The decision to fire -- or not fire -- an NFL head coach is fraught with myriad variables, from the sublime to the ridiculous. From the money remaining on his contract, to who ownership thinks it could lure, to how that young quarterback might be set back with a whole new system, to upcoming personal-seat-license sales, owners throw it all into their personal roulette wheels and give them a spin. The results are sometimes as shocking and confusing -- see: Cleveland -- as the seasons that led them there.
Six coaches have been fired already, a few more may be still to come, but here's a look at why some teams acted by Black Monday -- and some didn't:
Teams embracing change
Cleveland Browns: This was the one that still has people around the league agog. After only one season, the Browns canned Rob Chudzinski, saying they didn't see improvement in the team. Cleveland lost its last seven games, and management was concerned about Chudzinski's failure to stem the tide -- plus, Chud was never the Browns' first choice anyway. As crazy as firing a coach after only one year -- and paying him $10.5 million to go away -- seems, the quick hook of Chudzinski was made easier by the fact that the Browns do not have a quarterback and will probably draft one this spring. That allows the new coach to be matched with the new signal-caller.
Detroit Lions: Perhaps the most talented team in this section, the Lions fired Jim Schwartz for this exact reason. With a roster this good, and with a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford, the NFC North opened up to the Lions when Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler went down for the Packers and Bears. When the Lions collapsed instead, with a staggering number of penalties and turnovers, and when Stafford regressed, Schwartz was on the chopping block. In five seasons, he got the Lions to just one postseason, and their performance deteriorated in the second halves of the past three seasons, suggesting an inability to keep the team focused. This is a plum job because of the roster and because the Ford family is considered patient. But the Lions have to find someone who can instill discipline and further groom Stafford (or at least hire somebody else to do so). The top priority, the team brass said Monday, is to find a coach who can change the culture of the team.
Houston Texans: Entering the season with a roster that they thought was Super Bowl-caliber, the Texans were one of the league's most stunning underachievers. Gary Kubiak had been the beneficiary of owner Bob McNair's patience before -- plenty of people thought he should have been fired after last year's playoff flameout -- but it ran out when Kubiak's reputation as a quarterback guru failed him. Matt Schaub fell apart early and Kubiak stuck with him too long, and the eighth-year coach couldn't keep this lost season from spiraling away from him. This is an attractive job because the Texans have some talent, a well-regarded owner and the first overall draft pick in May.
Minnesota Vikings: When he didn't get a contract extension after last year's surprising run to the playoffs, Leslie Frazier's future was somewhat preordained. Frazier was probably a victim of his own success in 2012, and when the quarterback carousel began spinning this season, there was almost no chance he could save his job. It wasn't Frazier's fault that the front office could not identify a signal-caller -- wonder what Josh Freeman is thinking right now -- but it was his fault that his two coordinators sometimes seemed overmatched. Now Rick Spielman gets to hire a coach, but the GM might have a tough sales job, what with no quarterback, a pass rush that needs a lot of help and -- oh, by the way -- a team that will be playing outdoors in a college facility for two years while the Vikings' new stadium is built.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: This is the only franchise so far this year to also fire its general manager. That Greg Schiano's job status was still even in question after this season's 0-8 start is a testament to the team that kept playing for him. And when Josh Freeman disappeared into the ether of the Vikings, it validated Schiano's decision to dump him and go with rookie Mike Glennon. But Schiano's harsh handling of Freeman, among other personnel decisions, was indicative of his tenure. He behaved like a college coach -- one who wanted to control every aspect of the organization and whose authority is usually unquestioned. From MRSA to leaks about Freeman's status in the league's drug program, this season was rife with distractions and, it seemed, distrust of Schiano. Fired GM Mark Dominik stocked the roster with a bunch of talent -- after all, the Bucs thought they were a playoff-caliber group this year -- and leaves the team in good shape, salary-cap-wise. If the next tandem can quickly sort out the quarterback situation, it could engineer a Kansas City-style quick turnaround.
Washington Redskins: Where do you start with the dysfunction that was part of this decision? With a leak almost every week, it became clear that the relationship between Mike Shanahan and Robert Griffin III -- and Kyle Shanahan ... and Griffin's parents ... and owner Dan Snyder -- was irretrievably broken. Snyder made the only move that he could, but the organizational disarray of this franchise continues -- while there is some talent on the roster, much of it needs to be restocked, the quarterback needs to be developed and the defense needs to be almost entirely overhauled. Oh, and did I mention that special teams -- already a terrible unit heading into 2013 -- managed to get worse? Several big questions loom. Will Snyder bring in someone to oversee personnel, or does Bruce Allen now retain that power? Allen said he has personnel control now, a rather important development if it holds up. What role, if any, will Griffin have in the decision? One positive for this team: The salary-cap penalties that hamstrung the Redskins the last two years are over, and Snyder will spare no expense to do what they determine needs to be done. But Snyder has to somehow convince his next coach that he will not get in the way, or maintain a relationship with Griffin that might supersede the coach's authority (something that cropped up in reports this season).
Teams staying the course (at least for now)
Dallas Cowboys: Remember how strange it was when the Cowboys had Jason Garrett in-house as the heir apparent, making a very high salary for an assistant? Well, that tells you a lot about why Garrett still has a job today, after Dallas missed the playoffs again -- for the third straight year with a loss on the final day of the season. Jerry Jones and the Cowboys have made a significant investment of time and money in grooming Garrett to be their coach. Last week, after Tony Romo had back surgery, Jones said that if the Cowboys didn't make it, the injuries had to be considered a factor. Romo's injury certainly gave Jones an easy reason not to fire somebody he didn't want to fire in the first place. The next step: Do offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin survive?
Oakland Raiders: As always, it is hard to predict the Raiders' future thinking. Dennis Allen has won just eight games in two seasons, but the worst of the Raiders' two-year "deconstruction" -- the current owner's word -- is now over. They still don't know who their quarterback of the future is, but general manager Reggie McKenzie has been unwavering in his support of Allen. And Mark Davis, Al's son who is now in charge of the team, has shown signs of being a more patient owner than his dad. That probably gives Allen one more year, but blowouts (like the one to the Broncos this past Sunday) and six-game losing streaks to end the season can't continue. The first step: Settle on a quarterback, whether it's Terrelle Pryor, Matt McGloin or somebody else.
New York Giants: Why does Tom Coughlin still have a job after starting out 0-6 and missing the playoffs for the second straight year? Those two Lombardi Trophies he put in the lobby buy him a tremendous amount of credibility and loyalty from Giants ownership. John Mara was blunt on Monday -- he thinks the offense is broken and he was worried about the offensive line from the beginning. But he also said he told Coughlin he wants him back. That's a signal that there probably will be big changes on the coaching staff, but that Coughlin has earned the right to decide when he retires.
New York Jets: They stuck with Rex Ryan after three playoff-less seasons in part for one very big reason: Owner Woody Johnson loves the passion and profile Ryan brings to the Jets. Continuity was also key; the Jets didn't want to start over with a new offensive system for quarterback Geno Smith. And the hope is that with draft picks and better roster flexibility than in the past, general manager John Idzik can put some offensive playmakers around Smith. Winning three of their past four games, with signs of improvement from Smith, gave the Jets hope that a major overhaul wasn't necessary.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans are being deliberate with the decision regarding Mike Munchak -- and for good reason. This is the first major call for team president and chief executive Tommy Smith, who took control of the team upon the October death of his father-in-law Bud Adams. General manager Ruston Webster probably will have great input, but Munchak's fortunes, as with so many other coaches, might rest on an unstable quarterback situation. Jake Locker was hurt early in the season and the Titans still managed to go 7-9. Also, Munchak has spent his entire professional life -- as a player and coach -- as a member of the Oilers/Titans organization.
Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.