The season has only just started, but already, some coaches do not have much room for maneuver. If some teams go off the rails quickly, heads could roll well before the end of the campaign.
One of the first names that come to mind is Adam Gase, at the helm of the Jets. The pilot is only in his second season with the team and some would argue that a dismissal would be premature, even if the Jets continue to sink.
Except that Gase was brought on board to become the guru behind a possible rise in power for young quarterback Sam Darnold. Yet the opposite effect is occurring and Darnold seems to be regressing.
This week, the Jets owner mentioned that Darnold would rebound because Gase is a “brilliant offensive spirit” who will put him back on the right track.
This label has stuck with Gase since Peyton Manning had great seasons under his rule, when he was the Broncos offensive coordinator. But precisely, since these two seasons of 2013 and 2014, it is nothing for Gase in terms of offensive production.
During his stints in Chicago (2015) and Miami (2016 to 2018), his attacks never ranked in the top 20 for yards amassed. For the points scored, his teams did not do better than the 17th place. With the Jets last year, his offense collapsed to 31st for runs scored and 32nd for yards.
Statistics are one thing, but Gase doesn't seem to be favored by his players. Conflicts with the wearer Le'Veon Bell are one example. His strained relationship with Jamal Adams forced the exodus of this excellent marauder to Seattle.
The Jets have lost just one game and it's not all over yet, but Gase is already sailing in troubled waters.
Matt Patricia in Danger
The situation is similar in Detroit with Matt Patricia. If Gase enjoys a reputation as an offensive genius, it is more for his defensive knowledge that the Lions have hired Patricia. The former Patriots defensive coordinator is not delivering after two seasons at the helm. He has the benefit of the doubt for now as his quarterback Matthew Stafford was sidelined for a good part of last season, but this season the excuse does not hold.
Like Gase, he seems to be struggling to establish a good relationship with his players. Former Lions, like Glover Quin and Darius Slay, have openly criticized their ex-coach after they left Detroit.
His defense finished in 16th and 26th place in the last two seasons. Good coordinators don't always make great head coaches.
Other names to watch out for
Other coaches who were granted a reprieve at the end of the last campaign but who remain on a tight rope include Doug Marrone with the Jaguars and Dan Quinn with the Falcons.
Since their unbearable Super Bowl loss in 2016, the Falcons have not seemed to recover from the Patriots' historic comeback. They indeed show an ordinary record of 24-25 since that fateful day.
As for the Jaguars, their cleaning in the locker room gives Marrone a rather sad team, even if it surprised the NFL planet with a victory against the Colts in the curtain raiser. Even if the group he wanted to put in his hand produced some victories, that should not be enough to save him.
The season is young and each of these pilots can still right the ship, but the water already seems to have infiltrated the boat.
5 points to watch out for
1. Will Brady bounce back?
Tom Brady struggled in his first game with the Bucs, but the veteran has a great opportunity to pull himself together against the inexperienced Panthers defense. The Panthers' average defensive age is 25, making them the seventh youngest in the league. And against defensives with an average starting age of 26 or less in career, Brady is 46-7.
2. Don't panic!
No team wants to start their season with one or two losses in the first two weeks, but know that it's not the end of the world. Since 2002, 131 of the 216 teams (60.6%) that have made the playoffs have started the season with a 1-1 or even 0-2 record. Small reminder: last season, five of the twelve playoff teams started the season with such a record, the Texans, Vikings, Saints, Eagles and Titans.
3. Reunion for Gore
Tireless forward Frank Gore will find himself in the Jets starter role this week, as Le'Veon Bell is injured. As luck does things well, he will find on his way the former team with which he played his first 10 seasons, the 49ers. They made it their third-round pick in 2004. Gore faced the Niners just once in his career, a game in which he had amassed 48 yards on 14 carries. The veteran is third in rushing gains, with 15,371 yards.
4. Penalties reduced
The number of penalties in week 1 has dropped drastically compared to last year. Last week, 199 handkerchiefs were thrown, the lowest total for a week of activity since 2001, according to ESPN.com. Penalties for withholding are particularly rare, with just 18 in the first week, down 78% from the same week a year ago.
5. More spectators
Last week, the only teams that hosted spectators at their stadium were the Chiefs (15,895) and Jaguars (14,100). The Broncos had limited access to 500 family members and others close to the players. The Browns kicked off this week on Thursday night with some 6,000 fans on hand. On Sunday, the Colts will host 2,500 and the Dolphins around 13,000. For the Cowboys' home opener, around 25,000 spectators are expected.