NFL Picks Week 17: Tom Coughlin, 12 Other Coaches Whose Jobs Will Sink Or Swim
The new year is just around the corner and, like clockwork, change is in the air in the NFL.
Four coaches have already been axed this season—Brad Childress, Wade Phillips, Josh McDaniels and Mike Singletary—and plenty more will be leading their teams into play on Sunday with their jobs firmly on the line.
From Tony Sparano in Miami to Tom Coughlin in New York, from Tom Cable in Oakland to Eric Mangini in Cleveland, there's certainly no shortage of heads lined up to be severed on the chopping block.
Meanwhile, there are still a few playoff spots that have yet to be secured in both conferences—the AFC South, the NFC West and one of the NFC's Wild Card berths.
So which coaches will see their tenures sink and which will swim on for another season?
Read on to find out.
Sink: John Fox, Carolina Panthers
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The first guillotine of Black Monday will like drop in Charlotte, on the neck of John Fox.
Fox's ninth season at the helm in Carolina has been his worst, by far, with the Panthers sporting the worst record in the NFL at 2-13.
The former defensive coordinator for the New York Giants under Jim Fassel had never had his team finish worse than 7-9 but, then again, he'd never managed to muster consecutive winning seasons in Carolina, much less back-to-back playoff berths.
And with the first overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft (and Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck) sewn up, Fox's head is sure to roll, even if his Panthers do pull off a shocking upset of the Atlanta Falcons.
Swim: Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
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At 5-10, Jim Schwartz's Detroit Lions haven't fared much better than John Fox's Panthers, but Schwartz's job will likely be spared nonetheless.
The Lions will likely finish last in the NFC North once again, unless they can overcome the Minnesota VIkings, with shiny new quarterback Joe Webb under center.
That being said, it's tough to blame Schwartz for the team's struggles, with Detroit losing heart-breakers to Philadelphia, Green Bay, Buffalo, the New York Jets, and Chicago (twice) while former first overall pick Matthew Stafford has sat idle with injuries for most of the season.
With a jump from two wins last season to at least five this time around, along with all the close calls, the Lions look to be on the up-and-up, which means that Schwartz's job is safe for now.
Sink: Eric Mangini, Cleveland Browns
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Just a few hours south of Detroit, the Cleveland Browns look ripe for yet another coaching change.
Once dubbed "the Man-genius" by NFL observers when he was in New York, Eric Mangini has since seen his star tumble tremendously.
A season-ending loss at home to the Pittsburgh Steelers would give Mangini his second 5-11 record in two seasons in Cleveland, giving Mike Holmgren plenty of justification for making yet another change in Cleveland.
Swim: Tom Cable, Oakland Raiders
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While the Browns have been stagnant under Mangini, the Raiders have improved each year under Tom Cable.
Since leading Oakland to a 4-8 record in 12 games following the firing of Lane Kiffin, Cable has slowly but surely brought the Silver and Black back to respectability.
Though the Raiders are no longer in contention for a playoff berth, they will, with a win in Kansas City on Sunday, finish with a record of 8-8, giving the franchise its first non-losing season since its Super Bowl season in 2002-03.
Sink: Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
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Flip back to the AFC North and you'll find yet another lame duck coach in the person of Cincinnati's Marvin Lewis.
Despite leading the Bengals to a division title last season, Lewis looks headed for the back of the lunch line, with his team currently sporting a 4-11 record and likely destined for a loss at Baltimore on Sunday.
Lewis has twice led Cincy to the postseason, which leaves six other seasons in which his team has failed to play past the regular season.
Look for the Bengals front office to give Lewis the axe, along with quarterback Carson Palmer, and start anew along the banks of the Ohio River.
Swim: Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville Jaguars
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Like Lewis in Cincy, Jack Del Rio has been the head coach in Jacksonville for eight years, with results comparable to those that Lewis has yet achieved.
Del Rio has twice led the Jaguars to the playoffs during his tenure, though he has yet to captures the AFC South crown.
But, then again, few others have since Peyton Manning has been with the Indianapolis Colts.
Some may see the Jags' faulty finish this season as grounds for Del Rio's termination. However, should Jacksonville defeat Houston and Indianapolis lose to Tennessee on Sunday, the Jags would conclude the season with a 9-7 record and a home game in the playoffs.
Hence, Del Rio just may live to coach another day in northern Florida.
Sink: Jeff Fisher, Tennessee Titans
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No coach in the NFL today has been employed by his current team as long as Jeff Fisher has by the Tennessee Titans.
Fisher has been with the Titans since 1994, when the team was still in Houston playing as the Oilers.
In 17 seasons with the franchise, Fisher has accumulated 142 wins against 119 losses along with six playoff appearances, including three division titles.
That being the case, Fisher's footing with the franchise has slipped in recent years. The Titans were expected to contend for a post-season berth this year after finishing 2009 with six wins in their last eight games, thanks to a prolific offense led by 2,000-yard rusher Chris Johnson.
Unfortunately for Fisher, Tennessee has struggled mightily in 2010, with the team losing seven of its last eight games amidst continued strife between the coach and Vince Young.
Word on the street is that Titans owner Bud Adams is still smitten with Young, which could mean the axe for Fisher after a long and marginally successful tenure in Houston and Nashville.
Swim: Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
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Jeff Fisher got his start in 1985, the very same year Norv Turner made the jump from offensive coordinator at USC to wide receivers coach with the Los Angeles Rams.
Since then, Turner has hopped around quite a bit more than Fisher, with markedly less success than Fisher as a head coach.
Turner took over for Marty Schottenheimer in San Diego in 2007 with the explicit task of taking the Chargers from perennial playoff disappointments to Super Bowl contenders.
Unfortunately, Turner has yet to get the Bolts back to football's biggest stage, coming closest in 2008 in a loss to the then-undefeated Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Though the Chargers will miss the playoffs this year, team president Dean Spanos has already made it clear that Turner will return, win or lose on Sunday.
Sink: Tony Sparano, Miami Dolphins
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Tony Sparano came in as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins just one year after Turner took over in San Diego, but, unfortunately, Sparano has neither the track record nor the support of management to suggest that he will also be back next season.
Sparano was originally brought in to coach the Dolphins in 2008 by Bill Parcells, who was the franchise's executive vice president of football operations. In that first year, Miami went 11-5 and won the AFC East, nearly earning Sparano the title of NFL Coach of the Year.
Things haven't gone quite so smoothly in South Beach since then, with Parcells departing for full-time retirement and 'Fins finishing outside of the playoffs in Sparano's latest two seasons.
As such, it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if Sparano found himself out of a job come January, especially with a big fish like Bill Cowher lurking on the market.
Swim: Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
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Up the coast in the AFC East, Chan Gailey's first year in Buffalo hasn't quite gone according to plan.
The former Dallas Cowboys and Georgia Tech head coach began his tenure in upstate New York with eight straight losses, with three of those coming in gut-wrenching fashion.
Since then, the Bills have gone 4-3, including another agonizingly close defeat to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Though Gailey may finish his first year in Buffalo with four wins, he is unlikely to be let after just a single season.
Sink: Tom Coughlin, New York Giants
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Despite a much more extensive and successful track record than his upstate counterpart, Tom Coughlin is likely to be the one looking for new employment next week.
Plenty has been written about the Giants' monumental collapse against the Eagles at home in Week 15, and more vitriol still has come Coughlin's way since New York's embarrasing 45-17 loss to the Packers in Green Bay the day after Christmas.
A win over the Washington Redskins on Sunday, coupled with a loss by the Packers to the Chicago Bears, would likely land the G-Men in the postseason for the fifth time in Coughlin's seven seasons at the Meadowlands.
Anything else, and the Giants' season will end after Week 17, as will Coughlin's career with Big Blue.
Swim: Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers
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Had his Packers not trounced Coughlin's Giants in Week 16, Mike McCarthy might be the one with his behind planted firmly on the coaching hot seat.
However, now that Aaron Rodgers is back under center and that Green Bay controls its own playoff destiny, McCarthy is likely a safe bet to stick around Wisconsin for at least another year.
Either way, it'd be tough to blame him for the team's struggles this season, as the Packers have endured a remarkable rash of injuries across their entire roster.
If anything, a spot in the postseason, albeit as the sixth seed in the NFC, might even improve McCarthy's standing in the hearts and minds of Cheeseheads everywhere.
Sink: Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans
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Like McCarthy's Packers, Gary Kubiak's Houston Texans haven't quite lived up to preseason expectations, though the extent to which Kubiak's team has fallen short is what will likely cost him his job.
Kubiak ascended to the head coaching position in Houston in 2006 after spending 11 seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos under Mike Shanahan.
Slowly but surely, the Texans improved over the course of his first four years, with the team achieving the first winning season in franchise history in 2009 thanks to a 9-7 record.
As such, NFL pundits everywhere had Houston pegged for the playoffs in the preseason and even more jumped on the bandwagon after the Texans topped the Colts for the first time since the franchise's birth in 2002.
Unfortunately for Kubiak, his team's 4-2 start has been followed by eight losses in nine games. A loss to Jacksonville on Sunday would leave the Texans at 5-11, their worst mark in the Gary Kubiak era, which may necessitate a change at the top for the postseason-starved franchise.