As we head into January, 12 teams prepare to make a run at the Super Bowl, and 20 others figure out how to get back on track for 2013. Seven of those teams are searching for new head coaches.
Two of the big-name head coaches who were handed the pink slip on "Black Monday," Andy Reid and Norv Turner, could find work quickly.
Reid has been the hot candidate thus far, and reports indicate that he would be signing with the Chiefs. Turner will garner consideration as an offensive coordinator somewhere next season, but not as a head coach.
Ken Whisenhunt and Lovie Smith could join Reid as fired head coaches who return to that role with a new team without having to take a year off, or spend time as a coordinator.
Those who got the pink slip can look at last year’s victims as inspiration that they might not be unemployed long. Here is a look at the head coaches who were fired in or after the 2011 season and how they have fared in new assistant jobs in ’12:
Hue Jackson — After only one year as the Raiders’ head coach, Jackson was fired shortly after new GM Reggie McKenzie took over football operations. It was not a happy exit, but Jackson found work a month later, returning to Cincinnati, where he was a WR coach from 2004-06. In his second stint with the team, he has worked as an assistant coach with the Bengals’ special teams and defensive backs.
Todd Haley — The Chiefs fired Haley 13 games into his second season in charge in early December 2011. The Steelers then hired Haley in early February to help open up the passing game. Much was said prior to the season about Haley working with QB Ben Roethlisberger, and the relationship hasn’t been too cozy, especially when Roethlisberger appeared to call out Haley’s play-calling following Week 15. Despite the offense having its share of struggles, Haley has been rumored as a candidate for other jobs.
Steve Spagnuolo — Spagnuolo was fired following the end of a 2-14 regular season. Less than three weeks later, the Saints hired him based on his previous success as the Giants’ defensive coordinator. However, the Saints’ stop unit was miserable to start the season, allowing 400-plus yards in the first 10 contests. The “D” improved as the season wore on, but it was a big disappointment overall.
Jack Del Rio — Del Rio was the first head coach to be let go in 2011, as the Jaguars fired him on Nov. 30 with a 3-8 record. He joined the Broncos in late January as their seventh defensive coordinator in seven seasons, reuniting with John Fox — the pair worked together in Carolina in 2002. The Broncos’ defense has been extremely impressive this season, ranking near the top of the league against the run and pass. It’s been a good year for Del Rio’s résumé.
Jim Caldwell — Peyton Manning sitting out the 2011 season certainly didn’t help Caldwell’s cause, and he couldn’t survive a 2-14 season. Less than two weeks after being fired, Caldwell was hired as the Ravens’ quarterbacks coach, and he was promoted to offensive coordinator after Cam Cameron was fired in mid-December. The Ravens hope that Caldwell’s experience with Manning can help get more out of Joe Flacco, though it has been an up-and-down season for Baltimore’s offense.
Tony Sparano — Sparano might be the least successful of last year’s fired head coaches, and the one in most jeopardy of being out of a job again. Miami fired Sparano in early December with the team on the verge of another losing season. On Jan. 11, the Jets hired Sparano to replace Brian Schottenheimer and return the team to the ground-and-pound philosophy. The offense, though, has been a disaster this season, with the distraction and ineffective use of Tim Tebow a prime culprit.
Raheem Morris — The Buccaneers fired Morris on “Black Monday” after 10 straight losses to end the season. Nine days later, the Redskins hired Morris to coach the team’s defensive backs. The unit has dealt with injuries, and the ’Skins are 30th against the pass, but the entire team has been a pleasant surprise this season, with the defense doing just enough. The personnel that Morris is working with isn’t great, and next season might be a better indicator of his work.