Following Doug Marrone's rather sudden departure from Buffalo, six NFL teams find themselves in need of a head coach.
That number includes the Raiders, who technically have Tony Sparano in place on an interim basis. The Bills, Falcons, Jets, 49ers and Bears are the other franchises conducting coaching searches at the moment.
Those searches could wrap at any time, though in several cases the wait figures to continue until more teams are eliminated from the NFL playoffs, thus freeing up those teams' assistants for additional interviews.
With wild-card weekend now in the books, here's how the main candidates stand:
Teryl Austin, DC, Lions: Rising.
The Lions needed one more defensive stop Sunday to keep their season alive, but Austin's clever blitz packages in the first half vs. Tony Romo further cemented his head-coaching case. "For all of us, for him, I think and his family, I think he's deserving of it," Lions head coach Jim Caldwell said last week, "and I think he's going to get one."
A silver lining for Austin in the Lions' heartbreak: he could be hired away at any time. Several other potential coaching candidates (Jack Del Rio, Josh McDaniels, Darrell Bevell, Adam Gase, etc.) now cannot interview again with interested teams until the bye week prior to the Super Bowl, at earliest, and could not be hired away until their current team's postseason run concludes.
Jack Del Rio, DC, Broncos: Rising.
The Denver Post reported Sunday that Raiders owner Mark Davis flew into Denver to interview Del Rio. Other candidates may emerge, but it does appear that Del Rio and current Oakland interim head coach Tony Sparano are at the top of Davis' list for now. Any movement is now on hiatus with the Broncos back in action this week.
Gary Kubiak, OC, Ravens: Rising.
Kubiak saved his best for the postseason, engineering an impressive offensive show by Baltimore in Pittsburgh. The NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported over the weekend that both the 49ers and Jets are interested in talking with Kubiak, though there will be a delay.
"I don't think about what's next," Kubiak said on Christmas Eve, via Comcast Sportsnet. "I want to enjoy what's right now."Rising
It may be a matter of when, not if, for McDaniels' second shot as an NFL head coach. CBS' Jason La Canfora reported Sunday that "McDaniels' candidacy has been championed" by embattled Atlanta GM Thomas Dimitroff and assistant GM Scott Pioli. The 49ers also interviewed McDaniels this past weekend, but he now is under the same playoff freeze as Del Rio and others.
The 38-year-old McDaniels does have stability as New England's offensive coordinator (see: Brady, Tom), meaning he can wait on a situation he deems ideal. Does Atlanta fit that bill? San Francisco? If not, teams will keep calling, this offseason and beyond.
Frank Reich, OC, Chargers: Rising.
According to the Buffalo News, the Bills made sure to get in an interview with Reich before he met with the Jets. So, if for no other reason than Doug Marrone bolting, Reich's stock is on the rise. Reich played for the Bills from 1985-94; he just completed his second season on San Diego's staff and his first as offensive coordinator, having inherited the job from current Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt.
Mike Shanahan, unemployed: Rising.
Where there's smoke ...
Shanahan, who previously expressed interest in working with Jay Cutler in Chicago, reportedly interviewed with the 49ers over the weekend. ESPN's Adam Schefter then added Monday that the Raiders had interviewed the 62-year-old Shanahan as well.
Darrell Bevell, OC, Seahawks: Holding.
Pete Carroll confirmed last week that the Raiders had interviewed Bevell, and the Bills also have thrown their hat into the mix. Bevell's work shaping the Seattle offense -- in particular, helping Russell Wilson develop into a feared quarterback -- has not gone unnoticed in league circles. Carroll often receives much of the credit for helping orchestrate the Seahawks' defense. Bevell and offensive line coach Tom Cable draw the praise on the other side.
Todd Bowles, DC, Cardinals: Holding.
Not a great farewell, if it was one, for Bowles. The Cardinals' defense allowed 27 points and nearly 400 yards in a Saturday loss to Carolina. Of course, Bowles and Co. were working against rather extreme circumstances, like the Arizona offense putting up an all-time playoff-worst 77 yards.
The book on Bowles is rather well-written at this point. He has proven to be a brilliant defensive mind and he seems destined to land a head-coaching shot somewhere, eventually.
Adam Gase, OC, Broncos: Holding.
Just 36 years old, Gase already has spent more than a decade in the NFL -- he joined the Lions as a scouting assistant in 2003 and has climbed the ladder ever since. His work as the Broncos' offensive coordinator has propelled him into the head-coaching conversation, albeit with questions regarding how much of his success is due to Peyton Manning's presence.
Of note: Gase switched agents last weekend, just as he began a round of interviews with the 49ers, Falcons, Bears and Bills.
Pep Hamilton, OC, Colts: Holding.
The only reason Hamilton falls shy of the "Rising" category is that he already sits at or near the top of multiple teams' wish lists. Hamilton has had success at several stops now, from his time as quarterbacks coach in Chicago to an OC stint with Stanford to his current role.
Oakland was the first to reach out for permission to interview Hamilton, but Buffalo has followed suit.
"I think Pep would be an awesome head coach, whether it's in Oakland or a different club," TE Coby Fleener said, per WTHR. "That said, yeah, it would be a tough loss. It's an offense that I know and like very much. It's an offense that Andrew [Luck] is very comfortable with, so it would definitely be a tough loss. There's no doubt about that.''
Doug Marrone, unemployed: Rising, New York only; Holding overall.
Marrone opted out of his Bills contract on New Year's Eve, and each day he seems to move closer toward replacing Rex Ryan in New York.
What happens, though, if that falls through? Marrone was 15-17 during his abbreviated run with the Bills and has been eviscerated by Buffalo sources since deciding to leave town.
Dan Quinn, DC, Seahawks: Holding.
Count the Bears, Bills, Falcons, Jets and 49ers -- in other words, all of the teams with current coaching vacancies outside of Oakland -- among the teams to have shown interest in Quinn already. His interview window shut along with those of Del Rio, McDaniels, Gase, etc., when the Seahawks entered a game week again. Given the success Seattle has had defensively in Quinn's two seasons as coordinator, his name figures to stay in the mix for at least one or two teams.
Rex Ryan, unemployed: Holding.
The dismissed ex-Jets coach actually may be closer to the "falling" range at this point, for one prevailing reason: television. Ryan reportedly interviewed with ESPN recently for an analyst job. It may just be a backup plan for Ryan, but if the network throws enough cash on the table, Ryan will have a tough time saying no.
The Bears also have no interest in Ryan, per Pro Football Talk, so his remaining options are more limited than the others in play.
Hue Jackson, OC, Bengals: Falling.
As with judging draft prospects or assessing a player's worth in free agency, narrowing the focus down to a solitary game makes little sense. Still, if any teams interested in Jackson were on the fence heading into Sunday, the Bengals' offensive performance with A.J. Green and Jermaine Gresham sidelined probably did little to inspire confidence. Jackson still remains on the radar for multiple teams, with the Bills having reached out for an interview, per reports.
One slightly off-the-wall possibility here: Cincinnati cuts ties with Marvin Lewis after another playoff exit and promotes Jackson to the head gig.
Mike Munchak, offensive line, Steelers: Falling.
The NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel recommended Munchak as one of 15 head-coaching candidates among current NFL assistants, and Munchak interviewed for the Lions' job last offseason after being fired by the Titans.
Munchak was widely credited for the Steelers' improved play up front this season, although the Ravens won most of the battles there on Saturday night. Regardless, Munchak does not appear to be in any rush to get back into the head-coaching game, nor has there been much buzz on him as a candidate yet.
"I knew the stability they have here. I didn't want to go some place for one year and move again," Munchak told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in November. "I was in Houston and Nashville for a long time. I'm hoping I can finish in Pittsburgh."