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Which NFL head coaches are getting fired and which ones are staying?

A dozen NFL coaches are on the hot seat as the 2017 season winds down. Here’s an informed look at which ones could get a pink slip on Black Monday.

Dallas Cowboys v Oakland Raiders Photo by Don Feria/Getty Images

The mix of the holiday season with the NFL firing season is an inescapable, wrenching experience. Coaches suffer. Their families do, too.

NFL coaches often talk about being hired only one day to be fired. That day comes when their owners "want to go in a new direction." The coaches try to put the best face on it. They try to look unfazed. Some expect it. Others are shocked. All are shook.

Some, after all of the failure and losing, know it is deserved. Others wish they had more time, are certain they are on the right track and resent the new guy that will arrive and benefit from the foundation laid.

Some of these coaches, some of these teams, some of these relationships are about to explode as early as on Monday morning once the 2017 regular season expires.

I am counting a stunning, potential 12 NFL head coaching changes.

Here is what I think these teams will do based on conversations around the league and in these organizations.

Who’s out

Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals -– A weird season in the desert, a weird year for Arians where he was popping off about his receivers early and then his running game later and then his quarterback, all the while orchestrating an uneven, uninspiring Cardinals effort. He has been there since 2013. Some wonder if he will simply retire from a coaching career that began in 1975.

John Fox, Chicago Bears -– He has been in Chicago since 2015 and three years is rarely enough time to rebuild a torn roster and ripped team psyche. He just received his franchise quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, this year, and the roster around him is still being strengthened. I think Fox is equipped for this job but the Bears will search for an offensive-minded guru to lead Trubisky and the franchise.

Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals -– A fixture with this team and in this city for 14 years, he has brought both respectability, lifting this franchise from the floor to competitive and sometimes entertaining status. A team built with a strong offensive engine lost difference-making players like tackle Andrew Whitworth and receivers Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu in recent free agency. That proved insurmountable.

Everybody in this organization needs a reset and a fresh start.

Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions — It’s over.

Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts -– No Andrew Luck, big problems. But the entire environment among the Colts seems skewered. Pagano has accomplished a lot in Indianapolis in five years, but change is coming.

Update: Pagano was fired the same day the Colts beat the Texans in the season finale.

Who’s staying

Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns -– He is 1-30 in Cleveland and is trying to avoid an 0-16 season in the finale at Pittsburgh on Sunday. He has waffled on his quarterbacks and in his message, but has only had two seasons to create both. I think he gets one more shot.

Vance Joseph, Denver Broncos -– Only one season for Joseph. One trying season in Denver that began with 2-0 and 3-1 records then crashed with eight straight losses. Much of the fault falls on the quarterback selections, and that is a management (John Elway) problem, not a coaching one.

Dirk Koetter, Tampa Bay Buccaneers -– Friction between him and franchise quarterback Jameis Winston. An undisciplined, sluggish team. He has only had two seasons to build it but the crash of this season was a lot.

Update: He’s staying for a third year.

Bill O’Brien, Houston Texans -– He has created an atmosphere of friction and always seems on the defensive in Houston. And management has shifted from excited to lukewarm to who knows with him since his arrival in 2014. But the new, promising franchise quarterback, DeShaun Watson, is begging for his return. That means something.

Jack Del Rio, Oakland Raiders –- He had his team riding high, rolling last season before losing his quarterback, Derek Carr, to injury just before the playoffs. And the Raiders have not been right since, especially with Carr’s inconsistent return this year. The Marshawn Lynch experiment blew up. The entire team coiled. It was an odd season for the Raiders, but Del Rio overcomes it.

Todd Bowles, New York Jets –- The preseason banter was 0-16 for the Jets but they have done better than that and look for a franchise quarterback in the 2018 draft. The question is do they want an offensive mind to groom that investment or stick with Bowles for more overall continuity? The Jets will choose continuity.

Update: The Jets extended both Bowles and GM Mike Maccagnan through 2020.

Mike Mularkey, Tennessee Titans -– He is the only coach on this list who I believe is literally coaching for his job on Sunday. If he beats the Jacksonville Jaguars at home and makes the playoffs, he’s good. If he loses that game, I believe he literally loses his job. Think about the pressure in that –- Mularkey and the Titans currently have lost three straight games and now enter this all-or-nothing vortex. No greater motivation.

What would you do with these coaches?


NFL assistant coaches who could be hired as head coaches