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The 10 people, duos in NFL facing most pressure entering 2024 season



The 10 people, duos in NFL facing most pressure entering 2024 season

Contrary to the overused cliché, pressure does a lot more than just burst pipes.

In the NFL, pressure leads to firings, benchings, trades and, most of all, regret.

The start of the 2024 season is less than 10 weeks away, so The Post is looking at the 10 people (or duos) around the league who will be under the most stress once the scores count. And the list starts right here in town …

1. Jets GM Joe Douglas/head coach Robert Saleh

The only thing rarer than a head coach getting a fourth season at the helm despite an 18-33 record is a general manager getting a sixth season despite a 27-56 record.

The Jets have missed the playoffs in 13 straight seasons.

Joe Douglas, Robert Saleh and the Jets will face plenty of pressure during the 2024 season. Bill Kostroun for the NY Post

Saleh is the favorite to be the NFL’s first head coach fired in one of the hypothetical offseason betting lists.

There is no excuse for a slow start when the Jets are favored in 11 of their first 12 games, according to DraftKings’ look-ahead lines.

Aaron Rodgers also is under a lot of pressure as he returns from a torn Achilles, but if he is true to his word about wanting to play beyond 2024, then it’s difficult to see the Jets expediting his exit under any circumstance.

2. Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy

Quite frankly, it’s a surprise that McCarthy avoided the axe after last season ended with a blowout upset playoff loss to the Packers at home.

His three straight 12-5 regular-season records with a 1-3 combined postseason record is the definition of maxing out.

McCarthy and, to a lesser extent, the Eagles’ Nick Sirianni and Bills’ Sean McDermott, if their teams underachieve, all have to deal with the looming specter of an unemployed Bill Belichick, who is just waiting to take over a ready-made team and break the record for NFL regular-season victories (27 more needed).

Owner Jerry Jones is going to fulfill his “all-in” promise at some point, right?

Mike McCarthy and the Cowboys were eliminated by the Packers last year. AP

3. Steelers QB Russell Wilson

Wilson is running out of people to blame for his dramatic decline.

First it was the Seahawks offensive line.

Then it was a succession of head coaches: Pete Carroll, Nathaniel Hackett and Sean Payton.

Russell Wilson’s career was on a Hall of Fame track for his first 10 seasons. Getty Images

It’s now or never for Wilson to revitalize a career that was on a Hall of Fame track over his first 10 seasons.

If he continues to hold the ball too long and avoid the middle of the field, no one will blame head coach Mike Tomlin for pivoting to Justin Fields to see if the younger option is a long-term answer.

4. Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa

Tagovailoa is unhappy with the numbers bandied about in his extension negotiations as he looks at playing for a $23.1 million option in 2024.

The Dolphins seem reluctant to pay Tagovailoa the going rate — more than $50 million per season for young quarterbacks — even after he led the NFL in passing yards last season (4,624) on the heels of an MVP-caliber first half of 2022 that was later derailed by injury.

It is feeding the criticism that Tagovailoa is more of a distributor to fast weapons than he is a difference-maker.

Tua Tagovailoa can cash in if he has a strong 2024 season. USA TODAY Sports via Reuters Con

Tagovailoa needs to play well again to cash in.

If not, he could be looking at a franchise tag or a one-year prove-it path in free agency.

5. Bears head coach Matt Eberflus

Eberflus saved his job by going 3-2 on the strength of his calling-card defense over the last five weeks last season.

The biggest decision Eberflus made in the offseason was hiring former Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron into the same role to be his partner in developing No. 1 overall draft pick Caleb Williams into an effective rookie quarterback who can capitalize on the NFL’s best receiver trio (D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen and Rome Odunze) as well as running back D’Andre Swift and an above-average offensive line.

Matt Eberflus might’ve saved his job with a strong finish to the 2023 season. AP

6. Falcons CEO Rich McKay/GM Terry Fontenot

The two executives reportedly helped steer owner Arthur Blank toward hiring favorite son head coach Raheem Morris over Belichick, given reasonable concerns of a power struggle.

Then Fontenot created a quarterback controversy where none existed: He signed Kirk Cousins to a four-year, $180 million free-agent contract ($100 million guaranteed) and immediately angered Cousins and wasted a resource that could’ve helped to build a playoff-caliber defense by drafting game-ready Michael Penix Jr. to be Cousins’ backup with the No. 8 pick.

Blank should be asking if things are being done in the interest of the team or of self-preservation.

7. Eagles RB Saquon Barkley

Barkley bet on himself by not caving to the Giants’ less-than-market-value contract offers and fears of a devalued running back market during a two-year contract dispute.

It paid off with a three-year, $37.75 million free-agent contract with the rival Eagles.

Saquon Barkley joined the Eagles this offseason. AP

Now it’s up to Barkley to make Eagles general manager Howie Roseman look smart for bucking a trend, to show that he was the missing piece in last year’s offensive collapse, to strengthen the market for other backs and to make the Giants rue letting their best playmaker walk away because of a positional argument.

8. Cowboys QB Dak Prescott

Even without a repeat of leading the NFL in touchdown passes like he did with 36 last season, Prescott likely will become the NFL’s first $60 million-per-year player if he reaches free agency in 2025.

His contract stipulates that he cannot be franchise tagged.

But does Prescott really want to leave the Cowboys’ brand?

Is he overplaying his leverage in stalled extension negotiations?

Can he learn a grass-isn’t-always-greener lesson from Cousins leaving the Vikings?

Prescott needs to shake a can’t-win-the-big-one reputation (2-5 career playoff record), and the Cowboys’ talented supporting cast gives him his best shot.

9. Texans WR Stefon Diggs

Many receivers would happily accept catching passes from Cousins or Josh Allen.

The perennially disgruntled Diggs has forced his way out of those two situations over the last five years — and is getting rewarded by joining budding star C.J. Stroud.

Stefon Diggs was traded from the Bills to the Texans this offseason. AP

The trade from the Bills to the Texans came with erasing the final three years of Diggs’ contract so that he can be a free agent after 2024.

But he is going to have to play well to top the $26 million-per-year average on his last deal.

10. Bengals defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo

After years as a hot name in coaching searches and finishing as the runner-up for the Cardinals in 2023, the Staten Island native was passed over for interviews in 2024.


The Bengals ranked No. 31 in total defense.

Quarterback Joe Burrow is back from injury for perhaps his last shot creating fireworks throwing to the soon-to-be-paid-big duo of Ja’Marr Chase and Tee Higgins, so it’s on the defense with three premium offseason additions to do its part in restoring the Bengals to a Super Bowl contender.

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