Twelve NFL coaches are about to begin a playoff journey they hope will culminate in a Super Bowl championship. Several others are about to lose their jobs.
Commonly known as Black Monday, it's the day after the season when coaches around the league are given pink slips. The expected firings this year include Romeo Crennel of the Chiefs, Norv Turner of the Chargers, Chan Gailey of the Bills, Pat Shurmur of the Browns, Mike Mularkey of the Jaguars and possibly more. Ken Whisenhunt of the Cardinals, Dennis Allen of the Raiders, Ron Rivera of the Panthers and Mike Munchak of the Titans could be on the hot seat. And there are often one or two surprise firings.
But once the hiring begins, don't be surprised to see several college coaches draw consideration from NFL teams, especially after the success of Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh, who once battled while they were at USC and Stanford, respectively, and are now NFC West rivals in Seattle and San Francisco.
Chip Kelly of Oregon was the Bucs' No. 1 choice last year before they settled on Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, and others could be in line for NFL jobs. Among the names we've heard who could draw interest: Jim Mora Jr. of UCLA, Kirk Ferentz of Iowa, Bob Stoops of Oklahoma, Doug Marrone of Syracuse, Bill O'Brien of Penn State and Brian Kelly of Notre Dame. And Nick Saban's name has been mentioned in connection with the Browns' job, although the Alabama coach hasn't given any indications he's ready for another run at the NFL after coaching with the Dolphins.
Many will wind up staying at the college level -- there are huge buyout clauses for O'Brien and Brian Kelly, for instance -- but the level of interest among college coaches has grown in the NFL.
"I think that door started opening, and we pushed it open further," Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. "There are a lot of great football coaches in colleges."
Romo put on spot once again
The Cowboys are on the road with the NFC East on the line in the final week of the regular season.
It should. The Cowboys are in the exact same spot they were last year when they had to beat the Giants to win the division or miss the playoffs. Here they are again, with the only difference being the opponent. The Cowboys are at Washington in a winner-take-all for the NFC East.
It's another chance for Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo to prove his skeptics wrong. Romo has taken plenty of criticism over the years, mostly because he has just one playoff win and has disappointed in big spots before. But if he keeps his momentum going, Romo has a chance to turn the tide.
Consider: In his last nine games, Romo has 17 touchdowns and only three interceptions. He also has three straight comeback efforts in the fourth quarter, although the Cowboys' defense let them down in last week's 34-31 loss to the Saints.
Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III is on a roll, too. RG3 has 20 touchdowns and five interceptions on the season to go with a spectacular quarterback rating of 104.1. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan said Griffin is playing at a historic level for a rookie.
"I don't think anybody in the history of the league has played at his level," Shanahan said. "At least over the last 40 years, when I take a look at the numbers and what he has done, I don't think anybody has played at his level. He's got a unique skill set -- his ability to throw, drop back, play action, put a threat on a defense with his running ability -- and he will just get better and better. He's just scratching the surface."
Peyton going all the way
The Broncos have a chance to get the No. 1 seed in the AFC, which means Peyton Manning will go all out in Denver's regular-season finale against the Chiefs at home.
Manning often played only sparingly on the last weekend of the season when he was with the Colts, and often with poor results in the playoffs. In fact, the only time he won a Super Bowl in Indianapolis, Manning went the whole way in the regular-season finale and didn't get a playoff bye. He won four straight games to win his only NFL title.
The Texans aren't peaking at the right time. Losers of two of their last three, quarterback Matt Schaub is a big concern right now. He had 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions in his first 12 games, but has only one touchdown and one interception in his last three.
Think Tom Brady doesn't miss injured tight end Rob Gronkowski? After throwing for at least 300 yards in six of his first 10 games, Brady has thrown for fewer than 300 in three of his last four, all without Gronk in the lineup.