Today's question: Who is on the hottest seat in the division?
Josh Weinfuss, Arizona Cardinals: 49ers general manager Trent Baalke is the pick here. Although he wasn’t the one who hired coach Jim Tomsula, he’s partially responsible. But Baalke is totally responsible for how the 49ers roster reacts to losing six starters on defense and 11 players who started at least nine games. If San Francisco isn't competitive, I'm not sure how Baalke can survive after this season. It was his job to restock a well of talent, and the next few months will tell if he was able to do that.
Nick Wagoner, St. Louis Rams: I'm going to assume most would expect me to say Rams coach Jeff Fisher here, but I'm not going to. Fisher has another year on his contract at around $7 million, and Rams owner Stan Kroenke apparently wants him around, especially if they have to navigate a move to Los Angeles. That could put general manager Les Snead in more peril, but for the purposes of this question, I'm going with Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick no longer has Jim Harbaugh tutoring him, and there were rumors this offseason that the team had explored moving on from him. His passer rating and QBR have dropped in each of the past three years, and he still struggles to get through progressions and throw accurately with consistency. Another dip in production, combined with his increasing salary, could leave the Niners searching for alternatives.
Paul Gutierrez, San Francisco 49ers: You could make a case for at least one person from every team: Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for passing instead of feeding Beast Mode in the Super Bowl; Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer, who is on his second ACL and, potentially, last leg as a 35-year-old quarterback; Fisher, who is 20-27-1 in three seasons in St. Louis but might be playing with house money since a franchise move to Los Angeles is looking more likely by the week. Instead, let's go with 49ers bosses Jed York, the CEO, and Baalke, because even if it does feel like a heavy cloud has been lifted in Santa Clara, California, with Harbaugh gone to Michigan -- forced out, Harbaugh apologists claim -- the manic Harbaugh was wildly successful in going to three straight NFC title games, including a Super Bowl. But York and Baalke, after last year's 8-8 flameout, chose to go in another direction, with the likable (especially in the locker room) Tomsula. The thing is, even if the Niners completely collapse, Baalke has York's blessing and job security, and who's going to fire York?
Terry Blount, Seattle Seahawks: I don’t see how Fisher could survive another losing season with the Rams, no matter how you justify it. And there are plenty of ways to justify his three-year tenure and 20-27-1 record, starting with the injuries to former quarterback Sam Bradford. But now the Rams have pushed all of their chips to the middle of the table with the trade for quarterback Nick Foles. They have what might be the best young defensive front in the NFL and a potential superstar running back in rookie Todd Gurley. It's time for the Rams to step up. However, Fisher has two years left on a $35 million deal, so it would be costly to fire him after this season. And Fisher is a SoCal guy who went to USC. He fits right in for the likely move to Los Angeles in 2016.