Head Coaches on the way out
In a tulmutuous season in which we’ve already seen Mike Singletary, Josh McDaniels, Brad Childress, and Wade Phillips receive pink slips, NFL owners are not quite finished making coaching changes. Each of the previous firings are potential landing spots for some of the high profile free agent coaches out there as there is no guarantee that the interim head coaches will be retained. In fact, despite the impending lockout, it sounds less likely that any of the interim coaches will remain with their team with the possible exception of Leslie Frazier.
So who are the next coaches to get the axe?
Fox has had a long and successful run with the Carolina Panthers and he took his team to a Super Bowl which they had a great chance of winning. But since that time, they have been largely disappointing after several years of being projected as possible Super Bowl contenders. The Panthers have been the worst team in the NFL this season and have secured the #1 overall pick in the 2011 Draft. It is a near certainty that Fox will be on his way out in Carolina. But that is not to say that he’s not a good coach. I would think he will land a coordinator position for a year or two and then get back to a head coaching position. The other possibility is to take a year or two off and then put himself in for consideration for head coaching jobs.
Marvin Lewis has had a mediocre stretch with the Cincinnati Bengals and for those familiar with the team, it’s not all his fault. He is the popular whipping boy for angry fans, but the ownership plays a huge role in this franchise’s failures. I believe Marvin Lewis is a much better coach than his first tenure will show and I think he’ll be successful elsewhere. But the sad reality is that the team has underperformed over the past several years and they were absolutely putrid this season. Even last season as they swept the division, they were knocked out in the first round of the playoffs and were beaten handily.
Obviously I can’t say for certain that Norv Turner will be out in San Diego, but after yet another year of an embarrassingly slow start to the season, it finally caught up to the talented Chargers. Sure, they have had their share of injuries and roster issues, but in the middle of the season they showed us just how dangerous they could be even with the injuries. After falling to the lowly Bengals yesterday, the Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs and that could be the last straw for Turner. This is an incredibly talented team and although A.J. Smith is as much to blame as Norv, A.J. isn’t going anywhere.
The Texans went from an expansion team that was fighting and making progress towards the next step in the franchise’s development to a team that is significantly underperforming in a heartbeat. The team is loaded with talent on the offensive side of the ball and has a great foundation on defense with Mario Williams and Brian Cushing. After a great start, the Texans have fallen completely apart and the consensus is that there is far too much talent on this team to get these results. Add Bill Cowher’s alleged interest in the job, and I find it unlikely that Kubiak will return next season.
Eric Mangini has had a rough start to his tenure in Cleveland as he began last season at 1-11 before winning 4 straight games to end the season and potentially salvage his job. This season, the Browns have shown tremendous progress, but they are still not an elite team as far as talent goes. Mangini has been subject to a media vendetta locally, but I don’t believe he has done as awful of a job as some would lead you to believe. I believe he is a good coach and he’s building a strong foundation for long-term success. The reality is, the Browns aren’t that good, yet. But with another strong draft with the assistance of Mike Holmgren, they could make some noise in the AFC North.
The issue for Mangini though, is Mike Holmgren is allegedly itching to get back on the sidelines. So he needs to fight off Holmgren from coming down to the sideline as well as long-time colleague of Holmgren, Jon Gruden. Gruden coached under Holmgren and they share similar philosophies and styles. Gruden has been rumored to be interested in the Browns position should it become available, but nothing has been confirmed. If you listen to local media, it’s a certainty that Mangini will be fired. But keep in mind, they said the same thing this time last year. It’s certainly possible, and given the Browns struggles down the stretch, it’s probably leaning in between possible and likely towards likely.
Fisher is the longest tenured coach in the NFL right now and he has had an incredibly successful run in Tennessee. But with a disaster of a season and an apparent falling out with Vince Young, Fisher could be in trouble with the Titans and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing for him. Owner Bud Adams has a sometimes illogical propensity for Vince Young. So much so that it could actually create enough conflict to cause Adams to let Fisher go. Add that to an awful season, and you have a recipe for a coaching change. Sometimes when a coach is with a team for this long, the team and the coach can both benefit from a change in scenery. I think Fisher would be snatched up almost immediately by one of the teams with an opening if this were to occur.
Possible but Doubtful:
Tom Coughlin won a Super Bowl just a few years ago and the Giants are still fighting for a playoff spot, but they have struggled and are on the brink of complete disaster to end the season. Last week they lost to the rival Eagles despite holding a 21 point advantage midway through the 4th quarter. This week, they were destroyed by the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have lead to two previous Head Coaches’ firings following a blowout defeat to the hands of the Packers. Now this won’t happen during the season, if at all, but add the alleged interest of one Bill Cowher and there is a small possibility that the Giants will make a change.