The Coaching Hot Seat

Scout.com takes a second look at the coaches whose jobs could be in jeopardy this season and who the hot coaching names are that could eventually replace them. We review seven on the hot seat, leading off with Vikings coach Mike Tice, and 10 of the hottest prospects in the pro and college ranks.

Coaches on the Hot Seat

1. Mike Tice/Minnesota –
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.

The expectations for this 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 2-5 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 much more tenuous.

While many see Tice being replaced before the season ends, owner Zygi Wilf remains steadfast on Tice keeping the job through the end of the season. 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.

2. Dom Capers/Houston –
He's on the hot seat obviously because the expectations for this team are much higher in the fourth season for the franchise. Having a record of 1-6 won't help get that dreaded vote of confidence either. Capers, obviously knowing he's in a tight spot, already fired his offensive coordinator Chris Palmer. This moves 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 evaluator 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. Mike Martz/St. Louis –
At first glance, his excellent coaching record coming in to the season of 54-33 shouldn't put his job in jeopardy. However, a closer look at what has transpired since he took over the head job in 2000 could change the perception of him.

Martz inherited an excellent array of offensive personnel and since he was the team's offensive coordinator before he was named head coach, not much was going to change there. Many point to his unorthodox game-day coaching and his odd use of time outs as part of his downfall. Others point to not practicing his players hard enough during the week. Others will say he had a contentious relationship with the front office.

The bottom line is Martz is a bright offensive mind who might not be the best head coach in the world. Still, as the saying goes, offense sells tickets so he won't have a hard time getting a head-coaching job next year.

Possible landing spots would be Houston or Detroit if those jobs open up.

4. Norv Turner/Oakland –
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 they 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.

UPDATE 11/4: The team has shown improvement to a 3-4 record. Still, Turner may have to win at least eight games to come back for another season because of the higher expectations for the team.

5. Jim Haslett/New Orleans –
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 they've lost four in a row 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. And on offense, QB Aaron Brooks continues his regression instead of progressing.

Some around the league believe that Haslett could still come back for another season due to the devastation and tragedy that New Orleans has faced and the coaching staff has been displaced because of it. Still, the same problems that plagued the team last year are happening again. 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.

6. Brian Billick/Baltimore –
His coaching record is good but the expectations the last two seasons clearly haven't been met. Billick was widely looked at as a bright offensive mind when he came over from Minnesota to coach the team in 1999. However, the passing game hasn't really ever taken off and they've been winning with defense and a strong running game ever since.

With the defense not playing up to their usual level this season due to injury and possibly age, more pressure has been put on the offense to perform and that hasn't happened.

The quarterback play has been a constant disappointment since Billick took over (Elvis Grbac, Trent Dilfer, Chris Redman, Anthony Wright, Kyle Boller to name a few) and it's been more glaring this season because of the poor performance of RB Jamal Lewis.

The constant struggles of the passing game and not meeting expectations of new owner Steve Bisciotti could put Billick's job on the line after the season unless he gets their 2-5 record turned around.

7. Steve Mariucci/Detroit –
He came in to his third season with the team with a 11-21 record. He took over a bad team so the expectations weren't high for his first two seasons. However, after what looked to be a pretty solid draft and a very active free agency period, the expectations were greatly raised coming in to the 2005 season.

Marriucci's inability to get good results from the quarterback position; most notably Joey Harrington has been part of the issue. And Mariucci's insistence on signing free agent QB Jeff Garcia, who looked washed up last year, hasn't proven to be a good move as of yet.

The offense, has a whole, had much bigger expectations for this season but they haven't come close to being met. While the receivers have been injured, those who have watched their game have tape pointed out more than once that despite their size, they still were having problems getting off of press coverage. While the nucleus of their group of receivers is very young, that's not a good sign.

Overall, president and CEO Matt Millen also has to shoulder some of the responsibility as team observers note while Millen looked to have some strong drafts and free agent periods on paper, some of those players have yet to pan out.

Potential Head Coaches

1. Jim Fassel/Offensive Coordinator/Baltimore –
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 than 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 Giant 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.

UPDATE 11/4: The struggles of the Ravens' offense won't help matters but because he has head-coaching experience, Fassel still figures to be on some owner's short lists.

2. Brad Childress/Offensive Coordinator/Philadelphia –
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 lists on many teams' lists for vacant openings early next year.

3. Russ Grimm/Offensive Line Coach/Pittsburgh –
He was given the title of assistant head coach last year in addition to coaching the offensive line and Grimm is very 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 –
No 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 the team's 3-0 start is their 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 either. Look for Williams to get more than one interview for a head-coaching job next season.

vv UPDATE 11/4: Their defense has been struggling of late but that shouldn't be an issue. Williams does as well as he can with the talent he has.

5. Kirk Ferentz/University of Iowa –
He was an assistant under Bill Belichick with the Browns and has done a very solid job as he head coach at the University of Iowa. He had already turned down head-coaching overtures from NFL owners in the past but the money has gotten so good on the pro level that he may say yes this time.

6. Gary Kubiak/Offensive Coordinator/Denver –
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.

7. Jim Schwartz/Defensive Coordinator/Tennessee –
He's viewed by many around the league as one of the brightest young defensive minds. Schwarz is seen as a future head coach who should get at least a few interviews early next year.

8. Jerry Gray/Defensive Coordinator/Buffalo –
The former NFL defensive back has been with the team for a while and has done a pretty good job of keeping their 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.

9. Eric Mangini/Defensive Coordinator/New England –
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 in 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.

10. 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.

UPDATE 11/4: Some of the other names that has been mentioned to take over the job once Vermeil retires are Jets head coach Herman Edwards, who played for Vermeil with the Eagles. Edwards signed an extension last year with the Jets. Baylor University head coach Guy Morriss, who also played for Vermeil, and John Bunting who is the head coach at the University of North Carolina, are also possibilities. All but Saunders and Edwards appear to be long-shots at this point.


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