NFL Week 1: Matt Rhule & Pete Carroll Enter 2022 On the Hottest Seats

What really burns the ass of an NFL coach? A flame about three feet high. Once a flame reaches the height where a coach can’t even sit down, you can be very sure that change will soon be in the air for his team.

A total of nine coaches went up in flames after the 2021 season. We also have Todd Bowles taking over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Bruce Arian’s sudden retirement last March.

At Football from A to Z we’re going to spend each week of the 2022 season monitoring which coaches are feeling the heat rise as their teams struggle to find their way into the playoff picture. We’ll also see if a vulnerable coach or two can douse the flames under their seats while new coaches get added to the list.

The first official football of 2022 will be played this week so we’ll soon have on-field results to measure. Until then, here is a list of coaches who should start the season while considering the thought of buying flame-retardant pants.

One-Alarm, Is It Getting Warm In Here?

Frank Reich, Indianapolis Colts

In Reich’s first three seasons as head coach, Indianapolis went to the playoffs twice. It’s what took place last season that might have Reich’s chair beginning a slow burn.

When Philip Rivers retired after taking the Colts to the postseason in 2020, Reich stuck his neck out and recommended that Indianapolis bring in Carson Wentz from Philadelphia.

Indianapolis stumbled out of the gate to a 1-4 record before going on an 8-2 tear that put the Colts square in the middle of the AFC playoff picture. All they had to do to play extra football was win once in the final two weeks against the Las Vegas Raiders or Jacksonville Jaguars

Wentz played miserably in both games and the Colts collapsed. Wentz fell from favor with the team and fan base and was traded away to the Washington Commanders.

This season he will be attempting to get Indianapolis back to the playoffs for the third time in his career with another quarterback who is looking for one more bite of the apple, Matt Ryan.

If Reich can wash the taste of his team’s 2021 collapse with a 2022 playoff appearance, he should be safe. If this team fails though, Reich will fail with it.

Ron Rivera, Washington Commanders

Ron Rivera is a class man. Unfortunately, he’s stuck trying to lift what has been one of the biggest organizational shipwrecks in the NFL to some level of respectability.

The trouble Rivera has heading into 2022 though is that he’s only won seven games in each of the last two seasons, even though the seven wins in 2020 led to a postseason appearance.

The coaching issue with Rivera is he’s a defensive specialist, a former Pro Bowl linebacker, and his team finished 25th in the NFL in points allowed last season.

Also, despite lining up Round 1 draft picks across his defensive front, Washington finished last season 17th in both sacks and overall quarterback pressures. For 2022, Rivera will desperately need improvement from Coordinator Jack Del Rio’s defense. Even if Rivera has to pull the strings himself.

Rivera also has the newly acquired Carson Wentz to run Scott Turner’s offense. The question there will be if Wentz learned any lessons from his 2021 Colts collapse.

Considering the organization Rivera works for, another seven-win season could lead to Owner Daniel Snyder and company making another huge mistake by firing the most respectable figure in a sordid organization.

Two-Alarm, Does Anyone Smell Smoke?

Kevin Stefanski, Cleveland Browns

The only certainty under the Browns ownership by the Haslam family is that head coaches have a very short shelf life. The current head coach, Kevin Stefanski, will officially become the Haslam’s longest tenured holder of the position when Week 1 of the 2022 season kicks off.

The shine seems to have faded from Cleveland’s 2020 playoff season. First, they struggled to an 8-9 record last season behind quarterback Baker Mayfield, who was pushing through the pain of a severely injured left shoulder.

Second, the Browns “won” the bidding war for Deshaun Watson, signing the quarterback for a guaranteed $230 million for five years. With his NFL suspension now locked in place at 11 games, Watson will see his first regular season action in over 700 days when he takes the field in Houston to face the Texans on December 4.

Until then, Stefanski will have to make do at quarterback with Jacoby Brissett, a six-year veteran with a 14-23-0 lifetime record as a starter. Just a reminder, it’s difficult to make do in the NFL if you don’t have a quarterback. Even if you do have weapons like Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt and Amari Cooper

If Stefanski can’t keep his team in the playoff hunt until Watson returns or even worse, can’t win when the $230 million man takes the controls, Stefanski will be unemployed next February.

Lovie Smith, Houston Texans

Nothing against Smith’s ability as a football coach but he is about to become the Houston Texans fourth head coach in three seasons.

Smith has already let it be known that he will be concentrating on his team’s defense while Pep Hamilton will have complete control of the offense. That means the Texans will be on coach 3-1/2 in three seasons or five coaches in three seasons, depending on how you count.

The Texans go into the season hoping that Davis Mills can still be the man behind center after he showed improvement in the second half of 2021. We’ll see what Pep Hamilton can do with him. As for the rest of the roster, it’s filled with players that Houston is hoping will provide some excitement.

It isn’t a good look when a team hires a coach and he announces that he’s only planning to be half a coach. If Houston takes another dive in 2022, Smith will suffer the same fate as David Culley and be out after one season.

Kliff Kingsbury, Arizona Cardinals

Yes, Kingsbury recently signed a hefty contract extension to continue as head coach of the Cardinals. Guess what? Quarterback Kyler Murray has signed a contract that makes him the second highest-paid quarterback in the NFL.

If the second half of Arizona’s season falls flat for the third year in a row take a guess at who will be on his way out the door? Hint: it won’t be the quarterback, even if he will be without his All-Pro receiver for the first six-games of the season.

If Kingsbury’s Cardinals miss the playoffs, or get bounced early in embarrassing fashion again, he’ll have his extension money to fall back on but won’t have a job in the NFL.

Three-Alarm, My Britches are Burnin’!

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

In 2020, Matt Rhule started his first season as an NFL coach with Teddy Bridgewater as his quarterback. Carolina opened the season 3-2 before collapsing to a 2-9 record the rest of the way.

In 2021, Rhule was provided with Sam Darnold to be his starter. The Panthers jumped out to a 3-0 start before crashing into the wall and finishing 2-12. Those results aren’t why Carolina owner David Tepper awarded Rhule with a seven-year, $62 million contract to leave Baylor.

For 2022, he will start the season with Baker Mayfield, who is healthy again after playing much of 2021 with a dislocated left shoulder and rotator cuff injury.

The first hurdle for Rhule is whether he can enter the month of October and continue to win football games. The fact that Rhule has not worked well with his offensive coordinators, see Joe Brady, leaves doubt that he can achieve that goal.

Prediction, Mayfield plays well enough to sign a respectable free agent contract for 2023 with an organization that knows what it’s doing while Tepper goes coach hunting again.

Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Pete Carroll has been the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks for 12 seasons. In nine of those seasons Carroll helmed Seattle to the postseason, reaching two Super Bowls, winning one. Now he’s minus the one constant that kept the Seahawks as serious postseason contenders. Quarterback Russell Wilson is wearing Broncos orange.

Carroll now has Geno Smith as his quarterback. Smith has failed miserably to become a reliable starter and he’s entering his ninth season. As the backup quarterback, Carroll has Drew Lock, the reason why the Denver Broncos felt that they had to trade for Russell Wilson.

By the time this season reaches its halfway point Carroll may be wishing he took the Bruce Arians’ “resign upstairs” path to the 2022 season.

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