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Top 5 NFL coaches under the most pressure entering the 2013

The 2012 NFL season taught all of us many valuable lessons that we all must apply going forward as fans and as sportswriters. One lesson that was learned in particular is tha no job is permanent regardless of what you have accomplished as a head coach. It is not about “what have done for me yesterday”, but rather “what have you done for me today”. The mantra is simple in the NFL if you’re a head coach: “Win or we’ll get someone else to do the job better than you”. Just ask Andy Reid, who was fired after the 2012 season after 14 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles after they finished with a 4-12 record, which was good for dead last in the NFC East. Ask Lovie Smith, who was fired after leading the Chicago Bears to a 10-6 record but however failed to reach the postseason. However, there were some head coaches around the NFL who were very fortunate to keep their head coaching jobs of their respective teams. The fact of the matter, there are five head coaches around the NFL who are under the most pressure to win in 2013 or else.

1. Ron Rivera: Carolina Panthers
The message was sent very clear at the end of the 2012 season when the Carolina Panthers brought back Rivera on a 1 year contract after a brutally disappointing season in 2012. Rivera was hired prior to the 2011 season and lead the Panthers to a 6-10 record with an outstanding rookie quarterback in Cam Newton having had a historic season for a rookie quarterback. However, Newton was not able to duplicate his success and the team faltered to a 3-9 record as reports began to swirl that Rivera may be relieved of his head coaching duties. This lit a fire under the Panthers who won the final 4 games and finished 7-9. This season, Ron Rivera must win and lead this talented but young Carolina Panthers squad to the playoffs or chances of Rivera receiving a contract extension at season’s end may go out the window.

2. Rex Ryan: New York Jets
Coaching in the toughest and largest media market in New York is not easy. Not everyone is equipped to handle the high pressure and expectations of delivering a winner in New York especially for a franchise that has not won a Super Bowl since 1969 when Joe Namath delivered his famous guarantee victory in Super Bowl III against the Baltimore Colts. However, when you are Rex Ryan making guarantee after guarantee that the New York Jets will win the Super Bowl, that pressure only intensifies. Since leading the New York Jets to back-to-back AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010, Rex Ryan has failed miserably in trying to deliver on his Super Bowl guarantee he made prior to the 2011 season. This past season, the Jets were absolutely horrific offensively as Mark Sanchez continued to regress while finishing with a 6-10 record. After the 2012 season, Jets General Manager Mike Tannenbaum was fired while Rex Ryan kept his head coaching job. Rex Ryan is expected to be on the hot seat this season if the Jets do not make the playoffs and make a considerable run in the postseason. For Rex Ryan, this season is simply “put up or shut up”.

3. Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys

Anytime when you are the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, also known as “America’s Team”, the pressure to win comes with its territory. Jerry Jones has certainly tried multiple times to bring back a Super Bowl title to the Dallas-Fort Worth region since their last Super Bowl championship in 1995 but however failed. Jason Garrett is a coach who many believe this is the year that if the Dallas Cowboys do not make it the postseason and go on a extended run that he could very well receive the pink slip at season’s end. Let’s go on a trip down memory lane: In 2011, the Cowboys went 8-8 however FIVE of those losses came after in which they had fourth quarter leads. The Cowboys went on to lose the final game of the season to the New York Giants that decided the NFC East division championship. In 2012, the Cowboys went 8-8 and finished third in the NFC East however losing to the Washington Redskins in the final game in which the NFC East division championship was decided. The big problem for Jason Garrett has been the inability to win important games and YES Tony Romo has a lot to do with it. Jason Garrett has to win this year in what is already a very difficult division in the NFC East and regardless of how Tony Romo performs this season, ultimately the head coach will either be rewarded or shown the door at season’s end.

4. Mike Smith: Atlanta Falcons
There is no doubt that Mike Smith has become one of the NFL’s most outstanding head coaches since becoming the head coach of the Atlanta Falcons prior to the start of the 2008 season. Smith, along with Quarterback Matt Ryan has been nothing short of dominant during the regular season. However, when the bright lights of the NFL Playoffs shine bright, they have come up repeatedly short time after time. With the talent that the Falcons have assembled the past few years with the likes of Julio Jones, Roddy White, Asante Samuels just to name a few, there is no reason that this team can’t win the Super Bowl. It is very fair to say that there is pressure for this franchise and head coach Mike Smith to finally put it all together and make a run for Super Bowl XVLIII this February. Unlike the previous coaches mentioned who could possibly lose their jobs due to underperformance by their respective teams, Smith is one who could very well keep his job. However as the time begins ticking for the Falcons, so does the pressure for Mike Smith to get the Falcons to the Super Bowl.

5. John Fox: Denver Broncos
For a team that has major Super Bowl aspirations, John Fox will certainly be feeling pressure and certainly not for the wrong reasons. The good news is that the Broncos have Peyton Manning, an all time great quarterback leading the Broncos. The bad news is that he is now a year older and that doesn’t leave the Broncos or John Fox with much more time to accomplish their ultimate goal, which is win a Super Bowl. The window is certainly closing on this team to get the job done and now with the big offseason acquisition of Wes Welker arriving in Denver, this not only gives Peyton Manning more offensive weapons, but also puts more pressure on John Fox to win now. Consider this: The Broncos are “win now” team and for a team that is expected to win now, there aren’t going to be many more opportunities for Fox to win if he does not get the job done this year.

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