Let the NFL coaching changes begin.
The St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the latest teams to fire their coaches, bringing to five the number of NFL clubs looking for the right man for the job.
The Rams fired Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney on Monday, and about an hour later the Bucs fired Raheem Morris and his entire staff.
Both were first-time head coaches, and both lasted three seasons. Spagnuolo leaves with a 10-38 record; Morris with a 17-31 mark.
The Jacksonville Jaguars started the coaching carousel by firing Jack Del Rio on Nov. 29; two weeks later, the Miami Dolphins fired Tony Sparano and the Kansas City Chiefs dismissed Todd Haley.
And the search is on, especially in Florida, where all three NFL teams will have new coaches next season.
The Jaguars, with new owner Shahid Khan taking charge Wednesday, have received permission from the Jets to interview offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, and from the Falcons to interview offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey for the vacancy.
Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland said Monday he and owner Stephen Ross have begun their search. Interim coach Todd Bowles is a long shot, and a front-runner has not surfaced.
The Chiefs went 2-1 under interim Romeo Crennel, including a win over the Packers, and he could end up with the job next season. Many Chiefs players have campaigned for Crennel to be hired.
The Rams finished a 2-14 season with a 34-27 loss to the 49ers, and could be interested in former Titans coach Jeff Fisher and former Bucs coach Jon Gruden. Both have relationships with Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and agent Marvin Demoff.
Morris, 35, was supposed to be the young rising star in the coaching ranks after his Bucs won 10 games last season and just missed the playoffs. But his team lost its last 10 games and finished 4-12 this season.
In San Diego, Chargers coach Norv Turner says he knows a decision on his future is being made by team president Dean Spanos and will be announced in a matter of days.
Whether he gets the chance is up to Spanos, who also is deciding whether general manager A.J. Smith returns.
It appears Buffalo Bills coach Chan Gailey will be back. On Monday, he fired defensive coordinator George Edwards and replaced him with assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt.
POLIANS’ FIRING STUNS COLTS QB MANNING
In a move that would have been unimaginable a few months ago, the Indianapolis Colts fired Bill and Chris Polian, the father-and-son tandem atop one of the NFL’s most successful franchises of the past decade.
Bill Polian was the team’s vice chairman and Chris was the general manager.
Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has yet to decide whether to keep coach Jim Caldwell, said it’s time for a fresh start in the wake of a 2-14 season.
“Just less than two years ago (we were) getting ready to play in the Super Bowl and go to Miami,” Irsay said in a news conference to announce the firings. “Less than two years ago, cleaning off the confetti from the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. It’s been a very sharp decline.”
Strangely enough, Peyton Manning, whose season-ending neck injury and subsequent surgeries sent the Colts down the path to the No. 1 pick, was meeting with Bill Polian in a training room when Polian was summoned away for a meeting with Irsay on Monday afternoon.
“I was stunned, I was surprised, I was saddened and just disappointed that it all happened this way,” Manning told ESPN.
Manning said he and Polian later had a very emotional meeting when the quarterback learned that the man who drafted him with the No. 1 pick in 1998 had been let go.
“Bill and I – and Chris Polian has been here the whole time, too – had a great ride with tremendous highs, and it makes me very sad that this ends on such a negative note,” Manning said.
Coach Jim Harbaugh has told 49ers quarterback Alex Smith the team plans to re-sign him beyond this season. Smith, 27, has thrown for 3,150 yards and 17 touchdowns with only five interceptions for the NFC West champions. … The Steelers’ journey through the playoffs won’t include running back Rashard Mendenhall. A person familiar with the injury said that Mendenhall has a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee and is out for the entire postseason. … The Bears say an MRI showed Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher suffered no major structural damage to his left knee in a season-ending win at Minnesota. … The NFL has set the order for April’s draft for non-playoff teams, with the Indianapolis Colts owning the No. 1 overall pick. Behind Indianapolis is St. Louis, which also went 2-14 but against a more difficult schedule, earning the Colts’ the chance to pick Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, considered the top prospect at the position in many years. Minnesota (3-13) is third, followed by Cleveland and Tampa Bay, both 4-12.