Coaches on the hot seat
COACHES ON THE HOT SEAT 1. Mike Tice / Minnesota Vikings There hasn't been a coach that's more on the hot seat than Tice since … well Tice last season. The much-maligned coach might have saved his job with a quality road win in the playoffs at Green Bay last year. The expectations for this Minnesota team, even without star receiver Randy Moss, were very high this season. Some close to the team say that Tice didn't work the team as hard in this past training camp than in previous summers, rather choosing to make sure the team stayed healthy to start the season. The poor 1-3 start certainly raises more than an eye on their situation, and when you consider they have a new stadium on the horizon and new ownership, it makes coaching on a one-year deal that more tenuous. While many see Tice being replaced before the season ends, the only viable candidate to replace him currently on the coaching staff is defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who those close to the team say the players would back if such a move were to be made. Cottrell was one of the three "finalists" interviewed with the 49ers for their head coaching vacancy after Steve Mariucci was fired after the 2002 season. 2. Dom Capers / Houston Texans He's on the hot seat obviously because the expectations for this team are much higher in the fourth season for the franchise. Capers, obviously knowing he's in a tight spot, already fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. This move speaks of a desperate attempt to not only salvage the season but to put the blame on someone else. The fact is, the team that general manager Charley Casserly has put together isn't as good as he or anyone has expected thus far and by the looks of things, it likely won't get that much better. Casserly made a dreadful mistake of trading for underachieving cornerback Phillip Buchanon, who has been replaced as a starter by Demarcus Faggins, who has no business starting for any team. A league personnel evaluation pointed out that it's one thing to give up a conditional draft pick which could escalate depending on playing time, which would have been the smart thing. This would have protected the club should Buchanon turn out to be a disappointment. To give up two first-day picks (second- and third-round selections) for an overrated and unproven player like Buchanon was foolhardy. 3. Norv Turner / Oakland Raiders Like the other teams listed above, the expectations for the Raiders were much higher this season because of their draft and free-agent moves. The team, while showing marginal improvement, is still 1-3 so far in 2005 and those who have examined their personnel say don't expect much better results the rest of the way. When you look at the other teams in that AFC West, there isn't a feeling that Oakland can compete with any of them over the long haul. While he's only in his third season, it will be hard for Turner to come back for a fourth season in 2006 unless the team makes a hard run at a wild card, and from the looks of things, that's probably going to be a chore. 4. Mike Holmgren / Seattle Seahawks Holmgren was stripped of his general manager role a few years ago. While no one can question that he's a good coach, the fact of the matter is his teams have underachieved, especially in recent seasons. After losing to the Rams early last season after a great start, Seattle hasn't been the same. So much so that the Seahawks made a lot of changes on defense with seven new starters on that side of the ball. Even with an improved run defense, they still lack enough quality playmakers overall, which is why they're likely to be mired in mediocrity despite a solid offense. It should be noted that the NFC West looks to be one of the worst divisions so it's possible that they hang around to the end, but if 8-8 or 9-7 isn't good enough for new general manager Tim Ruskell, Holmgren will be looking for a new job in 2006. 5. Jim Haslett / New Orleans Saints It seemed that he got off the hot seat last year when general manager Mickey Loomis and Haslett ironed out their differences. However, Haslett hasn't gotten a contract extension yet like he's been looking for. Both sides had extensive talks before training camp started but never reached an agreement on a new deal. The team looks just as bad as it did last year, and though they're 2-2 so far, no one around the league believes this team is playoff caliber. You don't have to look far to find out their problems reside mostly on the defensive side of the ball. It has gotten so bad that the coaches are rotating backups in at linebacker because of poor tackling by the starters. With little help left on the horizon, it's hard to imagine that Haslett will get an extension, meaning he'll likely be looking for another job next season. POTENTIAL HEAD COACHES 1. Jim Fassel / Offensive Coordinator / Baltimore Ravens He accepted the offensive coordinator position with the team after being a consultant last season. Fassel believes that if he can get their offense back on track that it will help his stock around the league. So far, it hasn't happened, but the talent at receiver is much better this season. His real chore will be to get third-year QB Kyle Boller to raise his play to an acceptable level. Fassel's offenses with the Giants struggled in the red zone in his last few years there so some around the league are still wondering how he'll be able to solve that problem with another team. The bottom line is that he was very successful at one time with the Giants and took them to a Super Bowl so that cache will still hold a lot of weight with prospective employers. Many have speculated that once Tice is either fired or doesn't have his contract renewed that Fassel will get serious consideration due to new owner Zygi Wilf being a Giants fan for a long time before taking over the Vikings. Wilf was also said to be at the 2000 NFC Championship game, where the Giants won decisively over the Vikings. 2. Brad Childress / Offensive Coordinator / Philadelphia Eagles He interviewed for the Cleveland head coach opening earlier this year and is known as one of the better offensive game planners around the league. Most league insiders believe he'll be on the short list of many teams' lists for vacant openings early next year. 3. Russ Grimm / Offensive Line Coach / Pittsburgh Steelers He was given the title of assistant head coach last year in addition to coaching the offensive line and Grimm is very well thought of around the league. The Hall of Fame finalist interviewed for the Cleveland head-coaching job earlier this year. Grimm is a disciplinarian who should get a realistic chance at a vacant job next season. 4. Gregg Williams / Assistant Head Coach-Defense / Washington Redskins No one can deny that he's a great defensive mind. Williams has essentially put together one of the league's best defenses with mediocre personnel. No matter what injuries they have on defense, Williams has been able to figure out a way to control opposing offenses. A true testament to Washington's 3-0 start is the Redskins' defense, which keeps the team in every game no matter who the opponent is. Williams didn't do a great job in his first go-around as a head coach but neither did Bill Belichick. Look for Williams to get more than one interview for a head coaching job next season. 5. Gary Kubiak / Offensive Coordinator / Denver Broncos He has turned down more than one chance to be a head coach. Kubiak has done a good job of learning the West Coast offense from head coach Mike Shanahan over the years and most around the league believe he's more than ready to be a head man if he wants a top job. 6. Jim Schwartz / Defensive Coordinator / Tennessee Titans Schwartz was one of the five candidates who interviewed with the 49ers last year for the job that eventually went to Nolan. He's viewed by many around the league as one of the brightest young defensive minds. Schwartz is seen as a future head coach who should get at least a few interviews early next year. 7. Jerry Gray / Defensive Coordinator / Buffalo Bills The former NFL defensive back has been with the team for a while and has done a pretty good job of keeping the Bills' defense playing at a solid level. He'll be challenged this season due to the free agency defection to Minnesota of DT Pat Williams and the loss of WLB Takeo Spikes due to a season-ending injury. Many around the league believe he'll be a head coach in a few years. 8. Eric Mangini / Defensive Coordinator / New England Patriots He's the sexy name around the league but probably is at least a few years away from getting serious consideration for a head coach. Mangini is in his first year running the Patriots' defense, so he still has a lot to prove. But he did a solid job with their defensive backs before the promotion earlier this year. 9. Al Saunders / Offensive Coordinator / Kansas City Most around the team believe that he'll replace head coach Dick Vermeil as the next head man once Vermeil decides to retire. Saunders was a head coach once in his career with the Chargers for a brief time, but that was almost 20 years ago. He's known as one of the best offensive play-callers and has coached many key positions on offense and has coached under many of the league's best offensive minds over the years. It wouldn't surprise anyone if Saunders gets the call to take over the team once Vermeil calls it quits.
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