The Miami Dolphins got a head start on their coaching search by firing Tony Sparano Monday. Ownership realized it will have some stiff competition for a top coaching prospect and decided the time is now to look to 2012.
So let's examine Miami's competition this offseason. Here is how the AFC East blog ranks the league's current and potential openings:
5. Jacksonville Jaguars (4-9)
Fired coach: Jack Del Rio
The good: New owner Shahid Khan should infuse some fresh energy and ideas into this struggling franchise. He seems committed to winning.
The bad: Lack of fan support makes the Jaguars an unstable organization. The team plans to stay in Jacksonville now. But if support doesn't improve long term, that can always change. The Jaguars' roster has a lot of holes and question marks, including quarterback.
Job quality (1 to 10): 3
Current coach: Steve Spagnuolo
The good: St. Louis has a former No. 1 overall draft pick at quarterback (Sam Bradford) and a former Pro Bowl running back (Steven Jackson). Those are decent building blocks. St. Louis also plays in a weak division overall.
The bad: Other than Jackson and Bradford, this team lacks talent and has a lot of holes to fill via the draft and free agency. In addition, Bradford is getting beat up and hasn't looked the same this year.
Job quality: 5
3. Miami Dolphins (4-9)
Fired coached: Tony Sparano
The good: The roster has some talent. The defense is just a couple players away from being elite, and Miami has some playmakers offensively. Owner Stephen Ross has deep pockets and is willing to spend money to improve the team.
The bad: Jeff Ireland remains as general manager and could scare off top coaching prospects. Miami still needs to find a long-term solution at quarterback. The Patriots and Jets are two strong franchises in the AFC East that aren't going away anytime soon.
Job quality: 6
2. Kansas City Chiefs (5-8)
Fired coach: Todd Haley
The good: The Chiefs have a strong front-office setup led by Scott Pioli. The Hunt family is very well-respected and one of the best ownership groups to work for. The AFC West is wide open year to year.
The bad: Kansas City has a lot of money tied to quarterback Matt Cassel, who isn't good enough to lead a team to the Super Bowl. The Chiefs have had some in-house turmoil this season that needs to be cleaned up by the next coach.
Job quality: 7
1. San Diego Chargers (5-7)
Current coach: Norv Turner
The good: San Diego is a team built to win now. The Chargers have a playoff-caliber roster and a franchise quarterback in Philip Rivers. Similar to Kansas City, the AFC West is an easy division that's wide open. Turner has underachieved with this group and the right coach could easily take this talented team back to the playoffs.
The bad: The Chargers have some stadium issues, which may make them a candidate to move. Other than that, this is a great job for a coach seeking to make an immediate impact.
Job quality: 9