Every year, there are head coaching changes - a chance for a team down on it's luck, or fallen from grace to try to find a new coach to lead them back to glory. Assistants get promoted, college coaches make the leap, and former head coaches get a chance with a new team.
The following is a list of several successful NFL Head Coaches that are still unemployed, though "why" isn't easily understood...
I decided to leave off the "BigThree" of Cowher, Gruden, and Dungy because I wanted to focus on those who have been semi-forgotten of late...
Career history: New York Giants, 7 seasons.
Career record: 58-53-1
Postseason: 3 appearances, 2-3, lost to Baltimore in Super Bowl XXXV
UFL Las Vegas head coach - 4-2, won the league's inaugural title.
Head Coach at Utah for 5 seasons: 25-33; no bowl appearances.
Jim Fassel is one ex-head coach that can't seem to get back into the ranks. He was linked to the Washington job twice (losing to Joe Gibbs and Jim Zorn), as well as the Rams. He even wrote letters to Al Davis about the Raiders job, but wasn't even given a sniff.
Jim led the Giants to the Super Bowl, no small accomplishment, but one playoff appearance over the next 3 years (a loss) ended his stint with the Giants. His big downfall appears to be that he was brought to the Ravens to improve their offense, yet they ranked near the bottom his 2 years there.
Unlike some other head coaches out there after being fired, Jim tried to keep his name in the minds of owners as a coordinator; however, his failure seems to have destroyed any credibility he had. It is doubtful that winning the UFL championship is enough to get him back to head coach status any time soon.
Prognosis: Barring a repeat UFL championship, it appears Fassel's best choice is to return to college coaching where he can establish a name for himself yet again. The key is finding a school he can be successful at, while still gaining the notoriety he needs.
Career history: Baltimore Ravens, 9 seasons
Career record: 80-64
Postseason: 5-3, won Super Bowl XXXV
Brian Billick suffered from one of the worst things that can happen to a head coach: immediate success. In only his second season, he led the Ravens to a dominant crushing of the Giants in the Super Bowl. Of course, in a league of "what have you done lately?", he was expected to keep that success up every year. A 1-3 record in the playoffs the next 7 years spelled his doom, even though he was able to get his team to rise up the year after a down year- with a career best 13-3 the year before he was fired. It may be the up and down performance of his team that ultimately cost him, and going from 13-3 to 5-11 is cause enough for concern - but I believe he should have been given one more chance to right the ship.
As to why he isn't coaching now, that is a mystery. You would think having "the ring" would be enough, but for Brian, I believe he may have been holding out hope for some jobs, and turning away from those doomed to fail (like the Lions and Oakland)
However, one thing to keep in mind is the list of coaches who served under him that he helped developed into head coaches himself: Jack Del Rio, Marvin Lewis, Mike Nolan, Rex Ryan, Mike Singletary, and Mike Smith. I hope Brian gets that one more chance he deserves.
Career history: San Francsico, '97-'02; Detroit '03-'05
Career record: 72-67-0
Steve Mariucci was highly regarded when he took over the 49ers and started well, going 13-3 and 12-4 in his first two years. He took his first 49ers team to the Championship Game, where they lost to the Packers.
Two losing seasons followed before Mariucci put the 49ers back into the playoffs in consecutive years. However, the team was losing it's key players to age/ the business of football and the 49ers fired Mariucci despite his recent success in what appeared to be a power struggle with GM Terry Donahue -who wouldn't let Steve make the final personnel decisions (or really any decisions at all.)
The Detroit Lions wasted no time in bringing in Steve, however the Lions organization was crippled by the utter uselessness of GM Matt Millen, and Steve couldn't bring the Lions out of their perennial quagmire and was fired halfway through the 2005 season with the Lions 4-7.
He was considered for the Packers job in '06, and Brett Favre loudly supported him; however, he wasn't given the job. He has also been rumored to several college jobs, most notably Michigan State - but to this point has remained in broadcasting.
Coach Mariucci, in my opinion, is very deserving of one more chance if he can only be paired with a flexible GM that will allow him to bring in some of the players that he wants to use with his scheme. I believe that a Mariucci to Cleveland or Jacksonville scenario makes the most sense. If Al Davis was less...present...Mariucci would be a great fit in Oakland as well.
Career history: New Orleans Saints '00-'05, St. Louis Rams '08, UFL Florida Tuskers '09
Career record: 47-61; 6-0
Postseason: 0-1, 0-1
Jim Haslett started his career as a head coach with the Saints in 2000, taking over for Mike Ditka. He never could seem to get the team over the hump - although much credit must be given to him after he inherited a team that gave away all of it's draft picks for Ricky Williams (thanks Ditka) which definitely hurt the team for the next few years. Very loyal to his players and coaches, this trait proved to be his downfall with the Saints - as he refused to fire his defensive coordinator even though it seemed a change was needed; as well as his refusal to let Jake Delhomme take over the team when Aaron Brooks was obviously injured - which helped cost the team the last 3 games of his career.
With the Rams, Haslett was thrust into a no-win situation, taking over a lame-duck team. He only managed a 2-10 record and wasn't given the chance to take the team through the draft and offseason.
Jim took the UFL Florida Tuskers to a perfect 6-0 record in it's inaugural season, only to lose in the Championship game...however, his ability to take almost-was, never-was, and used-to-be caliber players and get them to go undefeated in the regular season speaks volumes as to Jim Haslett's ability to prepare, coach, practice, and succeed.
A well-respected defensive mind, Jim is now the defensive coordinator in Washington under Mike Shanahan - a position that, should he succeed, will surely bring his name up in the head coaching talks again.
Career history: St. Louis Rams '00-'05
Career record: 53-32
Postseason: 3-4. lost Super Bowl XXXVI to the Patriots
Mike Martz is the mastermind behind "The Greatest Show on Turf", winning the Super Bowl as the OC with the most prolific offense the league had seen to date. When Dick Vermeil opted to retire after the win, Martz was the hands-down favorite to replace him. He took the Rams right back to the Super Bowl - only to be done in by the Patriots.
Martz begn to have health issues which distracted him from the team, that, coupled with Warner's poor health, and Bulger's as well - added to Marshall Faulk's decline began to change public opinion towards Martz and force the Rams to fire him while he was away dealing with his health issues.
Martz became a highly sought after coaching candidate by the Raiders, but he took an Offensive Coordinator job with Detroit instead, as he got his health back. However, Detroit was terrible, and never got the players he needed. They decided to cut ties with him, and proceeded to go 0-16 the next year without him.
Martz is now the Offensive Coordinator in Chicago, where, if he can get on the same page with Cutler, has enough weapons to bring the Bears offense around, and maybe, just maybe, get that second crack as a head coach.