In one week, the complexion of numerous NFL coaching staffs will change following the annual round of "Black Monday" firings. Besides affecting the lives of the coaches and their families, these decisions dramatically alter the NFL landscape, setting up some teams for future success while crippling others.
However, just as important as the firings are the teams that instead choose to retain their current coach. For one reason or another, some good coaches struggle to obtain success early. In those instances, patience from the front office and ownership can lead to reward later on. The past decade certainly would have played out much differently had the Giants parted ways with Tom Coughlin before 2007 or 2011, as they reportedly considered.
Let's take a look at the current landscape via Magic 8 Ball-like predictions.
Year 3 of the Bradley era in Jacksonville started off much like the previous two: rocky. The Jaguars dropped five of their first six games and failed to show many signs of an improved defense or a capable offense. However, as the season wore on, Jacksonville found itself on the winning end more often, as Blake Bortles took some crucial steps toward becoming the franchise quarterback the team envisioned when they selected him third overall in the 2014 NFL draft. The Jags even managed to stay in the AFC South title race far longer than most expected, clobbering the Colts 51-16 on Dec. 13. Bradley's running out of time, but he should get another year to prove his mettle.
The Rams entered the season with playoff aspirations, and they have once again fallen short. The Nick Foles experiment went poorly, and another St. Louis offensive coordinator has received his pink slip. So why do we expect Jeff Fisher to return next season? Well, with the team's future in limbo given the ongoing flirtation with Los Angeles, owner Stan Kroenke reportedly favors keeping the status quo until further notice. A strong finish hasn't hurt either, as the Rams toppled their last three opponents and have a chance to finish .500 with a victory over the 49ers in Week 17.
Don't count on it
After a 1-7 start cost Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and team president Tom Lewand their jobs, nothing short of a playoff run could have saved Caldwell's job. Though the team has played better in the time since, winning five of seven games since the bye week, the Lions failed to quality for the postseason for the 14th time since the 2000. Sweeping change is coming to Detroit, and Caldwell won't survive it.
Campbell's promotion to interim head coach of the Dolphins (after Joe Philbin's ouster) brought a macho attitude and the Oklahoma drill back to Miami. However, the magic quickly faded. Whether the Dolphins win or loss in their season finale, the team will finish with its worst record since Tony Sparano patrolled the sidelines. Campbell may one day become a full-fledged NFL head coach, but that time has yet to arrive.
Like Campbell, Mularkey is an interim coach, stepping into the big chair after Tennessee canned Ken Whisenhunt. Unlike Campbell, Mularkey couldn't foster any significant change in the win column. The Titans won just two of his eight games at the helm, and need to find the coach best suited to developing their promising young signal-caller Marcus Mariota. Mularkey has proven himself a quality assistant, but he's not equipped to take on the task of turning this franchise around.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson all but announced his intention to fire head coach Pagano following the season. The only thing that could stop Grigson at this point is team owner Jim Irsay, who may jettison Grigson. Even in that scenario, Pagano seems highly unlikely to stick around, as Grigson's replacement will want to hire his own coach.
Pettine never really had a chance in Cleveland. The Browns remain one of the most poorly run organizations in the league, providing their head coach with little talent and plenty of problems, Johnny Manziel chief among them. Pettine may lose his job next week, but expect a smart team to swoop in and tab him to lead their defense. In a few years, he may surface as a viable head coach candidate again.
Ask again later
The Giants have come close to firing Coughlin so many times during his 12-year run in New York. At this point, the decision may come down to whether the teams wants to put Eli Manning through another scheme change. The veteran quarterback has flourished under offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo, and the offense may benefit from keeping that structure in place. Perhaps the Giants could promote McAdoo into the big chair, but given those options, why not keep Coughlin for another year to take advantage of a weak division?
Kelly the GM failed Kelly the coach this offseason, delivering a roster that could not compete consistently in the NFL's weakest division. However, Kelly earned the dual roles because he has owner Jeffrey Lurie's favor. That may have changed in the past couple of months, but Lurie has yet to give any indication that he intends to make a change.
The Chargers looked terrible for the entire season, with every facet of the team outside of Philip Rivers struggling for long stretches. That has to reflect somewhat on McCoy, who failed to guide his team to the postseason for the second consecutive year. At the same time, no team has been as crippled by injuries as San Diego. The front office could give McCoy another year with a presumably healthier roster, or it could cut ties knowing Rivers has only so many prime seasons left in him.
Ryan's hiring last offseason brought a healthy dose of excitement and optimism to a Bills team that lacked both in recent years. However, success has eluded Ryan in Buffalo. The Bills' all-world defense regressed mightily under the supposed defensive guru, and the team will finish with a worse record than the season prior. Worse, infighting has derailed whatever chance Ryan had at turning things around in 2015. Buffalo must weigh his poor performance against the four years and millions of dollars that remain on his contract.
At no point during Tomsula's first year as a full-time NFL head coach in San Francisco has he looked like a competent leader. Opponents have regularly outcoached the 49ers, who benched their $114 million quarterback and appear destined to draft a new signal-caller in the offseason. So why does Tomsula still have a chance to keep his job? It seems general manager Trent Baalke has no plans to admit his mistake, and -- as of now -- the York family still supports him. That could change in the coming weeks when the temptation emerges to hire new blood and win the headlines.