NFL Coaches On The Hot Seat

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Which NFL head coaches won't make it to Week 17 of the 2011 season?

Which NFL head coaches won't make it to Week 17 of the 2011 season?

- by Ralph Vacchiano

The usual suspects are all lurking out there for anyone tempted to make a switch. Bill Cowher is always rumored to be on the verge of returning to coaching, even though he seems comfortable in the CBS studio. So is Jon Gruden, despite looking cozy in the ESPN Monday Night Football booth.

Maybe they aren’t realistic options until 2012. Still, they are incredibly tempting targets even this early in the season for teams already looking towards the future. And for some teams, they have to already be thinking about next season and the possibility of a coaching change.

In fact there are a few coaches whose seat is so hot right now, they’ll be lucky to make it all the way to Week 17 …

1.  Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins

The Dolphins are not only 0-4, but they’ve now lost QB Chad Henne (shoulder) for the season and Sparano hasn’t had any luck figuring out how to get production out of their big offseason acquisition – RB Reggie Bush. Speaking of luck, they sure do look like the early favorites in the race for QB Andrew Luck and the first pick of the 2012 draft. Considering ownership nearly replaced Sparano last year, his tenure might be reduced to a matter of days.

How hot is his seat: Red. Fire-engine red. Red-hot chili peppers red.

Names to watch in the future: It’s a good bet they’ll want to make a big splash and if they get Luck they might have their pick of top college coaches to lure South … that’s if they can’t land one of the two biggest fishes in the sea, of course. Could be a very interesting spot for Cowher or Gruden. There will be a lot of money here.

2. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams

Things looked so promising when his team went 7-9 last year and nearly won the weak NFC West. But now, even though the division still stinks, his Rams are all-but out of it at 0-4. He has been unable to get much out of his offense, despite the presence of promising young quarterback Sam Bradford. Much more damning is the fact is that he was billed as a defensive genius, yet the Rams’ defense is one of the worst in the league. Because of injuries and a frugal organization, he could be spared (he makes about $3 million per season). Then again, this is the third year of his four-year contract, so it wouldn’t cost a lot to make a change.

How hot is his seat: Redder than the face of his former boss, Tom Coughlin, when the temperature was minus-22 in the 2007 NFC championship game.

Names to watch in the future: Don’t expect the Rams to be players for a big name. They’ll go the unproven assistant route. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer might be a name to watch. He could be good to work with Bradford. Same goes for Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg. And, for that matter, the same goes for former Giants coach (and current UFL coach) Jim Fassel, who is hardly “unproven” but wouldn’t cost a ton either.

3. Jack DelRio, Jacksonville Jaguars

If the Jaguars weren’t so cheap, they probably would’ve pulled this trigger years ago. The move to get rid of QB David Garrard on the eve of the season probably sealed DelRio’s fate. Plus, they might need an offensive mind to work with their quarterback of the future, Blaine Gabbert

How hot is his seat: No hotter than usual, but it still has to hurt.

Names to watch in the future: Forget the big names, and think small salaries. Schottenheimer makes some sense, though they’re more likely to find a completely unknown name to pull out of thin air.

4. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs

They have been such an enormous disappointment coming off a 10-6 season. There is talent here, though, and a decent chance they’ll rebound to at least mediocrity. Already, though, in usually quiet Kansas City there’s been some murmuring about replacing Haley and maybe even GM Scott Pioli. The latter isn’t going to happen, and it’s a good bet that Pioli won’t pull the trigger on Haley either … unless this thing really gets a lot worse.

How hot is his seat: Uncomfortable, but not scalding … yet.

Names to watch in the future: You would think that if Pioli did ever pull the trigger he might want someone off the Bill Belichick coaching tree. Like Eric Mangini, maybe? It wouldn’t make sense, but for a not-so-successful coach he’s already had more lives than anyone thought he would. Better choices would be former Ravens coach Brian Billick or Fassel to take advantage of an offense loaded with talent.

5. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles

The natives were growing restless with Reid already, though he’s been one of the finest coaches in the NFL for more than a decade. There comes a point where everyone runs his course, though, and Reid might be reaching that point. The Dream Team has been a colossal disappointment so far, and if they go down in flames they both may decide to part ways. It’s a classic, be-careful-what-you-wish-for scenario for Eagles fans, but it might be closer to happening than it ever has been in the past.

How hot is his seat: Warm. But he can take the heat.

Names to watch in the future: If any job is going to coax Cowher or Gruden to come out of the TV studio, this is it. It’s a team loaded with talent and ready to win.

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