When the 1986 season began, the coach who seemed to be sitting closest to the exit was Atlanta's Dan Henning.
But as the campaign passed the midway point, Henning was still around and two of his colleagues were gone--San Diego's Don Coryell and Buffalo's Hank Bullough.
A host of other teams have lousy records this year, but a few of them won't be making coaching changes simply because it would be too costly.
Houston's Jerry Glanville is in the first year of a five-year contract. St. Louis' Gene Stallings is also in his first year and, what's more, is without much player talent on offense. Given the opportunity, Stallings could produce results with the Cardinals.
Green Bay presents an interesting problem. Forrest Gregg has been coaching the Packers for more than two years and his team has hit the skids this season. That was somewhat expected, however, since he trimmed his team of a number of veterans before the year began. The folks at Green Bay are more patient than most and they will be slow to dismiss another Packer legend.
At the other end of the spectrum, coach of the year balloting should be spirited this season.
The Jets' Joe Walton and Denver's Danny Reeves will have to be considered, along with the Rams' John Robinson. But the early favorite might be Minnesota's Jerry Burns, who in his first year has the Vikings contending for a playoff spot.
Kansas City's current three-game winning streak is its longest in two years and the Chiefs' 6-3 record marks their best start in five years. Kansas City has not made the playoffs since 1971. Since then, every other team in the NFL has been in postseason play with the exception of the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have never made the playoffs.
The networks are jumping on the Herschel Walker bandwagon. Because the Dallas Cowboys have put together a better team than expected, and because they are usually a good ratings producer anyway, kickoff for the Dallas-Washington game on Nov. 23 has been moved from 1 p.m. EST to 4 p.m. That will allow CBS-TV to show it to the bulk of the nation as its "doubleheader game."
When that decision was announced at the weekly news conference of Dallas Coach Tom Landry, he winced. He had not heard of the time change and no coach is anxious to play a late game on the road.
One of the toughest road trips to make last year was to Detroit, where the Lions knocked off Dallas, San Francisco, Miami and the New York Jets. This year the Lions are 1-2 at home, the lone win coming against Houston. On top of that, Detroit has lost four straight games by narrow margins--each of the losses being traced to one, disastrous play.
Detroit fullback James Jones summarized his team's play this way:
"We play just good enough to not win."
The Miami Dolphins are 4-5 and have obviously struggled coming out of the gate this year, but after back-to-back wins over weak sisters Indianapolis and Houston there is some life beginning to stir. Miami's trip to Cleveland Monday will be a critical test for both teams.
"A year ago this time the Dolphins were 5-4 and went on to a 12-4 season," said Cleveland Coach Marty Schottenheimer. "Don't try to tell us that they are any different than a year ago."
The San Francisco-St. Louis matchup today brings together teams that are on extreme ends of the thievery spectrum. San Francisco has claimed 30 takeaways this season, tops in the NFL. St. Louis is last with 10.
The New York Jets will be playing in Atlanta today for only the second time and the Raiders will be playing for the second time in Texas Stadium. The New York Giants, however, will be making their 51st trip to Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Coach Buddy Ryan does not take losing with good grace and he didn't again last week. After the St. Louis Cardinals scored twice late in the game to surprise the Eagles, Ryan said:
"We're a better football team than St. Louis is, even though we didn't prove it."
Ryan has said the same thing about four other clubs thi year, including Denver and Chicago. The Eagles will have a chance to prove they are better than the Cardinals in a rematch on Dec. 7 in St. Louis.
Defensive back Dextor Clinkscale held out for more money with Dallas this year and wound up without a job. Now that he has been picked up by the Indianapolis Colts, he is seeing life from the other end of the won-loss column.
"I don't think there are any losers on this team," said Clinkscale. "But from what I could see on the sidelines, some of the guys have gotten used to it. And that's pathetic."