In the NFL, everyone is under a certain amount of pressure every day. If a coach or player displays the inability to perform to a certain standard after a fair amount of time, the front office will simply find someone who can and the competition available is vast and extremely talented.
As we head into Week 5 of the NFL season, every player and coach has four weeks of game film available to study and break down before they face that opponent. As we progress through the season, the pressure to adjust and perform to a high standard becomes greater as more game film becomes available.
Many coaches and players may be given a longer period of time to show evidence that they’re the right person for the job based upon the belief in them from someone who’s established in the franchise or in the capital given to attain them in free agency or from the college draft system.
But rest assured that if a person doesn’t meet the required standard to help a team win, they won’t be in that position for long as the NFL is the ultimate competitive sports league and its parity is unique because of its talent level in both the coaching and playing departments.
There are many coaches and players under a lot of pressure in the NFL but here are two who are really feeling the pressure after a long period of inconsistency within their franchise. It really is ‘make-or-break’ for these talented individuals over the next few games and maybe a change of scenery with a different approach and team environment is exactly what’s needed as the more experience and opportunity you get, the more tape you create and the better your chances are at making it in the NFL.
The Two People in the NFL Under Immense Pressure
Mac Jones, Quarterback, New England Patriots.
When the New England Patriots drafted Mac Jones out of Alabama with the 15th overall pick in 2021, he had arguably the most unenviable task in sports history by following Tom Brady as the starting quarterback in New England. Many thought the pressure of stepping in after the greatest of all time and his six world championships would be impossible for Jones but there was a reason Bill Belichick wanted him particularly as he knew from his close friend Nick Saban at Alabama that Jones had the ideal temperament to deal with the enormity of such a situation.
Mac Jones was more than up for the challenge in his rookie year with Josh McDaniels as his offensive coordinator as he led New England to a playoff berth with a record of 10 wins and 7 losses on the season and earned himself Pro Bowl honors after starting all 17 games and throwing for 3,801 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 13 interceptions. He was voted second behind Ja’Marr Chase in the AP Offensive Rookie of the Year voting and looked like he could be the future starting quarterback for the New England Patriots despite McDaniels leaving to coach the Raiders in Las Vegas.
In his second season as a professional, however, Jones took a backward step without McDaniels, winning just six games in 14 starts. He threw for 2,997 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the season. This resulted in New England missing the playoffs and that’s something that’s only happened five times in Bill Belichick’s 22 seasons as head coach and the second time since Tom Brady left town.
With no designated offensive coordinator in Jones’s sophomore season, it was obvious that something was missing so during this past off-season they brought in a familiar face in Coach Bill O’Brien from Alabama who has had success with the Patriots in the past and knows all about pressure in the NFL from his tenure as head coach of the Houston Texans. On paper, hiring O’Brien as offensive coordinator and quarterback coach is ideal for both Belichick and Jones but things just haven’t really clicked and many think it’s because of the lack of a supporting cast around Jones.
In the first four weeks of this season, Jones has looked erratic at times. The team has just one win on the season. Last week in Dallas, Jones was benched for Bailey Zappe after throwing a terrible cross-field pick-six in a game that had clearly got away from him as he finished with two interceptions and no touchdowns on the night. They benched him for his own benefit as much as the teams as he looked like he was in quicksand and things were only going to get worse.
This week is massive for Jones as they entertain New Orleans in Foxborough. Bill Belichick is coaching his 499th game and is coming off the biggest defeat of his head coaching career with that 35-point loss to Dallas. Many believe that team owner, Robert Kraft, will keep Belichick employed until he catches Don Shula for the most regular season wins ever as a Head Coach with 328 wins. Belichick, who turns 72 next April, currently has 299 wins and if he’s to get there, they both know they need stability at the quarterback position. The Patriots are now five years removed from their last Super Bowl and they haven’t won a playoff game since Tom Brady left. So, the pressure is all on Mac Jones.
Matt Canada, Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh Steelers.
After last week’s crushing 24-point loss to the Houston Texans, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach, Mike Tomlin, vowed that there would be changes coming. The most concerning thing is that they were physically inferior to the Texans last Sunday and that just hasn’t been in the Steelers DNA for the last 50 years. It’s just not their identity and the Rooney family demand that they retrieve that identity or changes will be made.
The Rooney’s are among the greatest owners in sports and things like this just didn’t happen when the great owner and ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney was alive. Their loyalty is something every franchise should envy as they’ve had an incredible succession of head coaches with just Chuck Noll and Bill Cower coming before Mike Tomlin at the helm since 1969. This loyalty extends to the fan base and when the fan base speaks, ownership listens in Pittsburgh.
The biggest issue seems to be the offensive production and the regression and play calling of offensive coordinator Matt Canada who’s in his third season under Tomlin after serving as the team’s quarterback coach prior to being promoted. Canada even told a CBS reporter that the offense wasn’t designed to play from behind in an interview before the Houston game last week and this has caused even more issues within the franchise and with starting quarterback, Kenny Pickett.
In the pre-season, the Steelers offense looked efficient as they were scoring on all of Kenny Pickett‘s drives but a blowout loss to the 49ers at home had every Steelers fan calling for Canada to be fired after Week 1 as it was just more of the same terrible production offensively. There was some great play against the Raiders in Week 2 in primetime but it’s reverted back again since then and the pressure is just continuing to build and build from the inconsistency and it might be time for Tomlin to make a move.
This week, the Steelers have a huge game at home against a bitter division rival Baltimore Ravens before they head into a bye week in Week 6. I can’t see a scenario in which they return in Week 7 with Matt Canada as offensive coordinator if they fail to compete well offensively and match Baltimore physically this week. With the bye week, they will have the opportunity to make the necessary moves and adjust accordingly before returning with a fresh start in Week 7. The biggest issue Tomlin will have is if there’s even more regression if he fires Canada but with the pressure from the fan base and the issues within the team, it might just be the only option he has.