Halfway Report | Notes | Mailbag
It's at this time every year, as certain teams are all but eliminated from the playoff chase, that the coaching gossip mill heats up hotter than the Ben and Jen rumor fest.
Who's going? Who's coming? Who's staying?
Inquiring minds want to know.
So we thought it time to take a look at several of the coaching jobs that could be headed for a change.
|Marty Schottenheimer and Dave McGinnis (right) could both be out of a job.(Getty Images)|
Chance McGinnis will be back: Getting better.
Dan Reeves is one of the nicest and classiest coaches in the NFL. That said, he won't return next year. The Atlanta troubles are much more than just not having Michael Vick. They are a bad football team with too many holes, which makes what they did in 2002 that much more amazing. But it's time for a change. The players are starting to grumble about Reeves' old-school ways, and that's being heard by owner Arthur Blank. If Reeves does go, look for Blank to make a big splash in trying to find a replacement. He has already showed that he will spend money. Dennis Green, who is ready to coach again, deserves a chance somewhere. It could be in Atlanta since Ray Anderson, Green's former agent, is an executive vice president and chief administrative officer. Other possibilities are former Jaguars coach Tom Coughlin, LSU coach Nick Saban and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. You can bet Blank will make a run at Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, too.
Chance Reeves will be back: Not good.
Gregg Williams entered this season without a contract, a risk for any coach. Now if his team doesn't rally in the second half, he will be sent packing without any financial package for next year. We like Gregg Williams and think he can be an effective NFL coach. But if the Bills don't turn it around, look for Williams to be replaced. A detail-oriented coach like him won't be unemployed for long. He'll be back as a defensive coordinator for someone. He's too good a football coach not to be. But his time in Buffalo is coming to an end if the Bills don't rally.
Chance Williams will be back: The second half will determine that.
The Bears have been playing better lately, but it won't be enough to keep Dick Jauron employed. There is too much bad blood between Jauron and general manager Jerry Angelo, who wants his own guy in as coach. That guy is said to be Nick Saban. Jauron is a good defensive coordinator, but he is too loyal to his coaches for his own good. He should have blown out offensive coordinator John Shoop last year but kept him anyway. It doesn't help that Jauron isn't in on all the personnel decisions, some being made without his knowledge. That shows who the boss is.
Chance Jauron will be back: None, unless they win all their remaining games.
Dave Wannstedt is another among the classy coaches in the league. But results are all that matter in South Florida, and if Miami fails to make the playoffs, Wannstedt is done. Remember he didn't get the one-year rollover extension he normally gets last spring. That had to be a hint that 2003 was a pivotal year for him. If Miami can get it going and win the division, Wannstedt will be OK. If not, look for a coaching change. Some have mentioned offensive coordinator Norv Turner as a possible replacement, but he has been part of the problem in Miami and is starting to take his share of the heat.
Chance Wannstedt will be back: He had better make the playoffs.
New Orleans Saints
Saints owner Thomas Benson doesn't like spending extra money if he doesn't have to, which is why it would be tough for him to fire Jim Haslett. Benson owes Haslett three more years at about $3 million a season after this year. That's a lot of cars to sell. Plus, the Saints are playing better now that they have players coming back from injury. Haslett has to keep them going in the right direction, and then he'll be back in 2004. If he were to be fired, he would be an immediate candidate to replace Williams in Buffalo because he played linebacker for the Bills.
Chance Haslett will be back: Getting better every day.
New York Giants
The count on Jim Fassel has been to eight several times already, but he has managed to get up off the canvas. Can he do it again? The Giants have won their past two games, which has eased the heat. But if they somehow revert to their early-season ways, don't be shocked to see the Giants make a move. Coughlin, who turned the Giants down before becoming coach of the Jaguars, is a name that has been linked to this job if Fassel is let go.
Chances Fassel will be back: If he makes the playoffs, he's back. If not, and the Giants don't play well down the stretch, we could see a new coach.
New York Jets
The Jets are coming off a playoff season in 2002, and they lost their starting quarterback for most of this season. That will give Herman Edwards a reprieve of sorts. But if his team struggles next year, he could be in trouble.
Chances Edwards will be back: Good, but there could be front-office changes.
It's hard to believe the Raiders played in a Super Bowl last February. They are terrible, and things don't look as if they will be getting any better without their top two quarterbacks. That's not good for Bill Callahan. It doesn't help that Charles Woodson, no matter what the reasoning was behind it, rips him publicly, saying Callahan has lost the team. According to those who have studied the Raiders on tape, they don't look to be playing hard. Al Davis, who knows football, has to see this. Dennis Green is a possibility here. If Davis were smart, he'd take a long, hard look at California coach Jeff Tedford from right down the road. He is a coaching star in the making.
Chances Callahan will be back: Losing your team is a fast way out the door, so not good.
Someone actually said that Bill Cowher could be in trouble. Please. He isn't going anywhere. One bad season isn't going to undue all the good he's done with the Steelers. Now if it goes this way in 2004, he might have a problem.
Chances Cowher will be back: Guaranteed lock.
San Diego Chargers
San Diego was picked as a playoff team before the season, which makes their one victory stand out in a bad way. Marty Schottenheimer is another of those old-school coaches who might not be able to make it work with the modern player. He's had chances with four teams, and this is by far as bad as it has been. The talent base isn't great, especially on defense, but a fresh, new face might be what this team needs.
Chances Schottenheimer will be back: We'll say 50-50.
The ol' ball coach is a goner. Whether it's a firing or he walks away, Steve Spurrier will not be back next season -- no matter how this team is trying to spin it. Spurrier was a terrific college coach, and a guy I thought would be a very good NFL coach. But obviously the game is different, and he hasn't adjusted. That can be a tough thing to do with Dan Snyder as your owner, but the players in Washington also have major questions about Spurrier's abilities to be a head coach. This one is going to get comical, as in a sad, funny way, before the season is over.
Chances Spurrier will be back: Slim and moving toward none.
Around the league
- It's not every day that an NFL team sets free a space-eating, penetrating defensive tackle in the middle of the season. But the Saints simply had tired of Grady Jackson, which is why he was waived this week. The Packers claimed Jackson on Tuesday, and he should be able to help their run defense. Green Bay be warned: He comes with plenty of baggage, and not just the kind around his midsection. The Saints simply tired of Jackson's laziness and felt he was becoming a bad influence on rookie defensive tackle Jonathan Sullivan. In addition, Jackson also infuriated the team with the way he handled a broken pinky two weeks ago. Jackson did not show up at the team's facility the Monday after injuring the finger, then blew off a scheduled surgery -- with the surgical team in place -- the following day. He did have surgery on that Wednesday, but by then it was too late for him to play in that week's game. Deactivated, he asked that he not be forced to go to the team hotel that Saturday. Told he had to be there, he simply left at 11 p.m., after bed check. That led to a one-game suspension and ultimately helped lead to the release. Jackson also was overweight, but instead of paying fines for being so many pounds over his required weight, he simply did not show up for weigh-ins. Why? He figured out it was cheaper to pay the fine for not weighing in than it was to pay the money for being as far over his playing weight as he was. Jackson weighed 370 when he waived and has fought that problem for most of his career. Jackson did play well at times, but the Saints felt it best to let him go. Sometimes, those tough decisions end up being moves that help a young team mature. With Sullivan coming off a dominating game last week against Tampa Bay, and Kenny Smith more than capable in the middle, New Orleans feels it's good enough inside. When defensive end Darren Howard returns in a couple of weeks, end Willie Whitehead, who had three sacks last week against Tampa Bay, will move inside and get some work as well.
- The Bucs can't be serious about signing running back Jamal Anderson. He's 31, has had both knees surgically repaired, and hasn't played in two years. Tampa Bay would be better off signing a young back off someone's practice squad. Anderson might be in great shape -- he has been working out -- but backs his age are usually done. Backs with double knee surgeries at his age are almost always done. What, wasn't James Wilder available? How about Jerry Eckwood? O.J.? The funny thing about the potential signing of a former "name" player like Anderson is that the media and the fans actually think it would be a good and significant thing. It would be neither for Tampa Bay. If they want any advice on the matter, call Arizona. They have a washed-up back who should never have been signed. And he has two good knees.
- The Cleveland Browns situation is getting uglier by the day with the benching of wide receiver Kevin Johnson this week. It's no secret around league circles that Johnson can play selfishly at times and isn't a great blocker. But he is clearly one of the team's better receivers and has outperformed Quincy Morgan, the starter on the other side. But Morgan stays as the starter, while Andre Davis replaces Johnson. Davis has loads of ability, but Johnson does, too. The move surprised some in the organization, but the belief is that because Davis runs better than Johnson, he needs a chance to show what he can do as a starter. Johnson is a close friend of quarterback Tim Couch, who is going to the bench in favor Kelly Holcomb, but that didn't have anything to do with the decision. Morgan seemed to have some animosity when asked by the media this week why it wasn't him going to the bench? The answer: He's faster.
- The Cowboys have the top-ranked defense, and one of the big reasons is middle linebacker Dat Nguyen. When Bill Parcells took over the team, the thinking was that Nguyen would be in trouble because he isn't that big linebacker Parcells prefers. As it turned out, Nguyen has been one of the two best defenders on the Dallas team, with second-year safety Roy Williams being the other. At 5-feet-11, 243 pounds, Nguyen flies around to the football and could be on his way to his first Pro Bowl berth. If the season ended now, he would certainly deserve a spot in Hawaii.
- Colts defensive end Dwight Freeney is getting plenty of praise after his three-sack performance last week against the Dolphins. Freeney is a difference-maker on defense, the kind of player who can turn around a game in the fourth quarter with a turnover-inducing sack, as he did late last week against Miami. But two others Colts defenders deserve mention, too. Linebacker David Thornton, who fills the Derrick Brooks role in the team's cover-two scheme, has quietly developed into a quite a player. Thornton, in his first season as a starter, continues to improve each week. Cornerback Nick Harper is also playing at a high level in his first year as a starter. To have a defense move to a higher level, it takes improved play by key younger players. The Colts are getting that from those three, which is why they are better on defense.
- Jason Sehorn is back playing the Rams nickel packages, but he has not played well. He also was bad on special teams last week, with players he had angles on beating him around the corner. Is Sehorn done? It will be interesting to see how the Rams use him the rest of the season, but he certainly hasn't looked too fast.
- He's missed somewhat in the desert, but Arizona safety Dexter Jackson is playing well for the Cardinals. For once, they have a free-agent signing that looks to be working out. Jackson is the leader of a young secondary that is getting better. Corner David Barrett and safety Adrian Wilson are both progressing. The making of a good secondary is now in place for the Cardinals, even with Duane Starks being a major free-agent mistake.
- So Deion Sanders wants to be the Falcons head coach. Well, so do I. It's absurd to think that he can be a head coach without any coaching experience. Sanders used the NBA as a reference when saying why he could do it, citing former players who become NBA head coaches without experience. Deion, how hard is it to roll out the balls? Coaching in the NFL is tough duty. If Sanders truly wants to be a coach, maybe he should call his alma mater and try being a graduate assistant. Playing the game does not mean you don't have to pay your dues -- no matter how loudly you cry otherwise.
- Jaguars rookie quarterback Byron Leftwich is struggling with turnovers, nine interceptions and six lost fumbles. Leftwich has mechanical flaws that need to be fixed; he holds the ball too low and has a long wind-up motion. Word is the Jaguars have babied him some when it comes to his mistakes, and that he seems to blow them off as if they are not a big deal. The team did try to change his mechanics some shortly after he was drafted, but he struggled with it. You can bet that will be a top priority during the 2004 offseason. With all the mistakes and interceptions, we have a nickname for the rookie passer: Ryan Leafwich. Just kidding. He has talent and he will be a player, but he's a rookie. They are going to make mistakes. Just ask Peyton Manning, who threw 28 interceptions as a rookie.