NFL Week 12 Stories: Future NFL job opportunities become clearer as coaching hot benches grow warmer
The Sunday NFL event after Thanksgiving is always weird because many games are isolated during the holiday, and even more so this year with the Dolphins and Jets competing in their first-ever Black Friday game. Take four games off Sunday’s slate and it could get pretty thin pretty quickly. This was very evident during the early period of the matches, as not a single team crossed the 30-point mark.
Six slow-motion logos served to underscore the growing late-season warmth of many hot seats around the league. And it’s impossible to start anywhere but Carolina when considering who might be the next coach to be fired.
David Tepper wasn’t happy with this team’s performance, and Sunday’s embarrassing effort against the Titans only exacerbated the problems.
Now, let’s be clear: The Panthers mostly have Tepper on their hands from an overall roster-building perspective. But they’re not a good football team, scoring fewer than 14 points for the sixth time this year while falling to 1-10 on the season.
Rookie Will Levis didn’t have to do much in the effort for Tennessee, as he attempted just 28 passes. The Giants mostly handed over to Derrick Henry (76 yards on 18 carries and a pair of rushing touchdowns) and let their defense handle the rest, smothering Carolina’s run game and leaving the passing game looking what it has looked like all season.
Bryce Young actually had several plays longer than 20 yards and Carolina held Tennessee to 2-for-11 on third downs and the Panthers still never got involved in this game. Young had a chance to engineer a game-tying drive but Carolina could only muster 4 yards before turning it over on downs.
Carolina’s had three legitimately winnable games over the past month and was only moderately competitive against the Bears and Titans, but not in any way where you’d think they might actually win.
Which makes it very likely that Frank Reich will become a solo coach at Carolina. Tepper went out and wooed Matt Rhule, gave him a huge contract, saddled him with questionable quarterback options, and Rhule is still canned less than three years into his tenure with the Panthers. I’m not saying it was a bad move, but the whole process was completely flawed.
That’s what’s happening with Carolina this year. Reich is a good coach. He hasn’t done a good job in training this year. These two things can live in mutual exclusivity. Reich became saddled with an up-and-coming quarterback who cost a major draft and man capital. Young people have no real weapons. The Panthers are like the Jets for the homeless with their bad offensive line, lack of offense, and a solid defense that can’t hold each team under 10 points.
At this point it would be shocking to see Reich continue beyond the end of the season.
The end of an era, the death of a dynasty
Bill Belichick won’t get fired…right? right?? It’s impossible to fathom whether Belichick can be canned in New England, considering he’s brought a ridiculous six Super Bowls to the Patriots over the past 20 years. But man, any other football mind who buys into this poor performance from a football team will undoubtedly be fired after this season.
In a way, Sunday was a new low, all the more impressive considering the two weeks prior to a bye that saw a home loss to Sam Howell and a loss in Germany to Gardner Mincio on a very public stage. But Sunday, Sunday my friend…it was a new low as Belichick’s team lost as a 3.5-point favorite to Tommy DeVito.
DeVito has as many wins this season (two) as the Patriots, who fall to 2-9 on the year, easily the worst start of the Belichick era and the Patriots’ worst start since Drew Bledsoe’s 1993 rookie year.
The Patriots have recorded four games in which they scored seven or fewer points this season. They have had five such games in 283 starts of Tom Brady’s career. They are the first team in 30 years to allow fewer than 10 points in consecutive games and lose both games (shoutout to the 1993 Patriots). Belichick has lost both games while allowing 10 or fewer points matching the total over his previous 28 years as a head coach.
Mac Jones was reportedly named the starter shortly before kickoff after Belichick spent all week refusing to name who would be under center for this team in Week 12, as if it mattered between Jones and Billy Zappe. That didn’t really happen: reports suggested Zappi would get some work as well, and he certainly did, but largely due to Jones being benched. It ended with two picks and a fumble that the Patriots should have lost. Zappe wasn’t much better and the Patriots sank to a new low.
Only the Bears (via the Panthers) and Cardinals are preventing New England from making the first overall pick. And there’s a very viable question if the Pats want to keep the keys in Belichick’s hands to rebuild with a new quarterback in the first round. Given the offense the past two seasons, that’s not an unreasonable question.
Wherever they end up choosing, there is no transformation in sight. It’s hard not to see this season as a fast track to divorce between Belichick and the franchise he led to unimaginable success for more than two decades once the offseason got here.
This seems obvious but there is little to no chance that Ron Rivera will return next year. After a humiliating performance against the Cowboys on Thanksgiving afternoon in which Dak Prescott racked up 20-plus points in the final nine minutes to turn things into a blowout, Rivera met with new owner Josh Harris and agreed to fire defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio.
It’s the kind of firing that’s almost obvious and certainly a precursor to a head coaching change, especially with new ownership.
Rivera is a defensive coach and JDR was a close associate who ran his defense. The Chiefs traded both Chase Young and Montez Sweat from a defense that was already bad. What can they expect?
This release is as much about setting the table for future house cleaning as it is about trying to shake up the defense in its current iteration. Rivera would need a miracle conversion to save his job at this point.