Whose Seat is Hottest?

There were only three new head coaching opportunities in this offseason, which is an awfully low number which can be partially explained due to the 11 coaching changes following the 2008 season. We are likely to see a few more new coaches in NFL towns after this year, and to help find out where these openings will be we are going to rank which seats are the hottest during the 2010 campaign.

Win or Else

1. Eric Mangini, Cleveland Browns- Eric Mangini's job was spared due in part to a four-game winning streak by the Browns to finish the season. Mangini lucked out when the Cleveland hired former Packers and Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren to run their football operations, and Holmgren being a former head coach took pity upon Mangini and is giving him one more year to turn a stale franchise around. Mangini is going to have to see his Browns take major steps forward in a very tough division if he's going to be able to sport his Browns polo shirt on the sidelines in 2011.

2. Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders- It's unclear how Tom Cable got his job with as the Raiders head coach, and it's likely that he retained his job due to no interest from any other qualified candidates. The Raiders have been the poster children for all dysfunctional franchises and situations in general, and Cable's future in Oakland (or anyone's really) is tenuous at best. Tom Cable has a pretty talented team around him, but he won't see the experiment through unless the Raiders compete for a playoff spot.

3. John Fox, Carolina Panthers- It's rare that there's a true "lame duck" head coach in the NFL and John Fox is just that as he is entering the final year of his deal. Fox is entering his eighth season as the Panthers head coach and his teams have never made consecutive postseason appearances. The good news is that the Panthers went 8-8 and didn't qualify for the playoffs last year. The bad news is that Fox's job will likely depend on the effectiveness of either quarterback Matt Moore, who's started just eight career games or second-round draft pick Jimmy Clausen.

4. Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars- When the Jaguars head coach cut former first-round pick Byron Leftwich in 2007 in place of backup David Garrard, it appeared to be somewhat of a "Hail Mary." Three years later, it seems as if Del Rio sold his soul to the devil. Following a surprising 2007 season that resulted in the team's first playoff victory in eight years, Garrard returned to the form that made him a career backup and the team has won just 12 games since committing to nearly $90 million in contracts between the head coach and quarterback. It appears as if Del Rio's job is once again married to his mediocre quarterback unless he finds another "Hail Mary" with backup Luke McCown.

5. Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans- On paper, the Texans are one of the most talented teams in the NFL and have been for the last year or two. Unfortunately, the franchise is still searching for their first playoff appearance and if it doesn't happen in 2010 Kubiak will likely be shown the door. Houston has dropped far too many close games over the past two seasons to blame it on anything but their leadership.

Must Show Improvement

6. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Raheem Morris didn't have much of a chance last season with the deserted roster that he was handed. Questions about his job credentials were immediate and those questions were proven to be founded as his team looked unprepared at times and Morris appeared to be over his head. Morris must show legitimate improvement in his second season or else the Bucs may look for a new captain.

7. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams- Steve Spagnuolo's St. Louis Rams were clearly the worst team in football a year ago as referenced by their lone victory. This year, the Rams don't look much better on paper and they likely won't be anywhere near .500. Less than a handful of victories in two seasons with one of the easiest schedules in the league could have the Rams looking in a different direction.

8. Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears- Lovie Smith probably isn't the biggest problem with the Chicago Bears, but since the team's Super Bowl run in 2006, the Bears have been frighteningly mediocre, posting a 23-25 record with no postseason appearances. Smith's Bears appear better on paper, but they have a "Murderer's Row" type of schedule and Smith may be in a "postseason or find work elsewhere" type of scenario.

9. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants- This season could test the exact amount of equity that a Super Bowl title will buy you. Tom Coughlin was on the verge of being run out of town in 2007 before the semi-miraculous turnaround which climaxed with one of the greatest upsets in the history of sports. The Giants haven't won a playoff game since and fell flat on their collective faces last year following a 5-0 start. Tom Coughlin is a solid coach, but another non-playoff season could cost him his job, especially with Bill Cowher lurking.


10. Todd Haley, Kansas City Chiefs- A once proud franchise has toiled in mediocrity, and in Todd Haley's first season his offense finished 25th in the NFL, a far cry from what he did while he was the offensive coordinator in Arizona (amazing what a difference Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald are over Matt Cassel and Dewayne Bowe). With a fairly easy schedule and a very weak division, the Chiefs need to show legitimate improvement or else Todd Haley could be looking for employment in January.

11. Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans- How can the longest-tenured coach in the NFL potentially be on the hot seat? Perhaps the message that Jeff Fisher has been sending for nearly 16 years is no longer getting through? Jeff Fisher didn't want to play Vince Young last season until he was virtually forced to by owner Bud Adams after an 0-6 start. Young made his head coach's decision look erroneous as he played well during the team's 8-2 finish. Ironically, if Young struggles this season, it could cost the guy who didn't believe in him his job.

12. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions- It appears as if the Lions are headed in the right direction, but with their formidable schedule it will may be difficult to see results on Sundays. Professional sports is a results oriented business and the fact is the Lions won just two games last season and may not finish much better in 2010.

Should Be Safe...

13. Wade Phillips, Dallas Cowboys- Wade Phillips' seat cooled off quite a bit last season with the Cowboys blowout victory over the Philadelphia Eagles in the first round of the playoffs. So much so that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones granted him a two-year contract extension. Still, in the mind of Jones, there is plenty of unfinished business left as the Cowboys could be the most talented team in the NFC.

14. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers- The San Diego Chargers have been the perennial AFC bridesmaids as they have been in the playoffs four consecutive years and have no titles to show for it. The reason the job was available for Norv Turner following the 2006 season was due to Marty Schottenheimer not being able to get the team over the hump and his arduous relationship with general manager A.J. Smith. Norv Turner took a double-digit favorite last January after a bye and lost to a New York Jets team that was pretty much one-dimensional. Norv was somehow rewarded with a new contract, but if the Chargers collapse in a division in which they're clearly the most talented team, Turner's seat could become extremely warm.

15. Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals- Whenever it seems like Marvin Lewis needs a good season to save his job he gets one out of his team. Last year was that season as the Bengals hung on to capture their second AFC North title under Lewis. The bad news is that Lewis has as many playoff victories as I do, and one good regular season out of four may soon grow tired with the Brown family.

16. Bill Belichick, New England Patriots- How can "the genius" be at the middle of the pack as far as job security? Belichick's Patriots have seemed to take a downward spiral since their Super Bowl loss to the Giants and much of that can be attributed to their hard-lined stance on veteran stars looking for contracts and poor drafting. Something that Bill Belichick is directly responsible for. When you take into account has lack of recent "genius" moves and the embarrassment he cost the Patriots organization with "Spygate", the thoughts of Bob Kraft moving in a different direction if New England doesn't make the playoffs doesn't seem quite so far-fetched.

17. Josh McDaniels, Denver Broncos- Josh McDaniels has been doing things his own way since he arrived in Denver prior to last season, and his first major move was to trade away Pro Bowl quarterback Jay Cutler. Cutler's poor season in Chicago made McDaniels look more legitimate and less crazy, so in this year's experiment he decided to trade away his other offensive star in Brandon Marshall. Expectations are tempered for McDaniels Broncos this year with first-round pick Tim Tebow waiting in the wings, but if he doesn't pan out it will cost McDaniels his job.

No Worries

18. Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers- Mike McCarthy has an elite quarterback and what could be a championship caliber team. With increased talent comes increased expectations and the logical step for McCarthy and the Packers is to advance in the playoffs this year.

19. Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals- Ken Whisenhunt has some "Championship Equity" left over from 2008's Super Bowl appearance and he may need to cash some of that in this year as his team lost Kurt Warner, Karlos Dansby, Antrell Rolle and Anquan Boldin in the offseason. If Matt Leinart doesn't play up to his draft status, it could be a tough year for the Cards.

20. Rex Ryan, New York Jets- Rex Ryan is loud, sometimes obnoxious and always confident. For those reasons, his players love playing for him and many players around the league want to play for him. The results on the field were nothing short of fantastic as he navigated his team with his rookie quarterback to the AFC title game a year ago.

21. Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles- Andy Reid would have been higher on this list if not for a contract extension he signed late last season. Reid's Eagles will likely take a step back as they transition from the Donovan McNabb era to the Kevin Kolb era.

22. Brad Childress, Minnesota Vikings- Brad Childress potentially sold his soul to the devil (the devil being Brett Favre) to get some wins and a new contract at the expense of team unity. It worked, and Childress will have to play Favre's training camp avoidance game yet again this season.

23. Mike Singletary, San Francisco 49ers- The start of Singletary's head coaching career was ominous as he had the now infamous halftime pants-dropping incident following a tirade as he dressed down one of the team's best players in Vernon Davis. Since then, Singletary has made plenty of solid moves and now his team is the favorite in the ultra-weak NFC West.

24. Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills- Gailey is taking over a potentially nightmarish situation in Buffalo, as he doesn't have much in the way of the quarterback position and his run defense finished 30th in the league in 2009. Bills owner Ralph Wilson should be aware that this is more than a one-year fix and Chan Gailey will likely be shown the patience that at least will get him one more shot in 2011.

25. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts- Jim Caldwell was handed the keys to a Ferrari and he drove it all the way to the Super Bowl, before blowing a tire in the fourth quarter. Caldwell takes over a team that is used to winning, and as long as the wheels don't fall off he will be around to coach again in 2011, possibly with a Super Bowl ring.

Only If They Leave

26. Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons- When the Falcons offered Mike Smith their head coaching job prior to the 2008 season, the franchise was in shambles with the dark cloud of the Michael Vick situation hanging overhead. All Smith has done is navigate this team to consecutive winning seasons for the first time in franchise history and the 2010 Falcons could be their best roster in franchise history.

27. Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks- Pete Carroll bolted USC just before the NCAA hammered the school with sanctions to become the "Czar" of the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle has plenty of rebuilding to do, but they had a solid draft and play in the weakest division in the league. Since Carroll has personnel control and a history coaching professionals (like Reggie Bush), he will have a few years to get the franchise headed back in the right direction.

28. Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins- How much of Miami's success has been due to the personnel decisions of Bill Parcells and how much is due to the coaching of Tony Sparano? Who cares? Sparano took over a 1-15 team two seasons ago and has won a division title and is ready to compete for another this year with a promising young quarterback. We believe Sparano will be in Miami as long as Parcells is.

29. Jim Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens- Since Jim Harbaugh took over for Brian Billick in Baltimore, the team has won playoff games in consecutive seasons for just the second time in franchise history. Harbaugh may have his best Ravens team yet in 2010 and the expectation is for another deep playoff run.

30. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins- The Redskins have toiled in mediocrity since the return of Joe Gibbs, posting just one playoff victory in the last 10 years. Dan Snyder has turned over the reigns to Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen, and we've already seen a shift in the team's usual spendthrift offseason philosophy. Shanahan has coached for 16 of the last 17 years and is ready after a one-year layoff to take over the Skins in what could be the swan song of his excellent coaching career.

31. Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints- A Super Bowl title buys you plenty of equity as a head coach. It purchases you even more if you took the historically defunct Saints to the apex and that's exactly what Sean Payton did. The city of New Orleans is still partying, and it's possible that he and quarterback Drew Brees will have streets and babies named after them.

32. Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers- The Pittsburgh Steelers have had just three coaches in the last 40 years and it doesn't appear as if that number will grow to four anytime soon. Tomlin hasn't experienced a losing season in his three-year tenure in Pittsburgh which includes a Super Bowl title. Tomlin was recently granted a contract extension that should keep him in Pittsburgh through the 2014 season.

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