We’ve reached the stretch run of the NFL regular season, which means it’s time for some teams to part ways with their coaches. Here’s a look at the franchises that have openings now — or will have them soon — and some of the likely candidates.
Looking for a new coach
Fired: Mike McCarthy on Dec. 2.
The Packers are at the top of the list, despite having a generational talent at quarterback in Aaron Rodgers and suffering one of the most humiliating defeats of the year at home against the Cardinals. The Packers are 4-10-1 in their past 15 games dating to last season and 18-18-1 in Rodgers’s last 37 starts dating to Christmas Day 2015. Shortly after that listless 24-17 loss to Arizona, the team fired McCarthy, who is more or less the only NFL head coach Rodgers has ever played under (Mike Sherman was in his final year as the team’s coach when Green Bay drafted Rogers in 2005, but he threw only 16 passes while backing up Brett Favre as a rookie).
It will be interesting to see where this coaching search goes, though the Packers seem certain to focus on an offensive-minded coach who can get the most out of Rodgers in the latter stages of his career (he turned 35 on Sunday). Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel laid out some possibilities on Sunday:
— Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who is likely to get another head coaching job even after his awful stint in Denver and despite the way he burned the Colts last offseason. Rodgers and Tom Brady are close; McDaniels and Brady have had a tight, successful relationship over the years. Does it follow that McDaniels will trade his 41-year-old QB for a newer model in a different city? Would it surprise you to learn that a Bill Belichick disciple isn’t tipping his hand?
“If that’s in the cards for me, then that’s great,” McDaniels told the Boston Globe, when asked if he wants to be a head coach again. “I’ve said that before, but, again, I’m not worried about that right now.”
And as for opportunities down the line, he added, “I don’t really worry about the future. Honestly, each week is a tremendous challenge.”
— Rams quarterback coach Zac Taylor, who is only about seven months older than Rodgers but is considered one of the rising young minds of the NFL’s assistant ranks.
— Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley, who is only about three months older than Rodgers but is the mastermind of the top offense in the NCAA.
— Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll: He has been an assistant under both Bill Belichick and Nick Saban, which should count for a whole lot.
— Northwestern Coach Pat Fitzgerald, who isn’t an offensive guy but has done a lot with a little in Evanston. Plus, Packers Chairman Mark Murphy was Northwestern’s athletic director when Fitzgerald was hired in 2006. Silverstein says it’s a “lock” that Green Bay will be in touch with him.
— Both Harbaugh brothers, Ravens Coach John Harbaugh and Michigan Coach Jim Harbaugh.
— Stanford Coach David Shaw, who is highly regarded but never has shown much interest in becoming an NFL head coach.
Fired: Hue Jackson on Oct. 29.
Jackson won just three games in 2 1/2 seasons with Cleveland, so his firing was hardly a surprise. On Monday, Peter King suggested the Browns could jump on the now-available McCarthy, who spent time with Cleveland GM John Dorsey in Green Bay (the latter was the Packers’ chief scout and director of player personnel from 2000 to 2012). King described their relationship “not tight, but they are friends.”
Former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who’s 66, also has let it be known he’s interested in returning to the sideline, but only to coach the Browns, where he was offensive coordinator from 2001 to 2003. Arians has gone so far as to say he would keep Freddie Kitchens as Cleveland’s offensive coordinator (he coached Arizona’s running backs under Arians) and would consider keeping Gregg Williams as his defensive coordinator.
Riley also has been mentioned in connection with the Browns job — he would reunite with former Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield — but Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot says that after talking to people who know Riley well, she thinks “he’s serious about staying at Oklahoma and not interested in jumping to the NFL right now.”
On the hot seat?
Marvin Lewis, Bengals: Lewis was thought to have signed a two-year contract extension this offseason, but NFL Media’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that the deal actually was a one-year contract with a team option for 2019, meaning Cincinnati can cut Lewis loose after this season without any financial considerations. The Bengals started the season 4-1 but have lost six of seven thanks to a number of factors, injuries being among them. This could be the year Cincinnati finally moves on from Lewis, with Rapoport suggesting he could move to the team’s front office.
Todd Bowles, Jets: New York gagged another one away against the Titans on Sunday, turning a 16-0 lead into a 26-22 loss and all but dooming Bowles’s chances of returning for a fifth season.
Steve Wilks, Cardinals: Arizona won at Green Bay on Sunday to improve to 2-9, but Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says the Cardinals are “mulling major changes” with regards to their first-year coach. La Canfora suggests Bowles could return to the desert, where he was defensive coordinator in 2013 and 2014.
Ron Rivera, Panthers: Carolina lost its fourth straight on Sunday to fall to 6-6 after a 6-2 start, and an NFC wild-card berth is looking like a long shot (the Panthers still have to play the Saints twice). Now La Canfora is reporting that new Carolina owner David Tepper “is becoming increasingly frustrated with the team’s recent performances and is mulling major changes if the results don’t change quickly.”
On Monday, Carolina made perhaps its first moves, firing defensive line coach Brady Hoke and cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. Rivera will take over the team’s defensive play-calling duties, the NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reports.
Dirk Koetter, Bucs: Tampa Bay is 4-7 but has won two straight, and its formerly maligned defense has given up 17 points or fewer in three of its past four games. The Bucs’ problems run deep — they’ll have to make a decision on Jameis Winston after the season and there’s no running game to speak of — and Koetter is just 19-25 in his two-plus seasons, but is that enough to make a move?
Mike Zimmer, Vikings: Minnesota has wins this season over the 49ers, Eagles, Cardinals, Jets, Lions and Packers. Of those teams, Philadelphia is the only one that has much of a postseason chance, and it’s not even a great chance. The Vikings have lost to the Bills, Rams, Saints, Bears and Patriots, with the latter four each pointed toward the playoffs. Minnesota beats bad teams and loses to good teams, which is hardly what it wanted coming off last year’s successes (without Kirk Cousins, mind you).
Doug Marrone, Jaguars: Jacksonville was one quarter from toppling the Patriots and advancing to the Super Bowl last season but has tumbled back to earth in 2018. Nevertheless, Rapoport said Sunday that Marrone’s job is safe for another year.
Dan Quinn, Falcons: Atlanta has lost four straight, its formerly highflying offense failing to reach 20 points in each of those games. The Falcons had just 131 yards in Sunday’s home loss to the Ravens, the franchise’s lowest since Week 14 of the 1999 season. Nevertheless, owner Arthur Blank seemed to back Coach Dan Quinn and GM Thomas Dimitroff. “I haven’t lost any faith in Coach Quinn or Thomas,” he said. “They’ll do the evaluations that’s needed.”
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian might want to update his resume, though.
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