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If Zorn, Jauron are on hot seat, these coaching chairs are warm

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Thirteen-and-three seems so long ago in Nashville. Same with that 12-4 mark in Charlotte. That AFC West championship and playoff victory last season has about as much value in San Diego these days as a former rushing champion and one-time Pro Bowl sack specialist. To think, as far as head-coaching job security goes, things in Dallas and Jacksonville, of all places, don't look bad by comparison.

While the menu is being set for Jim Zorn's and Dick Jauron's respective last suppers in Washington and Buffalo, a case of Jon Gruden/Mike Shanahan-itis is starting to simmer around some of the longest tenured/veteran head coaches in the NFL. As Shanahan and Gruden found out last offseason, all the good will and good times that once made a coach and a franchise seem inseparable, don't last forever.

Those Super Bowl and playoff appearances and pockets of sustained winning don't appear to mean much now for Tennessee's Jeff Fisher (0-6), San Diego's Norv Turner (2-3), Carolina's John Fox (2-3), Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio (3-3), and Dallas' Wade Phillips (3-2). With their teams' shaky starts and strong moves out of the gate by some of their division rivals, the pressure is building for each.

For all but Fisher, whose team would need a miracle to steady itself after an 0-6 start -- and a 59-0 thrashing by New England on Sunday -- there is plenty of time for those coaches' teams to play themselves into playoff contention. Should they not reach the postseason, though, change could be forthcoming with some of the league's more successful and experienced leaders.

Steven Senne / Associated Press
Following Sunday's 59-0 loss to the Patriots, Jeff Fisher's Titans have fallen to 0-6 a season after owning the AFC's best record.
Fisher's coaching career with Titans
Year
W-L
Pct.
Finish
1-5
.167
Fourth, AFC Central
7-9
.438
Second, AFC Central
8-8
.500
Third, AFC Central
8-8
.500
Third, AFC Central
8-8
.500
Second, AFC Central
13-3
.813
13-3
.813
Lost in AFC divisional playoffs
7-9
.438
Third, AFC Central
11-5
.688
12-4
.750
5-11
.313
Fourth, AFC South
4-12
.250
Third, AFC South
8-8
.500
Second, AFC South
10-6
.625
13-3
.813
0-6
.000
--
Overall record: 128-108 (.542)

Jeff Fisher (16th season with Titans)

It is never good when the owner, after six games, says he's going to have to evaluate the coaching staff after the season. It's also never good for the owner to say he wants to see a certain player -- in this case, quarterback Vince Young -- on the field. Owner Bud Adams told the Tennessean on Monday that it's Fisher's call. Riiiiiiiight.

Fisher can't do much about Count 1 other than somehow transform a team that is arguably playing worse than any in the league despite having enough talent to, at the very least, be competitive. A collapse like this is usually mental. Either the Titans, who entered the 2008 playoffs as the AFC's top seed, didn't come into the season right or they are mentally in the toilet after inexplicably getting worse by the moment.

Coaches tend to take the hit for that type of a backwards step. Then again, Fisher survived back-to-back five- and four-win seasons in 2004 and 2005.

As for Count 2, Fisher is in a bind. He doesn't seem to want to replace quarterback Kerry Collins yet because he thinks the Titans can still get on track. In other words, he doesn't think Young is the guy to right the rapidly sinking ship. Adams, however, has put Fisher in an awkward position of defying the guy who signs the checks by doing what he thinks is best for the team.

Fisher has been able to last longer than any current coach in the NFL, in part because of an appearance in Super Bowl XXXIV following a 13-3 season in 1999. The Titans have also gone 23-9 over the past two seasons, advancing to the playoffs each year, although they don't have a postseason victory to show for it.

Fisher has managed to avoid criticism like few other coaches. His close ties to the Nashville community, his media savvy and his ability to put together some solid teams (six seasons with at least 10 wins) has kept him out of the cross hairs, even though his overall winning percentage (.540) might not be tolerated in places like Philadelphia, Dallas or Washington.

His relative immunity has raised eyebrows for years but the Teflon, according to people with ties to the league, is starting to wear. Fisher is 20 games above .500 (128-108) for his career, a margin that appears as if it will shrink by the end of this incredible season.

Bottom line: Fisher needs to rally his team in a hurry. He's been put in a tough spot by Adams, especially about playing Young. Improved play and the promise of better times might not be enough to save him this time -- especially if he continues to play Collins and the Titans continue to lose.

Turner's coaching career with Chargers
Year
W-L
Pct.
Finish
11-5
.688
8-8
.438
2-3
.400
--
Overall record: 21-16 (.568)

Norv Turner
(third season with Chargers, 12th overall)

In two seasons under Turner, the Chargers have won consecutive AFC West titles and played for the AFC championship. However, at least part of that factual info is frequently branded with an asterisk: last season's division title came with an 8-8 record after Denver's catastrophic collapse that cost Shanahan his job.

San Diego's in-season inconsistency over the last two seasons has been a source of frustration for the team's fan base. Things aren't looking ideal for a pre-season division favorite that now trails surprising Denver by 3½ games.

There also is mounting dissention and chaos among the ranks. Tailback LaDainian Tomlinson didn't seem to want to hear anything Turner had to say after Turner pulled him during a goal-line situation against Denver (imagine a player doing that to Bill Parcells or Bill Belichick, or even Fisher). General manager A.J. Smith claiming some players were playing "soft" didn't sit well in the locker room, either, especially with outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, whose off-field drama has played itself out and pushed him closer to being set free to play elsewhere after the season.

The thrice-hired, twice-fired Turner (21-16 with San Diego after going 50-60-1 with Washington and 9-23 with Oakland) tends to get the Chargers rolling late in the season, but if the Broncos keep winning and San Diego continues its Jekyll and Hyde act, winning in December might not mean much. It stings worse knowing the Raiders have just as many victories.

There is also reliable chatter in league circles that should Turner be let go, Gruden and Shanahan would like to be at the front of the line to take his place.

Bottom line: San Diego needs to stabilize and get to the playoffs again or Turner -- and possibly Smith -- could be in trouble, especially with mounting buzz about attractive potential replacements.

Fox's coaching career with Panthers
Year
W-L
Pct.
Finish
7-9
.438
Fourth, NFC South
11-5
.688
7-9
.438
Third, NFC South
11-5
.688
8-8
.500
Second, NFC South
7-9
.438
Second, NFC South
12-4
.750
2-3
.400
--
Overall record: 65-52 (.556)

John Fox (eighth season with Panthers)

Panthers management has shown no interest in engaging in contract extension talks with Fox, whose deal expires after the 2010 season. If nothing happens before next season in that regard, Fox will be in the tough position of a lame duck -- and players will know it.

Then again, even though Carolina is showing signs of life after an 0-3 start, there could be significant overhaul if things don't go well the rest of the way. And with New Orleans and Atlanta off to fast starts in the NFC South, the Panthers are already playing catch-up.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme has not shown any consistency since the playoff debacle vs. Arizona and his ineffectiveness is starting to rub off on his teammates. Despite getting by Tampa Bay last week, wide receiver Steve Smith spoke out about his limited role (one reception). They don't want him getting sour.

The Panthers also are going to have to deal with potential drama regarding defensive end Julius Peppers, who is playing under the franchise tender and will be a free agent again after the season. This time, he could be allowed to walk.

Bottom line: Unless things go completely sideways, Fox is likely to hang on to his job through his contract, but that lingering uncertainty might make it hard for him to attract or retain quality assistants and other needed personal types. That is never good.

Phillips' coaching career with Cowboys
Year
W-L
Pct.
Finish
13-3
.813
9-7
.563
Third, NFC East
3-2
.600
--
Overall record: 25-12 (.676)

Wade Phillips
(third season with Cowboys, 10th overall)

Phillips has a winning record (3-2) this season and has a 25-12 mark since being named head coach in 2007. That doesn't mean a thing, especially since the lone playoff appearance turned out to be a loss. Dallas has to get to the playoffs -- and maybe win a postseason game -- for Phillips to retain his job, according to sources.

He was on the hot seat entering this season after Dallas failed to make the playoffs with a late-season collapse, and that seat could get radioactive if the Cowboys can't keep pace in the NFC East with Philadelphia and the New York Giants.

Submit Shanahan's and Gruden's names here also. Neither is said to want to go to a rebuilding situation and Dallas is pretty much built to win now. The luster is off Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, enough so that he would be an unlikely replacement in Dallas if Phillips is let go, according to several league sources.

Bottom line: It's playoffs or bust for Phillips. Possibly even playoff victory or bust.

Del Rio's coaching career with Jaguars
Year
W-L
Pct.
Finish
5-11
.313
Third, AFC South
9-7
.563
Second, AFC South
12-4
.750
8-8
.500
Second, AFC South
11-5
.688
5-11
.313
Fourth, AFC South
3-3
.500
--
Overall record: 53-49 (.520)

Jack Del Rio (seventh season with Jaguars)

Del Rio, who has a career record of 53-49 in Jacksonville, signed a five-year extension before the Jags finished 5-11 last season. So for financial reasons, Del Rio could be safe, according to several sources around the league.

The Jags' sputtering start and some recurrence of player discipline issues and player discontent -- running back Maurice Jones-Drew complained he was the second-highest paid decoy in the league -- have some insiders, including one rival assistant coach, citing some discontent with Del Rio's leadership inside the Jaguars' building.

Jacksonville has won three of its last four games, though, and is tied with Houston for second place in the AFC South. After this week's bye, the Jaguars have a chance to show what they're really about with an upcoming schedule that, in order, features Tennessee, Kansas City, the New York Jets and Buffalo. That's a prime opportunity to make some headway -- or add pressure on Del Rio, who is guiding a team that just two years ago played in an AFC divisional playoff.

Bottom line: Del Rio should be fine as long as Jacksonville remains competitive. If the wheels fall off, everything from the coach to quarterback could be replaced.

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