4 NFL head coaches in the hot seat at 0-2

By Ira Miller, The Sports Xchange  |  Sept. 22, 2016 at 2:16 PM
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Two weeks into the season, the hottest hot seats in the NFL belong to Buffalo's Rex Ryan, Jacksonville's Gus Bradley, Indianapolis' Chuck Pagano and Washington's Jay Gruden.

Their teams have started 0-2 and, while that in itself does not rule out the possibility of a rally to a playoff run, it does assure a steep uphill climb over the remaining 14 games. Historically, only about one in 10 teams that start 0-2 make it to the playoffs.

What makes the 0-2 records noteworthy for this quartet of teams, is the little matter of expectations. All four were alleged playoff contenders. And because of that, those four coaches suddenly bear the most scrutiny in the league.

Taking them one at a time:

1. Rex Ryan

Photo by Matthew Healey/ UPI
The boastful Ryan, who talks too much, was promising big things for the Bills, who haven't reached the playoffs in this century and have not won a playoff game in 21 years. He insisted that if things did not work out, he would be the first to go but instead made his offensive coordinator, Greg Roman, the scapegoat and fired him after two games.

Buffalo was 8-8 a year ago, Ryan's first as the Bills' coach, and led the league in rushing yardage. This season, only the Bears and Rams gained fewer yards than the Bills in the first two weeks. Of course, Ryan is supposed to be a defensive wizard, and Buffalo gave up 37 points in its first home game.

Terry Pegula, the Buffalo owner, is relatively new to the NFL, so his patience level is not known. But with Arizona and New England on the schedule the next two weeks, we may get to find out.

2. Gus Bradley

Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
With a blowout loss to San Diego following a narrow loss to Green Bay, Bradley's Jaguars now have a 12-38 record since he took over as coach in 2012. This was supposed to be the year the Jaguars made a move, with a draft class widely acclaimed and improvement in free agency, Jacksonville was considered by many to be a real playoff contender this year, even perhaps a division title contender.

The Jaguars have an early bye week coming up after the next two games, against Baltimore and Indianapolis (in London), and if they lose two more to drop to 0-4, that could be time for a change.

One especially troubling aspect of the San Diego carnage - the Jaguars trailed, 35-0, after three quarters - was that only eight running plays were called the entire game and even though the offense was pass-heavy, the best receiver, Allen Robinson, was hardly targeted. Both the slow start and the strategy falls on the coaches.

3. Chuck Pagano

Photo by John Sommers II/UPI
Indianapolis finished 11-5 three years in a row and fell to 8-8 last year under Pagano. From the outside, that drop can be blamed on an injury that cost quarterback Andrew Luck a little more than half the season, but closer examination reveals the Colts were only 2-5 in the seven games Luck started.

Last week, the Colts were in the game against the Broncos until the end, so that one can be excused. But the season-opening defeat against Detroit really had to sting. Luck played well but the defense was awful, and even after he rallied the Colts to a lead in the final minute of the game, Indy allowed Matthew Stafford to complete three straight passes for 50 yards to set up a winning field goal.

Owner Jim Irsay has no real track record for firing coaches ever since the Colts reached respectability. Pagano is only the team's third full-time coach since 2002. And the Colts have a chance to get healthy with their next three games against the Chargers, Jaguars and Bears.

4. Jay Gruden

Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Gruden raised expectations in Washington with a division title last season, his second year as the Redskins' coach. But that might have been an aberration. The Giants have fixed their defense, the Cowboys may have fixed their running game, and the Eagles have a rookie quarterback, Carson Wentz, showing great promise.

Washington wanted to see more from quarterback Kirk Cousins, which is why the Redskins did not give him a long-term contract. He's on a prove-it deal for this year and the results after two games are not encouraging. Cousins' teammates are grumbling about his play, with reason; he's the league's 30th-ranked passer, leads the NFL in endzone interceptions, has missed open receivers and struggled even while not under pressure from the defense. Meanwhile, the Redskins rank 27th in the NFL on defense after two games.

It's worth noting that no Redskins' coach since Joe Gibbs retired after the 1992 season has had a cumulative winning record - Gruden did go 9-7 last season -- and that includes Gibbs himself the second time around. The one constant in that time has been Dan Snyder, the owner.

The NFL, as its wont, loves to put out statistics designed to encourage fans. This week the league pointed out that, since 1990, there were 26 teams that started 0-2 and made the playoffs, an average of one a year. Left unsaid was that there have been a lot more teams starting 0-2 and not making the playoffs.

--Ira Miller is an award-winning sportswriter who has covered the National Football League for more than five decades and is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. He is a national columnist for The Sports Xchange.

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