Our AFC North writers examine which player, coach or front-office executive is on the hottest seat in the division.
Jeremy Fowler, Pittsburgh Steelers reporter: Has to be Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. His number of playoff wins (zero) hovers over Paul Brown Stadium like a southwest Ohio cloud. He's entering a contract year without the promise of a new deal, and though his consistency is admirable -- five straight playoff berths from 2011-15 should not go overlooked -- overcoming a spotty offensive line will prove challenging in 2017. Baltimore coach John Harbaugh needs to re-establish himself after one winning season in four tries, but his Super Bowl pedigree creates goodwill. Don't look now, but Browns owner Jimmy Haslam seems poised to wait out the Hue Jackson-Sashi Brown regime. In 2017, Lewis has the most to gain or lose in the AFC North.
Jamison Hensley, Baltimore Ravens reporter: Lewis. Some can argue that the NFL's second-longest-tenured coach has been on the hot seat for the past couple of years. But Lewis' current situation is the very definition of it. He's in the final year of his contract. He's coming off a 6-9-1 season. And he hasn't won a playoff game in his 14 years in Cincinnati. Still, no one should forget about what the Bengals were like in the 12 seasons before Lewis' arrival. Cincinnati totaled nine double-digit-loss seasons and produced a 55-137 record (.286). With Lewis, the Bengals have reached the playoffs seven times and have a 118-103-3 mark (.533).
Pat McManamon, Cleveland Browns reporter: Hue Jackson, and not because he lacks job security but because Jackson might not be able to take another miserable season if the Browns struggle again. The toll of a 1-15 season and starting 0-14 weighed heavily on the Browns coach. The strain was more evident every week. At one point, Jackson almost broke into tears when he talked about being winless as "the worst thing ever." When the season ended, Jackson guaranteed the Browns would not go 1-15 again, and if they did people would find him swimming in Lake Erie. The Browns have made strides to be better, though they still have uncertainty at quarterback. They won't win 10 games, but they may win six. For them, that's progress. If, though, they have another one- or even a two- or three-win season, it will be tough on the team's coach. The likelihood of him getting fired is small, but Haslam's track record of firing coaches after one or two seasons can't be ignored if 2017 approaches the '16 misery. Jackson doesn't need to make the playoffs in 2017, but it sure would help him psychologically and mentally to win six games.
Katherine Terrell, Cincinnati Bengals reporter: Lewis. Jackson certainly can't feel comfortable after winning only one game last season, but the Browns have pledged their commitment to him. Lewis is entering his 15th season, this time without a contract extension in the works. The Bengals' 0-7 record in the playoffs under him certainly looms large, and there will be a lot of pressure this season for him to finally get the team that elusive playoff victory. If the Bengals take another step back, it's not out of the question that Lewis and the team part ways.