With Jack Del Rio, Todd Haley and Tony Sparano already out the door, and just three weeks left in the regular season, it's time to start counting that little window of postseason, pre-draft narrative known as the mass termination of head coaching contracts. Here, in our general opinion, are six more head coaches who might want to watch their backs.
We might also add Mike Shanahan and Jason Garrett as more extreme long shots. It might take the Redskins and/or Cowboys losing out for such things to happen, but there are surprise firings every season … you just never know.
The Coach: Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams
The Record: 2-11 in 2011 (10-35 in third season with Rams)
The Case For: Took over a team that was bad enough to go 1-15 in his first season as head coach; rebuilt things enough with seemingly good drafts to advance to 7-9 in his second year. Was one win away from the NFC West crown in 2010. This year's fallback has been more about the team's offense than the defense, which is really Spagnuolo's domain.
The Case Against: After that 7-9 season, Spagnuolo's defense atrophied as well. And with Haley gone, there may not be too much patience left.
The Verdict: Spagnuolo will probably be a good head coach in time, but the Rams are back where they started just a few years back when it comes to personnel. Ownership may stick with him, especially if offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leaves for a reunion with GM Scott Pioli in Kansas City, but a change of scenery might be best for both Spags and the Rams.
The Record: 4-9 in 2011 (17-28 in third season with Bucs)
The Case For: Like Todd Haley, Morris led his second-year team to an improbable winning record as the franchise was supposed to be rebuilding. Downturn in 2011 could be attributed to injuries and personnel issues to a degree; particularly the regression of the team's three best offensive players in 2010 — quarterback Josh Freeman, running back LeGarrette Blount and receiver Mike Williams.
The Case Against: Decided to take the reins of a defense that has been one of the NFL's worst from front to back; franchise may need a more authoritative voice with such a young roster.
The Verdict: Morris might be in the middle of a "good coach, bad situation" scenario. He's a good schematic coach, but he's worn out his welcome by all accounts, and ownership must pay attention to public perception. He's probably gone.
The Coach: Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
The Record: 5-8 in 2011 (123-81-1 in 13th season with Eagles)
The Case For: Arguably the most successful coach in franchise history; has a proven track record as a brilliant designer of offenses; has a strong bond with many current players and a great deal of respect around the league.
The Case Against: Defense has fallen apart since the passing of former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson; has generally possessed more of an offensive viewpoint than the more overall view generally required of a head coach.
The Verdict: Reid might be as likely to leave of his own volition. It's unlikely that the Eagles would fire him, especially if they finish strong. But it could certainly be argued that Reid may be asked to make changes, specifically at defensive coordinator, where Juan Castillo has been a disaster. We bet that he'll give it another shot in Philly with a few attendant changes.
The Coach: Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
The Record: 4-9 in 2011 (4-9 in first year with Browns)
The Case For: He's a first-year coach with a franchise that is trying to rebuild. Team president Mike Holmgren, a former head coach, hates to fire coaches. Personnel decisions beyond his control are deciding his fate to a large degree.
The Case Against: The Colt McCoy concussion issue is becoming an embarrassment; Shurmur hasn't seemed to tie himself to any development of McCoy as he did with Sam Bradford last year; and Mike Holmgren did eventually say good-bye to Eric Mangini.
The Verdict: Shurmur gets another year, but on a very short leash. And if an attractive former Holmgren acolyte like Reid or Marty Mornhinweg pops loose, Shurmur might be on the outside looking in.
The Coach: Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts
The Record: 0-13 in 2011 (24-21 in third year with Colts)
The Case For: Was the right kind of hands-off coach when Bill Polian and Peyton Manning were the stars of the show.
The Case Against: Might have trouble being seen as the kind of long-term, respected authority figure necessary for a team at the start of a major rebuild; team fell off the planet the second Peyton Manning's future became clouded by injuries.
The Verdict: Caldwell could very well be gone, especially if the Colts find sweeping change in a post-Peyton Manning era. Bill Polian may want an older, more experienced coach with a better track record of building young teams.
The Coach: Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
The Record: 6-7 in 2011 (47-30 in fifth season with Chargers; 105-112-1 career)
The Case For: One of the best offensive game-planners and play designers in the game; has a rare ability to work with and enhance quarterbacks. Started losing key personnel when A.J. Smith started messing everything up.
The Case Against: Had great personnel in his early time with Chargers before A.J. Smith started messing everything up, and probably didn't do enough with it. Has always struggled with in-game situations, especially late in ballgames; seems to have regressed as a pure head coach; Philip Rivers' down season (related to injury as it may have been) won't help his case when the offseason reckoning comes.
The Verdict: Word is that Turner is on the way out, with A.J. Smith quite possibly to follow. If Turner's on the open market, he won't be for long; most teams in need of quarterback development will certainly be interested in Turner's services.
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