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Numerous NFL coaches await fate


Staff Writer

As the NFL’s 2013 regular season ends on Sunday, 20 non-playoff teams play their final game. At the same time, a number of head coaches will be on the sideline for the last time with their respective teams.

On my count, as many as 10 coaches are sitting on the hot seat and they could lose their job by Monday morning.

Gary Kubiak is already gone, getting axed in Week 14 because his Texans entered this season as a Super Bowl contender, but stumbled to a 2-11 record when he was replaced. Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips took over for him, but the Texans are still looking for their first win since Week 2. The Texans reportedly are ready to interview some candidates, including Penn State coach Bill O’Brien, so Phillips’ job is not safe.

Coaches who could be following Kubiak are:

• Mike Shanahan. His Redskins are 3-12, which is very disappointing when Washington clinched its first division title in 14 years last season and set its goal this season to reach the Super Bowl. Robert Griffin III was the franchise quarterback and the headliner a season ago, but now is only the third-stringer.

Shanahan’s decision to bench Griffin, who cost the Redskins three first-round picks and a second-round selection to acquire last year, caused a big controversy and let everyone know the shaky relationship between the Shanahans (Mike and his son Kyle, offensive coordinator) and Griffin.

Dan Snyder is not a patient owner and Shanahan, whose record with Washington is 25-39 over four seasons, is clearly on the way out with one year left on his contract.

• Tom Coughlin. During his 10 seasons with the Giants, Coughlin led New York to two Super Bowl championships, but missed the playoffs four times in the last five years. This is the Giants’ first losing season since 2004. Also, an 0-6 start and two embarrassing shutout losses with two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning at quarterback can be enough reason to part ways with 67-year-old Coughlin.

• Mike Munchak. His best season was his first year with the Titans when Tennessee went 9-7. But Munchak failed to build up a playoff team and had a losing record for the second consecutive season. QB Jake Locker’s season-ending foot injury hurt the team, but it is everyone’s guess whether he could have led the Titans to the playoffs if had been healthy. Tennessee needs stability at quarterback, and the team may want a fresh start as a new era has come after long-time owner Bud Adams died two months ago.

• Mike Smith. The Falcons (4-11) are the most disappointing team this season because they finally won a postseason game under Smith and reached the conference championship game last season. Smith has led the Falcons, who never had back-to-back winning seasons before he and Matt Ryan joined the team, to a respectable 60 victories and two No. 1 seeds. That record could save his job, but Smith needs to take blame for the setback because the Falcons entered the season with almost all the core starters back at their positions.

• Jim Schwartz. The Lions (7-8) had control of the division as of Week 13 when they were 7-5 while the Bears (6-6) and the Packers (5-6-1) have struggled with their starting quarterbacks sidelined. Three straight losses dropped the Lions from the front-running position and killed their playoff hopes.

As well as the six coaches above, the days for Rex Ryan (Jets), Dennis Allen (Raiders), Leslie Frazier (Vikings) and Greg Schiano (Buccaneers) are also numbered. Look for a busy offseason and the coaching carousel in January.

Editor’s note: Staff writer Hiroshi Ikezawa has extensively covered the NFL for the past two decades. An NHK announcer, Ikezawa has attended more than a dozen Super Bowls as an accredited journalist. This is his NFL Notebook debut for The Japan Times.