John Fox, Carolina PanthersHead coaches like authority and power. Head coaches without a long contract sometimes struggle to lead and enforce their necessary juice. John Fox has that obstacle heading into 2010, as his deal lasts only through 2010 as the Panthers come off a disappointing 8-8 season. Fox has led the Panthers to just three winning records in eight years, though in all three Carolina won division titles.
Tom Coughlin, New York GiantsSix seasons in a place like impatient New York are like 12 seasons anywhere else. Despite winning a Super Bowl just two seasons ago, Coughlin faces scrutiny coming off a season when the Giants defense self-destructed in embarrassing fashion -- with the Giants fading from a 5-0 start to 8-8 and out of the playoffs.
Eric Mangini, Cleveland BrownsFrankly, Mangini already shocked skeptics by retaining his job entering this season. The NFL world assumed he'd be toast after new GM Mike Holmgren took over in December. But Mangini earned the 2010 gig with a four-game win streak to end the '09 season, although the spector of Jon Gruden to bolt from the Monday Night Football booth by next season remains a theory in play by many insiders.
Jack Del Rio, Jacksonville JaguarsDel Rio has occupied the hot seat in J-ville for the last few seasons, but has so far survived a front office shakeup that began in 2009. His 57-55 record is a bit misleading, with only two 10-win seasons, no division titles (thanks, Peyton) and back-to-back finishes in the AFC South cellar.
Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati BengalsThe good news is that Lewis has steadied the formerly backward Bengals to their best run since the 1980s under Sam Wyche, including a division title and AFC North sweep last season. But Lewis has still not won a playoff game in seven years in Cincy and with the team self-hyping a potential Super Bowl run this summer, the onus could fall squarely on the coach if the Bengals take a step back yet again. Plus, there's that T.O. character running around the locker room in the final year of Lewis' contract.
Lovie Smith, Chicago BearsIs Smith simply too nice to win the big one? That's what some in the Chicago media are starting to mumble. He's certainly no Iron Mike Ditka in personality, but at first glance you might wonder if Sweet Lovie Smith is being punished for not winning in his lone Super Bowl appearance after the 2006 season. But the last three seasons in his record read: 7-9, 9-7, 7-9. Extended mediocrity doesn't really fly in any NFL city these days.
Tom Cable, Oakland RaidersWith a 9-19 record in almost two seasons, the Cable guy almost lost his gig this offseason, but held on and somehow survived the JaMarcus Russell era. Now the lethargic Russell is gone, new quarterback Jason Campbell finally gives some respectability to the Raiders' QB position. But another 10-loss season under Al Davis will almost certainly mean a firing on the sidelines. Plus, it's the Raiders -- as Alex Marvez says, "Anyone coaching the Raiders is always on this list."