Jack Del Rio is gone, fired by Jacksonville on the same day the owner announced he was selling the Jaguars.
Del Rio's dismissal is the first of what could be many in the NFL, with some perhaps coming before the new year hits and the season ends.
Those in trouble range from Norv Turner in San Diego to Jim Caldwell in Indianapolis. From Tony Sparano in Miami to Steve Spagnuolo in St. Louis. Maybe even Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona and Leslie Frazier in Minnesota.
The Jaguars made their move early in part because they would like for high-profile candidates who are not currently coaching — the Bill Cowhers, Jon Grudens and Jeff Fishers — to consider their opening. No coach with any class would talk with a team that has a coach in place, and with Mel Tucker taking over the Jaguars on an interim basis, such talks could begin.
Except, it is about as likely one of them will agree to join the Jags as it is Jacksonville (3-8) will sweep its final five games. Such coaches would insist on personnel control to return to the NFL, and the Jags extended the contract of general manager Gene Smith for three more years.
"There's a lot of good things that will happen in the future," Smith said.
Perhaps, but almost certainly without a big-name coach in place.
The biggest name on the firing block is Turner, who's under contract through 2013. Not only have the preseason AFC West favorites fallen apart with six straight losses after a rare strong start under Turner, but they have been undisciplined and have folded late in games. A quarterbacks guru as an assistant coach — just ask Troy Aikman how much Turner meant to his Hall of Fame career — Turner has not been able to snap Phillip Rivers out of a funk that has seen Rivers' performances plummet as the team nosedived toward the cellar.
While Turner has a tight relationship with A.J. Smith, the general manager who hired him after firing Marty Schottenheimer following a 14-2 season in 2006, the mounting losses and the manner in which they have piled up can't help Turner's case. Turner has gotten the Chargers to one AFC title game, but his playoff record with San Diego is 3-3. And his regular-season mark this year, 4-7 and dropping, tests his job security even further.
"I'm not oblivious to any of that, but it's not something that's going to be an issue for me and I'm not going to talk a lot about it over the next five weeks," Turner said. "As I said, I've been doing this a long time and I do know how to go about preparing for a game. We've gotten our guys prepared and that's going to be our goal to keep getting them prepared."
Caldwell has had the same task with the Colts, but anyone who believes Indy has been well prepared over the last three months is wearing blinders. Yes, the Colts lost their most important piece when the previously indestructible Peyton Manning underwent neck surgery in the offseason and has been sidelined since. Anyone can argue that no player means more to his team than Manning.
Indianapolis seemingly had not plan in place for such an occurrence, which falls not only on Caldwell, but his bosses, Bill and Chris Polian, and maybe even owner Jimmy Irsay. Still, getting the team ready and keeping it competitive each week is the responsibility of Caldwell and his coaches. They've failed miserably.
Adding to Caldwell's woes is what happened in Detroit three years ago. It's not completely a fair comparison because the Lions were awful for years before going 0-16 and costing Rod Marinelli his job. It's apt, though, because selling fans on a team's commitment to the future can't include bringing back a coach who loses all his games. Not even when he doesn't have a four-time MVP behind center.
Sparano's Dolphins have played hard all season, and played pretty well the last month to reach 3-8. A strong showing in December could save his spot, but remember that team owner Stephen Ross courted Jim Harbaugh a year ago when Sparano still was under contract.
Ross also has a star-studded celebrity cast with minor ownership. He'd love to add a celebrity type of coach.
Spagnuolo, the defensive coordinator whose strategy short-circuited the unbeaten Patriots in the 2008 Super Bowl while he was with the Giants, hasn't been able to get the Rams' D to resemble anything close. Injuries also have ravaged the St. Louis roster, but Spagnuolo has building blocks in QB Sam Bradford, DE Chris Long and LB James Laurinaitis. What he probably doesn't have is more time to turn it around.
The most dicey situations involve Frazier, Whisenhunt and Reid.
Frazier is in his first year as head coach in Minnesota, where the Vikings have regressed. They are in the midst of retooling, and he deserves another shot at seeing it through. But 2-9 with a strong possibility of reaching 2-14 puts him in tenuous territory.
Whisenhunt's Cardinals have been mediocre or worse ever since Kurt Warner retired. He's an offense-trained coach whose team hasn't made enough strides in that area. Whisenhunt also campaigned to acquire QB Kevin Kolb, who has been in and out of the lineup because of injuries. Another season for them together would seem wise, but will the Cardinals be patient as they see the 49ers develop into a power in their division?
As for Reid, no current coach save Bill Belichick in New England has his credentials. The league's longest-tenured coach is having a distressful season with what his fill-in quarterback, Vince Young, dubbed a "dream team." The Eagles have fallen apart late in games, their offseason acquisitions have been a mixed bag (Jason Babin, good, but Nnamdi Asoumgha not so much), and Philadelphians have run out of tolerance.
Should Reid leave Philly and wants to continue coaching, he could have lots of landing spots, from Indiana to north Florida to southern California. But the best place for him remains the City of Brotherly Love. And booing.