With the 2022 NFL schedule being out, the realness of regular season games soon being played has set in. Schedules are set, and the predictions are plenty. Unfortunately, every year multiple NFL head coaches fall victim to the immense job pressure that all coaches face leading their teams. The reality of the National Football League is that all 32 teams cannot win, and the cycle of head coaches will continue turning over. Coaches being on the proverbial “hot seat” is an unfortunate part of what can be a brutal business, but it’s the nature of the beast. Here are three head coaches that enter the 2022 campaign with a great deal of pressure on them:
Mike McCarthy, Cowboys
Occupying the Head Coach chair for “America’s Team” always comes with a great deal of pressure, no matter the circumstances. Even coming off a fruitful season that resulted in a 12-5 record and winning the NFC East by three games, 2021 didn’t feel like a success for the Cowboys considering they lost their first playoff game at home to the 49ers.
Heading into his 3rd season leading Dallas, McCarthy has accumulated an 18-16 overall record, including the aforementioned playoff loss. The Cowboys roster is definitely in the upper echelon rosters in the league, with established stars offensively, and a defense that took a huge leap forward last year. Dallas has a bona fide star in Micah Parsons, and Trevon Diggs is a young, ball hawking corner to build around. Their personnel department has undoubtedly done a great job acquiring top talent, and the on-field results must reflect that.
They are well-positioned within the division, having what is clearly the best team on paper. Although, even if the Cowboys win the NFC East again, losing in the first round of the playoffs would probably be viewed as yet another unsuccessful season. Heck, even if the Cowboys were to win a playoff game, anything short of a Super Bowl could make McCarthy’s seat one that Jerry Jones would be looking to replace. Is that fair to McCarthy? Probably not. But coaching the Cowboys comes with an expectation level that is unmatched – and that might end up doing McCarthy in.
Matt Rhule, Panthers
When the Panthers hired Matt Rhule on January 7th, 2020, there was a great deal of optimism over the hire. Rhule did an excellent job turning around Baylor’s program into a national contender, and Rhule was viewed as one of the top head coaching candidates on the market that year. More than two years later, he finds himself entering a make-or-break season in his 3rd year leading the Panthers.
After a 5-11 campaign in Rhule’s rookie season as an NFL head coach, the Panthers got off to an impressive 3-0 start in 2021, outscoring their opponents 69-30 across those three games. From there, it was all downhill, as they then lost four straight to bring them to a 3-4 mark. After a week 10 win to move to 5-5, they finished the year losing seven straight to finish 5-12.
Truth be told, there are a lot of things to like about the Panthers roster. It’s a young, fast, aggressive defense with star skill players in Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. However, with Rhule now sporting a 10-23 mark through two seasons, the urgency is at an all-time high. So, how could Rhule save his job this year? One would think a playoff appearance would certainly do it. Given the resources owner David Tepper has pumped into enhancing the Panthers facilities and overall standing as a franchise, anything short of that would be hard to overcome. There’s no doubt about it, the heat is on in Charlotte this year.
Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals
Yes, Kingsbury did just sign an extension through the 2027 season, but in the NFL, head coaching chairs can get very warm, very quickly. Kingsbury certainly has received his fair share of criticism since he took over as Arizona’s head man in 2019. The Cardinals have shown continuous improvement across Kingsbury’s three seasons but have yet to win an NFC West crown or a playoff game despite a very talented roster that General Manager Steve Keim has put together.
Last season, following a league-best 7-0 start, the Cardinals were mediocre the rest of the way, going 4-6 the remainder of the regular season, then losing to the Rams 34-11 in the first round of the playoffs. If Arizona fails to make the playoffs and underwhelms with their play in 2022, Kingsbury could come under fire in a hurry. Contract extensions don’t always represent a free pass – after all, in 2016, Jeff Fisher was fired just months after he reportedly received an extension.
The Cardinals certainly have a lot to be optimistic about again in 2022, but the unstable situation with Kyler Murray will certainly cause a lot of scrutiny, as the star quarterback has expressed frustration about not receiving a contract extension from the club yet.
So, what could cause Kingsbury to be in jeopardy of losing his job? Well, that’s hard to say. Really, it depends on the standards owner Michael Bidwell has for the team in 2022. Maybe Kingsbury’s extension truly is a sign that the Cardinals are okay hitching their wagons to Kingsbury for a while, regardless of the results. But every man has their breaking point. If the Cardinals finish under .500, there will certainly be a lot of fans and media alike questioning Kingsbury’s status. Regardless, Arizona definitely needs to win games in 2022, and the expectations are high.