By the time Sunday’s slate of games concludes, the fates of 32 teams will be sealed. Twelve teams will go to the playoffs; 20 teams will begin plotting their futures; and plenty of coaching staffs will undergo changes.
Here is a snapshot look at what changes might be coming in 2018 for nine NFC clubs:
Dallas Cowboys: Coach Jason Garrett still has the support of the front office and a firm grasp on his job. But with several expiring contracts on his coaching staff, Dallas could see significant turnover. Receiver Dez Bryant going public with his frustrations with the offensive scheme makes one wonder if Scott Linehan could join defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli on the hot seat. Both of those spots will be thoroughly evaluated, sources say. If Linehan goes, one possible candidate could be former Cowboys receivers coach Todd Haley, whose contract with the Steelers is set to expire, per a source. Receivers coach Derek Dooley might want to return to college while passing game coordinator on defense Matt Eberflus is a free agent and could supplant Marinelli if Dallas chooses to make a change.
Washington Redskins: A fringe hot-seat candidate, coach Jay Gruden isn’t going anywhere. Sources say there is a deep understanding of how injuries torpedoed Washington’s promising season, and Gruden still has the support of the front office. Don’t expect any major changes on the staff, and if there are changes in the front office, they would be minor. One possibility: Hiring a business-side executive to allow team president Bruce Allen to focus more on football, rather than spread himself thin.
New York Giants: With the hiring of general manager Dave Gettleman, the Giants can now hit the ground running on hiring a coach. The original plan was to interview prospective GM candidates such as Eliot Wolf of the Packers, Nick Caserio of the Patriots and Kyle O’Brien of the Lions. Now their attention turns to coaches, with owner John Mara saying part of the focus will be on experience. That brings into consideration names like Josh McDaniels of the Patriots, Jim Schwartz of the Eagles, Pat Shurmur of the Vikings and Giants interim coach Steve Spagnuolo. Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, given his ties to Gettleman, will also likely get an interview. Texans coach Bill O’Brien would be high on the list if he’s free.
Detroit Lions: Coach Jim Caldwell is expected to coach his last game for Detroit on Sunday, sources say. The multi-year extension he received this past offseason was really just a one-year deal with an option, and Caldwell’s status is now in doubt. When Detroit missed the playoffs, his fate was almost certainly sealed. When the job becomes open, keep an eye on Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, a hire that would allow the Lions to keep the offensive side of the ball mostly in place.
Green Bay Packers: Mike McCarthy heads into a contract year, and there is no doubt Green Bay’s focus will be on locking him up. There are bigger questions around him. On the football side, where change has always been at a minimum, there are real questions about whether 67-year-old Dom Capers will retire or be asked to retire. This could be the year. If that happens, keep an eye on Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, who is a free agent.
Chicago Bears: Coach John Fox is expected to be fired following Chicago’s game on Sunday, sources say. General manager Ryan Pace will lead the search for a new coach, and team president Ted Phillips has already been doing homework on prospective candidates. While Fangio likely gets a look, don’t be surprised if the Bears focus on hiring an offensive coach who can help rookie QB Mitch Trubisky, as the Eagles did with Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: The Bucs informed coach Dirk Koetter he will return for a third season on Friday, ending speculation of a possible Jon Gruden return to Tampa Bay. Gruden had reached out to prospective assistants and support staff people to prepare, but it wasn’t to be. Now the question is whether Koetter keeps the same staff in place after a frustrating but injury-plagued year.
Seattle Seahawks: On the cusp of the playoffs at the end of a tumultuous season, the Seahawks are about to head into an offseason of change. Some of the key faces on the defensive side of the ball will be changed out, whether due to injury or trades, in what will be a rebuilding of sorts. There are questions, though remote, as to whether Pete Carroll will return. He has privately mused about retirement, similar to aging players every offseason. A source close to Carroll said his focus is only on the next game, not the future, and noted he’s under contract. The Seahawks do believe Carroll will return for the rebuild. At this point, this only bears watching.
Arizona Cardinals: Retirement rumors have plagued coach Bruce Arians for years, and Sunday will be no different. Expect a quick decision either way, so Arians can move on with staff changes or the team can move on with his replacement. Those close to him believe it’s the end, and the team has made preparations in case that is a fact. But the Cardinals haven’t given up hope of swaying him. They’d like him to return for one more year and are pushing for it. Arians has given thought to how he’d handle 2018 … but has made no firm decision.
Follow Ian Rapoport on Twitter @RapSheet