NFL coaching hot seat: Who's feeling the pressure as training camps open?

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As training camps open, speculation begins about which NFL head coaches face the most pressure to perform in 2021. A strong early-season showing is imperative for these hot-seat candidates:

Mike Zimmer, Vikings

The players love him, and no one can question his track record on defense, but it's fair to wonder how far Zimmer can take these Vikings. Minnesota has alternated between missing and making the postseason throughout his seven campaigns and has advanced beyond the divisional round just once. Zimmer's offensive conservatism has seemingly capped the club's ceiling, leaving little margin for error in other phases of the game. A second consecutive poor start could spell the end of Zimmer's time in Minneapolis.

Matt Nagy, Bears

After barely surviving 2020, Nagy is back under the microscope to begin 2021. The former NFL Coach of the Year has gotten away with pinning the Bears' previous disappointments on poor quarterback play - perhaps justifiably - but Justin Fields' presence will eliminate that excuse this year. Nagy made the playoffs twice in his first three seasons, but everyone knows Chicago's defense did the heavy lifting - it's time he and his offense shoulder their fair share of the load.

Zac Taylor, Bengals

The Bengals don't necessarily need to make the postseason to have a productive campaign, but they've got to show signs of life. Cincinnati is a brutal 6-25-1 in two seasons with Taylor, who's produced a pair of bottom-7 offenses after being billed as one of Sean McVay's brightest understudies. With Joe Burrow expected to be ready for Week 1 and a strong cast of skill players around him, the Bengals must look competitive for the first time in the Taylor era.

Kliff Kingsbury, Cardinals

Kingsbury has been hailed as an offensive mastermind, but the Cardinals have been underachieving more than overachieving since he arrived in 2019. Kingsbury was supposed to unleash Kyler Murray in a way that would revolutionize the NFL, yet the former No. 1 overall pick produced a mixed bag of results in his first two years. With only two winning records in eight seasons as a head coach dating back to his time at Texas Tech, the pressure is on Kingsbury to prove himself in 2021.

Mike McCarthy, Cowboys

McCarthy produced a dud in Year 1, and the scrutiny will pick up in Year 2. Not only do the Cowboys have Dak Prescott returning from an injury that worsened McCarthy's already bad debut campaign, but they'll also be featured on HBO's "Hard Knocks," meaning McCarthy will be on display for the world to evaluate. While Jerry Jones is more patient than his reputation as an impulsive decision-maker suggests, the owner can't risk letting McCarthy waste Prescott's prime like he allowed Jason Garrett to do with Tony Romo.

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NFL coaching hot seat: Who's feeling the pressure as training camps open?
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