Changes are on the way

Lovie Smith has won 83 regular season and playoff games in nine seasons with the Bears. Will he get a 10th season? AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

For some coaches in the NFL, it's hard to get caught up in holiday spirit.

The NFL regular season concludes just before the start of a new year, but speculation on head coach job security heats up right before Christmas. And so far, the only good news in 2012 is that no coach lost his job during the regular season.
By next Monday, though, another offseason of change will begin. It should start quickly.

"Black Monday" could start with the firings of Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles, Romeo Crennel of the Kansas City Chiefs and Norv Turner of the San Diego Chargers. Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur also could be included in that crazy Monday news cycle.

Lovie Smith probably needs to make the playoffs to keep his job with the Chicago Bears. For that to happen, the Bears must beat the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings must lose to the Green Bay Packers.

With six wins, Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera may have saved his job unless Panthers owner Jerry Richardson wants to pay $5 million per year, or more, to get Oregon coach Chip Kelly or a lot less to grab former Panthers assistant Mike McCoy, who is Denver's offensive coordinator. I think Rivera might get a reprieve.

Titans coach Mike Munchak might not have done enough to save his job as Tennessee is 5-10. After Sunday's 55-7 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Titans owner Bud Adams told the Tennessean that he likes Munchak, but he doesn't like what's happening to his team.

In Arizona, Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt will be evaluated for the poor state of the quarterback position. Whisenhunt pushed for the Kevin Kolb trade, but it hasn't worked out. Things have been so bad the Cardinals are finishing the season with Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer as their quarterbacks. That could be it for him.

In the AFC East, disappointing seasons by Rex Ryan with the New York Jets and Chan Gailey of the Buffalo Bills could cost them their jobs, but there is better than 50 percent chance they will stay.

Don't expect changes in Oakland with Dennis Allen and Jacksonville with Mike Mularkey after one season. That would be a little bit too quick. And Jason Garrett should be fine in Dallas.

Heading the list of hot assistants for head coaching jobs are Bruce Arians of the Colts, McCoy and Jay Gruden of the Cincinnati Bengals. There are thoughts Patriots offesnive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who flopped in Denver, could get a second chance. Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's name is one the radar for what he did with Robert Griffin III in Washington.
Former head coaches such as Todd Haley and Tom Cable could get interviews.

'Tis the season.

From the inbox

Q: On another website there is a take on Joe Banner of the Browns pursuing Michael Vick in the offseason. But to me, wouldn't the Cardinals be a perfect fit for him with Larry Fitzgerald, a hopefully healthy Beanie Wells and maybe sign an O-lineman and decent tight end? If they stay healthy, the Cardinals would have the offense and still have their good secondary to defend the pass well.

Justin in Elk Grove, Calif.

A: First, let's start with the Browns. Joe Banner is very meticulous and will study various options. He is still determining if Brandon Weeden is the right quarterback. There was a report this week that he might go for Ryan Mallett if Josh McDaniels is a consideration to come to Cleveland. Because Vick is probably going to be released within five days after the season, Banner and the Browns have more than a month to look at him.

As for the Cardinals, they must do something. If they don't go for West Virginia's Geno Smith in the draft, they will have to look at Vick, Alex Smith and anyone else who is available. I still think they should keep Ken Whisenhunt as head coach. They have a good defense. Getting a quarterback could put them back at the eight- or nine-win level at the very least.

Q: Is there a better way to judge quarterback performances comparatively in your opinion? Remember, Joe Flacco outplayed Tom Brady in that AFC Championship last year. Yes, Flacco may have had better stats than Brady, but Flacco also was playing against one of the worst statistical defenses in the league while Brady was up against one of the best. I would dare say if Brady played against the Patriots' defense of last year, he would have put up career numbers week in and week out.

Benjamin in Grand Rapids, Mich.

A: ESPN's QBR system is about the best statistical evaluator of a quarterback's performance during a game and during the season. The NFL quarterback rating system is old and can be deceiving. As you know, I'm a big believer in Flacco. I consider him an elite quarterback, even though there are many times he hasn't played like one in the past two years. Brady is a Hall of Famer. The Ravens' defense isn't as good as it was last year. If they meet in the playoffs, the advantage would go to the Patriots.

Q: I keep hearing how Jim Caldwell is calling plays for the first time as the offensive coordinator for the Ravens. How is it that he got a head coaching job in Indy without ever calling plays? Has this happened before in the league?

Edwin in Houston

A: Great question. Caldwell, who was the quarterbacks coach with the Colts under Tony Dungy, got the head coaching job at Indianapolis because the team wanted continuity. One of the reasons Caldwell and others who haven't been coordinators become head coaches is because there are too many coaching changes in the NFL and there aren't enough top-level coordinators to fill them. Ravens coach John Harbaugh never called plays on defense and was a special teams coach, yet he has been a successful head coach. When you have seven to nine head-coach openings each year, there simply are not enough coordinators being developed to handle all of the openings. You will see more during this offseason and future seasons if owners continue to churn through head coaches.

Q: Would a trade involving Mark Sanchez and Larry Fitzgerald seem plausible this offseason due to Fitzgerald's lack of productivity in the Cards' offense and the Cards' desperate need of a competent quarterback? Could Kevin Kolb also be involved? What are your thoughts?

Ryan in Bethesda, Md.

A: The Cardinals gave Kolb a $62 million contract. They aren't going to pick up Sanchez's deal AND give up Larry Fitzgerald. I guess if Sanchez is cut, the Cardinals would consider him. They have to consider any available quarterbacks. If the Jets would have interest in Kolb, maybe something could be worked out on a bad contract for bad contract deal. But there wouldn't be any additional compensation involved.

Q: I can't understand why teams aren't interested in Donovan McNabb. He had bad seasons in Washington and Minnesota, but consider that his year in Washington was also Mike Shanahan's first season there, and learning a new scheme takes time. When he went to Minnesota, it was Leslie Frazier's first year coaching there as well, and the lockout kept him from adjusting to the new system as much as he could have. While he's not free from blame, McNabb, it seems to me, has been a victim of rebuilding teams. I know the NFL is a "What have you done for me lately?" league, but why aren't teams like the Cardinals, Jets, Jaguars and Chiefs, who are in dire need of a quarterback, clamoring for McNabb's services? (Even the Eagles should be on their knees!)

Chris in Fairfax, Va.

A: They don't call the NFL the "Not For Long" league for nothing. Two failures -- and they have to be labeled failures in Washington and Minnesota -- would make a lot of teams put McNabb on the back burner. The other problem is age. He's now 36. Not a lot of teams are in the market for a 36-year-old quarterback. The third problem is the dynamics of a McNabb signing. He rightfully wants to go to a team and be the starter. Bringing him in as a backup doesn't create good karma in the locker room. Now that he sat out the season, unfortunately, I don't see any opportunities ahead.

Q: For the last few years, I have wondered why teams draft players that do not fit their schemes, and mainly quarterbacks. If they are going to do this, why wouldn't they adjust accordingly? Last year I saw this change with Cam Newton and again this year with RG III. Those teams are playing to their QBs' strengths. The read option is a great idea. My question is, why did it take so long? Why didn't Michael Vick get this opportunity? I am a long-time Vikings fan. Do you think it would be a good idea for them to go after Michael Vick to run this offense with Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin? Is it possible?

Anthony in Puyallup, Wash.

A: Vick to Minnesota is doubtful. The Vikings are going to give Christian Ponder every chance to succeed. But 2013 might be the determining year for Ponder. The league is able to go to more read-option plays because RG III, Cam Newton, Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson are good at doing it, but they also can do things in conventional passing offenses. Not every other good quarterback coming out of college can do all of that.

It has been a good season for the Vikings. But they must figure out in the next year if they have the right quarterback in Ponder. Joe Webb could probably run some read-option, but he may not be the throwing threat equal to some of the other top young quarterbacks in the league.

Q: One of your articles raised a question in my mind: How do you rate a coach -- Rex Ryan of the Jets, for example -- when the main problem appears to be in the front office? As a Patriots fan, I don't have a bias toward Ryan. Just wondered how you viewed the Jets' situation.

Gilles in Fairfax, Va.

A: I think Ryan is an excellent coach. He went to two championship games in his first two years. He's a winner, but you are right, the decline in talent on offense killed the franchise this year. Ryan is a players' coach who gets the most out of the talent that is there. What he and the Jets need are better drafts and better player acquisitions. I think there will be an adjustment in the personnel on offense, but I think Rex will be back and should be back. That said, Ryan will have to win next year or his job will be in jeopardy.

Q: Russell Wilson has worked out better than expected for Seattle, while they also acquired Matt Flynn last summer. Flynn is paid very well for a backup. Do you see any quarterback-needy teams making a play for him or Seattle trying to shop for such a move?

Nathanael in Belle Plaine, Minn.

A: The Seahawks are dealing from a position of strength. They have cap room and they have two good quarterbacks, but clearly Wilson is a star on the rise. Flynn has looked good in his limited time on the field. I question whether there is trade value because of his contract. His $6.5 million a year salary isn't bad if you believe in him as a starting quarterback. The Seahawks have the luxury of shopping him and seeing if they can get value. If not, then they can cut him and move on.