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AFC East Roundup: Pressure cooker-like season for division’s head coaches

A huge test awaits each head coach in the AFC East

New York Jets vs Buffalo Bills Set Number: X163864 TK1

Buffalo Bills head coach Sean McDermott recently received a contract extension that will keep him in Orchard Park, NY with general manager Brandon Beane through the 2027 NFL season.

Head coaches are some of the most important individuals on an NFL field any given Sunday. With that importance comes the biggest of expectations. Some fans want a head coach who can get their favorite team to the Super Bowl while others are just hoping for a head coach who gets the team back to the playoffs for the first time in what feels like ages. For those head coaches in the AFC East, the expectations placed upon their shoulders may be among the most burdensome in the league this coming season.

Following his contract extension, some believe Sean McDermott say isn’t under pressure, and that his seat has actually cooled considerably. That isn’t necessarily true because we know of coaches who’ve been fired after receiving contract extensions. On one hand, McDermott has led the team to three straight AFC East titles and helped the franchise break the drought in his first season. On the other hand, fans are starting to get hungry and want the Bills to get over the hump to reach the Super Bowl. Regarding last season, some have given McDermott a pass with everything on and off the football field the team endured. Now though, McDermott must manage the situation with star receiver Stefon Diggs — plus operated as the team’s defensive coordinator for the 2023 NFL season. It’s fair to state that McDermott is the one who’ll determine how far Buffalo goes this season.

All good things eventually come to an end, and New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick appears to be wearing thin with the fan base. There’s no question about his placement within the list of the NFL’s greatest coaches of all time, but the question is how much did Tom Brady aid in that? Since Brady left, New England has made the NFL playoffs once — only to get fully blown out by the Bills in the Wild Card round. Patriots fans expect this franchise to not only make the playoffs year after year but also be a Super Bowl threat each season. The question at this point is whether Belichick will retire on his own or perhaps find his exit behind a nudge from owner Robert Kraft.

New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh might be facing the greatest pressure to succeed this season. Yes, Salah is only in his third season with the Jets and appears to have turned the team around with the likes of cornerback Sauce Gardner and wide receiver Garrett Wilson. Now, it’s a whole new ball game following the massive trade for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Jets fans have gone from begging Saleh to just end the team’s playoff drought of 12 seasons to now seeing the faint glimmer of hope for a Super Bowl. Is it possible Saleh get fired after this season if things don’t go well? I see no chance of that happening, but the fan base could use him as a scapegoat if the Jets fail to meet what have become monumental expectations.

Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel is entering his second season leading the team. His rookie campaign got off to a great start, with the Dolphins compiling a 7-3 mark ahead of their bye week. Then, the train started to go off the rails as Miami lost five of their last seven regular-season games. Part of the reason they were able to sneak into the playoffs was because they finished against the New York Jets, which started quarterback Joe Flacco. McDaniel did have to deal with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s injuries last season, but the fact remains that the Dolphins didn’t finish strong under his leadership. There’s a lot of pressure on the ‘Phins to not only improve on their Wild Card exit of last season, but also specifically for McDaniel to show that he can put victories on the board in the latter half of the season.