Today's question: Who is on the hottest seat in the division?
Jeff Legwold, Denver Broncos reporter: Expectations are the fuel that heats the seats and quarterback Alex Smith, set to begin his fourth year in Kansas City under the $68 million contract he signed shortly after his arrival, carries those kinds of expectations. The Chargers made the postseason in coach Mike McCoy's first season but stumbled to only four win in 2015, so things are getting steamy for the former Broncos offensive coordinator. But the hottest seat will belong to whichever quarterback wins the job for the Broncos. The team has won five consecutive division titles, made two Super Bowl trips in the last three seasons, won a title, has nine defensive starters set to return off the league’s No. 1 defense and, oh, you’re following Peyton Manning. Whether it turns out to be Mark Sanchez or Trevor Siemian, the winner of the QB competition will carry the most expectations because of the Broncos' success since the start of the 2011 season. The Broncos won’t ask their quarterback to be Manning; the new guy will be cocooned in a refurbished run game that will feature plenty of two-back looks. But Super Bowl rings were handed out to the Broncos this offseason and the third Lombardi Trophy was put in a case in the lobby of the team’s complex. That brings plenty of pressure.
Adam Teicher, Kansas City Chiefs reporter: In the traditional sense it’s San Diego’s Mike McCoy. He’s the one AFC West head coach who’s coaching to keep his job. But the Raiders are the AFC West team that has to make a move this year. They have too much talent to have yet another non-winning season. So I’m looking here at Oakland quarterback Derek Carr. He’s not going to be the one who loses his job if the Raiders don’t make the playoffs or fail to get past .500 for the 15th straight season. But it’s on him to lead the Raiders out of the muck.
Paul Gutierrez, Oakland Raiders reporter: The knee-jerk answer would be Denver Broncos quarterback Mark Sanchez, who is the likely replacement for a Hall of Famer in Peyton Manning. But Sanchez, who went to a pair of AFC title games with the New York Jets in his first two NFL seasons, is essentially playing with house money in the Mile High City thanks to the Broncos’ otherworldly defense. Rather, let’s look to Southern California and a coach who barely hung on to his job by a margin as thin as his quarterback’s bolo ties. Mike McCoy, a former college quarterback at Long Beach State and Utah, is 22-26 in three years with one win in the AFC West the past two seasons and was given a contract extension to right the Bolts’ ship ... sans the staff he brought with him initially. His new offensive coordinator is Ken Whisenhunt, who was McCoy’s offensive coordinator his first year in San Diego, when the Chargers went from 31st to fifth in total offense, went 9-7 and won a playoff game. If the Chargers get off to a slow start, might McCoy’s replacement already be on staff in Whisenhunt?
Eric Williams, San Diego Chargers reporter: After a disappointing 4-12 campaign in 2015, San Diego Chargers coach Mike McCoy received a reprieve when Chargers chairman Dean Spanos signed him to a one-year extension through 2017 rather than firing him. The Chargers closed out the season by losing 10 of their last 13 games and finished winless against the AFC West for the first time since 1984. However, with the franchise pushing for a new stadium in downtown San Diego, if the team starts slow again, Spanos could make a midseason change at head coach. The Chargers finished 3-9 in games decided by eight points or fewer in 2015, so McCoy has to be better at the end of games. There has been a renewed enthusiasm in offseason work, which bodes well for McCoy. But if San Diego continues to struggle on the field during the first half of the year, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt could serve as interim coach should the team move on from McCoy in the middle of the season.