate to win it at this point.

That being said, Rudolph has shown he can be at least an average starter in the league. He kept the Steelers afloat in 2019 when Roethlisberger missed eight games. Pittsburgh went 5-3 in that span. He earned spot starts in each of the past two seasons as well.

On one hand, it likely would not cost much for the Jets to acquire him and his cap hit would be very manageable. On the other, I don’t see him being a major upgrade over the quarterbacks that New York currently has on its roster. As much as Saleh wants to win this year, I don’t see Douglas making moves just for the sake of it. There are just not a ton of replacement options available across the league.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you get your podcasts.

Draft Season Never Ends: 2022 NFL Draft Reaction

New episodes dropping every Friday! The draft is finally here! With 262 picks all finalized and undrafted free agents signing, Chris breaks down his favorite and least favorite drafts and some of this favorite Day 2 and Day 3 picks in a special Monday episode.

You can find every episode on Anchor, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, YouTube or wherever you find your podcasts. As always, I appreciate reviews, feedback and when you hit that subscribe button.

2022 NFL Draft Day 3 Takeaways: Patriots continue to surprise, punters are popular picks and the Ravens plan at receiver

NFL Draft Daily looks at top stories, historical trends, player performances and more all through the lens of the NFL Draft. After all, the draft is finally here! Check back in tomorrow for another entry.

The Patriots drafted Mac Jones in the first round just a year ago. (Wikimedia Commons)

Interesting approach in New England continues
The Patriots have made headlines the past few days for shocking everyone with some of their early picks. Saturday didn’t generate any headlines, but it was still a surprising afternoon. New England took Bailey Zappe in the fourth round, ahead of Sam Howell. I supposed the Pats view Zappe, who broke several D-1 passing records at Western Kentucky, as a backup quarterback to Mac Jones. I definitely would have expected Bill Belichick to bring in a veteran to back up Jones. That pick was sandwiched by a pair of running backs. This made absolutely no sense to me. New England has Damien Harris and James White as veteran backs. Rhamondre Stevenson was a third-round selection last year. They also have depth with J.J. Taylor still on the roster. I can’t envision a scenario where the Patriots keep six running backs. White did miss most of this past season with a hip injury, so perhaps this is the end of his time in New England.

A run on punters
Well, that’s probably untrue. It wasn’t so much a run, as much as it was surprising to see two punters selected as early as they were. For the first time since 2007, two punters were selected in the first four rounds. Jordan Stout and Jake Camarda were joined later in the draft by Matt Araiza, the booming punter from San Diego State, and Trenton Gill. That made it the most punters taken in one draft since 2018. Not a huge storyline, but something draft nuts like me are interested in.

Speaking of punters
While the unexpected number of punters coming off the board in the fourth round was fun, it did raise some interesting questions in Baltimore. The Ravens traded away Marquise Brown on Thursday night to acquire a first-round pick, which eventually, following a trade down with the Bills, turned into Tyler Linderbaum. Lamar Jackson was notably unhappy with the decision to move on from Brown and he made it clear on Twitter.

Yeah, definitely not a good sign for the Ravens. Jackson and Brown were very close, so this was obviously tough to swallow. Baltimore could have made it a bit easier to swallow by finding a new receiver for Jackson. However, despite having seven Day 3 picks, including six in the fourth round, the Ravens did not draft a receiver. Before you panic, the Ravens are actually flush with young mid-round receivers. They have taken Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace and James Proche over the past two drafts. That is in addition to taking Rashod Bateman in the first round in 2021. It seems like they are counting on one of them to step up. There are also veterans receivers like Jarvis Landry, T.Y. Hilton and Odell Beckham Jr. still available. I have a feeling that is how Baltimore plans to address the position.

Sam Howell has a chance to start sooner than you might think
The Commanders grabbed Sam Howell with the first pick of the fifth round, stopping the slide for a player that entered the college season as a projected first-round pick. Most quarterbacks taken in the fifth round are not taken with real hopes of starting in the NFL. Strange things happen though. Mike White, a fifth-round pick in 2018, started for the Jets this past season when injuries popped up. Gardner Minshew was a sixth-round pick in 2019. However, I think there is a chance Howell could be in contention to be Washington’s 2023 starter. First of all, he is reunited with one of his college wide outs in Dyami Brown. Second, the Commanders can release Carson Wentz after this season with ZERO dead money. It’s a move that would save the team about $26.1 million in cap space. Now, if Wentz is able to reclaim the form he showed early in his NFL career with the Eagles, this won’t even be a question. But if he struggles again like he did down the stretch with the Colts, this could get interesting, especially if Washington is not in a position to take one of the top quarterbacks in the 2023 draft. Just some food for thought regarding a quarterback I had an early third-round grade on. I think he has starter potential in the league.

Georgia sets a new benchmark
In 2020, 14 LSU players heard their name called, matching Ohio State in 2004 for the most players selected in a seven-round draft. Georgia surpassed that on Saturday. Derion Kendrick and John FitzPatrick went with back-to-back picks in the seventh round to set a new record with 15 players drafted from one school in a single draft. It underscores just how talented the Bulldogs were this season and how much Kirby Smart will have to replace this upcoming season. I have a feeling the Dawgs will be moving up in my Pro Potential Power Rankings.

The Steelers do it again
Pittsburgh made a sixth-round selection that probably didn’t turn too many heads, but continues a fun trend for this Steelers team. They selected Connor Heyward, a fullback out of Michigan State. He is the brother of Cam Heyward, the Steelers’ stalwart defensive tackle. It actually gives the team four sets of brothers on the roster. Just a fun nugget from today’s draft coverage that gives a bit more context and intrigue to the selection of a sixth-round fullback.

The Jets had a good draft
I want to close this out by talking about my team a bit. Part of the reason that I am such a huge fan of the NFL draft is because I’m a Jets fan. When your team is regularly not in the playoffs, you start to think about the future and what could be. Browns and Lions fans know what I’m talking about. There is always hope, followed by bitter disappointment. For the first time in a long time though, I think I might be willing to let myself be optimistic. The Jets crushed this draft on paper. They found value, filled needs and navigated the board with a veteran savvy that felt very out of place given how this team has been run for the past decade. I certainly don’t think the Jets are Super Bowl contenders, but they might actually be a year away from legitimately competing. They rounded out their draft by taking Max Mitchell from Louisiana and Micheal Clemons from Texas A&M. Mitchell has the potential to kick inside in the NFL, which would fill a need for the Jets. Meanwhile, Clemons brings some pass rushing depth to the roster.

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NFL Draft Daily: How could a Deebo Samuel trade shake up the NFL draft?

Another wide receiver seems set to shake up the NFL world. News broke Wednesday that Deebo Samuel wants a trade away from the 49ers. This comes on the heels of Samuel, DK Metcalf, Terry McLaurin and Dionate Johnson all sitting out voluntary offseason workouts in hopes of securing a new contract. Samuel seems to be taking his requests a step further.

The former second-round pick in 2019 has certainly done enough to show he deserves to be paid. After an injury-plagued 2020 season, Samuel posted incredible numbers in his most recent campaign. The 49ers turned him into a hybrid receiver and running back as he totaled 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 18 touchdowns. He was recognized with his first Pro Bowl selection and a spot on the AP’s All-Pro first team. 

Needless to say, there will be a few teams interested, even if San Francisco is not inclined to let him leave. Given how the wide receiver market has taken off this offseason, it is going to cost the 49ers or whoever acquires him a lot to keep him.Β That being said, he is the best wide receiver available right now, including any of the prospects in this draft class. We could very well see teams that we expect to target receivers in the draft focus on acquiring Samuel instead.

Let’s say Samuel gets his wish and the 49ers agree to trade him. Where could he land? Any team that makes an offer will have to part with significant draft capital to make the move. After all, this is a 26-year-old receiver coming off an All-Pro season. Here are a few teams that could be interested and what they might give up to make a deal happen.

New York Jets
Jets receive Deebo Samuel, 2022 5th-round pick (No. 172)
49ers receive two 2022 2nd-round picks (No. 35 & No. 38) and 2023 4th-round pick

One of the obvious suitors for Samuel, New York was in discussions to acquire Tyreek Hill before he landed in Miami. However, Joe Douglas has shown a reluctance to part with significant draft capital to acquire a player he will then have to give a big extension to. Maybe he will feel differently with Samuel being just 26 compared to Hill, who turned 28 in March. The Jets also run a similar system to the 49ers. Mike LaFleur was an assistant under Kyle Shanahan before landing the Jets offensive coordinator job when Robert Saleh was named head coach. 

New York clearly feels it needs to find Zach Wilson more weapons. Will they be willing to sacrifice potentially finding interior offensive line help or a top-tier safety in the second round to do so? That remains to be seen. Their two second-round picks are roughly equivalent to the No. 15 pick based on draft trade value. For San Francisco, this move would allow them to target a long-term replacement at receiver and find some interior offensive line or cornerback help in the early second round.

Green Bay Packers
Packers receive Deebo Samuel, 2022 6th-round pick (No. 221)
49ers receive 2022 1st-round pick (No. 22), 2022 2nd-round pick (No. 59)

Aaron Rodgers lost his favorite receiver this offseason when Davante Adams was traded to the Raiders. The Packers also lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling in free agency. They clearly need receiver help. Green Bay has plenty of draft capital to work with and has a roster that feels close to competing for a championship. While drafting a receiver certainly makes sense, acquiring a veteran receiver ready to contribute and potentially transform the offense right away lines up well with the Packers timeline.

Samuel would definitely be a fit in Green Bay’s offense. Coach Matt LaFleur is a former Kyle Shanahan assistant as well. He will certainly find some creative ways to deploy Samuel that does not involve him playing running back, which is reportedly a source of Samuel’s frustration with the 49ers. The biggest hang ups to getting a deal done will be cap space to sign Samuel and the concept of trading Samuel to an NFC rival. 

Green Bay was willing to hand Adams a huge extension, so I think they will be willing to spend big for Samuel. The bigger issue is the potential to face him in a Packers uniform come the playoffs. These two teams have met in the postseason multiple times in the past few years. The idea of strengthening an NFC rival might not sit will with John Lynch. That being said, the prospect of landing a first-round pick and having another second-round pick. This move would allow San Francisco to address all of its biggest needs by the time it reaches the end of the third round.

Kansas City Chiefs
Chiefs receive Deebo Samuel
49ers receive 2022 1st-round pick (No. 30), 2022 2nd-round pick (No. 50)

How about another team that traded away its star receiver this offseason. Kansas City has made moves to restock its receiver room, bringing in JuJu Smith-Schuster and the aforementioned Valdes-Scantling. That being said, this team still lacks a true No. 1 receiver. With the Chiefs not picking until 29th overall, it seems like that the team will need to make a trade to acquire a true No. 1 receiver. If they don’t want to move up in the draft to do so, Samuel could become a clear target.

Andy Reid has a penchant for designing offensive sets that maximize the skill sets of the players at his disposal. I’m sure he would relish the opportunity to work with Samuel. The main issue would be cap space. Kansas City does not have much wiggle room and a big reason for trading away Hill was because the team was unable to give him the type of money he eventually got in Miami. That could take Kansas City out of this deal altogether. 

It would definitely take some very creative massaging of the cap to make this move happen. That being said, I expect the Chiefs to at least call about Samuel. With Patrick Mahomes at quarterback, this has to be a destination Samuel would be interested in. On top of that, Kansas City would still have picks in the first two rounds to address needs at corner and edge rusher.

New Orleans Saints
Saints receive Deebo Samuel, 2023 4th-round pick
49ers receive 2022 1st-round pick (No. 16), 2022 3rd-round pick (No. 98)

The Saints made a big move to acquire more draft capital this season. It is a bit unclear how they plan to spend it. Moving up to take a quarterback is certainly in play, but I think they are committed to Winston for 2022. Instead, they could use one of their first round picks to land Samuel. Michael Thomas should finally be healthy, but he needs a running mate. Samuel would give New Orleans one of the best receiver duos in the league. 

Making this move also still leaves the Saints with a first-round pick to target an offensive tackle. If New Orleans is going all in on building this team to contend this season, might as well swing for the fences. Cap space once again becomes an issue for a team that was over the cap at the beginning of the offseason. That being said, Spotrac has the Saints at $19 million under the cap. They would find a way to make it work.

Follow the Aftermath via email to get every article delivered right to your inbox. Enter your email in the text box to subscribe. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter. You can also check out our weekly podcast Draft Season Never Ends with new episodes every Friday, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and YouTube.

NFL Coaching Hot Seat Tracker: Preseason Preview

It’s almost time for football! Training camp is getting underway and the NFL rumor mill is in full effect. Aaron Rodgers, Deshaun Watson and even Chandler Jones could be on the move.

There will be plenty of time to get into all of the potential scenarios for the big names looking for a change of scenery. I wanted to take a look at where every coach in the NFL stands though as we approach the preseason. Every year, we see about seven or eight head coaching openings in the league. Those openings don’t happen without a coach losing his job. Here is an early look at which coaches could be sweating it out at the end of the season. My plan is to update this list at the midway point and again after the regular season.

New York Jets – Robert Saleh
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A rookie head coach and a rookie quarterback. It’s the first time the Jets have ever had both heading into the same season in franchise history. That takes the pressure off everyone here. While seeing a massive turnaround from a 2-14 season would be great, it is not expected. As long as Saleh can show signs that he is putting the pieces in place for future success, that’s all that matters. Besides, after dealing with Adam Gase for two years, Saleh will be a breath of fresh air.

New England Patriots – Bill Belichick
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Could the Patriots really fire Bill Belichick? It feels unlikely. At this point, I think it is more likely Belichick retires or leaves on his own accord than being fired. Still, after a very rocky 2020 season, the Patriots spent a ton of money in the offseason to retool their roster. They also spent a first round pick on Mac Jones. If New England takes a step backward though and the offense flops again, maybe the team could think about making a change. Again, it feels incredibly unlikely, but the expectations are certainly higher for the Patriots in 2021.

Buffalo Bills – Sean McDermott
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The Bills are entering a clear championship window in the final two years of Josh Allen’s rookie deal. Allen took a massive step in 2020 and put together an MVP-caliber campaign. If he can come close to replicating that performance, Buffalo will be very capable of winning its first Super Bowl in franchise history. In order to get to that point, Sean McDermott needs to get the defense back to its 2019 form. With higher expectations comes increased pressure. It would take a truly miserable season for McDermott to lose his job, but he has to deliver.

Miami Dolphins – Brian Flores
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Honestly, if the Dolphins went 0-17 and Tua Tagovailoa lost his starting job to Jacoby Brissett, I think Brian Flores might still keep his job. He is a ton setter and a great culture builder. Let’s be clear, I don’t expect the above scenario to come true. Miami came up one game short of reaching the playoffs in an incredibly competitive AFC. Even if Tagovailoa falters again, I think Flores would get a chance to pick another quarterback and continue building the framework of this team.

Indianapolis Colts – Frank Reich
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Which direction are the Colts headed? The team has a championship-caliber roster in a lot of areas. Their front seven is incredible. The secondary should be even better in 2021. The offensive line is definitely among the top five units in the league. They lack a true No. 1 receiver at this point, but they have depth at the skill positions. It now all falls on Frank Reich and Carson Wentz. Indianapolis acquired Wentz this offseason for a decent amount of draft capital, reuniting him with his offensive coordinator from his early days in Philadelphia. If the Colts struggle in what looks to be a fairly weak AFC South and miss the postseason, there could be some significant turnover in Indy.

Houston Texans – David Culley
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If there was ever a team that could be accused of tanking in the NFL, it has to be the Houston Texans. After releasing franchise icon J.J. Watt amid a massive quarterback controversy on the heels of a 4-12 season, it seems like the Texans are entering a long rebuild. With limited draft capital in recent years, this roster has a massive talent deficit compared to the rest of the league. The roster building is confusing as well, as the team continues to target veteran running backs. Deshaun Watson was likely not going to play this season before his pending legal situation unfolded. Now it seems certain he will not see the field in 2021. All of this is to say, there is absolutely no pressure on David Culley to succeed this season.

Tennessee Titans – Mike Vrabel
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Mike Vrabel has the Titans playing at an extremely high level. They are tough, determined and disciplined, which is usually a product of good coaching. After making a splashy move to land Julio Jones, the pressure is on for Tennessee to make a deep postseason run. With Arthur Smith heading to Atlanta, it is going to be interesting to see if the Titans can maintain their offensive success. A major step backward could see Vrabel come under scrutiny. I think his job is safe, but stranger things have happened.

Jacksonville Jaguars – Urban Meyer
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It is very bizarre to say a first-year head coach is on the hot seat, but Urban Meyer is unlike most rookie coaches. Meyer comes with a ton of clout from his days at Ohio State and Florida. He also just drafted arguably the best quarterback prospect since Andrew Luck. The heat here mostly stems from Meyer’s checked history with team culture. The league fined the Jaguars $200,000 for OTA violations and slapped Meyer with a $100,000 fine of his own. The fines stemmed from breaking the non-contact rules of OTAs. This comes on the heels of Meyer hiring former Iowa strength coach Chris Doyle. Doyle resigned one day after his hire following a chorus of former Hawkeyes saying he discriminated against them. The Jaguars have a chance to build something special around Trevor Lawrence. There have already been red flags. Jacksonville needs to be sure it has the best possible system in place for Lawrence to succeed.

Pittsburgh Steelers – Mike Tomlin
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With Ben Roethlisberger’s tenure in Pittsburgh seemingly at its end, could the Steelers opt for a fresh start and move on from Mike Tomlin as well? It certainly feels possible. Despite winning the AFC North and reaching the playoffs, Pittsburgh struggled mightily down the stretch, including a dismal playoff loss against the rival Browns. With no clear succession plan in place and a roster coming up against the cap, the Steelers could look to rebuild with a new coach and a new quarterback.

Baltimore Ravens – John Harbaugh
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A few years ago ago, it felt very possible the Ravens were set to move on from John Harbaugh. Baltimore missed the playoffs from 2015-2017. Joe Flacco was struggling. The defense was far from its championship-winning dominance in 2012. Lamar Jackson likely saved Harbaugh’s job. Baltimore is now among the top title contenders heading into 2021. Harbaugh feels very safe, but there is always a scenario where he could not be back. There have been concerns around the Ravens offense being too one dimensional with Jackson at the helm. Finally winning a playoff game took the edge off, but if Baltimore somehow misses the postseason in 2021, the heat will be turned up on Harbaugh.

Cleveland Browns – Kevin Stefanski
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After reaching the playoffs for the first time since 2002 and winning the franchise’s first playoff game since 1994, Kevin Stefanski is among the safest coaches in the league. His run-heavy approach was incredibly successful, utilizing the two-headed attack of Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt to great effect. Stefanski also put Baker Mayfield’s career back on the right path. Now, there are still questions that persist around Mayfield, but after investing heavily in the defense, he might not need to do much for the Browns to be successful again.

Cincinnati Bengals – Zac Taylor
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Through two years on the job, Zac Taylor owns an ugly 6-25-1 record as a head coach. Some of that is a product of joining a team in the midst of a rebuild, but this is the year to start seeing some progress. Joe Burrow is undoubtedly the quarterback of the future in Cincinnati. Coming off a gruesome knee injury, expectations will be tamped down some for Burrow, but another double-digit loss season could cost Taylor his job. The team needs to take advantage of Burrow being on his rookie contract and can’t afford to waste another year of his development and that salary cap window waiting to see if Taylor can put together a winning formula.

Kansas City Chiefs – Andy Reid
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Unsurprisingly, the pressure seems to be fairly low on Andy Reid. He delivered the franchise its first Super Bowl victory since 1970 in 2019. He led the team back to the big game in 2020 despite having an offensive line decimated by injuries. It cost the Chiefs a chance at repeating, but Kansas City is expected to be among the top contenders to lift the Lombardi in 2021. As long as Reid and Patrick Mahomes are still clicking, the Chiefs are going to be among the best teams in the league.

Denver Broncos – Vic Fangio
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Maybe this is a bit warmer than Vic Fangio truly deserves, but the Broncos are heading into a pivotal season. The team put a lot of faith in Drew Lock by passing on Justin Fields and Mac Jones on draft night. Courtland Sutton is back after missing 2020 due to injury. So is Von Miller. Winning the division is an incredibly tall task at this point with the Chiefs leading the way, but it feels like the Broncos need to be in the playoff conversation for Fangio to keep his job. Another five-win season with suspect quarterback play and a subpar defense is going to trigger a rebuild.

Los Angeles Chargers – Brandon Staley
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Brandon Staley walks into a fantastic situation. He has a talented defense with a number of proven playmakers. He inherits one of the most exciting quarterback prospects in the league in Justin Herbert. Los Angeles is also stocked with some reliable playmakers on offense with Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler. The Chargers are simply looking to take a step in the right direction this year. Anthony Lynn was a good coach, but struggled with time management and maintaining leads. If Staley can show an ability to at least be average in those two areas, he will be a major improvement and the Chargers will be at least a league average team.

Las Vegas Raiders – Jon Gruden
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At what point are the Raiders going to put it all together? Heading into his fourth year of his second stint with the franchise, Jon Gruden has yet to post a winning record or reach the postseason. Las Vegas had its moments in 2020, but on the whole it was a disappointing campaign. If the Raiders don’t show signs of progress, expect a rebuild to follow. Gruden and general manager Mike Mayock have had ample opportunity to shape this team how they want it to. Now it is time for the results to follow.

New York Giants – Joe Judge
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Only entering his second year, Joe Judge might be a victim of circumstance more than anything else if he were to lose his job after this season. New York had a rocky 2020 campaign, finishing 6-10 and struggling to figure out its direction offensively. The Giants are in for a much better season in 2021. Saquon Barkley should be healthy at some point early in the year. Dave Gettleman invested draft capital at wide receiver and edge rusher, two positions of need. However, if Daniel Jones struggles and New York suffers through another 6-10 season, Gettleman will almost definitely be gone and the Giants will be looking to find a new franchise quarterback. If there is already that much turnover, Judge could be gone as well.

Philadelphia Eagles – Nick Sirianni
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It is incredibly rare that coaches are fired after just one season. However, it has also happened twice in the past three years. Steve Wilks only got a single season in Arizona and was fired after 2018. Cleveland canned Freddie Kitchen after a disappointing 2019 campaign. It’s not out of the question for the 2021 season either. I already touched on Meyer. Nick Sirianni is not facing as much pressure as his Jacksonville counterpart, but Philadelphia has never been known for being patient. Sirianni inherits a team with more questions than answers at a number of key positions, namely quarterback. If Jalen Hurts flames out and Sirianni shows no signs of building a positive culture, I could see a scenario where ownership decides to clean house.

Dallas Cowboys – Mike McCarthy
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Speaking of coaches lasting one year with a team, there was some buzz that Mike McCarthy could be done after a single season in Dallas. Even before Dak Prescott went down for the season, the Cowboys looked outmatched. It got much worse after that. McCarthy did enough to somehow earn a second year, but now the pressure is on. Dallas needs to win the NFC East for McCarthy to keep his job. It is an incredibly weak division and the Cowboys have the most talented roster, at least on paper. McCarthy might even need to win a playoff game to truly secure his place in 2022.

Washington Football Team – Ron Rivera
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Ron Rivera seems to have endeared himself well to the fans and to the locker room in D.C. After scraping together a playoff appearance despite a losing record, Washington still has not addressed the quarterback position long term. If it takes a step back in 2021, I don’t think that will be enough to force Rivera out. It would take a truly terrible season to see him lose his job. However, there will be those who feel like Washington’s defense gives them a good chance to repeat as division champions. Expectations lead to increased pressure. Given what we’ve seen in recent years, nothing is out of the question.

Atlanta Falcons – Arthur Smith
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After impressing as the offensive coordinator in Tennessee, Arthur Smith has earned the chance to lead a team of his own. The Falcons are coming off a tough season full of late-game collapses and bad injury luck. Atlanta is caught in limbo as well. They have some veteran players that would make you believe they want to contend, mainly Matt Ryan. The front office gave Ryan a vote of confidence, or realized they could not afford to move him, when it passed on Justin Fields in the 2021 draft. Instead, they grabbed an elite pass-catcher in Kyle Pitts for Ryan to work with. That feels like a move towards contending in the short term. Then, the Falcons traded Julio Jones to Smith’s former team. Like I said, the team is in limbo. I think that bodes well for Smith’s job security while Atlanta attempts to figure out its direction moving forward.

New Orleans Saints – Sean Payton
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It is the end of an era in the Bayou. Drew Brees’ retirement leaves the Saints with uncertainty at quarterback for the first time in a decade and a half. New Orleans is also in salary cap hell after loading up to contend in the future Hall of Famers’ final few years. Now, the Saints seem set for a step backward. Where does that leave Sean Payton? He has shown he can win games without Brees in recent years with Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill stepping in to lead the team when Brees went down with injury. I think the pressure is likely off for Payton in 2021. It is a year for the Saints to retool their roster and identify their new franchise quarterback. If New Orleans tanks, Payton’s seat could get warmer, but I expect him to be back in 2022.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Bruce Arians
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The only way Bruce Arians is not the coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2022 is if he decides to retire after the season. Fresh off a Super Bowl victory, the Buccaneers brought back essentially their entire roster to make a run at a repeat. Even if Tampa suffers from a major Super Bowl hangover and misses the postseason, it would be a rash move to fire Arians. He has the trust of Tom Brady, which goes a really long way in securing his position on one of the best teams in the league.

Carolina Panthers – Matt Rhule
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2020 was a rebuilding year for the Panthers. Carolina rebuilt its defense in the 2020 NFL draft, gave Teddy Bridgewater a try at quarterback and lost their best player for most of the season due to injury as Christian McCaffrey played in just three games. Honestly, going 5-11 was a decent feat given how young Carolina’s starters were on both sides of the ball. Matt Rhule has earned the title of one of the best teachers in the game. His coaching skills were showcased during the Senior Bowl this past January. Given that the Panthers made a move to acquire Sam Darnold, I think the expectations will be slightly higher, but I still don’t think Rhule has anything to worry about heading into 2021.

Detroit Lions – Dan Campbell
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If Detroit goes 1-16 in 2021, that might just be mission accomplished for the Lions. Avoiding a winless season and setting the team up to find its quarterback of the future would be a solid start to what will likely be a long rebuild. Dan Campbell likely won’t let any of that happen. He is competitive as hell and I think we could see the Lions win a game or two that they probably shouldn’t simply by putting in a ton of effort. Campbell is going to have his team motivated to play every week. Unless his tough as nails persona rubs players the wrong way in the locker room, I think Campbell will be given a few more years to rebuild this team.

Chicago Bears – Matt Nagy
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Drafting Justin Fields likely takes a little bit of heat off Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace. However, I don’t think it changes a tremendous amount for how this duo needs to approach the 2021 season. It needs to be clear at the end of the year that Fields is on track to be a franchise quarterback and that Nagy is the right person to help him reach his potential. Nagy was lucky to keep his job following a 2020 season where Chicago’s offense was nothing short of anemic. The combination of Nick Foles and Mitchell Trubisky was tough to watch. David Montgomery having a breakout season made up for some of those deficits, but the Bears need to show major progress offensive. It does not mean they will suddenly become the Chiefs or the Buccaneers, but fewer turnovers and sharper play will go a long way.

Green Bay Packers – Matt LaFleur
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Much of how Matt LaFleur will be judged stems from what happens with Aaron Rodgers. Will management blame him for the fractured relationship with the 2020 MVP? Unlikely, seeing as Rodgers’ issues seem to stem more from how the front office operates. There are two ways to spin LaFleur’s tenure in Green Bay. The Packers have reached back-to-back NFC Championship games and dominated the NFC North. For reference, Seattle was the last NFC team to reach back-to-back conference title games in 2012 and 2013. However, unlike the Seahawks, the Packers have been unable to get over the hump. Could another year where the team comes up short in the postseason raise enough questions about LaFleur’s ability to win the biggest games of the year to cost him his job? That seems bold, but don’t rule it out.

Minnesota Vikings – Mike Zimmer
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Mike Zimmer said after the 2020 season that Minnesota’s defense was the worst he ever coached. Enter Patrick Peterson, Mackensie Alexander, Bashaud Breeland, Dalvin Tomlinson, Chazz Surratt and Patrick Jones II. Now, it falls on Zimmer to get the most out of this new talent. Kirk Cousins is locked in through 2022, but another lackluster season from the Vikings could get the wheels turning on a rebuild. Especially if Aaron Rodgers does not play this season, this is Minnesota’s division to lose. Failing to do so would be a major letdown that would likely cost Zimmer his job.

Seattle Seahawks – Pete Carroll
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An underperforming defense, inconsistent play and a disgruntled star quarterback are a recipe for losing your job as a head coach in the NFL. Pete Carroll has the Seahawks in the mix as a playoff regular, but they have not made it past the division round since their 2014 Super Bowl loss. With Russell Wilson complaining this offseason about his offensive line, it certainly will turn up the scrutiny on Seattle’s performance this season. Another early playoff exit highlighted by a team that can’t quite put it all together could spell the end of Carroll’s tenure.

Arizona Cardinals – Kliff Kingsbury
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Entering his third year in charge of the Cardinals, Kliff Kingsbury needs to start producing some results. Arizona came close to reaching the playoffs in 2020, losing the tiebreaker to Chicago for the final spot. However, after starting 5-2, the Cardinals limped to a 3-6 finish. I mean limped literally as well because the team started to struggle right around the time Kyler Murray suffered an ankle injury. Murray still has three years left on his rookie deal, which gives Arizona a fairly lengthy Super Bowl window, but this year feels like an important one to show some progress after signing veterans like J.J. Watt, Malcolm Butler and James Conner to an already talented roster.

Los Angeles Rams – Sean McVay
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While Cam Akers certainly strikes a blow to Los Angeles’ title hopes, it should not drastically change the team’s expectations for 2021. After making the bold move to acquire Matthew Stafford, the Rams are positioning themselves as championship contenders. Taking all of that into account, I still think Sean McVay is entrenched in the organization that he can weather an underwhelming season. Long praised as one of the great offensive minds in the sport, McVay has proven himself to be valuable to this franchise. After all, the team is only three years removed from a Super Bowl appearance. Not to mention, the Rams upset the Seahawks in Seattle with an injured Jared Goff at quarterback. I think McVay is likely safe, but expectations are high for this Rams team heading into 2021.

San Francisco 49ers – Kyle Shanahan
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After slogging through a ridiculous season of injuries, the 49ers seem poised to bounce back in a big way in 2021. However, the team is also facing a changing of the guard at quarterback after selecting Trey Lance with the No. 3 pick in April. I think that actually increases the likelihood Kyle Shanahan keeps his job. He is praised as an offensive guru who has developed several quarterbacks in his coaching career. On top of that, he and general manager John Lynch signed six-year extensions following a Super Bowl appearance. Shanahan will be around for a while in San Francisco.