It shouldn't be long before we start hearing about teams firing coaches.
WILL BE FIRED
Arizona Cardinals (5-11)
I'm surprised Dennnis Green hasn't been fired yet. Late wins down the stretch after a 1-8 start (of 5 wins, 4 within division, including 2 over San Fran .. other win over Detroit), can't be enough to save him. The Cardinals had high expectations from within and across the country, and they certainly have a lot of talent. Call Green the guy who "did the least with the most."
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
How long can Jon Gruden ride a Super Bowl win with a team he didn't build? Since coming to Tampa and winning the 2002 championship, the Bucs have gone 7-9, 5-11, 11-5 and 4-12. The 11-5 is almost a fluke based on a very easy schedule that included a pair of wins over Hurricane Katrina-displaced New Orleans. The TV guys love "Chuckie," but he's not getting it done. In fact, some people blame him for putting good, young players (Carnel Williams, Bruce Gradkowski) with lots of potential into failing situations.
SHOULD BE FIRED
Denver Broncos (9-7)
Genius no more, Mike Shanahan. Changing quarterbacks (to a rookie, no less) midstream on a playoff-bound team has got to be one of the dumbest coaching moves I've ever seen. And losing at home to San Francisco -- in OT -- with the playoffs all but certain.
Washington Redskins (5-11)
The Great Joe Gibbs Experiment has to be over. Gibbs can't be enjoying this. No matter what talent they bring it, it seems this team just doesn't want to win. After finishing 10-6 in 2005 and winning a Wild Card game, this team came back with a tougher schedule and disappointed. When the rest of the NFC fell apart and the Redskins had a shot to climb back into it, they just rolled over. Unfortunately, Gibbs didn't hook up with a team like the Kansas City Chiefs the way Dick Vermeil had done. Gibbs has other interests (auto racing) and he just doesn't need this.
WILL KEEP THEIR JOBS
Oakland Raiders (2-14)
Despite turning in the worst record in the NFL, Art Shell will keep his job for at least another year -- for two reasons: First, you simply have to give a guy a year pass, especially if he's bringing in a completely new system. Used to be they called that "a rebuilding year." Second, what did you expect this year? This team has little to no talent and were expected to be terrible. Can't blame Shell for that. The Raiders will at least have to show improvement (5-11 or better) for Shell to keep his job in 2008. (I joked with my brother that Shell should become Al Davis's Billy Martin. Fire him. Hire him back over the summer. Fire him after Week 1. Bring him back around week 8. Fire him in Week 14. Bring him back after the season. OK, it's stupid, but it would give the TV guys something to laugh about.) Cleveland Browns (4-12)
Romeo Crennel gets one more year. That's a pretty tough schedule they had this year, and he's in much the same boat as Shell: there's virtually no talent in Cleveland. But he'll have to show vast improvement next year (win a couple, three division games) or else.
Detroit Lions (3-13)
Is there anyone over there with a clue? They go out an beat Dallas in the last game of the season and "set the tone" for 2007. Meanwhile, they throw away the No. 1 draft choice. What a bunch of idiots. But it's hard to blame head coach Rod Marinelli. It's his first year, this team is terrible, and they're never going anywhere until they rid themselves of the albatross necklace that is Matt Millen. Poor Marinelli, for that job to be the first head coaching job offered to you. What kind of a career is that?
ON THE HOT SEAT
Miami Dolphins (6-10)
Nick Saban was expected to resurrect this team, and these late season runs (especially the one this year that fizzled) aren't going to sit well forever. If the Dolphins don't at least make a playoff run in 2007, it's back to college.
UP IN THE AIR
New York Giants (8-8)
Not sure if making the playoffs saves Tom Coughlin. If the Giants go deep, probably. If they're one-and-done, probably not.
Atlanta Falcons (7-9)
The coach isn't the real problem here. This coach's father nailed it on the head. Unfortunate for the coach, it's unlikely the team will fix the problem.
Dallas Cowboys (9-7)
A combination of Gibbs and Coughlin. Parcells must be frustrated as heck the way the Cowboys finished the season, and but for the grace of playing in the NFC, their playoff stay would be short (and it may still be). The question is whether Parcells has finally had enough, whether he wants to put up with Terrell Owens and players of his ilk.
Pittsburgh Steelers (8-8)
Bill Cowher had a heck of a run, but he really blew it by shelving Charlie Batch for Ben Roethlisberger. Had he stuck with Batch for at least another 3-6 games, Pittsburgh may have at least made the playoffs. This guy is just to stubborn for his own good. Roethlisberger and the Steelers should just hope too much damage hasn't been done to 'Berger's brain.
Jacksonville Jaguars and Carolina Panthers
Funny how I kept drawing parallels to these two teams all season. Turns out they both had a chance at the end, both missed the playoffs, and both finished 8-8. Huge disappointment for both teams. Jacksonville fell from 12-4 and the playoffs last year. Carolina was a media-darling pick for the Super Bowl. Jacksonville finished with three straight losses. Carolina lost four straight from the end of November to mid-December.
Minnesota's Brad Childress and Green Bay's Mike McCarthy -- both first-year coaches -- get at least another year and enough rope to hang themselves. To Childress's credit, at least half the team wasn't involved in scandal.
Dick Jauron, in his first year with the Buffalo Bills, gets at least one more year. So does Scott Linehan in his first year in St. Louis.
Marvin Lewis of Cincinnati will be on the hot seat next season. Playoffs of bust. Same with Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, who was in real danger until that six-game winning streak. Expect the Titans' 2007 opponents to watch a lot of Vince Young film this summer.
Any coach not mentioned is perfectly safe ... for now.