Lovie’s firing leaves attractive job, candidate in its wake Lard

Happy New Year, Broncos fans! So far, seven coaches (Andy Reid, Lovie Smith, Norv Turner, Ken Whisenhunt, Chan Gailey, Pat Shurmur, and Romeo Crennel) have been canned, with potentially more to come (Mike Mularkey, Ron Rivera).

Of the moves that have already occurred, none is more surprising than the firing of Lovie Smith, after he led the Bears to a 10-6 record and within a Sunday Packers win of making the playoffs.

Mike Ditka called the move "ridiculous," Devin Hester was moved to thoughts of retirement, and several other players expressed their shock. The other side of the story is that Lovie couldn't get his team to win big games, and the offense again sputtered down the stretch.

As per usual, Lovie's team sported an elite defense, which led the league in takeaways, was third in points, fifth in yards, and tops in overall efficiency prior to Sunday (Burke's final data isn't out yet).

But as has also become habit, Smith's Bears featured a horrendous offensive line - one that allowed at least 44 sacks for the third straight season, and which required seven different starters at three positions (LG, RG, RT). With Jay Cutler running for his life, the team ranked just 25th (tie) in ANY/A, despite having reunited Cutler with his BFF Brandon Marshall (who meant more to his team than any other WR in the NFL this year).

It's not often you'll see a 10-6 team with a +98 points differential and +20 turnover margin fire its head coach - it'll probably be many years before that happens again.

As would follow, both the Bears coaching job and its former occupant are hot commodities, with Broncos OC Mike McCoy leading the list of candidates (Bucs OC Mike Sullivan, Falcons ST coach Keith Armstrong) to replace Lovie, who has reportedly been contacted by four teams about their vacancies, and is apparently most interested in the Cardinals and Bills jobs. Jason La Canfora thinks San Diego is another potential landing spot for Smith.

Coaching/GM Carousel

Philly's list of candidates includes Chip Kelly, Bill O'Brien, Bruce Arians, Dirk Koetter, and Greg Roman. They have also asked Atlanta for permission to meet with Mike Nolan.

According to Mike Garafolo, the Bills are interested in Ken Whisenhunt, while the Eagles and Browns may be the main combatants in the race to hire Kelly.

The Browns and Bills will interview Syracuse coach Doug Marrone.

Buffalo GM Buddy Nix retained his job, but in a weakened and lame duck capacity.

SB 32 loser Mike Holmgren says he's open to a return to coaching, but claims he won't aggressively pursue a job. Apparently, publicly declaring your interest in coming back is a display of humility. Who does this guy think he is? Phil Jackson?

It's unclear whether the Chiefs will fire Scott Pioli or if Bill Polian will take another GM job, but whatever happens, Mike Florio says Polian won't be the Chiefs' next GM.

Mike Silver says the days of patient organizations are now gone, and he isn't buying the suggestion that Andy Reid is not a candidate in San Diego.

On his way out, Norv did his part to manage the expectations of Chargers fans for 2013, and he shared an emotional farewell with his players. Meanwhile, Kevin Acee says Dean Spanos is loyal to a fault, and that the owner is the one to blame for San Diego's failure to win big.

Broncos

As noted yesterday, Mike McCoy will interview for the Bears and Cardinals vacancies, but won't be traveling to do so.

Players will be back at Dove Valley on Wednesday after two days off, and will resume practice as during a normal week. John Fox scheduled a mandatory weight session for Saturday morning, with the intent of keeping his players in town, and as he made a point of stating, keeping them from taking trips to Las Vegas.

By benching Ronnie Hillman after his disastrous fumble Sunday, Fox made clear that ball security is paramount.

For the second time in three games (Baltimore), Virgil Green saw significant playing time against Kansas City.

Champ Bailey hasn't forgotten the complacency that got his Broncos dumped by the Steelers in the 2005 title game, and he says this team's pass rush has keyed the defense's dominance.

Elvis Dumervil's performance Sunday translated into another lackluster grade from PFF, while Demaryius Thomas and Manny Ramirez stood out.

Ashley Fox expects the Broncos to be the last team standing a month from now.

Terry Frei marks the 35th anniversary of Denver's AFC championship game win over the Raiders on the way to SB 12.

Other News

Judge David Doty ruled yesterday that the league's owners did not collude to restrict the salary cap in 2010.

Although he still has two years left on his original whopper of a contract, Shanny may get an extension this offseason from Dan Snyder.

Chiefs center Ryan Lilja will retire after nine seasons rather than test the free-agent waters.

San Francisco waived disgruntled RB Brandon Jacobs and will work out kickers this week while David Akers continues to struggle.

Seattle CB Brandon Browner returned from his four-game PED suspension.

USC wideout Robert Woods will forego his senior season to enter the 2013 Draft; here are the draft prospects Bucky Brooks will be watching today.

Analysis

Chase Stuart picks Peyton over ADP for CPOY and MVP; PFF's best (Demaryius Thomas, Manny Ramirez (!)) and worst players of Week 17.

Here's a look back at the notable NFL figures who passed in 2012, and how the Times remembered them.

Taking into account the new overtime rules, here's Brian Burke's decision-making chart for whether to go for it or attempt a FG.

Gil Brandt thinks it's time for the Cowboys to get rid of Tony Romo, who he says just doesnt have it. The Romo-as-loser narrative just doesn't make sense, although perhaps there's just something about playing for the Cowboys that's a little too much for him. If the Cowboys do dump Romo, look for Dallas fans to be wishing for their old QB sooner than later, and for Tony to find plenty of success elsewhere.

Over at KSK, the funniest NFL moments of 2012, including Eric Decker's tumble in San Diego, an interpretation of PK's MMQB, and Justin Halpern imagines how the firings of A.J. and Norv went down.

Doug is IAOFM’s resident newsman and spelling czar. Follow him on Twitter @IAOFM

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