The holiday season coincides with the NFL's firing season and teams' shopping season.
Going back to the turn of the century, NFL teams have fired an average of 6.9 head coaches per season. In each of the past three years, they have fired seven. The number figures to be right in that range, give or take two or three, which means teams will be scrambling to hire the best coaches and minds out there.
Based on multiple conversations with people around the league, here is a list of 10 alphabetized names likely to be on the shopping lists of any team in the market for a new head coach this winter.
Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin
During the past three weeks, he has helped shut down the Eagles', Raiders' and Packers' offenses. Austin interviewed well last year, especially in Chicago, where he was a finalist for the Bears' job. Austin's time appears to be coming.
Bears offensive coordinator Adam Gase
A finalist with San Francisco last year, Gase could turn out to be a candidate there or in other places again. Gase has helped elevate Jay Cutler's play, and he did the same in Denver with Peyton Manning, who helped make Gase into the top coordinator he is today.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley
Arizona advanced to the Super Bowl when Haley was its offensive coordinator and he took the Chiefs to the playoffs in one season as the head coach in Kansas City. Haley can fiery but as his success with Pittsburgh has proven, he also can be effective.
Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson
Coordinating one of football's top offenses this season, USC recently called to interview him but was denied permission. NFL teams will not be denied permission to interview him for a head coaching job and Jackson has experience there from his time with Oakland, where his Raider teams were some of the more respectable in recent memory.
Bills assistant head coach Anthony Lynn
The Jets really liked Lynn when they interviewed him for their head coaching job last year. Lynn has worked under Bill Parcells and Rex Ryan, with Todd Bowles and Todd Haley, and their influences have rubbed off on him. With the right offensive coordinator, Lynn could be an ideal leader.
Jaguars assistant to the head coach Doug Marrone
One top NFL evaluator still considers Marrone to be a young Bill Parcells. There were some with the Jets who wanted to hire him last season instead of Bowles. A victim of negative PR after he opted out of his Bills' contract, many still regard Marrone as a top-flight head coaching prospect.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels
McDaniels might just be the top candidate available. There are no assurances he would leave New England, where he is comfortable and appreciated, but any assistant would have a tough time turning down a great head coaching opportunity.
Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott
Once considered a hot coaching candidate as the late Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's protégé before he was let go in Philadelphia because the job turned out to be too big. McDermott needed to go on his own and prove his worth. He has, taking the Carolina defense to new heights.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora
Has the NFL experience as a head coach with the Falcons and Seahawks, with varying degrees of success, and he would be a popular selection on the West Coast, where fans know what he has done at UCLA.
Panthers offensive coordinator Mike Shula
Always had the bloodlines, but now has the credentials to go along with them. Shula has brought together a Panthers offense that lacked weapons and elevated it to levels few expected. Now Shula's name is mentioned prominently amongst those who are expected to be on NFL teams' shopping lists, though any team that wants to hire him or McDermott might have to wait a while.
Ten other coaches on teams' shopping lists who also are expected to be in head-coaching conversations: Chiefs running backs coach Eric Bieniemy; Seahawks assistant head coach/offensive line coordinator Tom Cable; Jets wide receivers coach Karl Dorrell; Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly; Buccaneers offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter; Giants offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo; Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia; former Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano; Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan; Stanford head coach David Shaw; Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur.
The Osweiler decision
Brock Osweiler's emergence has been a relief and a revelation for Denver, but it also creates a fascinating dynamic in regards to three contracts.
Osweiler's contract expires after this season, as does Von Miller's. The Broncos have only one franchise tag. If neither player is re-signed before teams can use their franchise tag, then one of those players is going to hit the free-agent market, free to leave Denver. At this point, Denver cannot afford to let Osweiler test the market when there are so many teams -- Cleveland, St. Louis, Houston, San Francisco, the New York Jets, to name some -- that have significant quarterback needs.
Then again, Miller is the most important player on one of the NFL's top defenses, the first player opposing coaches highlight when they discuss what they must do to slow down Denver's defense. Edge rushers in this league are as difficult to find as starting quarterbacks. And that's the position that Denver finds itself in, staring straight at the possibility that two players in two of the most important positions are on expiring contracts.
As if that weren't enough, the Broncos also will have to deal with the contractual status of Peyton Manning, who is under contract to Denver next season. Handling the contract of an all-time great, as Denver learned last offseason when it restructured Manning's deal, is sensitive and delicate.
However it is done and whenever it is done, the Broncos have three significant unsettled contractual situations that will need to be addressed, each with enormous ramifications. Interestingly, each one of those three contracts impacts the other two. And all three will be in the headlines for weeks to come. Very quietly and very quickly, without many realizing it, Osweiler's play through two games could impact the futures of three key Broncos.
Let the Colts, Jaguars, Bengals, Redskins, Rams and one more NFC East to be determined be warned. The jobs of their head coaches and/or general managers could be in grave danger next season.
As the NFL announced last week, each of those teams will play in the NFL's 2016 International Series games in London in October. But since the NFL started its International Series and trips to London, the results have been near disastrous for the men leading those teams. There have been 12 NFL International Series games in London and, so far, the losing coach in six of them was fired during or after that season. This season alone, the Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin was fired after they returned home from London and a 27-14 loss to the New York Jets.
Later, the Lions fired general manager Martin Mayhew and president Tom Lewand just days after they returned home from London and a 45-10 loss against the Chiefs.
And it's not accidental that these firings have come after overseas trips. The NFL typically schedules bye weeks for teams that return home from London. Idle weeks are ideal times for unhappy teams to take action. But the rash of firings on teams that have traveled to and played in London is surprising.
And it should be a warning to the Colts, Jaguars, Bengals, Redskins, and Rams, each of whom it was announced last week will be taking their turn in the league's International Series.