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View Full Version : Who'll be the first one to crash and burn?



StlersGuy
10-05-2007, 08:25 AM
I have to give New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin credit: Every time I think his fate has been sealed in that town, he finds some way to make his critics back off.

At first I thought this was merely good fortune, especially since the Giants opened this season with two losses before rebounding with two straight wins. Now I'm starting to think Coughlin's coaching has something to do with his survival. Say what you will about the man, but his team hasn't completely fallen apart yet.

It's too bad other coaches can't say the same thing about their respective squads at this point. Take one glance around the NFL and you already can pick out the coaches who should be worried about landing on the hot seat this season.

Some have owners who have endorsed them, while others are fighting through circumstances outside of their control, like injuries and bad bounces. But regardless of their respective situations, I can't help thinking that these coaches will be wondering about their job security by season's end. That's just how life works in the NFL.

So in my hopes of riding out a coaches theme in this week's version of Three and Out, I give you the three coaches who should be on the hot seat by now:

1. Scott Linehan, St. Louis
This guy really baffles me. When he took over the Rams last season, I figured that team would enjoy a smooth transition out of the madness that was Mike Martz.

Linehan had the credentials -- he's been a creative offensive coordinator in both Minnesota and Miami -- and had the courage to build the Rams around a ball-control attack after they'd spent six years in Martz's wide-open system. I definitely chugged the Kool-Aid on this one.

Linehan has fielded an inconsistent offense (one that has been hindered by injuries to Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace and running back Steven Jackson) and his defense is allowing nearly 26 points a game.

It's so bad that the Rams have become the type of team that never existed under Martz -- one that is extremely difficult to watch. That's a tough combination to overcome when you're trying to sell your employer on the team's future. If anything, those two factors will only remind fans of the one thing Linehan can't afford: the feeling that St. Louis would be better off with somebody else running the team.

2. Norv Turner, San Diego
I know what you're thinking: It's crazy to talk about a coach's job security when he's had just four games with his current team. Here's what I say to that: Have you seen the Chargers play this season?

I don't know how Turner screwed up a 14-2 team so quickly, but the odds are against the Chargers turning things around now that they're 1-3. They just look too confused and vulnerable at this stage.

But in fairness to Turner, I won't dump full blame for the Chargers' disappointing start on him. General manager A.J. Smith was the man who ran off Turner's predecessor, Marty Schottenheimer, so I imagine Chargers fans wouldn't mind seeing him replaced as well. The saddest part about all this is that San Diego is filled with plenty of high-character players who deserve better leadership. Maybe next year they'll have some.

3. Brad Childress, Minnesota
I realize Vikings owner Zygi Wilf has publicly supported Childress despite Minnesota's 1-3 start. I also know that owners can change their minds whenever they feel like their coaches aren't capable of leading their teams anymore. In fact, here's all you have to know about the Vikings: They've lost 11 of their last 14 games going back to last season.

Granted, the Vikings have had to deal with some key injuries -- quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and running back Chester Taylor have both been banged up this season -- but this team should be better than it's shown.

Minnesota has a tough defense, a sturdy offensive line and a talented rookie running back in Adrian Peterson. That was enough to have me convinced of a bright future for this franchise three weeks ago. But the Vikings have shown nothing impressive since their season-opening win over Atlanta. At this rate, it's hard to imagine them improving enough to keep Wilf satisfied with his coach by season's end.

Four-down territory
Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald is going to be carrying a bigger load in his team's offense the next few weeks. A league source said the chances of fellow Pro Bowl wideout Anquan Boldin's returning from a hip injury quickly aren't good. When Boldin first sustained the injury in a loss to Baltimore in Week 3, coaches feared he might be sidelined for at least a month.

Steelers running back Willie Parker has to be the most underrated player in the NFL. He's gained 100 yards in six of his last eight games and he made the Pro Bowl last season. However, he still gets little acclaim in a league in which he's clearly an elite runner.

Redskins wide receiver Antwaan Randle El has been one of the biggest surprises of the season. He's gone from being a punt returner lining up at receiver to a polished target in the Redskins' system. If he continues to progress, he should have a career year in an offense built to capitalize on receivers with his kind of quickness.

Even at 3-1, I can't believe the Lions are going to finish above .500. This team is cursed as long as Matt Millen runs it.

The Saints still have one interesting story line despite their 0-3 start: Whether Reggie Bush can prove he's a legitimate feature back in this league. I've doubted that since he was drafted and we'll discover the truth now that Deuce McAllister is out for the season with a knee injury. It's not that I don't love Bush's electric talent. It's just that there's a reason he has split carries with a bigger back since his college days at USC.

Jeffri Chadiha is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

story (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/columns/story?columnist=chadiha_jeffri&id=3048668)