Andy Manis / Associated Press
With an unstable offensive line, this could be a long season on the run for Trent Edwards.


You tell yourself that it's only preseason, that everything that happens (especially the outcome) should be given little or no credence.

You tell yourself not to panic, recalling that the Detroit Lions went 4-0 last summer before going zero-for-the-regular season.

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But there is all sorts of panicking going on. In a matter of five days this week, three teams have fired their offensive coordinators.

It started on Monday, with the Kansas City Chiefs dumping Chan Gailey. Then came Thursday's announcement by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that they were getting rid of Jeff Jagodzinski, whom they had hired during the offseason after Boston College dismissed him for pursuing the New York Jets' head-coaching job. And, finally, there was Friday's news that the Buffalo Bills had shown the door to Turk Schonert.

Not surprisingly, all three teams make our top five list of clubs with a reason to panic (or, whose fan bases are at least entitled to do so) based on what they've shown this summer ... and/or because of the extreme shuffling of the coaching staff this close to the regular season:

Buffalo Bills

Regular-season schedule | Preseason results | Preseason statistics
There's no delicate way to put it: The Bills' starters looked awful in the preseason. During the four games that the vast majority of the first-string offense played, the Bills left the distinct impression they're headed for a 10th consecutive season without a playoff appearance. In 15 drives (not counting a two-play, clock-killing series), they generated a mere field goal to go along with five turnovers and five sacks.

The we-don't-game-plan-for-specific-opponents-in-the-preseason excuse didn't apply. The Bills looked bad in ways that an absence of strategic planning wouldn't impact. The greatest concern is the apparent regression of quarterback Trent Edwards, and that undoubtedly figured into Schonert's firing. Edwards has shown signs of being indecisive, which had not been a problem for him previously, and too willing to settle for checkdown passes rather than trying to connect with deeper targets. He also has been extremely careless with the ball. We'll see if Schonert's replacement, former quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt, will make a difference.

The revamping of the offensive line, which includes two rookie starters, hasn't been all that smooth. And the struggles of new left tackle Langston Walker are particularly disappointing because he was being counted upon to replace Jason Peters, whose dissatisfaction with his contract led to him being shipped to Philadelphia. The starting defense has shown a familiar vulnerability on third down and has generally not looked as good as the backup unit.

Cleveland Browns

Regular-season schedule | Preseason results | Preseason statistics
The biggest problem with the Browns' preseason is that it has failed to produce a clear-cut winner from the most important battle on the team: Starting quarterback.

Neither Brady Quinn nor Derek Anderson has done much to make a convincing argument. And for some reason, coach Eric Mangini decided that neither needed a fourth game to help determine the outcome of the competition, because both sat out Thursday night's preseason-finale at Chicago.

Quinn, who made two starts, has connected on 21 of 31 passes for 225 yards. His lone shining moment was producing the Browns' only touchdown pass of their first three preseason games when he connected for a 20-yard score with Braylon Edwards against Tennessee. Anderson, who started one game, went 15-for-26 passing for 207 yards.

Overall, both have been largely inconsistent and ineffective, leaving Mangini and the rest of the decision-makers to essentially choose the winner on the basis of gut instinct. This sets a bad tone for the season because the rest of the players don't truly know who is leading the offense and have no reason to believe that either Anderson or Quinn is capable of taking the team anywhere but another finish short of the playoffs.

Another troublesome issue is that no playmakers have emerged during the summer.

Denver Broncos

Regular-season schedule | Preseason results | Preseason statistics
So far, Josh McDaniels' arrival has helped result in the departure of the Broncos' best player, quarterback Jay Cutler, and a concerted effort on the part of their second-best player, receiver Brandon Marshall, to follow him out of town.

Cutler had no intention of buying into the different offensive scheme and the harder-edged approach that McDaniels brought with him from New England, where he was a young but highly accomplished offensive coordinator. That eventually led to the trade that sent him to Chicago. Marshall isn't any more in love with McDaniels' act, and is doing his best to make himself so much of a disruption that the Broncos wouldn't have any choice but to trade him as well.

Meanwhile, there hasn't been much promising about what the Broncos have displayed during the preseason. Their top two quarterbacks, Kyle Orton and Chris Simms, are hurt and neither has made a particularly strong impression that they can make anyone forget about Cutler. The conversion from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense has shown potential to be successful, although questions linger about the defensive line.

Kansas City Chiefs

Regular-season schedule | Preseason results | Preseason statistics
Let's start by saying the expectations for a team that finished 2-14 last year and has a new general manager (Scott Pioli), a new coach (Todd Haley), and a new starting quarterback (Matt Cassel) are modest. The Chiefs' priority is on establishing a solid program for the future, replacing the mess left behind by the previous regime with an environment that calls for greater discipline and accountability.

At the same time, it's impossible to ignore what has gone awry this summer, and the fact that it seems to set up this team and its fans for another ultra-long season. The most immediate concern is the health of Cassel, who is recovering from a knee injury that could keep him out of the season opener. Brodie Croyle started Thursday night's preseason-finale against St. Louis, and had accuracy problems. Tyler Thigpen took over and threw two interceptions in seven attempts. On the way to an 0-4 preseason record, the Chiefs produced only two offensive touchdowns, hardly the sort of production that was expected from the hiring of Haley, the former offensive coordinator of the high-scoring Arizona Cardinals, and the acquisition of Cassel.

Further questions about the Chiefs were raised when Haley abruptly fired Gailey and assumed his duties as well as those of quarterbacks coach. Haley had inherited Gailey from Herman Edwards' staff, so his departure might not have been that big of a shock, but so close to the start of the regular season was curious. Why not let him go when Haley became head coach, thus starting with a fresh approach from the first day of offseason workouts?

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Regular-season schedule | Preseason results | Preseason statistics
To call the Buccaneers' quarterback situation uncertain would be an understatement.

They will enter the season with Byron Leftwich as their starter, but there hardly is the sense that he has a stranglehold on the position. When the coaches compared Leftwich with his challenger, Luke McCown, they concluded that Leftwich could throw deeper when they went to their play-action passing game after setting up opposing defenses with a heavy dose of runs. McCown wasn't all that far behind Leftwich during the preseason. And the fact is, either one of them would merely be keeping the seat warm for rookie Josh Freeman.

The defense is very young, and its inexperience has shown during the preseason. One player it needs to be able to count on is cornerback Aqib Talib, but his off-field issues are cause for concern. His most recent incident was an arrest for allegedly assaulting a cab driver.

The firing of Jagodzinski raises questions about whether Raheem Morris, like fellow rookie Haley, might be having a hard time with his transition to the head-coaching ranks. Wasn't Jagodzinski coaching at Boston College while a certain quarterback named Matt Ryan was preparing to embark on an NFL career that got off to a wildly successful start in Atlanta last year?

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