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Friday, January 1, 2010
Could AFC West staff changes be brewing?

By Bill Williamson

Josh McDaniels, Tom Cable, Todd Haley
There could be some shakeups on the coaching staffs of Denver's Josh McDaniels, Oakland's Tom Cable and Kansas City's Todd Haley.
As we approach the final game of the regular season, this likely will be the end for each AFC West coaching staff as we know it. There will be probably be some changes on each staff in the division, whether it’s the organization’s or individual head coach’s decision.

We look at the chances of change in each AFC West city (the focus is on head coaches and coordinators):

Denver: Don’t expect any change at top. Josh McDaniels is not going anywhere, even if Denver doesn’t make the playoffs and suffers its second straight major collapse. If Denver doesn’t make the playoffs, it will be the second team in 31 years to start 6-0 and miss the postseason.

Still, McDaniels’ team has performed better than expected. The team is physical and full of energy. McDaniels seems to have a good program started.

The one potential big change could be at defensive coordinator if Mike Nolan gets another opportunity to be a head coach. But that might be a long shot this offseason. The only way the former San Francisco 49ers head coach gets a chance to take over another team is if there are more openings than expected.

Otherwise, Nolan will have to put together another strong effort next year. Nolan’s defense was lights out in the first six games. Denver was dominating opponents. The Broncos were stalwarts on third down and in the second half, two areas where you want your defense to dominate.

In the second half of the season, the defense has come back to earth some but it is still very good. It is the No. 5 ranked defense in the NFL and it is second in the league against the pass. It is much improved from last year. Nolan has done a terrific job. But he'll have to do it again to get another head-coaching job.

Kansas City: There has been some conjecture around the NFL that head coach Todd Haley could be in trouble.

Of course, that talk is fueled by the fact that the Chiefs are 3-12. Kansas City won a total of six games in the final two seasons of Herm Edwards’ tenure.

Yet, it would be surprising if general manager Scott Pioli shows Haley the door. The only way that would happen is if these two men have had a terrible working relationship that hasn’t surfaced. Both Pioli and Haley are ending their first season in Kansas City. I would be shocked if Pioli didn’t stick with Haley for at least another year.

Haley is a hard-nosed, hard-working coach. He is diligently trying to change the culture in Kansas City. He has had his share of game-management issues as a rookie head coach and the offense has been inconsistent under Haley’s guidance. Still, he needs time. He likely will get some.

There will probably be a new offensive coordinator in the fold. Haley relieved Chan Gailey of his duties shortly before the season. Haley took over. The Chiefs almost certainly will hire a new offensive coordinator.

The coach that has been most speculated about is Charlie Weis. He worked with Pioli and Haley in the past. If Weis wants the job, it might be his.

The team conceivably also could make a move at defensive coordinator. Clancy Pendergast’s unit has not been good. Kansas City is 30th in the NFL in defense. Kansas City has allowed at least 26 points in eight games this season.

Still, the Chiefs have several young players on defense and Pendergast could be given time to work with the group. The team talked to Romeo Crennel last year, but he had hip surgery and couldn’t coach in 2009. Crennel is healthy now, but the word from people who know him is that it would take a good deal to get him back to the field for 2010.

Oakland: It is inevitable there will be some speculation over the head coach in Oakland. It happens nearly every year.

Thus, it wouldn't be a shock if Tom Cable is on the hot seat. However, if the Raiders beat Baltimore on Sunday and finish 6-10, Cable could be safe. The Raiders haven’t won at least six games since 2002, which is an NFL record. Snapping the record could go a long way for Cable.

If Oakland loses Sunday, owner Al Davis could get grouchy about the situation.

Cable has been far from perfect. His play calling has been questioned and he has a 9-18 overall record in Oakland. He has not made the team a winner.

But Cable is very enthusiastic. He wants to be Oakland’s head coach. That’s a good start.  If Cable stays, it wouldn't be a surprise if most of his staff remains.

You have to consider a change being a possibility because of Davis’ history. But, like he did last year, Davis eventually might figure that Cable is the best option for the team.

San Diego: Head coach Norv Turner is obviously safe. He is expected to get a new contract -- his deal expires after 2010 -- after the season.

One change could be at defensive coordinator -- but only if Ron Rivera wants there to be one.

If the Chargers make a Super Bowl run, Rivera could be an intriguing head-coaching candidate. Rivera has received interest in head-coaching jobs in the past. After another solid job as an assistant, Rivera should be attractive again.

He is a big reason why the Chargers have been so dominant. Since he took over as the coordinator at midseason last year, the Chargers are 17-6 in the regular season.

Rivera is known as a detailed-oriented leader and his players love playing for him. He could parlay San Diego’s potentially special season into a new job. The Chargers would miss him if he leaves.