While the NFL's top teams prepare for the playoffs, many franchises are searching for new coaches, which always stirs up rumors about what's next for those clubs.
Every team that misses the postseason finishes the season with the knowledge that improvements must be made during the offseason. Failing to get better and/or evolve is a death sentence for teams in this competitive league.
That's why six head coaches have already been fired.
Here's a look at the latest buzz surrounding coaching vacancies, along with some information about a current coach who could find his way out of a job before too long.
Cleveland Looking College Ranks for Its New Head Coach?
Most Browns fans simply threw up their hands after Cleveland jettisoned Rob Chudzinski after just one season at the helm.
Perhaps now they have a small measure of hope.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported on Dec. 31 that Cleveland is looking at a couple of red-hot college coaches as Chud's replacement:
The Cleveland Browns are very interested in interviewing Auburn coach Gus Malzahn and Vanderbilt coach James Franklin for their head coaching vacancy, according to league sources, and are expected to hire Jim Schwartz as defensive coordinator.
This is an interesting twist, and completely surprising. The Browns had a chance to hire Chip Kelly last season, but owner Joe Banner thought Kelly was "too risky" at the time, as noted by Sam Donnellon of the Philadelphia Daily News:
Browns fired Rob Chudzinski after one season. He was hired after Joe Banner said of Chip Kelly: ``We just felt it was too big a gamble.''— sam donnellon (@samdonnellon) December 30, 2013
Does Cleveland have any chance of landing either college coach?
Perhaps after watching Kelly take Philadelphia into the postseason in his first year, Banner is hoping he can catch a similar strand of lighting in a bottle with Malzahn or Franklin.
The real question is this: Will either coach be interested in coming on board for an organization that has reeked of mediocrity and poor management for decades?
Time will tell.
Tampa Bay Is Set to Hire Lovie Smith
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have decided on Lovie Smith as the team's next head coach, according to Jay Glazer of Fox Sports:
The Bucs are hiring Lovie Smith to be their new head coach, two sides are finalizing the contract tonight— Jay Glazer (@JayGlazer) January 2, 2014
Smith had been linked to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers since the team fired Greg Schiano, with ESPN's Adam Schefter calling him the "favorite" to land that job:
Former Bears HC Lovie Smith is considered the favorite for the Buccaneers HC job, based on multiple league sources.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 30, 2013
Smith is known for his calm demeanor and for fostering terrific working relationships with players. If that sounds like the opposite of what Schiano brought to the table in Tampa Bay, then you're starting to get the point.
Schiano was no stranger to controversy during his tenure with the Buccaneers.
Smith would be a great choice as a man who could stabilize the franchise and get the most out of the talented players on Tampa Bay's roster.
Kevin Gilbride Could Be On His Way Out in New York
New York Giants fans won't likely be disappointed if offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride ends up getting replaced, which could soon happen, as Jordan Raanan of NJ.com noted on Dec. 30:
There are high-ranking officials in the Giants organization that believe Gilbride will be fired, according to a source with knowledge of the organization's thinking. And the belief is that unless something surprising occurs in organizational meetings over the next week, the Giants will have a new offensive coordinator next season.
Gilbride has routinely put together unimaginative game plans that appear to be easily read by opposing defenses, and his offense this past season finished as the fifth-worst in the league in terms of yards gained.
Bleacher Report's Michael Schottey recently highlighted Gilbride as one of the league's worst play-callers, writing:
...the schemes they are running on both offense and defense are so anachronistic in today's NFL that it's hard on the eyes.
Gilbride's scheme is almost an unholy alliance between the package-play principles we talked about earlier, the run-and-shoot, and the "Erhardt-Perkins" offensive system popularized by the New England Patriots.
Team president John Mara wasn't bashful after the season ended about his disgust for the team's offensive attack, as noted by Gary Myers of the New York Daily News:
I think our offense is broken right now and we need to fix that and we need to make some improvements on defense, too. But obviously the offensive side of the ball we’ve got to improve there and we can’t go into next season with the same personnel.
Before Giants fans start doing research on potential new coordinators, however, Ralph Vacchiano of the New York Daily News cautioned against jumping the gun:
Giants won't be hasty w/decisions on fate of Kevin Gilbride, other coaches. A decision may not come until late this week, early next week.— Ralph Vacchiano (@RVacchianoNYDN) December 31, 2013
One thing's for certain: New York needs to fix its ailing offensive attack before the 2014 season, or Eli Manning's last good years will have been wasted in vain.
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