Ten coaches on the hot seat (cont.)
3. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati -- The Bengals are 0-2 and things already seem hopeless. In the next five weeks, Cincinnati plays at the Giants, home against the Browns, at Dallas, at the Jets and home against Pittsburgh. Maybe they put forth a great effort and beat the struggling Browns. Maybe. Otherwise it's 0-7, and who knows where things could lead for the guy who was hailed as the savior of NFL football in Cincinnati in 2005.
I think Lewis became a dead man walking of sorts the day this preseason when Bengals owner Mike Brown decided that troubled receiver Chris Henry could rejoin the club. That move totally undercut whatever authority Lewis had remaining in his own locker room -- he had come out weeks earlier and proclaimed that Henry was not welcome in Cincinnati -- and once that's gone in the NFL, you're just marking time.
This week, Lewis went on an extended riff about lug nuts in a news conference setting (I can't type that sentence without laughing), saying that his players have to be consistent every play, like the grease monkey mechanic who changes tires all day long.
"When they go take their car in, they hope the guy inside did it right, and hope that he doesn't decide that you only need three of the four lug nuts,'' Lewis said. "That's the way we'll go about it, and that's the way it has to be.''
Lug nuts. Feel free to supply your own punch line.
Pink slip potential: 75 percent.
4. Rod Marinelli, Detroit -- After that apparent 6-2 mirage at midseason last year, the Lions are 1-8 in their last nine games, beating only sad-sack Kansas City last Dec. 23. Nothing Marinelli tries these days is working, and as a head coach, he's starting to look like a guy who makes an ideal position coach. The Lions got humiliated by the lowly Falcons 34-21 in Week 1, and then played one of their more bizarre games ever against Green Bay in their home opener. Down 21-0, they put on the greatest comeback in franchise history to take a 25-24 mid-fourth quarter lead. But they still wound up losing by 23, at 48-25. Wrap your Motor City mind around that one.
Let's face it, the M&M Boys era in Detroit just isn't working. It didn't work when team president/CEO Matt Millen hired head coach Marty Mornhinweg. It didn't work when Millen hired Steve Mariucci. It's not working in the third and what should be the final season of Marinelli. The Lions simply have to try another letter. M has only stood for mediocrity -- or worse. And it has all started, of course, with Millen, the man whose job security lo these many years will go down as the eighth wonder of the world.
Pink slip potential: 65 percent.
5. Mike Nolan, San Francisco -- The 49ers (1-1) won a big one in overtime at division rival Seattle in Week 2, but Nolan has still been victorious just 17 times in his first 50 games in San Francisco, and the old .340 winning percentage will get you a spot on the hot seat every time. The 49ers haven't made the playoffs since Steve Mariucci's last season in 2002, and Nolan this offseason was given one more year to end that skid, or come darn close, in order to be invited back for a fifth season in 2009.
The 49ers should know their fate, and Nolan's, by the time they reach their Week 9 bye. That's because after this week's home game against winless Detroit, their schedule turns challenging. San Francisco is at New Orleans, home against New England and Philadelphia, at the Giants, and home against Seattle in Weeks 4-8. That spells a 3-5 first half to me, but we'll see how things shake out in the City by the Bay. One thing Nolan has going for him is the weakness of the NFC West this year, which is softer than ever.
If it weren't for the Raiders' total ineptitude right next door, the 49ers' fall from grace would really stand out. Once upon a time, San Francisco's fortunes rose or fell on the passing arms of Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jeff Garcia. By comparison, Nolan has pinned his coaching future on the talents of journeyman quarterback J.T. O'Sullivan. Gulp.
Pink slip potential: 60 percent.
6. Herm Edwards, Kansas City -- The Chiefs are on a franchise-worst 11-game losing streak, and things have gotten so bad these days that they're losing to the Raiders by 15 points. At home. With Oakland quarterback JaMarcus Russell completing all of six passes. In fact, with reports swirling that Raiders coach Lane Kiffin would be fired after Sunday's game, and then that not being the case, it now appears that losing to the Chiefs has become grounds for dismissal. Quick, somebody tell rookie Falcons head coach Mike Smith it's win or else this week at home against K.C.
They might have had a great 2008 draft, but I look for the Chiefs to battle it out all season with the Rams (nice football state, Missouri) and maybe the Bengals for the distinction of being the NFL's worst team. They've got no quarterbacking, a disgruntled and unreliable lead running back in Larry "Me-first'' Johnson, and the look of a team that's in the deepest darkest stages of a years-long rebuilding program.
Edwards' fate is pretty clearly tied to the question of whether team owner Clark Hunt finally ends the tenure of long-time Chiefs general manager Carl Peterson, who has served in his capacity 20 seasons without delivering even a Super Bowl appearance. For that matter, Kansas City hasn't won a playoff game since 1993. If "King Carl'' survives yet again, so will Edwards. But if Hunt pulls the plug on Peterson, the new GM customarily gets to hire a head coach of his choosing. And that could end Edwards' three-year K.C. tenure.
Pink slip potential: 60 percent.