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Top NFL head-coaching candidates

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher answers questions

Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher answers questions during a news conference at the team facility in Pittsburgh. Credit: AP, 2006

With many teams preparing for the playoffs and a potential run to Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, others less fortunate are considering their options after disappointing seasons. With multiple coaching changes expected, many as soon as the day after the regular season ends -- dubbed Black Monday -- teams will looking at the list of potential replacements.

Here are the top head-coaching candidates:

Lovie Smith: The former Bears head coach took a year off and is ready to get back in. He has already interviewed with the Texans and might be a target of the Buccaneers.

Ken Whisenhunt, Chargers offensive coordinator: He was fired by the Cardinals after the 2012 season, but his fine work with Philip Rivers and his head-coaching experience makes him an attractive candidate. The Lions might be a good fit.

Bill Cowher: The former Steelers coach has flirted with a couple of teams since retiring, but he seems comfortable with his role at CBS. Only a perfect opportunity might lure him back, and there just don't seem to be any of those available right now.

Jon Gruden: The former Buccaneers and Raiders head coach has reportedly drawn interest from the Raiders, but Gruden is emphatic about remaining on ESPN's "Monday Night Football" in 2014.

Jay Gruden, Bengals offensive coordinator: Jon Gruden's younger brother has done a nice job with third-year quarterback Andy Dalton, getting the Bengals to the playoffs three straight years. Figures to be a hot candidate.

Bill O'Brien, Penn State head coach: O'Brien was interviewed by the Browns and Eagles last year. Bill Belichick's former offensive coordinator might be ready to jump back to the pros.

Darrell Bevell, Seahawks offensive coordinator: He helped turn Russell Wilson into a star and could be a candidate for the Jets if they make a move with Rex Ryan. Bevell worked with Jets general manager John Idzik with the Seahawks.

David Shaw, Stanford head coach: He might follow in Jim Harbaugh's footsteps and jump to the NFL, although he has shown no outward signs of making a move. He's an elite young coach with a bright future in either college or the pros.

Mike Shanahan, Redskins head coach: He's expected to be fired by team owner Daniel Snyder; if that happens, the Texans could come calling. Shanahan worked with Texans GM Rick Smith in Denver.

Mike Zimmer, Bengals defensive coordinator: One of the best coordinators in the NFL, but he has yet to get a legitimate shot at a head-coaching gig. He could get some interest if Jerry Jones decides to move on from Jason Garrett.

Ray Horton, Browns defensive coordinator: He drew some interest last year after leaving Arizona as defensive coordinator.

Dan Quinn, Seahawks defensive coordinator: Replaced Gus Bradley after Bradley left to become head coach in Jacksonville. Quinn spent two years as a Jets defensive line coach. The connection with Idzik helps.

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