by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor

It’s getting to that time in the NFL season when we begin to look forward into the next campaign for many (mostly non-playoff) teams. As usual, coaching and QB situations will garner the most headlines. And, since those developments could have some impact upon the final weeks of the current season, a brief review of those situations should be in order. We’ll update the QB picture next week; this week, we look at coaches on the firing line.

HOTTEST SEATS: Norv Turner, San Diego...Rumors have been flying from San Diego that team prexy Dean Spanos has his finger poised on the eject button on both Turner and GM A.J. Smith as soon as the regular season concludes for the disappointing Chargers. Although it would be just like Turner for his Bolts to win a few games in late December (which his teams have usually done, as the schedule ironically has gone soft down the stretch in most of his six seasons in charge) and give Spanos cause to pause, as was the case a year ago when the Chargers defied logic and invited Turner back for one more year after a rousing season-ending win at Oakland that denied the Raiders a playoff berth. This time, however, barring some sort of completely unforseen developments, we suspect that the rumors are true. It is also not lost on San Diego fans how the Chargers have spent most of the past five years struggling to reach .500 under Turner; imagine what success Philip Rivers & Co. might have had with a coach like Bill Cowher or Jim Harbaugh (both rumored at times over the past few years being available to Spanos if he so chose) running the show.

Andy Reid, Philadelphia...Reid is sure acting like a coach who thinks he might return next season, a few weeks ago naming rookie QB Nick Foles as the starter for the remainder of the regular season as the Eagles look to the future, while canning a couple of trusted defensive assistants (d.c. Juan Castillo and DL coach Jim Washburn, architect of the “wide nine” looks) within the second half of what has been a terribly disappointing campaign for the Birds. Which, as could be expected, has the callers on 610 WIP worked into a lather. Yet Reid seems to have significantly undershot the “win or else” edict from owner Jeffrey Lurie in the summer. Remember, the Philly makeover began in the offseason with longtime front office exec Joe Banner leaving town and landing in Cleveland, where some believe Reid could also possibly be destined (San Diego another popular rumor). We’ll be following those leads closely in the next week. But at 4-10 after last Thursday’s mistake-filled meltdown vs. the Bengals, Reid’s days look numbered in Philly. As the 610 WIP crowd can tell us.

Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona...Up until a few weeks ago, we might not have included Whisenhunt on this list. But the Cardinals’ collapse to nine straight losses before upsetting Detroit Sunday, after a 4-0 break from the gate, might have left the six-year HC with no more rope in the desert, especially after that recent 58-0 pasting absorbed vs. the Seahawks. Although an injury to QB Kevin Kolb helped to turn the season pear-shaped for the Big Red, Whisenhunt’s handling of the QB situaion post Kurt-Warner has been abysmal, and in truth Arizona did little to improve a leaky OL in the offseason, so it might not have mattered if Kolb (or RB Beanie Wells) had been healthy all season. Already there is talk in the Valley that Whisenhunt’s former o.c. Todd Haley (who flamed out in his HC debut with the Chiefs and is now the o.c. with the Steelers) might be preferred as an alternative by the Bidwills.

WARM SEATS: Chan Gailey, Buffalo...The Bills have made little progress the past two years with Gailey and will fail to make the postseason once again (indeed, they still haven’t made it this millennium). By all accounts, owner Ralph Wilson, even at 94 years old, is still sharp enough to pull the ripcord on Gailey, whose modest previous accomplishments also never suggested he was the man to lead the Bills out of their doldrums.

Lovie Smith, Chicago...If the Bears don’t make the playoffs, Smith could be held accountable, which was the message in the offseason after longtime GM Jerry Angelo was replaced by scout Phil Emery. Sources say the Angelo move was a warning sign to Lovie from the McCaskeys, and the Bears’ recent wobbles are further concern to Smith.

Pat Shurmur, Cleveland...By most accounts, Shurmur is performing admirably in his second year as he rebuilds the franchise from the rubble of the failed Romeo Crennel and Eric Mangini regimes. But there is also a new owner (Jimmy Haslam) in Cleveland, and the makeover has already begun, with team prexy Mike Holmgren quietly removing himself from the picture and new front office exec Joe Banner (ex-Eagles) now wielding power within the organization. Sources say Shurmur’s fate rests in continuing Browns progress in the next few weeks...and even that might not be enough.

Jason Garrett, Dallas...We’re not sure that Jerry Jones has mellowed enough to keep granting mulligans to Garrett (or QB Tony Romo, for that matter) if the Cowboys miss the playoffs again. We heard the same rumors last year about a major housecleaning if the Cowboys didn’t make the playoffs, but if Dallas misses the postseason again, sources say Jones will be looking for scapegoats (other than himself), and the coaching staff could be due for a massive overhaul.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit...With the Lions guaranteed a losing season after their playoff berth a year ago, dropping a succession of close games, burdened by lapses in discipline, and imbalanced on offense, Schwartz could be the fall guy if the Lions don’t show some signs of progress in the closing weeks.

Mike Mularkey, Jacksonville...Mularkey didn’t have a lot to work with in J’ville, but he was also a failure in his previous head coaching stint in Buffalo, and many league observers predicted the Jags would not make any headway after his hire in the past offseason. We don’t often see one-and-dones in NFL coaching ranks, but reports indicate owner Shad Khan is not pleased, and some believe he is the impetuous type to make a quick move.

Romeo Crennel, Kansas City...The Chiefs have obviously had some disturbing distractions in recent weeks, but the season had already careened out of control long before, and Crennel’s previous record of failure as a head coach at Cleveland is not likely to buy him much more time to steady the ship. Although sources believe any changes at Arrowhead could involve Crennel moving back to his more comfy d.c. duties. GM Scott Pioli could also be on the clock in what might amount to complete purge in K.C.

Sean Payton, New Orleans...Payton’s value to the Saints has been underscored by their disappointing showing in his suspension-related absence. The rumor to watch is Payton not returning to New Orleans and instead landing in Dallas, where he still owns a home and where he coached (under Bill Parcells) before taking the Saints gig in 2006. Regional sources have little faith in owner Tom Benson pushing the proper buttons, and Payton might welcome a clean break after the distractions surrounding “Bounty-gate” in New Orleans.

Rex Ryan, NY Jets...The Jets were staying alive on the periphery of the AFC wild card mix as we went to press before their Monday nighter at Tennessee, and many sources believe Rexy’s fate rests within the Jets finding their way into the postseason. Whatever, the momentum seems to have been lost from Ryan’s first two years on the job in 2009-10 when the Jets advanced to the AFC title game, and the QB situation only worsened this season with Mark Sanchez continuing to regress and Tim Tebow’s addition making little impact. If anything, Ryan has made himself a hard-to-avoid target, and most observers suspect big changes in the organization if the Jets can’t rally (vs. a soft slate, we might add) in the final weeks.

Dennis Allen, Oakland...To blame new HC Allen for all of the Raiders’ ills would be unfair, but it is safe to say that he has not been able to lift Oakland above its shortcomings and punch above its weight. This figures to be an interesting indicator of the influence of new GM Reggie McKenzie, whose recent background in Green Bay suggests that he wants to patiently build via the draft, and canning a coach after one season isn’t consistent with that narrative. But some believe new team supremo Mark Davis is believing the Allen hire was a mistake, and he knows that papa Al also canned Joe Bugel and Art Shell (in his second tour of duty) after just one season each on the job.

Mike Munchak, Tennessee...A younger Bud Adams would likely not have stood still for his team spinning its wheels as it seems to be doing for Munchak the past two seasons. And the Titans have regressed in 2012, with a bipolar performance that has swung wildly between extremes, also reflected in RB Chris Johnson’s erratic form. With 2nd-year QB Jake Locker experiencing growing pains, Munchak might get another year, although with so many young QBs hitting the ground running these days (Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, RG III), Locker’s youth is not going to be a valid excuse much longer.

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