Earlier, we looked at the coaching situations of the NFC. Now we’ll shift gears and focus on the coaching situations among the AFC.
Miami Dolphins. 7-9 with just one home win probably wasn’t what owner Stephen Ross had in mind this season. Offseason acquistions of Brandon Marshall and Karlos Dansby, coupled with the emergence of defensive stud Cameron Wake and expected development of Chad Henne had the Dolphins thinking big. Instead, after Sunday’s clobbering against New Englad, 38-7, should GM Jeff Ireland and Sparano feel good about their chances of returning to Miami next season? They were supposed to challenge the Patriots and Jets. They went 1-3 against them, and in two games against New England, the Patriots made them look as if they had no business being on the same field; they allowed 79 points combined in two blowout losses against the Patriots. Miami has major work to do. They must fix their special teams problems because they were manhandled twice by the Patriots. They lost four of their last five games, to the likes of Oakland, Detroit, Cleveland and Buffalo. Miami must resolve their offensive coaching problems, as quarterbacks coach David Lee has faced problems developing Henne while losing the confidence and trust of Marshall. And Miami is facing a troublesome quarterback situation in which Henne and Tyler Thigpen aren’t franchise guys. If he wasn’t on the firing line before Sunday’s debacle in New England, you have to imagine Ross may be strongly considering going in a new direction and cut ties with Sparano and his staff.
Cleveland Browns. I’ll be shocked if Eric Mangini gets another season in Cleveland. I don’t think he’ll survive under GM Mike Holmgren two years in a row. Likely Sunday was his final game was a drubbing against the Pittsburgh Steelers, 41-9. Mangini’s record in two seasons isn’t eye appealing: 10-22 and just 2-10 in the division. He started the year on the hot seat and it’s likely within 48 hours he’ll be out. This won’t be the sexiest job opening on the market. The Browns lack impact players to build a franchise around and they have about as much buzz around the league as a bucket of dishwater. All wasn’t totally lost in a 5-11 season. They found a running back and completely stole Peyton Hillis in a trade with Denver. The quarterback merry-go-round finally stopped this season with Colt McCoy, who will likely enter 2010 as the prohibitive favorite to start at quarterback. The defense was drastically better in points allowed and takeaways. But they relied too much on Hillis and lack a strong offensive line as well as a true No.1 wide receiver for McCoy. Cleveland is still rebuilding and lacks the talent necessary to compete against divisional rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore. With plenty of coaching openings expected, the Browns will be a tough sell to prospective coaches. Keep your eye on what Holmgren decides to do. If he fails to reel in a big-name coach (think Jon Gruden or John Fox), Holmgren could opt to return to the sidelines.
Houston Texans. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Houston is retaining Kubiak and he’ll return to the sidelines in 2011. Under Kubiak, the Texans are 36-43 with no playoff appearances. After starting the season 4-2, the Texans endured two, four-game losing streaks and finished the year 2-10. Their achilles heel has been on defense, where Houston ranks 29th in total defense and last in the NFL against the pass. Kubiak has built a high-octane offense with quick strike abilities. For the first time, thanks to the addition of Arian Foster, the running game is just as fierce as the passing game. Houston will likely ask Kubiak to make some changes to his coaching staff. First priority needs to be hiring a strong minded defensive personality. Don’t be surprised if you hear Wade Phillips’ name popping up.
Cincinnati Bengals. This is a tricky one. It seems as though the Bengals want Lewis to stay, however, the feeling is not mutual. Lewis has voiced his desires for the team to make some sweeping changes, from upgrading the training facilities to improving the team’s player personnel department. One reason Lewis rejected the idea of a contract extension prior to the season was because the Bengals apparently aren’t willing to change their ways. This season, the Bengals tied the franchise mark with 10 consecutive wins. Looking to post back-to-back division titles and playoff berths, the team added WR Terrell Owens. Everything for the Bengals snowballed. Carson Palmer matched his career high with 20 interceptions and looked both mentally and physically exhausted being under center in Cincy. During his eight seasons with the Bengals, Lewis posted a 60-67-1 record and had only two winning seasons during his tenure. Cincinnati lost their only two playoff appearances under Lewis. Defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer could be a leading candidate to replace Lewis as the Bengals’ head coach.
Oakland Raiders. It’s no longer ‘Just Win, Baby’. It’s more like, ‘Just Find Another Coach’. According to sources close to the situation, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Tom Cable is likely out as the Raiders head coach. Oakland finished the season 8-8, but went 6-0 in division play marking the first time since the 1970 merger that a team went undefeated in thei division and missed the playoffs. Under Cable, the Raiders are 17-27 and posted their best record this season since 2002 when the Raiders went to the Super Bowl. It’s also the first time since 2002 the Raiders didn’t lose at least 11 games. Still plagued by quarterback woes with Jason Campbell and Bruce Gradkowski and his back and forth on playing both, Cable seems to have the Raiders moving in the right direction. For Davis to cut Cable loose and start over again seems both unnecessary and unfair. But then again, this is Al Davis we’re talking about. Should Cable be let go, Oakland will have had five coaches since 2003.
Denver Broncos. The Mile High City reached lows the past two seasons. Josh McDaniels traded away vital pieces in Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall and Peyton Hillis. Denver finished the year with an embarrassing 4-12 mark and McDaniels didn’t make it to the end of the season. Now the Broncos are turning to a legend to help them start fresh. John Elway is set to become the Executive Vice President of Football Operations in Denver and guess who’s leading candidate is? Jim Harbaugh. Both players have Stanford ties; Elway played there, Harbaugh currently coaches there. So it’s likely Elway will pursue Harbaugh and have a great pitch for Harbaugh to become the new man in Denver. But should Harbaugh land elsewhere, will Elway continue to swing for the fences and go after a big-name free agent coach such as Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden. Gruden has been linked as a leading candidate in San Francisco and Cleveland. No matter the case, Elway and the Broncos have a tall task in front of them trying to undo all the wrongs done by McDaniels. Denver hasn’t won a playoff game since Elway’s final season with the team in 1999.
Tennessee Titans. By far, this is the most interesting coaching situation to watch. There’s an ongoing power struggle and a major difference of opinions in the Music City between owner Bud Adams and head coach Jeff Fisher. Adams loves Vince Young and wants to keep him in Tennessee. Fisher has had his fill of Young and doesn’t him with the Titans. The same can be said from Young’s front, who wouldn’t mind if Fisher and the Titans parted ways. The players love Fisher and Fisher stated he wants to retire with the Titans. But Adams’ infatuation with Young might mean Fisher’s 16 years in Tennessee are coming to a close. Just three years ago, Fisher led Tennessee to the AFC’s top seed with a 13-3 record. If Adams decides part ways with Fisher, then the Titans get everything they deserve and Adams will have set a tremendously lousy precedent that a player holds power over the head coach. Teams will be lined up around the block to land Fisher. I find it extremely disrespectful that on the Titans’ Christmas card Adams was posing with Chris Johnson and Young, and Fisher was no where to be found. Fisher and the Titans could be heading for divorce and a messy one.