Who's next NFL coach to be fired?

Norv Turner could be out of a job if his Chargers miss the playoffs for a second straight time....

Norv Turner could be out of a job if his Chargers miss the playoffs for a second straight time. (REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

SCOTT GARBARINI, SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

PHILADELPHIA - Mike Smith's brief stay at a Charlotte hospital following his Atlanta Falcons' tension-filled victory over the Carolina Panthers last weekend was a stark reminder of just how stressful this period of the season can be on NFL head coaches.

Some have reason to be considerably more nervous than others.

The volatility that presently exists among the head-coaching fraternity became all too apparent with the hasty dismissals of Kansas City's Todd Haley and Miami's Tony Sparano on Tuesday, bringing this year's casualty count to three after the two floundering franchises followed the lead of the Jacksonville Jaguars with that team's termination of Jack Del Rio on Nov. 29. It's not out of the question that a few more will be shown the door before the regular-season finale on New Year's Day as organizations attempt to get a jump on their competition in hopes of reeling in one of the big fishes out of a star-studded pool of candidates with very appealing credentials.

Since it's much harder to speculate as to which teams will be willing and able to pony up the big bucks it'll take to lure Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or Brian Billick out of their cushy and far-less strenuous broadcast jobs, or to bring Jeff Fisher back from his one-year sabbatical, the focus of this article will instead be on those who may be joining Del Rio, Haley and Sparano on this winter's beggar's circuit. At least seven current head coaches enter the final three weeks with their fannies placed squarely on the hot seat, with their fate solely tied to how their clubs handle a nerve-wracking stretch run.

Here's the breakdown of those sitting in that uncomfortable state of limbo, as well as an assessment of each's chances to retain their jobs in the coming season:

NORV TURNER, SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Contract Status: Through 2013 (signed three-year extension in January, 2010)

The Skinny: Led the Chargers to three straight AFC West titles from 2007-09 and an appearance in the conference championship game that first season, but the Bolts have underachieved in back-to-back years since that strong run and are in danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight time.

The Prognosis: If the Chargers can't make one of their patented late runs and overtake Denver and Oakland for the division, Turner's almost certainly a goner. Reports in the San Diego papers have already confirmed as much.

STEVE SPAGNUOLO, ST. LOUIS RAMS

Contract Status: Through 2012

The Skinny: Has compiled a 10-34 record in three seasons. The Rams contended for the NFC West crown up into the final week of 2010 and were expected to do so again this year, but injuries and a anemic offence have instead led to a 2-10 downfall.

The Prognosis: Highly doubtful to be back, especially entering the final year of his contract.

RAHEEM MORRIS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

Contract Status: Through 2012 (team renewed two-year option in January)

The Skinny: Orchestrated one of the biggest and most surprising turnarounds of 2010, with a youth-laden Buccaneers roster winning 10 games and just missing out on a playoff berth. Tampa Bay hasn't been able to build off that momentum, though, and enter this week's play at 4-9 and saddled with a seven-game losing streak. The 35-year-old Morris has also drawn substantial criticism for being perceived as lenient and too close to his players, and the Bucs' undisciplined ways have supported those claims.

The Prognosis: Not looking good. As one of the league's lowest-paid coaches, management doesn't have a whole lot invested in Morris and could easily cut bait. A strong finish is absolutely vital to his chances of staying on.

JIM CALDWELL, INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

Contract Status: Through 2012

The Skinny: Has done just fine when Peyton Manning's around, bringing the Colts to the Super Bowl in 2009 in his first season taking over for a retired Tony Dungy and following up with 10 wins and an AFC South title last year. But Indianapolis is on the verge of becoming the second 0-16 team in league history with Manning sidelined all of 2011, and the Colts have been barely competitive in recent weeks.

The Prognosis: It's possible Caldwell could get a pass because of Indy's injury-induced fiasco, but unlikely. Coaches almost never go into a season in the final year of their contract, and the Colts would be lambasted in the press if they gave him an extension after producing the worst record in the league.

LESLIE FRAZIER, MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Contract Status: Through 2013 (signed three-year contract in January)

The Skinny: Gave the Vikings a bit of spark after replacing the unpopular Brad Childress for the final six games of last season, but Frazier's first full year in charge has been a disaster. At 2-11, Minnesota is on pace to set a franchise record for losses and the defence -- Frazier's area of expertise -- has been among the league's most submissive units.

The Prognosis: Owner Zygi Wilf has gone on record that Frazier will be back in 2012, and it's reasonable to believe he'll get another year to redeem himself. His long-term future with the organization will be directly dependant on how young quarterback Christian Ponder progresses in his second season.

ANDY REID, PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Contract Status: Through 2013 (signed three-year extension in December, 2009)

The Skinny: The NFL's longest-tenured active head coach has directed the Eagles to nine playoff berths, six division titles, five trips to the NFC Championship and one Super Bowl appearance in 13 seasons. So why is Reid even on this list? Because Philadelphia has been a major disappointment in 2011, with the expected Lombardi Trophy contenders poised to deliver their first losing record since 2005.

The Prognosis: Though frustrated fans and local media members have been calling for a change in leadership, owner Jeffrey Lurie's not likely to grant their wish unless the Eagles absolutely implode over the final three games. There will be some offseason house-cleaning for sure, however, with one hot rumour having Spagnuolo (a Reid assistant for eight seasons) replacing the maligned Juan Castillo at defensive coordinator.

TOM COUGHLIN, NEW YORK GIANTS

Contract Status: Through 2012 (signed one-year extension in July)

The Skinny: Guided the Giants to four straight playoff trips from 2005-08 and a memorable upset over an undefeated New England Patriots team in Super Bowl XLII to conclude the 2007 season. New York hasn't won a postseason game since that historic achievement, however, and missed out on the conference tournament altogether after second-half collapses in 2009 and 2010. The Giants also had an ill-timed four-game skid this season before last week's big victory in Dallas.

The Prognosis: The win over the Cowboys may have given Coughlin a stay of execution, though the veteran head coach isn't out of the woods just yet. The Giants have the inside track to claiming the NFC East, but another late-year stumble could force the team's usually-patient ownership's hand.


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