The Coaching Hot Seat

We've listed several hot coaching prospects in the past starting three years ago with Eric Mangini, Gary Kubiak, and Brad Childress through Tony Sparano mid-way through last season. We're taking a look at the head coaches who might be finding a place on the unemployment line early next month along with their potential replacements.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

Note: Interim head coaches were not included on this list

1) Rod Marinelli/Detroit Lions - It would seem like a fait accompli for the veteran coach since the team is on the verge of completing the league's first 0-16 regular season. Marinelli is known as a good teacher, but after some promising results in 2007, the team has lost 24 out of their last 25 games. While many say that former general manager Matt Millen is the one to blame for the team's struggles, Millen signed or drafted many players over the last three seasons because of Marinelli's suggestions. Some league sources say the players, for the most part, play hard for Marinelli which is why it's not a lock that he'll be fired. And if the organization doesn't look outside for a new general manager, the chances of Marinelli being retained could increase.

2) Romeo Crennel/Cleveland Browns - After completing a surprising 10-6 record in 2007, the team has fallen way back this season and were eliminated from the playoff picture several weeks ago. Crennel signed a two-year extension earlier this year which has him signed through 2011. Some say the team made a panic move since they signed offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski to an extension which would have put his contract a few years past Crennel's so the front office felt they would have been open to major scrutiny had they not extended Crennel's deal. Crennel has been under heavy fire for some questionable in-game decisions which some say helped contribute to some of the losses. But Crennel's biggest problem has been from the lack of development on the defensive side of the ball. The lack of progress from former first-round pick OLB Kamerion Wimbley since his outstanding rookie season in 2006 and lack of a pass rush has led to poor results defense again this season. The underachievement on defense clearly is why Crennel is on the hot seat.

3) Wade Phillips/Dallas Cowboys - Despite rumors to the contrary, owner/president/general manager Jerry Jones said recently that his staff will stay in place for another season. But league sources who know him well say Jones can be impetuous at times so Phillips, despite recent strong comments by Jones, isn't a lock to return. Phillips has been heavily criticized for the underachievement of the team in his two seasons as head coach. Many point to the inconsistency of the offense this season, but the finger probably should be pointed more toward assistant head coach/offensive coordinator Jason Garrett--Phillips' hand picked successor. And the defense came under heavy fire until Phillips got more involved around mid season. The bottom line is with all the money Jones has spent the two season on extensions and with acquisitions in free agency and the draft, much more has been expected from the team, but Phillips has yet to deliver big results.

4) Herman Edwards/Kansas City Chiefs - In his first season with the Chiefs, Edwards took the team to the playoffs, but it's been downhill since then. In the last two seasons, he's compiled a 6-25 record. The decision was made after last season to completely rebuild and while the team has added some good young talent, they seem to be a long way from being consistently competitive. Edwards' biggest supporter, general manager Carl Peterson, resigned recently. And as is the case with many teams, the general manager is tied to the head coach so it's possible that the new general manager may decide to bring in his own coach.

5) Marvin Lewis/Cincinnati Bengals - As noted back in February at the NFL combine, team sources said that no matter what, Lewis would return in 2009 as the head coach. His detractors say Lewis hasn't had a winning record since the 2005 season, but many note that the lack of a true front office has hurt the progress of the team. Team owner/president Mike Brown has final say on all personnel decisions and Cincinnati is the only NFL team without a true general manager or scouting director. This is the reason why several sources say that Cincinnati is unable to make consistent progress on both sides of the ball--the personnel just isn't good enough.

6) Norv Turner/San Diego Chargers - San Diego has been one of the league's biggest disappointments this season. Yet they have a chance to win their division if they beat the Denver Broncos. But even if they do win, they'll finish with just an 8-8 record, a far cry from last year's performance from being one game away from the Super Bowl. Many around the league say Turner is a much better offensive coordinator than a head coach. He's had tremendous success developing quarterbacks over the years, but Turner's record as a head coach is well less than .500 (76-95-1 coming into Sunday night's game). Management said recently that no matter what happens, Turner will return next season as their head coach. But it should be pointed out that Marty Schottenheimer was given a similar vote of confidence, then not too long after that, he was fired.

7) Dick Jauron/Buffalo Bills - After a 5-1 start, the team has been in a tailspin and might not finish with a .500 record. Jauron reportedly agreed to a three-year extension much earlier in the season, but the team has yet to confirm that agreement. His detractors point to several blown leads since he took over the head coaching job in 2006, but the players play hard for him. The major problem has been getting consistency out of the quarterback position. Problems on defense have come from the lack of a consistent pass rush the last two seasons, but many point to the injuries on the defensive line for that area.

8) Brad Childress/Minnesota Vikings - While the team has shown some improvement in his third season as head coach, Childress might not be back next season if the team loses on Sunday to the New York Giants and the miss the playoffs. Minnesota, even if they lose, could still win their division if the Chicago Bears lose to the Houston Texans. Childress has come under fire for the lack of consistency from the offense and the quarterback position. Tarvaris Jackson, who the team traded up for in the 2006 draft, has not developed as rapidly has the team would have liked and that was a player Childress wanted to be their quarterback of the future. While Jackson hasn't really proven much yet, the team did get a gem out of that draft with first-round pick Adrian Peterson, who might just be the league's best running back. Childress also targeted Visanthe Shiancoe during free agency in 2007. Although Shiancoe looked like a bust last season, the tight end really has come on in 2008 and is starting to look worth the money they gave him. So while Childress is starting to develop the offense, the quarterback position is the one that could bring him down in the end.

9) Andy Reid/Philadelphia Eagles - While league sources don't believe his job is in jeopardy, it's not a certainty that Reid will be back with the team in 2009 for a few big reasons. As sources have explained, if Reid is insistent on bringing back Donovan McNabb next season, the team would owe the quarterback $9.2 million in base salary. McNabb, who turns 33 next season, is signed through 2013. Philadelphia would save about $8 million in salary cap space by releasing him. While Reid has final say on personnel decisions, sources wonder what would happen if team president Joe Banner and owner Jeffrey Lurie want Kevin Kolb to take over the quarterback job next season and Reid disagrees with the move. Kolb will enter the third year of his four-year rookie deal in 2009. Some have suggested that Reid should give up his role executive vice president/football operations role so he can concentrate more on coaching. However, general manager Tom Heckert essentially handles the day-to-day football operations for Reid.

Assistant Coaches Who Should Garner Attention

1) Steve Spagnuolo/Defensive Coordinator/New York Giants - He went from being a position coach two years ago with the Philadelphia Eagles to running the defense for the New York Giants last season and became the league's hottest head coaching prospect. Spagnuolo is essentially running the same defensive scheme which Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson uses. That scheme is blitz heavy and puts a ton of pressure on opposing offenses. Because of the significant improvement New York's defense made during the 2007 season and being that the team won the Super Bowl, Spagnuolo got big recognition for the team's success. And that success carried over to this season, which is why he'll be one of the top candidates again to be a head coach in 2009.

2) Rex Ryan/Assistant Head Coach-Defensive Coordinator/Baltimore Ravens - Ryan is seen as one of the best defensive minds in the league and is known was one of the league's most innovative coaches from the defensive side of the ball. He's known for using odd-man defensive fronts and often uses deception to confuse offenses. He interviewed for the Ravens head coaching job after Brian Billick was fired after the 2007 season. Ryan also interviewed for the top jobs with the Atlanta Falcons and Miami Dolphins earlier this year before they were eventually filled. League sources who know him well say Ryan lost a significant amount of weight to give a better impression in interviews.

3) Jim Schwartz/Defensive Coordinator/Tennessee Titans - The veteran defensive coach has been in this space many times and had interviews in previous seasons for head coaching vacancies with the Atlanta Falcons, Miami Dolphins, San Francisco 49ers, and Washington Redskins. Many around the league believe he'll get his shot at a vacancy in 2009. Schwartz's philosophy has been pretty apparent over the years since taking over as Tennessee's defensive coordinator back in 2001. He's known for being aggressive and team's generally have a tough time scoring against his defense. And Tennessee has historically been one of the best defenses against the run since he took over calling the plays on that side of the ball. Over the years, players in Tennessee's front seven such as DE Kyle Vanden Bosch, DT Albert Hayesworth, and WLB Keith Bulluck have flourished under Schwartz. And CB Cortland Finnegan has emerged as one of the league's best young defensive backs.

4) Russ Grimm/Assistant Head Coach-Offensive Line Coach/Arizona Cardinals - Grimm is known as one of the league's best offensive line coaches and has done a really good job upgrading one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL in his two seasons with the team. The veteran coach was a finalist for the Pittsburgh Steelers head coaching job that eventually went to Mike Tomlin and came close to getting the Chicago Bears head coaching job back in 2004. If there's a knock on Grimm, it could be that he's an offensive line coach. There's a thought around the league by some that offensive line coaches don't make good head coaches, yet Grimm has been part of coaching staffs who have put together some very solid offenses with the Steelers and Cardinals.

5) Hue Jackson/Quarterbacks Coach/Baltimore Ravens - Jackson is known as one of the league's best receiver coaches and also has done a nice job of developing quarterbacks. Jackson did an outstanding job of developing the receivers (Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh in particular) in his time with the Cincinnati Bengals (2004-2006). He spent one season as the Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator (2007) and called the plays for the Washington Redskins (2003). Those close to the situation in Baltimore say Jackson has been instrumental in the development of rookie QB Joe Flacco, who is putting together a fine season. Jackson also did a good job last season when he helped revive the career of QB Chris Redman, who had been out of the league for three seasons.

6) Todd Haley/Offensive Coordinator/Arizona Cardinals - Todd Haley is the son of Dick Haley, a long-time personnel man in the NFL. The younger Haley coached the receivers for the New York Jets, Chicago Bears, and Dallas Cowboys since his start in the league back in 1995. He's run the Cardinals offense the last two seasons. He's known as a fiery coach who is not afraid to get in the face of his players. Haley has been largely credited for the development of veteran WR Marty Booker who made the Pro Bowl back in 2002.  Those who know him well say he wants to be a head coach some day and that certainly could happen based on the productivity of Arizona's offense the last two seasons.

7) Raheem Morris/Defensive Backs Coach/Tampa Bay Buccaneers - The 32-year old  (turns 33 in September) defensive backs coach was just promoted to defensive coordinator for the 2009 season. Morris is well-versed in Tampa Bay's cover-2 defensive scheme and is known as a really good teacher and for his excellent motivational skills. Because of his age, team sources say he relates to the players quite well and they play hard for him. Age doesn't seem to be a big issue these days based on the head coaching hires over the past few seasons with the likes of Lane Kiffin, Mike Tomlin, and Eric Mangini. As a league source points out, Bill Cowher was just 35 years old when he was named as the Pittsburgh Steelers head coach.

8) Leslie Frazier/Assistant Head Coach-Defensive Coordinator/Minnesota Vikings - Frazier is in his second season Minnesota's defensive coordinator. The soft-spoken veteran coach did an outstanding job coaching the defensive backs for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2002. Several former members of the secondary who played for Frazier back then speak highly of him. He then moved on as Cincinnati's defensive coordinator for two seasons (2003-2004) where league sources said he was surprisingly let go after just two seasons. Sources said head coach Marvin Lewis was looking for a more fiery coach to handle his defense. Frazier coached the defensive backs again with the Indianapolis Colts the next two seasons and then got another chance to run a defense, this time with the Minnesota Vikings. Frazier is a well-respected coach who known who stresses fundamentals and discipline. He had an interview with the Atlanta Falcons for their formally vacant head coaching job earlier this year (eventually went to Mike Smith). Frazier, like Indianapolis head coach Tony Dungy, has proven you don't have to be a screamer to get your point across.

9) Josh McDaniels/Quarterbacks Coach-Offensive Coordinator/New England Patriots - While he turns just 33 this April, McDaniels has worked for the Patriots for eight seasons and he's worked his way up the ladder. After working in the scouting department early in his career, McDaniels has been coaching the quarterbacks since 2004 and has been the team's offensive coordinator since 2006. A former NFL player who was coached by McDaniels told that the young coach was probably one of the sharpest offensive minds he's seen and felt McDaniels would be an excellent head coach some day. McDaniels called the plays in QB Tom Brady's record-setting season in 2007 and has done a nice job of bringing along Brady's replacement, Matt Cassell, this season. McDaniels spurned interviews last year for vacant head coaching jobs because he felt he wasn't ready to handle that role.

Former Head Coaches Who Might Get Another Shot

1) Mike Martz/Offensive Coordinator/San Francisco 49ers - Martz enjoyed pretty good success as the head man with the St. Louis Rams 2000-2005, but squabbles with the front office were seen as a big reason why the team ended his tenure there. Martz is known as one of the best designers of offense in the league and is one of the best play callers around. He was credited largely for the success of the Ram offense during their record setting season back in 1999. Despite his willingness to adopt interim head coach Mike Singletary's power-rushing philosophy, Martz is expected to be let go after the season ends. It's believed Martz wants to be a head coach again and might get that chance since NFL owners love offense. But he'll need a strong personnel man who has final say on personnel decisions since Martz isn't known as the best talent evaluator in the world.

2) Kevin Gilbride/Offensive Coordinator/New York Giants - At first glance, the thought of Gilbride becoming a head coach again might be a surprise. He had one stint as a head coach with the San Diego Chargers (1997-1998), but the journeyman coach struggled to find success. According to a league source, things got so bad there that some of the players complained that the offensive scheme was so difficult to learn that they started to draw up plays on their own to run. Gilbride did have varied success as an offensive coordinator with the Houston Oilers, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Buffalo Bills. However, as the source points out, his pass happy ways got him a ticket out of two after just two seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers (1999-2000). But Gilbride has enjoyed tremendous success last season calling the plays for the New York Giants and along with quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer, Eli Manning blossomed into one of the league's best young passers. Gilbride's willingness to accept head coach Tom Coughlin's power rushing philosophy might show potential employers that he's able to adjust his pass-first mentality.

3) Jim Fassel - Those who know him well told that he's "itching" to coach again, but the veteran coach was fired as Baltimore's offensive coordinator after the 2006 season. Fassel was thought to be a finalist for the Washington Redskins top job which eventually went to Jim Zorn. Fassel, who is known as a solid quarterbacks coach, could draw interest from the Oakland Raiders who could be looking for a head coach who can help JaMarcus Russell progress in his career.

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