Mon Jan 03 12:27pm EST
So, as of Monday morning, this is how the coaching carousel stands. We know that Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier will most likely lock up the jobs in Dallas and Minnesota, respectively, and will drop the "interim" tags from their titles. We know that the Cleveland Browns have fired Eric Mangini, and we know that the New York Giants will retain Tom Coughlin despite the fact that the G-Men have missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons. Beyond that, there are several openings and openings-to-be out there, and this is what we know (and what we think may happen) at this point.
Cleveland Browns: With Mangini out, the word seems to be that Mike Holmgren's choices are (in no particular order): Jon Gruden, Marty Mornhinweg and John Fox. Fox seems like a wild card; you'd expect Holmgren to hire a head coach that would be more able to run his offense. Gruden and Mornhinweg got their NFL starts under Holmgren in that offense. I see Mornhinweg in play here and in San Francisco; his work with Michael Vick(notes) in Philly added a sparkle to his name, and he's going to get a pass regarding his time in Detroit because of the "Matt Millen Is A Giant Boob" factor. If Holmgren wants an easy liaison between himself and the players from a schematic perspective, we may see a different kind of Martyball in the Dawg Pound.
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis will be gone, most likely of his own volition as he tires of owner Mike Brown's(notes) penny-pinching doofusness. The obvious pick here would be for Brown to replace Lewis with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer (who has deserved a head-coaching spot for a while now), but it's also possible that Zimmer becomes a surprise name elsewhere.
San Francisco 49ers: The Big Lead is reporting that the Jim-Harbaugh-to-Michigan idea has hit a dead end, which probably has Harbaugh following Andrew Luck to the NFL (though not to the Carolina Panthers). The problem in Frisco is the perception (which has followed the York family around for a good long time) that the people in charge aren't really good at football decisions and want too much control. To that end, Jed York might scare away more qualified candidates and settle for a more malleable solution. All coaching candidates will be watching the team's selection of a new general manager very closely.
Tennessee Titans: Jeff Fisher should get while the getting is good; the very idea of a coach who's accomplished everything he has forced to negotiate with a petulant Vince Young(notes) at the behest of owner Bud Adams is beyond ridiculous. He might be in play for the Dolphins, who want a splashy name, but allow me to put forth my Goofy Jeff Fisher Theory: He leaves the Titans, does broadcasting for a year, and takes over his alma mater USC in 2012 -- by then, Pat Haden will probably be ready to shoot Lane Kiffin out of a cannon.
Miami Dolphins: Our prediction is that Tony Sparano is gone, the victim of an underperforming offense and a new owner's need for a sexier name at the head coach position. If Fisher doesn't go here, Bill Cowher could very easily be in play. The excellent work that Mike Nolan has done with the Dolphins' defense would lay fears to rest that without a defensive coordinator like Dick LeBeau or Dom Capers, Cowher might be an overrated hire.
Carolina Panthers: John Fox is certainly out, and he's probably happy to be so. Things hit critical mass for that team after several years of questionable personnel decisions by GM Marty Hurney. There's a talented young defense there, but much needs to be done on the offensive side of the ball. Don't expect a big name for this rebuild; maybe a Russ Grimm/Hue Jackson or a retread head coach like Jim Mora who will put up with the long-term issues in order to make a move uphill or get back in the league.
Denver Broncos: The San Francisco 49ers are the main name in the Jim Harbaugh derby, but you'd certainly have to think that the move to make John Elway the team's new vice president of football operations is a good Stanford-to-Stanford lead if the Broncos want Harbaugh in Denver. There is a question as to whether the team would spend the money required to get Harbaugh in the fold, but that could be the case in San Francisco as well. Denver has the more transparent front office structure, which would be appealing for a new coach who can leverage a certain amount of organizational control. If that doesn't go, look for a college guy with experience in the power-spread offense that Tim Tebow(notes) ran at Florida.
Oakland Raiders: Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times believes that Tom Cable is out, which would be completely insane ... and thus, a near-certainty for this "interesting" franchise. Is Cable getting too big for his britches after turning the Raiders around and bringing them back to respectability? In any case, with Sparano and Cable possibly out of the picture, other teams could have some great opportunities to fill needs at the offensive line coach or offensive coordinator position. Who would Al Davis replace Cable with? Who knows? It could be quarterback guru Hue Jackson (as Farmer suggests), or an assistant looking for a first-time head-coaching gig like Perry Fewell or Pat Shurmur, or Fake Jon Gruden (he'd get my vote), or a life-size cardboard standup of John Madden, or a statue of Tom Flores made entirely of cheese.
With Big Al, anything is possible.
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