The NFL's coaching purge isn't over. Here's who might be next.

Some would have you believe that the NFL's annual coaching purge is almost over, and that the billionaires who have already fired their head guys are nearly the only ones truly disgruntled enough to make major changes.

But good luck finding football people who are buying that.

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In a season in which so few teams appeared truly great, and with so much opportunity for flawed clubs to reach the playoffs - or even win a division - don't think for a moment that another wave of firings isn't imminent, beginning next Monday. In a copycat league, having three head coaches already dismissed - and a handful of coordinators as well - sets a precedent. And executives around the league I've chatted with believe at least three more head coaches will be let go, and possibly even more, pending Week 18 results.

Regardless, plenty of owners continue to confab with their minions, debating the fate of some of their highest-paid employees as the cold, harsh truth about another year with no Super Bowl hope and no playoff gates - and, gulp, probably no ticket-price hikes, either - takes hold. Someone must pay. Most often, that's the head coach.

"I see seven" coaching changes, predicted one general manager after doing some legwork on the upcoming changes with hopes of filling some spots on his staff. (He spoke on the condition of anonymity to be frank about other franchises.) "Maybe eight, because there's always one nobody saw coming. We're not just talking two or three."

Another GM, also not allowed to publicly comment on job openings, said: "I'm thinking six or seven, depending on what happens in the playoffs. There could be a few that come after Black Monday."

Here's one way to classify the likely and potential openings.

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Starting Over

Atlanta Falcons

Anything short of a firing would be shocking. Owner Arthur Blank isn't a big fan of the work being done by Coach Arthur Smith, and plenty of people around Blank at the most recent league meetings came away thinking a coaching search was imminent. Smith's series of painful losses since then haven't helped, nor has the revolving door at quarterback. "I don't care what anybody writes, Arthur Smith isn't safe," the first GM said. "He's there for one more week." The other GM said: "They can't sell tickets, man. They have all these first-round picks on offense and they can't score. He has to make a change. You can't sell Arthur Smith anymore."


Carolina Panthers

Owner David Tepper will chase Lions offensive coordinator Ben Johnson again. Maybe he'll set a record for compensation for a first-time head coach. He outbid himself for the right to hire Matt Rhule, and that was an epic failure. What he will not be doing is hiring Jim Harbaugh. "No chance," the first GM said.


Los Angeles Chargers

There won't be a promotion for any interim coaches here. Brandon Staley's remaining staff members are all heading out. Finding the right coach to cull more wins out of quarterback Justin Herbert is the challenge. Johnson will have a lot of steam for this opening, and him sharing an agent with Staley shouldn't be an issue. Harbaugh badly wants this job, but so do a lot of people.


New England Patriots

This is over and has been since at least midseason. It still says here Bill Belichick will have a heck of a time landing a head coaching job in the NFL. The GMs and execs I speak with still don't see a fit for him anywhere as more than a vice president of football operations or some such title. Also, his departure opens up a general manager spot in New England and I continue to hear that Texans GM Nick Caserio would be open to a return to New England if such an arrangement could be worked out. "He'd go back there, trust me," one GM told me. Opinions vary as to whether owner Robert Kraft would consider promoting someone from Belichick's staff; if their mentor's options are indeed limited, then his assistants can't exactly leave with him. Expect to hear plenty more about Titans Coach Mike Vrabel and this opening.


Washington Commanders

Ron Rivera has known this was over for quite some time and so have many within that organization. The clock has been ticking on his tenure in Washington for months. Two GMs both told me they expect new owner Josh Harris to hire a GM before he hires a coach. There are rumblings about him looking up the road to the Ravens, whose head of scouting, Joe Hortiz, and defensive coordinator, Mike Macdonald, are very much "it" guys heading into the offseason. "I think [Harris] goes young, someone analytically inclined," said one longtime NFL executive, who is also not permitted to publicly speculate about front office hires. "It's not going to be a retread."

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In the balance

Chicago Bears

Matt Eberflus has rebounded nicely in the second half of this season and finally has a real defense. But that's not all that's being evaluated. Is his staff the right one to break in a new quarterback, with the Bears holding the first overall pick? That's the question. "I think [team president] Kevin Warren brings in his own guy," the first GM said. "Are you handing Caleb Williams to Eberflus and [offensive coordinator Luke] Getsy? After how it went with [former first-round pick Justin] Fields?" The second GM said: "They're taking a QB and starting over with him. They're going to have two top-10 picks. That's a very attractive job. I wouldn't be surprised if Kevin looked around." Former head coaches like Harbaugh and Leslie Frazier have strong Bears ties.


Las Vegas Raiders

Mark Davis should hire interim head coach Antonio Pierce full time. But no one I spoke to was totally convinced that's how this will go down. There's one more game - Sunday vs. the Denver Broncos - to evaluate the situation.


New Orleans Saints

They're stuck with middling QB Derek Carr for another year and won too many games to be in position to land one of the top three or four QBs in the draft. Which might save Coach Dennis Allen for another season. But I wouldn't call it a lock he returns. "I really think they'd hire Jon Gruden if the league would let them get away with it," the first GM said. "They already pissed [commissioner Roger] Goodell off by hiring him as a consultant."


Tampa Bay Buccaneers

If they manage to blow the NFC South title - and it would take losing to the two-win Panthers on Sunday to open that door - then anything short of a firing would be an upset. Ownership has been mulling potential options for weeks, with Todd Bowles not assured of another season. And even if they get in the playoffs, both GMs and the personnel executive I spoke with believe an ugly first-round exit could portend change. Quarterback Baker Mayfield is not a sure thing to return, either, especially if there is a GM change.

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Wait till the playoffs

Dallas Cowboys

Mike McCarthy's notorious game- and clock-management woes were overshadowed by another officiating scandal last week that gifted his team a win over the Detroit Lions. But the Cowboys still tend to come up small when it matters most, and with a division title theirs for the taking, they'd best back that up with a strong playoff showing. "If Mike [soils] the bed in the playoffs they'll just promote [defensive coordinator] Dan Quinn," the first GM said. "That could definitely happen." The personnel executive predicted that owner Jerry Jones "won't be cool with a one-and-done."

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Don't discount a trade

Tennessee Titans

I keep hearing that Vrabel and GM Ran Carthon are not a match. This looks like a rebuilding team, and Vrabel would have trade value. Rival officials believe the Bears and Patriots would both covet Vrabel. The Titans could turn to their former assistant, Arthur Smith (if he's out in Atlanta) and see if he can develop quarterback Will Levis. The Titans are 0-5 in the weak AFC South, 5-18 in their last 23 games and have gone 34 straight contests without scoring 30 points, the longest streak in the NFL and a franchise record. "I could see a trade," GM 1 said. The second GM said: "I know it's not good there between the coach and GM. I think something could happen."

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