Several coaches likely on the way out
There are several coaches around the league whose futures could be determined over the next four weeks.
Editor's note: This piece ran earlier this month. Since then, Dan Reeves was fired by the Atlanta Falcons.
None of these men is deaf. Nor are they dumb. They all have heard the whispers about their job security -- or lack thereof. We aren't the first to report that each of the sideline bosses on this page are coaching for their jobs. Depending on how the final four weeks of the regular season play out, as many as 10 coaches could be fired after the season. Although it's more likely that a smaller figure actually will be dismissed, there will be significant turnover in the offseason once again. What follows is a synopsis of each of the NFL coaches currently on the hot seat.
- Bill Callahan, Oakland Raiders
A year after taking the Raiders to the Super Bowl, Callahan figures to be fighting for his coaching life during the final month of the season. The Raiders have had to deal with a lot of injuries, but the consensus in the Bay Area is that Callahan has not handled a lot of the critical issues (Bill Romanowksi's punching of a teammate, the lack of balance in play-calling, Charles Woodson's public criticism of him, etc.,) surrounding the team's disastrous season well, and there is some concern over who's guiding the ship, if anyone. The Raiders have continually shown a lack of discipline, and Callahan hasn't exactly been as open as his predecessor, Jon Gruden, when it comes to accepting responsibility when things take a turn for the worse. Raiders owner Al Davis has Callahan, the team's offensive line coach and assistant head coach under Gruden, on a short lease with a two-year contract and a club option for three more. If Davis' aging roster is in need of an overhaul, and Callahan isn't viewed as the guy for the rebuilding project, it seems very possible a hand-picked choice such as Jim Fassel or Jim Haslett (if they're available) or Art Shell or current Raiders wide receiver coach Fred Biletnikoff could be candidates. But predicting the Raiders' next move is anything but an easy task.
- Jim Fassel, New York Giants
It appears that the Fassel era in New York has run its course. Team insiders have speculated this for weeks. His status has been in limbo as the Giants tried to pull themselves out of the hole; they haven't. It appears that a sub-.500 season amid the team's highest expectations in years is enough to doom the coach. Fassel is considered something of a fighter and has weathered plenty of storms in the tough Big Apple market before, but it would be a surprise -- barring a miraculous finish -- if he keeps his job. The final straw might have been the team's listless 27-7 home loss to the sad-sack Falcons and equally beleaguered head coach Dan Reeves, the Giants' former head man. The latest defeat, a one-sided, 24-7 loss at home against the lowly Bills doesn't help Fassel's cause. After that game, team co-owner Wellington Mara said he was "very dissatisfied" with the state of his team. It appears that the two most mentioned names in connection with the Giants' gig are former Jaguars head coach Tom Coughlin, who is taking the year off, and LSU coach Nick Saban, who could be a hot NFL commodity this winter.
- Jim Haslett, New Orleans Saints
Despite two straight collapses that kept the Saints out of the playoffs in the past two years, there wasn't a feeling that Haslett's job was in jeopardy heading into the 2003 campaign. His teams were competitive and had dealt with a lot of adversity in the locker room in the previous two seasons. In fact, one source said that Haslett could go 0-16 this season and probably hang on to his job because owner Tom Benson believes so much in his head coach. But the Saints have played without passion for much of the season, and even a couple of wins over the past month haven't quieted the critics, who say it's time for Haslett to move on. Quarterback Aaron Brooks hasn't developed as expected, the defense was slow to come together and Haslett has made some strange coaching decisions that might have cost his team some wins. Now at 6-6, if Haslett avoids a late-season collapse and guides the Saints into the postseason, he will likely save his job.
- Dick Jauron, Chicago Bears
There has been speculation that Jauron, in his fifth season as Bears head coach, could be spared for one more season contingent on his firing at least part of his assistant-coaching staff. But the more likely scenario, according to team insiders, is a clean slate, with Jauron, his coordinators and assistants being swept aside in favor of a new regime. Jauron is a well-respected football mind who has achieved beyond his 33-44 overall record in Chicago. Few teams have won with talent equal to the Bears at the skill positions, and offseason personnel moves varying from the first-round selection of Cade McNown in 1999 to signing Kordell Stewart prior to this season have forced Jauron to switch starting quarterbacks multiple times. Yet for all those who champion Jauron as an overachieving grinder, he has only one winning season (13-3 in 2001) to his credit.
- Dave McGinnis, Arizona Cardinals
It probably won't matter that the Cardinals' victories this season have all come against teams with better records, or that they've proved to be very respectable at home. Their poor play on the road this season -- lowlighted by a horrendous Week 11 effort in Cleveland that continues to stick in the front office's craw -- figures to be McGinnis' undoing in the Valley of the Sun. Three straight losing seasons have taken their toll on a coach who is certainly well-liked by his players, but not nearly enough to offset their naggingly inconsistent performances. Unless the Cardinals run the table the remainder of the season -- and their tough closing schedule suggests otherwise -- McGinnis, whose contract runs through the 2004 season, is likely to be job-hunting by January. What isn't so likely, however, is a full-scale housecleaning, as most of his assistant coaches are expected to stick around until their current contracts expire.
- Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego Chargers
You'd like to think Marty Schottenheimer's impressive résumé prior to landing in Southern California would be enough to reward him with at least one more season to try to turn the Chargers around, but the bottom line is there can be no guarantees for a coach who has lost 17 of his last 21 games. Not in today's NFL. According to sources close to the team, Schottenheimer and his old-school approach appear to have the support of the locker room, as many players have backed their coach publicly and accept the fact there just isn't enough talent on the roster to get it done on a weekly basis. The problem is the front office may think otherwise. The 2003 campaign was described as a "push year" by general manager A.J. Smith back in August, meaning at least some of the people who make the big decisions felt this was the year for the Chargers to make a move up the ladder in the AFC, which hasn't come close to happening.
- Steve Spurrier, Washington Redskins
It's not so much that Steve Spurrier is on the hot seat as much as he might be getting the itch to leave the apparent mess surrounding Redskin Park. There have been struggles with management, specifically owner Daniel Snyder, and players, who have questioned the ol' ball coach's moves. Spurrier relinquished the play-calling duties for a few games to offensive coordinator Hue Jackson and appears to be communicating better with his staff -- a bigger problem last season -- but the recent gripe of 19-year veteran defensive end Bruce Smith about playing time to Snyder following a loss has undermined Spurrier's authority, as have personnel disagreements between the head coach and owner. There are some who feel Spurrier is interested in going back to take a college job, either after this season or next, but most feel the coach will follow his proclamation that he'll stick with the job for at least three seasons (his original deal was for five years) before he leaves.
- Dave Wannstedt, Miami Dolphins
After three straight wins over Baltimore, Washington and Dallas, it would seem Wannstedt could breathe easier, but that isn't the case. The pressure has been on Wannstedt all season long, and it will continue to lurk until the end of the season, when everyone will know whether the Dolphins crumbled once again or rose to the occasion and shook the demons that have plagued them during Wannstedt's reign. His two biggest tests are ahead -- the final four games (a couldn't-be-more-difficult stretch featuring games at New England, vs. Philadelphia, at Buffalo and vs. N.Y. Jets), during which the Dolphins have annually fallen apart, and the playoffs, if Miami makes it. If Miami falls short of the playoffs, then Wannstedt likely will be packing his bags. However, if the Dolphins last deep into the postseason, then Wannstedt probably lives to coach another day. He might not be sitting on the hot seat right now, but he certainly is standing next to it.
- Gregg Williams, Buffalo Bills
In the final year of his contract, Williams has been between a rock and a hard place all season. The rock: the pressure of producing for a general manager, Tom Donahoe, who has voiced his support but hasn't shown it in the form of a contract extension. The hard place: Buffalo, where offseason expectations were astronomical in the wake of a five-win improvement last season and subsequent defensive overhaul. It was believed that a season without a playoff appearance would cost Williams another shot at holding the reins in Buffalo. It looks as though that indeed will be the end result. Williams, who was considered an up-and-coming defensive mastermind with the Titans prior to getting the Bills' top job, simply has been unable to motivate his troops and get consistency out of them this season. Injuries to key players on offense haven't helped, but there haven't been enough to give Williams a free pass. Unless this team pulls a rabbit out of a hat, Williams probably will be heading out of town.
Material from Pro Football Weekly.
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