-- We're nearly three-quarters of the way through the 2016 NFL season, and?we have a good picture of which teams have exceeded expectations and which teams are coming up short. For the latter, that means head coaches are going to get fired.
With five more weeks of the season remaining, here's an inside look at which coaches could be on the way out after the season -- and which are likely to stick around -- based on?discussions with several personnel executives around the league.
Squarely on the hot seat
Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars
This was supposed to be the season in which the Jaguars took the leap forward. They spent big money in free agency, and from talking to sources with other teams, personnel executives said they thought this was a talented, young roster. Instead, the Jaguars are 2-9 in Bradley's fourth season, and they have?come up short of expectations.?The Jags are guaranteed to finish with a record at .500 or under for the ninth straight season.
While a team source said Bradley's situation will be reviewed after the season, he has compiled a career record of 14-45 in Jacksonville.
After last season, the team extended Bradley's contract through the 2017 season in order to give him a better chance at succeeding; it planned to make several roster upgrades, which the front office has clearly done. And while it's obvious the roster is more talented than when Bradley took over in 2013, the team has significantly underachieved this season. That doesn't bode well for Bradley's future.
The Bengals are almost certain to miss the playoffs for the first time since 2010. So what has happened to this team?
From talking to a team source, the roster, especially on the defensive side of the ball, has gotten really old and needs an infusion of younger and more athletic players. While the team feels good about its deep and talented secondary, more talent needs to be added to the front seven, the source added. And on offense, the Bengals have yet to adequately replace former starting receiver? Marvin Jones, who signed with the Lions in free agency.
So, what about the future of Lewis, whose contract expires after 2017?
Lewis has a larger say in the roster than he did when he landed the job in 2003, but owner Mike Brown still picks the players. And it's no secret in league circles that Brown does not like paying coaches who are not working with the Bengals. While Lewis, who is 115-101-3 in 14 years as Cincinnati's coach, has done a terrific job of turning around the team since he took over, he still has not won a playoff game. That is why he'll remain on the hot seat -- at least until Brown goes on the record and says the veteran coach will be back for another season.
Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams
In the preseason edition of the Hot Seat Index, we didn't have Fisher on the hot seat because sources said he was close to signing a new deal with the Rams. In fact, some sources believed the team would announce his new contract after it got off to a surprising 3-1 start. But since then, the Rams are?1-6, and there have been no updates from the team regarding Fisher's contract situation. His contract expires after this season.
With the team a near lock to finish with a non-winning season for the 13th straight year and Fisher's eighth straight as a coach, he'll remain on the hot seat until the Rams announce a decision on his future. He's 31-43-1 in five years with the franchise.
Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers
Sources from other teams maintain the Chargers are still very competitive despite a 5-6 record. And San Diego has?16 players on injured reserve, which is among the highest in the league.
But because the team has finished no higher than third in the AFC West during McCoy's previous three seasons and finished 4-12 in 2015, questions still remain?about his future. And the team has not said he'll be back for sure next season. He signed a one-year extension through 2017 at the end of last season. After 9-7 seasons in his first two years as coach, McCoy is 9-18 since.
Colder than you think
Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
For the first time in many years, the veteran coach is receiving criticism from some personnel sources I've spoken to across the NFL. A few of them have mentioned that McCarthy needs to be more creative with his offense in order to help quarterback Aaron Rodgers, whose performance this season has been disappointing compared to previous seasons.
But should McCarthy, who has put together seven straight playoff appearances, including one Super Bowl title, and is 109-61-1, really be mentioned as potentially on the hot seat?
One long-tenured NFL personnel source said that while McCarthy deserves some criticism for the team's 5-6 record, it's hardly a reason to suggest the veteran coach should be concerned about his job security.
"I think what you're hearing is more media-driven than anything else," the source said. "The team has fallen off this season, so it's open season on the coach. The reality is that other than [Patriots coach Bill] Belichick, show me another guy who hasn't had a down season."
We had Ryan under the hot section before this season started. The reason was simple: Ryan had not posted a winning record in his previous five years as a head coach, and there was chatter around the NFL that he had trouble getting the most out of his players.
After 11 games this season, however, the 6-5 Bills are a competitive team despite injury issues on both sides of the ball. Owner Terry Pegula has preached continuity publicly and privately, a team source said. So don't look for anything to happen here.
John Fox, Chicago Bears
After doing slightly better than most personnel executives expected in his first season with a record of 6-10, the Bears have dropped off significantly this season under Fox, with a disappointing 2-9 record.
But there are reasons for the drop-off. The team will place its 15th player on injured reserve this week once it makes the expected move with linebacker? Danny Trevathan (knee). And keep in mind two key players are serving suspensions (wide receiver? Alshon Jeffery and inside linebacker? Jerrell Freeman).
As one team source said, there's simply no way to properly evaluate this team and the coaches with so many key players?out.
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts
Last November, we had Pagano leading the hot-seat section. He was in the final year of his contract, and he and general manager Ryan Grigson did not have a good working relationship. In fact, it was quite strained at that point, team sources said. Since then, both men had their contracts extended for four seasons and have formed a much better working relationship.
Owner Jim Irsay made it clear that he wanted what was the NFL's oldest roster to become significantly younger, and a team source said Grigson had to address the roster issues on the offensive line, which he did with three selections in the first five rounds of April's draft.
While the 5-6 Colts haven't significantly improved this season, they still are very much in the hunt for first place in the AFC South, and there are no indications Pagano is in jeopardy of losing his job one season after signing an extension. He's 46-29 in five seasons in Indianapolis.
In Bowles' first year with the Jets in 2015, a plugged-in team source felt the team exceeded expectations. The Jets posted a very respectable 10-6 record but did not make the playoffs. Because the team had such a solid record, however, expectations were raised for Bowles despite a roster that needed upgrading in more than a few areas.
Personnel executives from other teams who have watched the Jets' game tape this season pointed out to me that the team has gotten old on offense -- seven starters were at least 29 years old to start the season -- and they look slower on that side of the ball. And the defense, which Bowles still has a large hand in managing, has issues?in the secondary.
General manager Mike Maccagnan has a challenge on his hands, and he has control of the personnel, a team source confirmed. The Jets' issues this season largely are due to having an incomplete roster, and Bowles, who is in the second year of a four-year deal, should not take the blame, even with New York at 3-8.