Columnists, Sports

4th and Inches: NFL coaches on the hot seat

Haley Alvarez-Lauto | DFP StaffIn th

Ron Rivera (Washington Commanders) 

When Ron Rivera took over as the head coach of the Washington Commanders, he faced a near impossible task. The franchise was under pressure to change the team name and logo for its insensitive and demeaning portrayal of indigenous culture. The ownership was also under fire for allegations of workplace misconduct. On the football side of things, Washington was coming off of a three-win season.   

Now in his third season as head coach, Rivera has completely turned the organization around from the colossal disaster it was before his arrival. He helped find the right people to build a healthy and respectable organization off the field, and his leadership built a new culture of integrity and perseverance in Washington. 

However, Rivera’s performance on the field might force him out of a job. Since Rivera took over, the Commanders boast a 16-23 record.

Prior to the 2022-23 NFL season, Rivera and the Commanders traded for quarterback Carson Wentz with the hope that he was the missing piece on an otherwise talented team. However, following a Week 1 victory, Wentz and Rivera have lost four straight games.

Trailing 21-17 with seconds left in Washington’s Week 5 matchup against the Tennessee Titans, Rivera and the offensive coaching staff elected to pass the ball at the two-yard line. A touchdown would have given them a much-needed win. Instead, Wentz threw the ball into the arms of a Tennessee defender, sealing the loss.

The decision to throw the ball rather than run it has put Rivera in the spotlight. It wasn’t just this one play that did him in, but rather it is the most noticeable in a string of poor coaching decisions. The Commanders’ offense has been unable to build a rhythm, despite having one of the best receiving corps in the league. 

While Rivera isn’t the only one to blame, he has the most responsibility when it comes to team performance. Therefore, the biggest target is on his back when the sharks smell blood. 

Simply put, Rivera is bleeding. If he isn’t able to turn things around and show some promise for next season, his five-year contract might be cut two years short.  

Mike McCarthy (Dallas Cowboys)

The performance of the Dallas Cowboys has little to do with Mike McCarthy’s job security. Dallas is 4-2 and primed for a spot in the Wild Card game. However, the franchise has a tough decision to make after the season, and McCarthy might be the one to suffer the consequences. 

Dallas’ offensive coordinator Kellen Moore has been nothing less than brilliant after making the switch from backup quarterback to offensive coordinator. The work he has done with a depleted offense is special. When the season ends and teams around the league start to look for a new head coach, Moore will be a hot commodity. 

McCarthy has been a head coach for 16 seasons and has invaluable experience that could benefit any NFL team. He has a 61.8% win percentage in his 13 years as head coach of the Green Bay Packers and even won a Super Bowl. 

While he’s a serviceable head coach, McCarthy hasn’t had the success expected of him as a Cowboys’ head coach. Dallas has only played in one playoff game under McCarthy, which is not enough to solidify his position. 

On the other hand, Moore’s potential as a head coach is untapped. The Cowboys might choose to bet on Moore’s potential rather than McCarthy’s experience. Their championship window under quarterback Dak Prescott is growing shorter every year. The switch to Moore might be what Dallas needs to push them over the edge. 

Nathaniel Hackett (Denver Broncos)

In January, the Denver Broncos hired Nathaniel Hackett as the 18th head coach in franchise history. However, Hackett’s brief time in Denver hasn’t been pretty. Since the Broncos’ Week 1 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, Denver fans have been eager to see Hackett fired. 

Hackett has been in the NFL since 2013 as an offensive coordinator for the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Green Bay Packers. When hired, Hackett was advertised as the offensive mastermind and creative play-caller who helped Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers win back-to-back MVPs. 

Denver’s acquisition of star quarterback Russell Wilson fueled fan’s anticipation of a high powered Broncos offense. However, after the first six weeks of the 2022-23 season, Denver has a 2-4 record and the second lowest scoring offense in the league. Hackett has also been criticized by fans for poor game management and situational awareness. 

In the Broncos’ Week 1 loss to Seattle, Denver was in prime position to drive the ball downfield and win the game. Down 16-17 with all three timeouts remaining, the Broncos had the ball with over two minutes left on the clock. Hackett didn’t use his first timeout until it was fourth-and-five with 20 seconds remaining in Seattle territory. 

He then opted to send out kicker Brandon McManus for a 64-yard field goal attempt. Only two other kickers in NFL history have hit from that distance, and neither one was McManus. The kick drifted wide left, and the Broncos left with a loss. 

Then, in Denver’s Week 5 matchup against the Indianapolis Colts, Hackett was faced with a fourth-and-inches at the Colts’ five-yard line in overtime. Rather than opting to run the ball, Hackett dialed up a pass play that resulted in a turnover on downs. The Colts would go on to defeat the Broncos 12-9. 

After six turbulent weeks, Hackett’s time as Denver’s head coach is limited. He might be on a flight out of the Mile High City and back to the coaching carousel before the Broncos kick off their Week 7 matchup. 

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