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Texans HC David Culley’s Coaching Hot Seat Is Cooling Off


We are coming up on the time of year that give about half the head coaches in the National Football League the night sweats when their heads hit the pillow. Firing season is coming in the NFL. Black Monday, the day after the regular season ends is going to be here in less than two weeks, but the firings have already begun, with Urban Meyer getting the guillotine in Jacksonville a couple weeks ago.

Truth be told, we could see Black Monday functionally slide up a week or two this season, as the NFL passed a rule this month whereby teams can interview coordinators and assistants of other NFL teams, as long as they’ve fired their current head coach. As a result, we began seeing reports like this one on Tuesday:

So, which NFL head coaches need to have their heads on a swivel over these next few days? Let’s evaluate all 32 current head coaches’ job security (even the interim head coaches in Las Vegas and Jacksonville) based on the DEFCON scale used by our government to determine the necessary readiness for bad things.

4. HOT (4)
19. Zimmer
21. Bisaccia
28. Nagy
32. Bevell

3. WARM (5)
14. Taylor
20. Fangio
26. Rhule
27. Judge
30. Culley

2. COOL (5)
7. Kingsbury
11. Shanahan
16. Flores
25. Carroll
29. Campbell

DEFCON 5 — Safe as can be (15 total)
Sean McDermott, BUF
Bill Belichick, NE
John Harbaugh, BAL
Mike Tomlin, PIT
Mike Vrabel, TEN
Frank Reich, IND
Andy Reid, KC
Mike McCarthy, DAL
Ron Rivera, WFT
Nick Sirianni, PHI
Matt LaFleur, GB
Bruce Arians, TB
Sean Payton, NOLA
Arthur Smith, ATL
Sean McVay, LAR

These 15 coaches are all fully secure in their jobs, either because they are coaching legit Super Bowl contenders, have been a legit Super Bowl contender enough times to get some latitude, have a good team headed in the right direction, or are in the infancy stages of a rebuild and are not further ruining their team. Nothing really to see here.

DEFCON 4 — Coast is pretty clear (7)
Brian Flores, MIA
Robert Saleh, NYJ
Zac Taylor, CIN
Brandon Staley, LAC
Dan Campbell, DET
Kyle Shanahan, SF
Pete Carroll, SEA

These are all coaches who are probably okay in their positions, but there is a greater than zero percent chance that they could be asked to leave for a very specific reason. That specific reason is different in each situation. For example, Brian Flores might just get the axe if the Dolphins miss the playoffs, and ownership wanted to see him get to the postseason in three seasons, while Pete Carroll could get cut loose if he loses a “one of us has to go” standoff with Russell Wilson. Either way, all seven of these guys are pretty safe.

DEFCON 3 — Mild heat on the seat (3)
Kevin Stefanski, CLV
At 7-8, the Browns have been one of the biggest disappointments of the season. Stefanski, a Gary Kubiak disciple, has failed in the development of former No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield at quarterback. Stefanski IS just a year removed from wining a playoff game in Pittsburgh, AND nearly beating the Chiefs to go to the AFC title game, but this season at the very least heats up Stefanski’s seat for 2022.

David Culley, HOU
Culley has probably solidified his status for 2022 with two impressive wins the last couple weeks, considering the team’s COVID absence situation. The one variable would be the availability of whoever Nick Caserio envisions as the long term head coach of this franchise, possibly Josh McDaniels.

Kliff Kingsbury, ARZ
The Cardinals have qualified for the postseason in Year 3 of the Kingsbury Era, but they are doing the one thing you can count on from Kingsbury coached teams — they are fading in December. They were 10-2 heading into this month, and now sit at 10-5. Going out of the postseason in embarrassing fashion in a couple weeks could make for some interesting conjecture in the desert.

DEFCON 2 — Updating LinkedIn profile (4)
Rich Bisaccia, LVG
Vic Fangio, DEN
Mike Zimmer, MIN
The main thing saving all three of these head coaches from being in a higher DEFCON level is the fact that all three still have mathematical chances at making the postseason. If I had to rank their respective seats in order of heat level, I’d rank them in the order they are typed above, with the Vegas interim head coach Bisaccia the most likely to get cut loose after the season.

Matt Rhule, CAR
Rhule’s future will be one of the more interesting storylines heading into the offseason. The main thing saving him right now is likely the fact that he has five seasons remaining on a $60 million contract. Rhule is on track to have his second straight five win season, and what makes this one worse than his first one was the fact that he hitched his wagon enthusiastically to Sam Darnold, who was an abject failure (as he was with the Jets). The one chance for a Rhule “Hail Mary” would be a trade for Deshaun Watson, something the owner in Carolina, Dave Tepper, would LOVE to go execute.

DEFCON 1 — House on the market, calculating severance (3)
Darrell Bevell, JAC
I would say that the Jags’ interviewing a half dozen or so candidates this week is a pretty good indicator that Bevell has botched any opportunity he would have at being Trevor Lawrence’s next head coach.

Joe Judge, NYG
There’s a good chance that the Mara family decides to just blow the whole thing sky high in the Big Apple, replacing Dave Gettleman the GM, Daniel Jones the young QB, and it would make perfect sense to start from scratch at head coach, as well.

Matt Nagy, CHI
On the one hand, Matt Nagy has made a couple playoff appearances in his time as Bears’ head coach. On the other hand, he oversaw a draft bust at QB in Mitchell Trubisky, and Justin Fields is not exactly out of the gates fast as the next big solution in Chicago. This has felt like a death march all season long for Nagy, to the extent that it makes you wonder why they even brought him back in the first place.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at and like him on Facebook at

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