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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

For some NFL coaches, it's a question of where; for others, it's a question of when

Pete Carroll in Seattle is going to the playoffs with 7-9 Seahawks, while Tony Sparano in Miami is forced to defend 7-9 record. Eric Mangini and John Fox are out of jobs, with others sure to follow.

January 04, 2011|Sam Farmer
  • Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano is on the hot seat after a 38-7 loss to the Patriots on Sunday left Miami with a 7-9 record this season.
Dolphins Coach Tony Sparano is on the hot seat after a 38-7 loss to the Patriots… (Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE,…)

Reporting from Seattle

Evaluating the job performance of some NFL coaches this season is a little like appraising real estate.

It's location, location, location.

For instance, while Pete Carroll and his Seattle Seahawks are sitting pretty at 7-9 — the first losing team to make the playoffs — Miami's Tony Sparano is twisting in the wind after his Dolphins finished 7-9 and a distant third in the AFC East.

While Sparano was telling reporters how much he loves his job, how he has never taken it for granted, and how he'll learn more about his status once he meets with Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, Carroll on Monday was tweeting: "anyone else too excited to sleep last night?? big week ahead of us!"

Just another unpredictable day in the NFL, in which Oakland became the first team to miss the playoffs after going undefeated in division games; San Diego missed them after finishing No. 1 in total offense and defense; and the 10-6 New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are both left out in the cold.

Meanwhile, Eric Mangini is out as coach in Cleveland, John Fox is out in Carolina, and a Yahoo.com report says Marvin Lewis won't be coming back to Cincinnati, even if the Bengals ask. Tom Cable's future in Oakland is uncertain, although the Raiders have to decide by mid-January whether they intend to pay the $2.5-million option on his contract or let him go.

In his final news conference of the season Monday, Cable said the rumors about his being on the chopping block are "more the culture of what it's been like here."

"It's been so up and down for a number of years," said Cable, whose firing was similarly predicted last January. "Am I surprised by it? No. I'd like for it to just go away and have Al [Davis] and I sit down and discuss it, which we will.

"I know what we've done. I think everybody else who knows football knows what we've done. Whoever says it or writes it probably doesn't know what the hell they're doing. You can quote that."

Among the most notable names surfacing as coaching replacements in various cities are Stanford's Jim Harbaugh, Raiders offensive coordinator Hue Jackson, Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, and former NFL coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher.

Mike Holmgren, president of the Browns, raised some eyebrows Monday when he said he had no plans to return to coaching "right now" but didn't hermetically seal the possibility of that in the future.

"To tell you right now that I would never coach again — here or any place — wouldn't be honest," Holmgren told reporters. "But as of right now, my job is to find the best coach available for this job. That's what I'm trying to do. And that does not include me right now."

In Nashville, the questions surround whether Tennessee will keep Jeff Fisher, the league's longest-tenured coach. That comes down to whether Titans owner Bud Adams ultimately sides with his coach or quarterback Vince Young, as that team is too small for both of them. It might be a hint or just a curiosity, but Profootballtalk.com recently noted the Titans sent out holiday cards with Adams, Young, running back Chris Johnson — and not Fisher — on them.

Interim Coach Jason Garrett is expected to get the job in Dallas, just as Leslie Frazier did in Minnesota on Monday when his interim tag was removed. Barring a bizarre twist, that won't be the case for interim coaches Jim Tomsula in San Francisco or Eric Studesville in Denver.

Safe are Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville, Tom Coughlin with the Giants, and Gary Kubiak in Houston, although the Texans fired defensive coordinator Frank Bush (and might replace him with fired Dallas coach Wade Phillips). The Chargers fired special teams coordinator Steve Crosby, whose units repeatedly made game-changing mistakes.

Then again, making major miscues throughout the season isn't necessarily a death blow for a team. Just ask Carroll.

"We battled like crazy for this as did the other teams in our division… " the Seahawks coach said. "So we're the last guys standing here."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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