2 coaches out, who is next?
The fallout for NFL coaches only began with the recent firings of Wade Phillips in Dallas and Brad Childress in Minnesota.
Next in line? There are plenty of candidates, although surprisingly strong performances this season by Jacksonville (Jack Del Rio), Chicago (Lovie Smith) and Oakland (Tom Cable) seem to have secured their coaches' positions.
Not so in Carolina, San Francisco, Cincinnati, Houston, Denver and possibly Cleveland or - get this - Tennessee. Meanwhile, a continued resurgence in Dallas should get the interim tag removed from Jason Garrett. Leslie Frazier, one of the league's hottest prospects the last few years, will get every chance to earn the permanent spot in Minnesota.
As for the others:
CAROLINA - John Fox has been a lame duck since the end of last season, with virtually no chance of retaining his job outside of a surge in the standings. Instead, the Panthers have plummeted to the NFL's worst record with the worst offense and a minus-10 turnover differential.
Injuries have played a part, but except at running back and in the secondary, this team wasn't particularly talented before its depth was tested. Fox will get hired quickly in January, likely as a defensive coordinator but possibly as a head coach.
SAN FRANCISCO - What we have here is a failure to communicate. The 49ers, preseason favorites in the NFC West, have been dragged down as much by unclear instructions and muddled messages from the coaching staff as they have by poor play. It was an issue last season and is again this year, which bodes poorly for Mike Singletary.
Just as bad is the lack of progress by some of San Francisco's younger players, even though the 49ers have drafted relatively high for years.
CINCINNATI - Does Marvin Lewis seem like he wants out of Cincinnati? He turned down a contract extension last season, while the Bengals were winning the AFC North and going 6-0 in the division. Lewis has insisted the franchise needs to get up to speed with the competition in a variety of areas, including practice facilities and scouting.
Another guy who won't be out of work long, Lewis can look forward to fewer headaches without his diva receivers wherever he lands. Remember, too, should Lewis not land a head coaching gig, this is one of the best defensive coordinators around.
HOUSTON - Gary Kubiak did take a contract extension through 2012 after last season, Houston's first with a winning record. Expectations were for much more this year, including the first playoff berth in franchise history. But the Texans are awful on defense since linebacker and leader DeMeco Ryans was injured, and can't hold leads. Even if Kubiak survives, he'll have to make changes to his staff.
Perhaps most damaging for Kubiak is that the AFC South is wide open this year, yet the Texans seem destined not to be involved in the race after losing four straight and five of six.
DENVER - Another team plagued by a pitiful defense - the Broncos are tied with Houston for most points allowed in the AFC, 287; Denver has scored 217. The running game is abysmal, ranked at the bottom despite a decent offensive line.
Since starting out 6-0 in his debut season as a head coach, Josh McDaniels has gone 5-15. Some of Denver's losses are downright embarrassing, and McDaniels tends to overcoach his team.
CLEVELAND - The Browns have made progress in Mike Holmgren's short time as team president. Holmgren even has gotten coach Eric Mangini to lighten up a bit, something more difficult than competing in the tough AFC North with Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
Injuries have damaged Cleveland's chances, but also given youngsters such as Colt McCoy, Peyton Hillis and Marcus Benard a chance to prove themselves. They are doing so, meaning Mangini might survive another 5-11 record.
Still, there is the lingering feeling that Holmgren would like to get back on the sideline. If so, Mangini's reign could be short-lived.
TENNESSEE - The wild card on the coaching carousel, Jeff Fisher's time in Music City could end if owner Bud Adams sides with Vince Young rather than the man who has coached his franchise since 1994, the longest current tenure in the NFL. Fisher doesn't need the ongoing soap opera surrounding Young, and if Adams continues to back the quarterback he insisted the Titans draft in 2004, Fisher might walk.
And get hired in one of the above spots within hours.