Handicapping the field as NFL firing season gets warmed up

by | CBSSports.com National NFL Insider
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Todd Haley already received the walking papers Norv Turner is certain to be handed Monday. (Getty Images)  
Todd Haley already received the walking papers Norv Turner is certain to be handed Monday. (Getty Images)  

There was a head coach who once told me the last week of the regular season for a coach in danger of losing his job was the most stressful time in his life. More difficult than building an initial staff. More stressful than preparing for a Super Bowl.

Assistant coaches tend to turn on one another in those final days and the splintering often ends with coaches seeking out other jobs while ignoring current responsibilities. Both coaching families and real ones can fracture. Wives turn against other coaching wives. Feelings are hurt, long friendships end.

Some of this may be happening now as the regular season comes to an end and coaches face being fired. There won't be a record number of firings but the potential still exists for it to be one of the newsier offseasons in recent memory because of the big names that could get released, college coaches who could replace them and the television analyst coaches who may finally leave the air.

Here's a breakdown of the sad season, the firing season -- the annual NFL bloodbath.

Bill Cowher: If the Giants job opens up, he'll be back in the NFL. No question about that. But that might be the only job that he will leave CBS to take. Chances of returning: 50 percent.

Jon Gruden: Several NFL sources said Thursday that Gruden (and/or his representation) are speaking with a number of franchises about coaching their teams. Almost every team with an opening or anticipating one has contacted Gruden (and/or his reps), according to league sources. Gruden has said nothing since a report in the San Diego Union-Tribune stated he might return to coach either the Chargers or Rams. This is typical egomaniacal Gruden. Say nothing and let everyone guess his future. Chances of returning: 70 percent.

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Tony Dungy: He recently said he has no inclination of returning though he has fielded multiple inquiries. No way he returns as a coach (but wouldn't be stunned if he came back in the near future as a general manager). Chances of returning to coaching: Zero percent. Chances of returning as a GM: 10 percent.

Les Miles: I still believe there is a very good chance Miles departs for the NFL, particularly if he wins another national title. Don't believe people who say pro football owners and executives have no interest in Miles. As I've said before, the league execs who like Miles know he isn't the same goofball you see on the sidelines. He's thought of as a smart, tactical coach by the pros. Some team will make a serious run at him. Chances of leaving for the NFL: 70 percent.

Jim Caldwell: I'm told by multiple league sources that owner Jim Irsay is genuinely conflicted about which direction to take the Colts. He hasn't ruled out blowing up the franchise and starting over with Andrew Luck but he also has loyalty to Bill Polian and Peyton Manning. Many around the league expect Caldwell to be the one sacrificed. Chances of being fired: 65 percent.

Norv Turner: Barring intervention from Tim Tebow, Turner's a goner. Chances of being fired: 100 percent.

Steve Spagnuolo: One of the few situations where the depleted, sorry state of the team truly is not the coach's fault. The Rams possess little talent. Don Shula and Vince Lombardi would have a difficult time getting that team to five wins. Unfortunately, that may not help Spagnuolo. Chances of being fired: 75 percent.

Jason Garrett: No way Jerry Jones fires Garrett even if the Cowboys lose to the Giants and fail to make the postseason. Not even Jones is that impatient. But let's hope some of Garrett's assistants rented and didn't buy. Chances of being fired: Zero percent.

Interim coach Todd Bowles: The owner of the Dolphins wants a big name. Bowles doesn't qualify. Chances of being retained: 2 percent.

Pat Shurmur: Safe, safe, safe as Browns coach. Chance of being fired: Zero percent.

Interim coach Mel Tucker: A truly unknown situation because the Jaguars' new owner has no track record to evaluate. Is he patient? Does he want a big name? Does he want to spend a lot of money on a new coach? A team source says Tucker has a solid opportunity to keep the job. Chances of retaining job: 60 percent.

Interim coach Romeo Crennel: A Chiefs team source says of Crennel: "You end the Packers' unbeaten streak, you keep your job." That's the most likely scenario, with Crennel bringing in an offensive coordinator to match his defensive brilliance. If Crennel somehow goes to Denver and basically eliminates the Broncos from playoff contention it secures the possibility of Crennel keeping his position even more. The only hitch in the giddy-up: if Tebow blows out the Chiefs. Chance of retaining job: 90 percent.

Andy Reid: Safe but will be forced to make major changes to his Eagles staff (again). Chance of being fired: 20 percent.

Raheem Morris: Morris could be spared if ownership doesn't want to embark on another coaching search so soon. And some veterans, like Ronde Barber, are starting to publicly back Morris. That will have some effect but might be too late. No team in recent memory has fallen apart as quickly as the Morris-led Buccaneers. Chances of being fired: 60 percent.

And a name that is talked about every year, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, is once again an NFL possibility despite his recent denial, several NFL sources stated.

So, here we are again: the firing season. It happens every year in the NFL.

Unfortunately.

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