Handicapping NFL coaching changes, candidates

Could this NFL off-season boast the biggest raft of coaching changes?
In the win-now world of the NFL, even qualifying for the playoffs with a sub-.500 record could qualify for dismissal.

In the NFC, it there remains a good chance a team with a losing record will make the playoffs. The entire NFC East remains under water record—wise. Heck, the Cowboys, after beating Washington, are in the hunt for the division title at 4-8.

In the AFC South, the Titans and Colts fight for the division’s crown at 6-6.

Exactly half of the NFL – 16 teams – are under .500. And five more are playing level football at 6-6.
This doesn’t bode well for the current crop of head coaches, especially when a crop of interesting candidates could be on the market.

Anyone under .500 and that includes people with serious resumes like New Orlean’s head coach Sean Payton. New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin could be eyeing retirement, leaving a plum opening in the NFC, a division of confused and suffering teams ripe for the right coach/GM combo.

Coaching Changes Afoot

Dallas: Unless Jason Garrett can manufacture a miraculous stretch run in the final month of the season, you’ve got to figure Jerry Jones will seek a new pawn. Seriously, who would want to work for Jones? Sure, it’s “America’s Team,” but it’s clearly Jerry’s Team through and through.

Detroit: Jim Caldwell could be swept out as the Lions seek a new GM. He’s a good coach worthy of a mulligan after a solid 2014. But it’s best for teams to start completely fresh. Miami keeps making this mistake and it doesn’t work.

Miami: They need to sweep out their entire front office in an organizational overhaul, but it won’t happen. Most likely the GM and entire coaching staff will be re-set with Mike Tannenbaum picking a buddy. Perhaps Eric Mangini? See the Tweet about the Browns at the bottom of this story — same thing applies in Miami. Sorry Dolfans.

Philadelphia: Steven A Smith predicted on ESPN last Sunday that the Chip Kelly was all but closed in Philly. If the Eagles make the playoffs and win a round? Maybe not.

St. Louis: What exactly is Jeff Fisher doing with the Rams? They are in complete freefall. Will losing make it easier to move the team back to LA and more difficult to get a new stadium?
San Diego: The Chargers are a mess off and on the field. Will Mike McCoy survive? Will team move to LA? Uncertainty remains the only certainty.

Jacksonville: Does anyone care, really? If the Jags are ready to take the next step, it could be time to make a change on the sideline.

Cleveland: The “Factor of Sadness” successfully produced another poor season. Are more changes afoot despite having a rookie coach?

Who are the top candidates?

Sean Payton leads the head of the list. He’s a Super Bowl winner who gambled on Drew Bress’ repaired shoulder – showing he’s smarter than Nick Saban, who opted for Daunte Culpepper in Miami – and brought a winning culture to a losing franchise.

Todd Haley, Pittsburgh’s offensive coordinator might get a second chance after failing in Kansas City. Sometimes coaches perform after taking a step back from their first head coaching gig. Did he learn?

Hue Jackson, the man running Cincinnati’s top-ranked defense got a raw deal Oakland. Can he perform with a more stable franchise?

Josh McDaniels returned to New England after a failed and controversial period as Broncos head coach. He has Bill Belichick’s pedigree on his resume and that makes him instantly attractive. He might be a good gamble for the Dolphins. Will he dare to take on his mentor twice a year?

Eric Mangini currently serves as Niners defensive coordinator. Will he parlay his relationship with Miami’s Exec VP of Football Ops Mike Tannenbaum? God help the Dolphins if they go that route.

Sean McDermott, Carolina’s defensive mastermind will get a long look from teams with solid defenses.

NCAA Coaches: Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, UCLA’s Jim Mora, Jr., Stanford’s Dave Shaw and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin may end up with interviews or offers. Mora previously coached in Atlanta and owns the most NFL head coaching experience. But as we’ve seen in the past, some coaches are just better off recruiting and coaching kids over mercenary pros.

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