Expect plenty of coaching changes
After last season's relative calm, turbulence is definitely in the forecast
When only three NFL teams changed head coaches after last season, it ensured one thing after this season.
Blood will flow.A look back at the past decade reveals that seasons when there are few changes are followed by plenty the next. After the 2004 season, only three teams changed head coaches (Cleveland, Miami and San Francisco); the next season 10 did. After the 2007 season, only four teams changed head coaches (Atlanta, Baltimore, Miami and Washington); the next season, 11 did.
After last season, only three teams changed head coaches (Buffalo, Seattle and Washington). Get ready for a messy couple of weeks, starting Sunday night, the moment the regular season ends.
Despite the fact that the NFL's labor questions make it more complicated to change coaches, and decreases the chances that some teams will make changes, some owners cannot help themselves. Change is coming -- maybe even double-digit changes.
What happens Sunday could influence exactly how many changes ultimately will be made. The numbers can be debated, but many expect as many as 10 changes.
One point that cannot be discounted after a season in which only three teams changed head coaches: This league doesn't sit still, especially for two years in a row. On to this week's 10 Spot: 1. Overlooked coaching candidates: As teams search for new head coaches, they should be reminded that big names aren't always the best candidates. When New Orleans hired Sean Payton and Green Bay hired Mike McCarthy in 2006, they were almost afterthoughts in many places around the league. The Falcons were praised in 2007 for hiring Bobby Petrino while the Steelers were questioned for hiring Mike Tomlin. When Atlanta hired Mike Smith and Baltimore chose John Harbaugh in 2008, little fanfare surrounded their hirings, and most of the attention centered on Jason Garrett, then the Cowboys' offensive coordinator. In 2009, Denver's hiring of Josh McDaniels and Seattle's landing of Jim Mora generated more attention than Kansas City's choice of Todd Haley and St. Louis' selection of Steve Spagnuolo. Tampa Bay's firing of Jon Gruden attracted more attention than the hiring of little-known assistant Raheem Morris. The point is, the bigger name is not always the better coach. Sometimes, the lesser-known coach makes the bigger impact. 2. Meanwhile, at quarterback : As wildly as the coaching carousel will start spinning Sunday night, the quarterback carousel could present even more intrigue. A minimum of six teams will be in the quarterback market, and there could be another legitimate half-dozen teams interested in changing QBs as well. Every team in the NFC West with the exception of St. Louis will be looking to upgrade at quarterback. Miami, Minnesota and Washington also will be searching. Carolina, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Tennessee, Jacksonville and Buffalo could be in the market. The problem goes back to Adam Smith, to supply and demand. There's a great demand, but no great supply. Washington would be willing to trade Donovan McNabb, Cincinnati might be enticed to entertain offers for Carson Palmer, Denver could be convinced to deal Kyle Orton, and Ravens backup Marc Bulger is scheduled to become a free agent. But short of Andrew Luck, Cam Newton and Jake Locker, there aren't many places for teams to turn. Teams looking for quarterbacks are going to be looking beyond this season. 3. Little QB help in draft: Should Luck stay at Stanford -- and many suspect he will -- teams that need quarterbacks are going to have a hard time finding one who can help next season. If Luck stays in school, it will leave a draft that is top heavy in stud defenders. According to ESPN draft expert Todd McShay, the four top prospects after Luck are all defensive players and all underclassmen. The four players who could be among the first four picks are Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, and North Carolina defensive end/linebacker Robert Quinn. What's notable is that each of the teams now projected with top-five picks -- Carolina, Denver, Cincinnati, Buffalo and Arizona -- has major defensive needs. So it's possible there will be an early run on defensive underclassmen. 4. Patriots' rare accomplishment: What New England accomplished in 2007, when it won all its regular-season games and scored a single-season record 589 points, was historic. What it has done this season is every bit as impressive in its own way. This season, in what might be the stat of the year, the Patriots have turned over the football only nine times -- two more than the Buffalo Bills did against New England last Sunday. The Patriots now have gone seven straight games without a turnover. What makes New England's mark even more startling is that the NFL record for fewest turnovers in any season is 12, which the Chiefs accomplished during the nine-game strike-shortened 1982 season. Should New England take care of the football Sunday at home against Miami, it will shatter Kansas City's single-season record over the course of a full 16-game season and produce a mark as memorable as many set in the 2007 season.
The Schef's specialties
• Game of the week: St. Louis at Seattle: A Sunday night game to decide who goes to the playoffs and who doesn't.
• Player of the week: Jets running back Shonn Greene: His rushing totals have risen in each of the past three games and they look like they will again.
• Upset of the week: Broncos over Chargers: Tim Tebow has silenced some of the skeptics and now he gets to make one final statement.
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider.
NFL WEEK 17 PREVIEW