NFL coaching carousel: Rumors, firings, and hirings

The NFL regular season is just about over. By the end of the day Sunday, Dec. 30, all 12 playoff teams and the seeding order will have been decided. It’s a new season for those dozen teams. More than a few of the league’s other teams will embark on a second season too — firing and hiring season.

Two teams, the Browns and the Packers, already fired their head coaches. As many as six others, maybe more, could join them within 24 hours. Some of those teams will be replacing their general managers as well. Even more of the NFL’s 32 franchises could be spinning on the coaching carousel looking to replace coordinators and assistant coaches.

It’s going to get real busy, real fast, so we’ll be keeping track of the latest news and rumors as teams start making changes. Keep checking back.

Steve Wilks is going to join the illustrious group of NFL coaches fired after one season, a group that includes Jim Mora, Jim Tomsula, Chip Kelly and more. Wilks’ fate was decided before his team’s Week 16 loss to the Rams, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.

If Wilks goes, the question is whether or not general manager Steve Keim goes too. He’s been the team’s GM since 2013, presiding over some shaky drafts and ruinous free agent decisions (Hi, Sam Bradford). Keim is not expected to be fired, according to Kent Somers of Arizona Central. Fans are not pleased with the possibility of Keim’s return.

Dec. 24: Peter King reported that the team has interest in recently depose Packers coach Mike McCarthy, and McCarthy reportedly has some interest in the job himself.

After slumping into their Week 10 bye after a 4-5 start, rumors about John Harbaugh’s future with the team started to swirl. Since then, the combo of Harbaugh and rookie QB Lamar Jackson have turned the Ravens into a playoff contender, saving Harbaugh’s job in the process. The Ravens put out a statement prior to their Week 16 win over the Chargers that Harbaugh would be back in 2019, the final year of his contract with the team. So far, there’s been no talk of an extension, and a lot of people think Harbaugh would be fine playing out his final year in Baltimore then seeing what the market holds in 2020.

Dec. 22: PFT speculated that the Ravens’ announcement could signal the team’s willingness to trade Harbaugh, should a team that coveted him want to offer up draft picks, etc. The Broncos and Jets were two teams said to have been interested in Harbaugh if the Ravens gave him the boot.

Dec. 30: At least one team will consider calling the Ravens to see if they’d be willing to trade Harbaugh, according to Adam Schefter.

Head coach Dan Quinn isn’t expected to go anywhere, but there have been rumors that both coordinators, OC Steve Sarkisian and DC Marquand Manuel, could pay the price for the team’s disappointing season.

Dec. 27: Or maybe not. ESPN’s Josina Anderson reported that the team’s rash of injuries on both sides of the ball could give the coordinators another shot next season.

Dec. 29: Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network said Saturday that Sarkisian was “seriously at risk” for losing his job, along with Manuel.

The Panthers were on fire during a 6-2 start to the season, and then the wheels came off. Riverboat Ron’s team lost seven straight games headed into Week 17, fueling speculation that new owner David Tepper might use the occasion to find a new coach.

They fired a pair of defensive coaches in early December, and Rivera took over the defensive play calling duties.

Dec. 23: Head coach Ron Rivera is expected to keep his job for 2019, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Dec. 29: If Steve Wilks is fired by the Cardinals, as expected, he is one possibility to return to his old job coaching the defense with the Panthers, according to Rapoport.

The reality is that Marvin Lewis is probably never leaving the Bengals until he wants to, no matter what the team’s record is. That doesn’t change the fact that there’s speculation about his future in Cincinnati as another losing season winds to a close.

Dec. 27: ESPN’s Josina Anderson reports that the Bengals’ injuries this season are likely to help give Lewis some cover. She expects him to be coaching there in 2019.

Dec. 29: Lewis could retire, says the NFL Network. He and owner Mike Brown will meet the Tuesday after the season ends to discuss his future.

Dec. 30: Jay Glazer of Fox Sports says Lewis is going to be fired.

Cleveland Browns

Hue Jackson was fired in October. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams got bumped up to be the interim head coach, and Freddie Kitchens went from coaching the running backs to running the offense. It worked too, raising questions of whether or not the pair might stick around or if another team could snap up Kitchens for their head coaching job.

Dec. 27: One name that has popped up in connection with the Browns is Patriots OC Josh McDaniels.

Dec. 29: Do not expect Williams to be the coach here in 2019. According to Ian Rapoport, Williams isn’t even considered a front runner for the job. Among the possibilities the Browns are expected to explore there’s McDaniels, McCarthy, Patriots defensive coordinator Brian Flores and Colts defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

Dallas Cowboys

Jason Garrett isn’t going anywhere, not with the Cowboys headed to the playoffs. The Jones family likes Garrett, but they’ve made it clear that they expect the team to be contenders. On the other hand, there could be moves among Garrett’s staff.

Dec. 29: Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan could get the boot, according to Ian Rapoport.

Denver Broncos

Vance Joseph made a pretty good case for why the Broncos should fire him back in Week 9 when he made one of the worst coaching decisions of his short career (and there are a lot to choose from). But then the Broncos went on a three-game win streak and had the easiest path to an AFC Wild Card bid. That would have made it impossible for John Elway to fire him. Nope. Joseph’s Broncos went out and lost the next three, kicking them firmly out of postseason contention.

Dec. 17: It says a lot that someone let it be known that the Broncos almost hired Mike Shanahan a year ago.

Dec. 22: The Broncos had been one of the teams said to be interested in John Harbaugh should the Ravens fire him. That hope got shot down when the Ravens announced he’d be back.

Dec. 29: It’s not out of the question that Joseph sticks around. However, one possibility in that scenario is that Elway brings in his old pal Gary Kubiak to run the offense, according to Rapoport. That seems like it’d be a huge problem since Kubiak has been the head coach there before and his presence and connection with Elway would undercut the head coach.

Matt Patricia’s first year in Detroit has been disappointing enough to make people think that maybe Jim Caldwell wasn’t such a bad coach after all. But Patricia isn’t going anywhere. He’s only in his first season, and he and the general manager, Bob Quinn, are both former Belichickians.

But there could be changes among the coordinators, most likely offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter, who predates Patricia and whose contract is up after this season.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers fired Mike McCarthy after an embarrassing home loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13. Joe Philbin took over as the interim coach. Whoever they end up hiring inherits a pretty good situation, one ripe for a quick turnaround in 2019. However, that person is going to have to do more for Aaron Rodgers than McCarthy did.

Dec. 3: Is Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in the mix? He could be, according to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson.

Dec. 24: Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald was mentioned by MMQB’s Albert Breer as another possibility in Green Bay.

Dec. 26: The team got a pair of early interviews out of the way, sitting down with former Colts head coach Chuck Pagano and former Colts and Lions head coach Jim Caldwell.

Dec. 29: The Packers are interested in Fitzgerald, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. He was hired by current Packers president Mark Murphy while Murphy as the athletic director at Northwestern.

No team disappointed more this season than the Jaguars, a play away from a Super Bowl bid last place in the AFC South. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. But really, is anyone surprised that this happened when the team decided to sign Blake Bortles to an extension? The team’s performance in 2017 likely bought head coach Doug Marrone and GM Dave Caldwell another season, at least. Both are expected to keep their jobs for 2019, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

But there will be some coaching changes in Jacksonville. The team fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett in November, so they’ll be in the market for a prodigious offensive mind (hopefully) to help turn things around … hopefully a new quarterback too.

Despite a 7-8 record through Week 16, head coach Adam Gase is expected to be spared. The team is expected to move on from quarterback Ryan Tannehill, giving Gase the chance to start over with a signal caller of his own choosing. Who that will be is another question entirely. Maybe.

Gase’s job may not be as safe as once thought.

Dec. 26: Instead, the Dolphins will be making changes in the front office. Mike Tannebaum, the vice president of football operations, is expected to be fired, according to Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald.

Dec. 29: Owner Stephen Ross is not happy with the state of things, and Gase could pay the price. There is reportedly a “legitimate possibility” that Gase ends up fired. If that happens, he’ll be a top candidate for other coaching vacancies, according to the NFL Network.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings made one change during the season, at offensive coordinator. Interim OC Kevin Stefanski is expected to be offered the job on a full-time basis. However, Stefanski is not under contract after this season, so he could be fielding other offers, according to Rapoport.

New York Jets

It’s hard to believe, four seasons later, that Todd Bowles won 10 games in his first year (2015) as the Jets head coach, thanks in part to a little bit of the old FitzMagic. Little did we know that the team’s choke job in a Week 17 loss with the playoffs on the line that season would set the tone for the rest of Bowles’ 24-39 tenure there. The opinion of the league’s most well-informed insiders is that Bowles is as good as gone as soon as the season ends.

It was reported on Saturday, Dec. 29, that Bowles will be fired right after the team’s Week 17 game on Sunday.

Dec. 24: There is apparently some concern among coaching candidates that the structure of the Jets’ leadership, i.e. with Mike Maccagnan staying around as GM, could scare off some potential replacements.

Dec. 24: Chris Johnson, the son of owner Woody Johnson, shot down rumors that the team was interested in Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh.

Dec. 27: The team has interest in both Mike McCarthy and Jim Caldwell, according to Sports Illustrated, two former head coaches who have experience grooming young QBs, something the Jets value as they look to build around Sam Darnold.

Dec. 29: Maccagnan isn’t going anywhere, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

Dirk Koetter was hired in 2016 as part of an organizational overhaul to salvage a team that hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007. It was the same year the team drafted quarterback Jamies Winston, expected to be another cornerstone of a contender. Now, both men could be working somewhere else in 2019. The Bucs are 19-28 under Koetter.

In another strange twist, all of Koetter’s assistant coaches have contracts that expire after this season. It makes it increasingly likely that Koetter will join them. He sounded reconciled to his fate during a Dec. 29 radio appearance.

Dec. 24: McCarthy’s name has been mentioned as a possibility in Tampa too.

Dec. 27: It’s not out of the question that Koetter might be back next season.

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