After finishing four weeks of games in this NFL season, we have a very good idea of what to expect from most teams the rest of the way going forward. Some teams have presented a lot of issues early in the season, and come the year’s end it might mean their head coaches could be looking for new jobs. Twelve teams have coaches that are still in their first two years with their current teams, so the number of coaches that we could see fired this offseason is pretty low. More so than all the others, these three coaches should be looking over their shoulders if they can’t turn things around this season and convince their teams that they are the right men for the job.
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Pat Shurmur, Cleveland
Entering his third year as head coach of the Browns, Shurmur’s expectations were still pretty low. This is mostly due to the fact that he has not had much of any success with the team to this point. With exciting rookies Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson in tow, the Browns were supposed to turn a corner this year. Instead they have hit the wall to start the year, as they are still looking for their first victory. On top of that, the Browns are only 20th in passing offense and 27th in rushing offense, which is notable considering Shurmur was considered one of the better offensive minds in the league at the time of his hiring.
New owner Jimmy Haslam could also be willing to turn the page quickly and take his shot at turning around a franchise that has had very limited success since returning to the NFL in 1999. Shurmur posted five and four wins in his first and second seasons as head coach, respectively. For the Browns to improve on those records they will have to win at least six of their final 12 games. Even that might not be enough to prove that Shurmur is doing enough to improve the team.
Chan Gailey, Buffalo
Gailey is another third-year offensive minded head coach who is struggling to turn around a franchise that hasn’t known success since 1999, which was the last time the Bills made the playoffs. GM Buddy Nix and owner Ralph Wilson made the commitment this offseason to bolstering the quality of players on the team, bringing in defensive ends Mario Williams and Mark Anderson and drafting cornerback Stephon Gilmore. They also spent three draft picks on the offensive line, led by tackle Cordy Glenn.
After that offseason, the Bills are sitting at a decent record of 2-2, but they have suffered two blowout losses to division rivals in the Jets and Patriots. The team has definitely made strides on both sides of the ball, and CJ Spiller is proving he could be the Bills’ running back of the future after being drafted 9th overall in 2010. But the Bills still can’t seem to avoid persistent problems such as a lackluster defense, poor play from backups, and an inability to show up for important games. These are problems that have been evident many, many times since that last playoff appearance in 1999. Unless Gailey can fix some of these problems, he may just prove to be another Dick Jauron or Mike Mularkey for the Bills.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets
Now in his fourth year as head coach of the Jets, Ryan is looking to recapture that Jets style of play that led them to two AFC championship games in his first two seasons as head coach. Problems are abounding both on and off the field, and Ryan is having a hard time corralling these problems. A normally stout running defense is now near the worst in the league, allowing almost 173 rushing yards per game. The offense is still showing minimal signs of improvement, as the Jets’ offense is currently 27th in passing and 24th in rushing. Mark Sanchez and Shonn Greene don’t look nearly as good as they did in the AFC championship years, and Tim Tebow and Bilal Powell are waiting on deck for their chances to shine.
Off the field, last year’s publicity of the locker room discourse certainly posed many problems for the Jets, and now the phenomenon known as Tebowmania is looming in the distance. Some of these problems can be attributed to the front-office tandem of Woody Johnson and Mike Tannenbaum, but Ryan has to step up and take control of the Jets before things go awry. Ryan is one of the greatest defensive strategists in the league today, and teamed with offensive coordinator Tony Sparano the two of them should be able to cure the on-field problems. But if the media circus spins out of control, there could be a huge changing of the guard to come in New York.
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Down and Distance Columnist - Joe Ray @jpray_SK
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