Chopping season for head coaches
Can Marvin Lewis and Jeff Fisher -- among others -- avoid losing their jobs this season?
Now that we've seen three head coaches fired already this season -- Dallas' Wade Phillips, Minnesota's Brad Childress and Denver's Josh McDaniels -- it's time to start wondering who else needs to be concerned about their job security over these next two weeks.There should be no real surprises at this stage. The Vikings canned Childress after he reached the NFC Championship Game last season and earned a three-year extension. Denver gave up on McDaniels after he'd coached less than two seasons. Even Phillips' ouster was mildly stunning given how unwilling Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been to banish coaches before a season's conclusion. So in what has become a tradition around the NFL, it's time to look at the remaining candidates on the hottest of hot seats along with what it might take for them to stay employed with their current teams. The hottest coaching seat belongs to: 1. John Fox, Carolina Panthers: It's a foregone conclusion that Carolina won't bring Fox back next season. The Panthers have just two wins and this team rarely has shown signs of life. Even though Fox has led Carolina to a Super Bowl and three playoff appearances in nine seasons, he also might fall into the category of "been-there-too-long" when owner Jerry Richardson decides his fate. On top of that, this is a young team trying to develop a quarterback (Jimmy Clausen) and Fox is in the last year of his contract. At this stage, it's hard to see an argument to keep him. What will it take for him to stay: A minor miracle. This team bottomed out weeks ago and all those empty seats at the Panthers' home games surely haven't eased Fox's problems.
What will it take for him to stay: It's pretty rare that a new team president is willing to keep a coach he didn't hire. Mangini won't be the exception to that rule.
6. Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans: Fisher has the longest tenure of any current coach with an NFL team (more than 16 seasons), but that might be a strike against him. Owner Bud Adams may be in the mood to make a change for change's sake, especially because Fisher can't seem to get along with Adams' favorite player, quarterback Vince Young. Throw in Tennessee's disappointing 6-8 record -- which included a six-game losing streak at one point -- and you can see the stars aligning against Fisher's future with that franchise. Then again, he's been on the hot seat before and managed to survive.
What will it take for him to stay: This one is the toughest call. Fisher has been with the Titans since they arrived in Tennessee, but he needs to resolve his issues with Young to ensure more security. The only upside here is that Fisher wouldn't be unemployed for long if Adams dumped him.7. Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders: In fairness to Cable, he's only on this list because he works for Al Davis, who fires coaches about as frequently as Lindsay Lohan winds up on TMZ. The reality is that Cable has managed to keep Oakland in contention for its first winning season since 2002. He also has put a tougher product on the field, as the Raiders are at their best when their offensive and defensive lines get after opponents. That being said, the Raiders could fall apart in the final two games and create more uncertainty for their coach. What will it take for him to stay: With a 7-7 record, Cable already has done enough to deserve another year at the helm. Besides, Davis really has a reached a point where it's hard to think of anybody else who would want that job.
Senior writer Jeffri Chadiha covers the NFL for ESPN.com.
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