January is a month of change in the NFL. It's inevitable. This year will be no different. Head coaches, coordinators and general managers will be in flux. Already, three coaching staffs have lost their head coach, in-season, and starting Monday much more will be coming.
With that in mind, let's examine several teams and situations that will be under review with the season now complete, and provide a sketch of how the offseason might begin to take shape.
The "A" list of head coaches won't be as deep as some imagined. League sources close to Jon Gruden continue to say that, unequivocally, he is staying in the broadcast booth. That likely won't preclude the St. Louis Rams, who fired coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney Monday morning, from at least wanting to hear that answer firsthand. Expect Gruden to stay in the media in 2012. Ditto for Bill Cowher, league sources say, unless the Giants' job would come open.
Jeff Fisher will be the big fish out there, and I expect the Rams and Chargers, among others, to pursue him. Both of those jobs would be attractive to him, if open, sources say, and if it did open up, the Giants job would be appealing to Fisher, who has strong ties to ownership there. He's going to be coaching in 2012, in all likelihood. It's just a matter of where.
There aren't too many hot coordinators or "it" guys out there, and there might not be as many openings as first assumed. So those who have been off the radar for some time, like former Packers coach Mike Sherman, are going to get consideration, as well as some coordinators currently under fire (like Brian Schottenheimer of the Jets). And some coordinators with only a year of experience at their current positions (Carolina's Rob Chudzinski, Cincinnati's Jay Gruden and Baltimore's Chuck Pagano) will get interviews as well.
Teams with openings
The Chiefs will give strong consideration to removing the interim tag from Romeo Crennel, and several league sources expect that to happen relatively soon, in which case Kansas City will be looking for an offensive coordinator who could be groomed as a coach-in-waiting. Josh McDaniels would be a prime candidate. If Bill O'Brien leaves the Patriots for Penn State, then McDaniels is very likely to end up back in New England if the Rams blow up their staff.
Miami will pursue big names, league sources believe, but it's not likely they will lure someone like Fisher, lacking a quarterback and a particularly high draft pick. Several general managers believe Carl Peterson will ultimately be overseeing the front office in Miami, and that Peterson will have a major hand in naming the next head coach, with GM Jeff Ireland perhaps let go at some point. Brian Billick could be a potential fit.
The Jaguars will cast a wide net in their search, according to team and league sources. Interim head coach Mel Tucker will merit consideration, and with his contract expiring, the Jaguars want to retain Tucker as a defensive coordinator if not the head man, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Landing an offensive-minded head coach with quarterback experience is key, with Blaine Gabbert's development paramount for the organization. GM Gene Smith is a fan of Atlanta coordinator Mike Mularkey, and the Jags contacted Sherman about potential interest in the job before firing Jack Del Rio.
The Chargers are most assuredly going to be looking for a head coach -- Fisher and Chudzinski (a former member of the staff in San Diego) will be linked to any opening there -- and GM AJ Smith could be out as well. Norv Turner would be an incredibly hot offensive coordinator candidate, if not a head coach contender. Baltimore, Dallas and the Jets are among the teams that could covet him as coordinator.
The Glazer family had wanted to avoid firing Raheem Morris in Tampa Bay, but the club's horrible results down the stretch and the difficulties selling tickets forced the coach's firing on Monday. The Buccaneers will look at experienced head coaches. Morris, meanwhile, is very close with Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin and could end up on that staff.
The Bucs flirted with Cowher two years ago, according to league sources, and Sherman could be a fit in Tampa. GM Mark Dominik is empowered by his recent four-year contract extension, and landing an experienced coach might be required.
Seemingly every year, a coach is fired out of the blue later in the offseason. That could happen in the NFC East this year.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told my NFL Network colleague Steve Wyche Sunday night that Jason Garrett will be brought back, but that doesn't mean the staff around Garrett won't be beefed up; Norv Turner and/or Tony Sparano are options to return to the organization. Perhaps this is the year Tom Coughlin retires. It's hard to imagine the Eagles firing Andy Reid, but you never know if Reid will say "enough is enough." And in Washington, things could conceivably come to a head over the role of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, coach Mike Shanahan's son.
Chicago offensive coordinator Mike Martz has an expiring contract, he turned down an extension earlier this season and it would be surprising if he returns. Former Seattle and Denver assistant Jeremy Bates has worked well with Jay Cutler in the past, but league sources say they had a falling out after Bates chose Seattle over Chicago in 2010, and it might require repairing that relationship before a hire is in order.
Kansas City offensive coordinator Bill Muir is likely to retire, league sources say, and New Orleans defensive coordinator Greg Williams will be wooed by Fisher, his close friend, wherever Fisher goes, while the Saints have been trying to secure Williams to a longer-term extension.
The Browns will explore options to take some of the pressure off head coach Pat Shurmur, who wears several hats in Cleveland; they were denied permission to talk to Karl Dorell by Miami a year ago but he could be brought in this offseason (his contract is up). Former Vikings head coach Brad Childress is well schooled in the West Coast offense and could end up there as well. Cincinnati defensive backs coach Kevin Coyle is making a name for himself, and could join another staff as a defensive coordinator.
If Schottenheimer can't land a head coaching job, the Jets might be willing to let him leave for a lateral move as a coordinator, with staff moves likely coming in New York regardless. And the Packers' staff will likely undergo changes as well, with quarterbacks coach Tom Clements and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin likely to be pursued by other college and pro teams.
Oakland will be restructuring its front office and Reggie McKenzie and Elliot Wolf from the Packers could both be heading there (league sources say Eric DeCosta of the Ravens, Tom Gamble of the 49ers and Les Snead of the Falcons are also on the Raiders' wish list). League sources believe the Vikings could add to their front office as well in the coming months.
DeCosta, Snead, Steve Keim (Arizona) and Omar Khan (Pittsburgh) have been viewed as young executives on the rise for several years now, and one of them could find a career opportunity this offseason enticing enough for them to leave their current spots. If the Chargers fire Smith, that job would be coveted; some expect San Diego would promote from within if the club made a change.