In their 2009 season finale, the Chiefs led the Broncos by 20 with 2:43 remaining in the game. Running back Jamaal Charles had gashed Denver for 259 yards and needed only 38 more to break the league's single-game rushing record. Rather than have Charles make a run at history, Kansas City coach Todd Haley kept his back on the sideline. No need to rub it in, he thought.
On Sunday the teams met at Denver's Invesco Field for the first time since that '09 meeting. With less than seven minutes to play, the Broncos led by 26 and were in complete control. Rather than pull his offensive starters, however, Denver coach Josh McDaniels left them in and continued to take shots down the field.
The fireworks didn't end with the Broncos' 49--29 victory. Instead of participating in the customary postgame handshake, Haley pointed his right index finger at McDaniels and appeared to scold him. He believed McDaniels had not shown the same respect that had been extended to the Broncos the previous season.
The truth is, McDaniels had bigger concerns than Haley's feelings. His Broncos (now 3--6) had lost four in a row, and with each defeat the heat intensified beneath his seat. Whether McDaniels, now in his second season, makes it to Year 3 depends upon how the team finishes the season; whether owner Pat Bowlen would take on more salary with an uncertain labor situation looming; and whether Bowlen would be willing to simultaneously pay three coaches. He reportedly is on the hook for $7 million to Mike Shanahan—who was fired after 2008—in '11 and would still owe McDaniels roughly $6 million.
Here are six other coaches believed to have tenuous holds on their jobs (listed in order of likelihood to return, from least to most).
• Brad Childress, Vikings He appears to have few allies in the organization and reportedly irked owner Zygi Wilf by cutting Randy Moss without consulting team ownership or management. Minnesota (3--6) was expected to make a run at the Super Bowl but will be lucky to finish .500.
• John Fox, Panthers His contract expires at the end of the season, and he's not expected to return to a Carolina team that is tied with the Bills for the NFL's worst record (1--8).
• Mike Singletary, 49ers San Francisco (3--6) will most likely need to win the division for him to keep his job. Fortunately for him, the 49ers play in the woeful NFC West, where they are just two games out of first.
• Gary Kubiak, Texans Houston (4--5) has lost four of five and is currently out of a playoff spot, which, for a talented club that has never been to the postseason, would mean the end of Kubiak.
• Jack Del Rio, Jaguars Jacksonville (5--4) may be over .500, but its last two wins have come against the struggling Cowboys and Texans. If Del Rio suffers a third straight losing season, he's done.