Week 17 brings the end of the regular season and decision time for owners. Coaches will lose their jobs beginning Sunday, and there will be changes all over the NFL.
While the landscape figures to bring fewer than the eight head-coaching jobs that opened a year ago, there will be plenty of activity off the field to go along with the playoffs on the field.
Based on conversations with a multitude of sources, plus additional reporting from colleague Tom Pelissero, here is a snapshot look at the coaching landscape:
» Former Panthers coach Ron Rivera has emerged as a top coaching candidate, and he has told people close to him that he expects a deal to come together quickly. It may even be in the next 48 hours. The Redskins are among the teams with real and legitimate interest, but other teams without openings yet are circling. The Giants, if they keep GM Dave Gettleman, figure to be among those interested.
» Redskins president Bruce Allen is expected to exit the football operation, whether through reassignment, retirement or dismissal. That should make the job more palatable to coaching candidates. Owner Dan Snyder has been consulting with a group of people outside the organization on how to proceed, and the Redskins‘ unique front-office structure could be changing, too.
» The Giants are among the teams considering moving on from their coach, as Pat Shurmur’s status is in doubt after two seasons. At this point, it appears that president and CEO John Mara is uncertain about moving on from another coach so quickly, while chairman and executive vice president Steve Tisch appears to be in favor of a new coach. The team has won two in a row and Daniel Jones has played well. Could a third win in a row alter the landscape? As for Gettleman, ownership is set to discuss everything – his status included.
» The Panthers are off and running on their search, and they’ve interviewed former Packers coach Mike McCarthy not once, but two times. From what it sounds like, he did very well. The team also intends to interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Baylor coach Matt Rhule, while Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy should also get a look among others. Worth noting: GM Marty Hurney is heavily involved in the interview process, indicating he’s safe, though his title potentially could change with a new personnel hire.
» The Jaguars are undecided about the future of coach Doug Marrone, though the fact that Marrone ate dinner with both owner Shad Khan and executive Tony Khan on Thursday night is not a bad sign. This appears to be leaning toward safe, and calling a report that Marrone had been informed he was being fired “100 percent incorrect” is another sign of that. They’ll meet midweek to discuss the future, and a good result Sunday would help. GM Dave Caldwell – who extracted two first-round picks and more for Jalen Ramsey after the star cornerback made it clear he was done in Jacksonville – is leaning safe as well.
» The future of Browns coach Freddie Kitchens is undecided as well, though it appears the desired outcome for owner Jimmy Haslam is to keep him. A rough skid to end the season that included a loss to the lowly Bengals would be bad. But those with deep knowledge of the Browns point out a few facts: Quarterback Baker Mayfield and his injured group of WRs have barely practiced this year. And winning seven games, if it happens, was within the realm of expectations inside the building. They understood many of the new players brought in do not have a history of winning and that takes time. Plus, Kitchens has done a much better job in the second half of the year guiding the players and instilling discipline. His future has not been decided, but many involved hope and believe he stays.
» The Cowboys are expected to move on from coach Jason Garrett with a loss to the Redskins Sunday or missing the playoffs, which would happen even with a win if the Eagles win as well. Garrett won’t need to be specifically fired because his contract is up, and it expires on either Jan. 14 or three days after the season. Sounds like Garrett could use a fresh start as well. Among the coaches they’ll likely target are Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, Rhule, former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, potentially Rivera and others. Put nothing past Jerry Jones – even a trade if someone he likes (such as Minnesota’s Mike Zimmer) becomes available.