It's an interesting debate every year, seemingly kicking off after the first few games of the season and leading all the way into the NFL Playoffs.
Which NFL coaches have made their last game plans for their respective franchises?
With Brad Childress, Josh McDaniels, Wade Phillips and Mike Singletary already being made examples of, it's time to look at the other coaches feeling the pressure and possibly facing a pink slip in the near future.
Tony Sparano (Miami Dolphins)
Sparano may be technically on the hot seat due to a disappointing season so far, but he's hardly to blame for the Dolphins missing the playoffs. He has his defense playing hard and very effectively, while his offense has floundered in the hands of Miami's biggest disappointment, Chad Henne.
A firing is still possible, but Sparano took a 1-15 club and turned them into division winners, and at the very worst he has kept Miami in the running for a postseason appearance in the two years since.
If any change needs to be made, it's at quarterback. Look for Miami to hold onto Sparano and try to upgrade at the signal caller position.
Which coach should be fired?
Chan Gailey (Buffalo Bills)
Gailey's Bills started the season with Trent Edwards and looking nowhere but up with an abysmal offense. They were by far the worst team in their division, while many viewed them as the worst team in the league.
A switch from the inept Edwards to the surprisingly effective Ryan Fitzpatrick saved Gailey his job as a first-year coach in Buffalo, and four wins in Buffalo's last seven games suggest he'll get a second season to show improvement.
Eric Mangini (Cleveland Browns)
Mangini held on to his job last season with a four-game winning streak to end the year and gained Mike Holmgren's vote of confidence. With impressive victories over the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints in the middle of the season, Mangini had Holmgren looking like a genius. However, with just two wins in his last seven games, Mangini is undoubtedly on the hot seat.
On the other hand, it's hard to ignore the improvements in Cleveland, as the defense has gotten more consistent, and the Browns have won some big games with little help at receiver and inexperience or erratic play at quarterback. There's a decent chance Holmgren believes in Mangini and realizes the team simply needs to upgrade at the skill positions.
Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals)
After taking the league by storm last season and making the playoffs, Lewis had everyone convinced that the Bengals were back and ready to compete for a division title. However, with just four wins on the season, there's now talk of a complete destruction of the current roster.
Lewis has found some success in Cincy, but for the Bengals to truly have a new look and mentality, they need to carve out their team from top to bottom and rethink the type of team they need to be to compete with the Baltimore Ravens and Pittsburgh Steelers. Unloading Lewis is a good start.
Jack Del Rio (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Del Rio is another coach with a decent résumé with his current team who has arguably run into some bad luck and tough stretches. However, in a season where the top team in the AFC South has just nine wins, it has been a major disappointment to see the Jaguars blow huge opportunities.
Still, Del Rio has never lost his team and still has them in position to claim the division title if the Jaguars win and the Colts lose in Week 17. Even if Jacksonville misses out on the playoffs again, it's not unrealistic to think management still sees Del Rio as the guy to get the Jaguars back to the playoffs.
Jeff Fisher (Tennessee Titans)
Fisher is the longest current tenured NFL coach with one team, and despite a blow-up with Vince Young and a failed Randy Moss signing, it doesn't make much sense for the Titans to serve him his walking papers.
He's not on solid ground, but if Fisher had a consistently competent quarterback in his offense, his teams would always be competing for division titles. While I don't see the Titans firing him, there's a chance he's grown tired of the organization's love for Young and could leave on his own terms.
Verdict: Safe, but weighing his options
Gary Kubiak (Houston Texans)
Say what you will, but offense has never been the problem in Houston since Kubiak took over. It's the Texans' horrible defense that has lost them countless close games this season, which leads me to believe Kubiak will get one last chance to get it right with Houston.
He has shaped the passing game into one of the most effective in the league, and when the running game was nonexistent, he corrected that and made it among the league's best as well.
Look for Kubiak to get one last crack at making the Texans a playoff team, although he'll have to construct a new defensive staff and make the necessary adjustments to make the Texans defense much better.
Norv Turner (San Diego Chargers)
Turner could have easily been fired once or twice already, but his teams have magically turned into December demons, turning losing seasons into division titles. However, even when in the playoffs, Turner's teams have fallen short. Failing to turn around a slow start this year could be the last straw, as San Diego is among the most talented teams in the league. The right coach could mean San Diego is Super Bowl-bound in 2011.
Tom Cable (Oakland Raiders)
It's no secret that Tom Cable isn't the top choice for Al Davis as head coach, but there's also no denying his ability to force a moderately talented team to play to its best potential. The Raiders are growing in experience and are starting to see the pieces come together, so there's no reason to think Cable doesn't get another year to see if he can help them make the final push toward a playoff appearance.
Tom Coughlin (New York Giants)
Bill Cowher has been rumored to be interested in coaching again, with the Giants as his supposed top team on his wish list. With an impending late-season collapse for the second season in a row, Coughlin's magical Super Bowl win of 2007 is starting to look like old news. Coughlin is a very good coach and could be out and back in with a new team immediately, but it looks like his time has run out in New York.
Mike Shanahan (Washington Redskins)
Washington looked like it was making big strides in Shanahan's first season, but close losses and blow-ups with Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth have marred a once promising start. Dan Snyder might not like everything that happened in year one under Shanahan, but the first-year coach has done enough to warrant a strong vote of confidence.
Jason Garrett (Dallas Cowboys)
It's more about proving he can handle the job than being on the hot seat, and judging by his team's decent 4-3 record (without Tony Romo) while he's been the guy calling the shots, it looks like he was made to coach this team. The team respects him and plays for him, and he turned a 1-7 squad into strong contenders each week. If it weren't for a last-second field goal against the Cardinals, Garrett could be 5-2.
Big names could lead Jerry Jones to a coaching change, but they shouldn't.
Mike McCarthy (Green Bay Packers)
You weren't hear from many that McCarthy is on the hot seat, but if he can't get the Packers into the playoffs and do something once they're in, changing the head coach may be something Ted Thompson will want to think about. On the other hand, McCarthy has guided the Packers to a win away from the playoffs despite a lack of a running game and a slew of injuries to impact players.
Leslie Frazier (Minnesota Vikings)
Frazier has already matched the number of wins Brad Childress could muster in fewer games, turning around a lazy defense and making the offense slightly less predictable. Bringing Frazier back may hinge on whether or not the organization thinks they can get Brett Favre back to see if the third try is the charm.
John Fox (Carolina Panthers)
Fox can blame a lost season on injuries and having to play with a rookie quarterback for much of the season, but he knew what he was getting into entering the season. Fox and the Panthers have been in a bit of a lull for the past few seasons, and it's time for a change.
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