Struggling coaches gird for Black Monday

Tue Dec 23, 2014 4:10pm EST
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By Larry Fine

(Reuters) - Six teams head into Week 17 of the National Football League with a last chance to reach the Super Bowl tournament, while half a dozen head coaches may be facing their last game with axes poised to fall on Black Monday.

Last year, five NFL head coaches were fired on the Monday following the league's regular season finale and there is no shortage of candidates for similar treatment this season.

From Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers (7-8) to Rex Ryan of the New York Jets (3-12) to Tony Sparano of the Oakland Raiders (3-12), coaching changes are expected.

Others in jeopardy of finding themselves on the unemployment line include Marc Trestman of the Chicago Bears (5-10) and Mike Smith of the Atlanta Falcons (6-9), with Washington's Jay Gruden (4-11), Tom Coughlin of the Giants (6-9) and Gus Bradley of the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-12).

Reasons for a possible change at the top vary.

For Harbaugh, who steered the 49ers to two NFC title games and a Super Bowl appearance in the three previous seasons, a growing rift with general manager Trent Baalke and the team's dreary performance this season point to a change.

The failure to develop a productive quarterback for the Jets could cost defensive-minded Ryan.

Quarterbacking troubles have also dogged Gruden and Trestman.   Continued...

Dec 7, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh looks towards the scoreboard during a break in the action against the Oakland Raiders in the fourth quarter at Coliseum. The Raiders defeated the 49ers 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports