1. With the regular season about to end, several coaches around the league will have their fate decided over the next week with several pink slips expected to be handed out this coming Monday. Jacksonville (Jack Del Rio), Kansas City (Todd Haley) and Miami (Tony Sparano) fired their opening day coaches in midseason and there are four more potential firings. Let’s start in San Diego where Norv Turner has been rumored to be a coaching casualty for weeks. Perennial contenders and 2007 AFC Conference finalists in Turner’s initial season, he was not able to build on early success and with this week’s 38-10 blowout loss to the Lions, the Chargers will miss the postseason for a second consecutive season. That is not an acceptable result to owner Dean Spanos given the team’s talented personnel and Turner will almost certainly pay the price on Monday.
2.In St. Louis, the rumors have been flying wildly about who will replace Steve Spagnolo but there are just as many reports that owner Stan Kroenke will stick with him for a fourth season in 2012. With a 10-37 record during his three-year stay and this year’s 2-13 record heading into a Week 17 matchup against the 49ers, the numbers would indicate that this should be Spagnolo’s last season in St. Louis. However, injuries to key personnel have decimated the Rams at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield which may prompt Kroenke to bring Spagnolo back for the final year of his contract in 2012. If Spagnolo is let go, he will be a hot defensive coordinator option with the Eagles and Giants the front runners to secure his services.
3. While Spagnolo appears to be the head coach most likely to be fired outside of Turner, the Bucs Raheem Morris has earned that distinction. After finishing with a surprisingly solid 10-6 record in his second season as the team’s head coach, the Bucs have slumped badly in 2011, currently sitting at 4-11 and in the midst of a nine game losing streak. A closer look reveals that the Bucs 2010 record was more than a bit misleading, with five wins of three points or less, a schedule that included the weak NFC West and just one win against a quality opponent (a Week 17 win against a New Orleans team that had nothing to play for and pulled several starters in the fourth quarter). Look for general manager Mark Dominik to jettison Morris and the Bucs to move in another direction. With a talented young roster, the Tampa Bay job should attract plenty of solid coaching candidates.
4. Other coaches on the hot seat include Indy’s Jim Caldwell, the Eagles Andy Reid and the Giants Tom Coughlin. Caldwell has been hamstrung by a squad that was devoid of talent behind Peyton Manning and his future seems tied to Manning’s. If Manning returns, the team will likely attempt to re-sign many of their veteran free agents and bring Caldwell back in an attempt to make a Super Bowl run. While Reid has taken plenty of criticism for his team’s poor season, he is the league’s most tenured coach and his comments in recent weeks seem to indicate that he is secure for the 2012 season. The Giants have been perhaps the league’s most inconsistent team in 2011 but can reach the post-season with a win this week in a home game against a Cowboys squad whose quarterback will be playing with a bum throwing hand. If Coughlin’s Giants squeak into the postseason, he likely secures his return for next season.
5. Minnesota running back Adrian Peterson suffered a gruesome knee injury this week against the Redskins, tearing both the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee. While the Vikings have said they expect their star running back to be ready for the 2012 season opener, that assumption may be a bit unrealistic given that he will have a recovery period of just over eight months, a short period of time for that type of injury. Peterson is a possibility to open next season on the physically unable to perform list which would require him to miss at least the first six games of the season. Even if he is ready by opening day, he will not be the same player he was prior to the injury for at least the 2012 season. Based on that prognosis, Peterson should rank no better than an upper tier RB2 for next year and Toby Gerhart merits consideration as an early season flex option in larger leagues.
6. Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson announced this week that he may retire at the conclusion of this season. A free agent at season’s end, Tomlinson has assumed a traditional backup role to starter Shonn Greene after being used in more of a timeshare role during his initial season in New York (2010). With just 224 rushing yards to go along with 38 receptions for 426 yards, Tomlinson ceased being a useful flex option for fantasy purposes. Having spent 4th round draft picks on Joe McKnight in 2010 and Bilal Powell this season, the Jets seem unlikely to spend a high draft pick in the 2012 draft to find Greene’s backup for next season. Dynasty leaguers should consider McKnight the frontrunner to assume that role although he did little as a rookie and has struggled to run the ball effectively during his first two years in the league. In the only start of his career, he carried the ball 32 times for 158 yards against Buffalo in Week 17 of the 2010 season.