I had a vision the other day. An offseason fever dream, where I saw Jim Schwartz sitting alone in the Lions' locker room at Ford Field after a game. It was quiet with the players cleared out, a good place to reflect. The coach sat inside the half darkened office, listening to a Thin Lizzy cassette, reflecting on his last five seasons in Detroit and mapping out his next move. It was over for him in Detroit.
Schwartz was, unofficially, the first coach to get the heat turned up on him for the 2013 season. Bill Ford, Jr., the Lions vice chairman, did it on Tuesday when he declined to comment on his coach's future.
Ford's no comment was all you needed to hear, or not hear.
Coaches waiting for the guillotine are an offseason staple. They meet two important requirements: keeping the NFL in the headlines and satisfying our blood lust when Ndamukong Suh isn't terrorizing the freeways of Detroit.
Standard trope caveat out of the way, let's take our mandatory look at some possible new faces for the breadline this season. And just to make it somewhat constructive, we'll expand each coach's LinkedIn profile by identifying possible new careers.
Ron Rivera escaped a furious round of coaching layoffs this year. We're not sure how he did it, probably by reminding the owner that they still have a talented quarterback at a bargain price. He might have also convinced the owner that without Rod Chudzinski they could do something besides run Cam Newton on third downs.
Carolina is a better team this year, but it's not a good enough group to compete with the likes of Atlanta in the NFC South. The biggest question mark is new offensive coordinator Mike Shula, who makes Chud look like Little Man Tate. Rivera will have to lean on his pass rushers and a more diverse offense to get to somewhere north of .500 this season.
Next move: Avoiding Norval Turner's phone calls.
No coach has made 8-8 as entertaining as Jason Garrett in the two years since losing the interim label. But nobody has made .500 more exciting than Garrett's Cowboys. Players don't put on pads for a month, and already the scene at Valley Ranch has descended into new levels of wackiness. The latest: Bill Callahan admits that he'll be calling the plays. Garrett's not commenting on it, and Jerry's just confusing the hell out of everyone.
Dallas' season and Garrett's future could well come down to yet another Week 17 matchup to determine the NFC East, against Philadelphia this time. However, a three-game stretch from Week 14-16 when the Cowboys play the Bears, Packers and Redskins is likely where Garrett's future will be determined.
Next move: Garrett's ability to work with the army he has lands him back at Princeton as the Donald Rumsfeld Professor of Political Science.
Schwartz needs to find a way win and keep Ndamukong Suh's foot from doing any more damage. Those two chores are related. The Lions have been defined by distractions on and off the field, rather than ending the team's lengthy playoff drought. There's a desperate need for leadership here.
The key for Schwartz and the Lions is Matthew Stafford. Adding Reggie Bush finally gives him a running game. However, the offensive line lost three starters. The only blue chip replacement they added up front was Kentucky guard Larry Warford. Riley Reiff takes his short arms to the left side. Stafford's performance slipped in 2012, and the potential for more pressure could undermine him this season, along with Schwartz's future in Detroit.
Next move: Intramural sports coordinator, Kid Rock "Chillin' the Most" Cruise.
Rex Ryan probably won't get fired. His job will not be spared because he's somehow managed to turn his team around. Instead, Woody Johnson will conflate media attention with success and forget all about the team's record.
This is the AFC. Hovering around .500 is usually good enough to keep a team in the Wild Card chase. Ryan did manage to preserve a top-10 defense last season, even with Darrelle Revis on injured reserve. On the other hand, the Dolphins and Bills are much further along in their rebuilding efforts. The Jets just started to deal with an enormous cap burden this year.
If the Jets actually find a way to score, the schedule gives Ryan's team the chance for a strong finish with the last four games of the season against the Raiders, Panthers, Browns and Dolphins.
Next move: Anonymity as a staff comedian in a popular Branson stage show.
According to this report from Mike Silver, GM Reggie McKenzie is more concerned with buying time by selling a narrative than building a winning team. And Mark Davis is none too happy about it, borrowing a page from the little tyrant's playbook and firing McKenzie's imported public relations guy. So what does Dennis Allen have to do with all this? Oh not much, just sew together a competitive team from affordable spare parts.
Oakland's thin roster isn't McKenzie's fault. He started the spring more than $30 million over the cap. Allen, entering his second year on the sidelines, finds himself stuck between the pressure to win and the reality of rebuilding a team. Given the rebuild, Allen should see a third season, but the younger Davis is proving to be as mercurial as his father.
Next move: Sneaking out of Oakland when they change Al Davis' embalming fluid, possibly going back to finish that master's degree his mother wanted him to get.
Greg Schiano is the least likely name on this list to get fired after this season. This is only his second season in Tampa Bay. Mark Dominik held up his end of the bargain spending big for talent for the second year in a row. Tampa Bay acquired Darrelle Revis via trade and signed Dashon Goldson to a $41 million contract. The Bucs needed to address a leaky secondary, and they did it in the flashiest way possible.
So why is Schiano at least somewhat at risk?
Josh Freeman. There might not be a more frustrating quarterback in the NFL right now. Freeman has talent, but is plagued by wild inconsistencies. Worse, Schiano handled the situation poorly during the offseason by sending out confused messages about his starter's future. Third-round pick Mike Glennon isn't ready to start in the NFL. Shaky quarterback play will kill the Bucs' hopes of competing with the Falcons and a rejuvenated Saints in the NFC South. Another so-so season after two years of big spending by the front office could upset folks higher up the food chain than the head coach.
Next move: Star of "Greg's Gang," a reality show where he mentors a dozen juvenile delinquents for two months of primitive camping.
Bud Adams decided to give Mike Munchak another chance, despite the Titans going from nine to six wins in his first two seasons. A lot of things need to go right for Munchak to make it past a pivotal third season.
History is repeating itself, which is odd since Bud Adams has been around long enough to see most of the 20th century and all of the current one. Replace Vince Young with Jake Locker, give him the benefit of the doubt over and over, send coach and quarterback packing. Tennessee's best hope rests with the offensive line and Chris Johnson. The team drafted Chance Warmack at No. 10 and signed free agent Andy Levitre.
Defensively, the Titans gave up more points than any other team last season. They have a good group of linebackers, but did they sufficiently answer questions in the secondary and up front? On the surface, it doesn't look like a much better unit.
Tennessee was 1-5 in the AFC South last season. The Colts and Texans both look like better teams, and you can make a case for the Jaguars and Titans being on equal footing. Another losing record inside the division might be all it takes.
Next move: Waiting for Jeff Fisher to return his phone calls.