2014 NFL Playoffs: Five Head Coaches Who Could Be Fired For Postseason Failure

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NFL Playoffs: Five Head Coaches Who Could Be Fired for Postseason Failure

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A playoff appearance usually means job security for an NFL head coach, but it’s not unprecedented for a change to be made if a team makes an unexpected early exit after being expected to win a game or two or even be a Super Bowl favorite after a strong regular season.

This year’s crop of playoff teams has a mix of first-year head coaches (Chip Kelly, Mike McCoy) and some well-established names that have a high level of job security due to past postseason success (Bill Belichick, Jim Harbaugh, Mike McCarthy, Andy Reid, Sean Payton) regardless of the eventual result for their team this season. That makes finding coaches that could be fired on the heels of a playoff failure this year fairly difficult, but not impossible.

When narrowing down my list of head coaches that could be fired after a failed playoff run this year, it really comes down to what could be perceived as a failure based on the expectations for each team at this stage. A coach with a younger team and a bright future should get more leeway from ownership and a change will be not be made in most of those situations after an early playoff exit, but someone at the helm of a veteran-laden squad may face increased scrutiny if a deep playoff run is not made.

With the Wild Card Round and the road to Super Bowl XLVIII kicking off on Saturday, here are five NFL head coaches I think have a chance to be fired for postseason failure this year.

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5. Sean Payton

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Payton proved his worth to the New Orleans franchise with the team’s turnaround this season after he was suspended for the entire 2012 season, but they still needed a win in Week 17 to secure a playoff spot after being in the conversation for the top seed in the NFC in early December. Having to go on the road for however long they last in the playoffs is not an ideal scenario for a dome team like the Saints, and a first-round exit may lead to some speculation about Payton’s status.

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4. Chuck Pagano

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The Colts had some big wins over eventual playoff teams, along with some disappointing losses to inferior teams, during the regular season. But they were clearly the best team in a dismal AFC South and clinched the division a few weeks ago, setting them up for a home playoff game in the Wild Card Round against the Kansas City Chiefs. It would be a big shock if Pagano is fired, but nothing should be considered impossible when it comes to Colts’ owner Jim Irsay.

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3. John Fox

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This is a bit of a long shot, but the Broncos are all-in to win a Super Bowl over the next couple years with Peyton Manning under center. A second straight early playoff exit, when added to the health issues that caused him to miss a few regular season games, could create some doubt about Fox’s status for next year.

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2. Ron Rivera

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Rivera entered this season on the hot seat, but a 12-4 regular season, a division title and the Panthers earning the No. 2 seed in the NFC seems to have curbed that talk. That said, a loss in the Divisional Round may alter the franchise’s thinking and finding a coach with an offensive acumen to work with quarterback Cam Newton could become a priority.

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1. Marvin Lewis

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Lewis used to be an annual candidate to be fired, but he survived and the Bengals have now made the playoffs in three straight seasons. But if they lose to the San Diego Chargers in the Wild Card Round, it may finally become time for a change in Cincinnati and there will surely be speculation surrounding Lewis’s status.