Coaching hot seats in April? A few thoughts

April, 12, 2012
4/12/12
9:15
AM ET

Exhale, NFC West head coaches.

ESPN's Trent Dilfer, Mel Kiper Jr. and Chris Mortensen did not mention your names in the video above when discussing which coaches face the most pressure in 2012.

I'll do the honors for them, ranking NFC West coaches by which ones should be feeling the most heat this year:

1. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals

Signed through: 2013, with a team option for 2014

Record with team: 40-40 regular season, 4-2 playoffs

The situation: The longest-tenured head coach in the division has a 4-2 postseason record and a Super Bowl appearance on his résumé. His team rallied to an 8-8 record following a 1-6 start last season. The strong finish put Whisenhunt on stronger ground. Much is at stake, however. Whisenhunt bet big on Kevin Kolb at quarterback and might need to win that bet after failing to land Peyton Manning.

2. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

Signed through: 2014

Record with team: 14-18 regular season, 1-1 playoffs

The situation: Finishing 7-9 in back-to-back seasons exceeded expectations based on how far the Seahawks had fallen and how thoroughly they have remade their roster. Another losing record wouldn't necessarily doom Carroll, but it would put him on notice, at least. The Seahawks appear to be ascending. The 2012 standings will tell us whether that is indeed the case.

3. Jeff Fisher, St. Louis Rams

Signed through: 2016

Record with team: 0-0

The situation: Fisher is entering his first season. He has time. He also needs to win over a fan base made skeptical by a 15-65 record over the past five seasons. Fisher does face pressure to get franchise quarterback Sam Bradford back on the right track following a rough 2011 season. But with additional first-round picks in hand for 2013 and 2014, Fisher is set up nicely for the long term.

4. Jim Harbaugh, San Francisco 49ers

Signed through: 2015

Record with team: 13-3 regular season, 1-1 playoffs

The situation: Expectations for 2012 are high following a 13-3 finish to last season. But with the 49ers having secured funding for a new stadium, ownership isn't counting on Harbaugh to produce on-field results necessary to carry a ballot measure. Reaching the NFC Championship Game last season gave Harbaugh credibility as a head coach. He's riding high heading into 2012.

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