Based on what you hear and read, Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan's days are numbered. Or maybe not. Most likely. Unless …
Every news cycle seems to bring a new theory about how the coaching drama at Redskins Park will play out. The truth is probably that nobody knows except owner Daniel Snyder, maybe. And he could change his mind several times regarding Shanahan between now and the end of the season.
That said, it's a good time to start looking at the some of the coaches who are potential replacements for Shanahan.
Art Briles -- Head Coach, Baylor
Bleacher Report's Jason Cole reported Dec. 17 that Robert Griffin II has "politicked Snyder to hire" Art Briles, Robert Griffin III's college coach. The 58-year-old Briles has compiled a 44-31 record at Baylor, but has never coached in the NFL. On the plus side for Briles, Griffin III wouldn't have trust issues with him. But, given the results the last time Snyder gave a hot college coach the keys to the car (see Steve Spurrier), plus the fact that this move would likely alienate Griffin III from his teammates, it's doubtful.
Generally ranked near the top of the lists of available coaches, Lovie Smith posted an 81-63 mark (3-3 during the postseason) and won three division titles during nine seasons with Chicago. His final Bears team started out 7-1 in 2012, but faded to 10-6 and missed the playoffs, and he was fired after the season. Smith took Chicago to the Super Bowl during his third season, and the team made the playoffs one more time during the following six campaigns. A defensive coordinator before becoming a head coach, Smith led Bears teams that ranked better than 23rd in total offense once during his tenure.
Ken Whisenhunt -- Offensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers
In 1990, Ken Whisenhunt -- then a tight end -- played two games for Washington during the fifth year of a seven-year career. His career as a coach took off during a stint as the Steelers' offensive coordinator, and he the Arizona Cardinals hired him as a head coach in January 2007. He went 45-51 (4-2 during the postseason) during six seasons and took the Kurt Warner-quarterbacked team to the franchise's only Super Bowl in 2008. Fired after the 2012 season, he now serves as San Diego's offensive coordinator. The 7-7 Chargers rank sixth in total yards per game and 14th in points -- and they lost to the Redskins.
It's hard to keep up with the Jon Gruden coaching rumors. The latest involving Gruden, a former coach who is now an ESPN analyst, comes from OrangeBloods.com, which reported Dec. 18: "Gruden is open to hearing from the Texas athletic department about its football head coaching vacancy." Gruden went 38-26 throughout four years with the Raiders. He took over a Tampa Bay team Tony Dungy had built and won the Super Bowl after his first season (2002). He went 57-55 during seven seasons before being let go after the 2008 campaign. Last month, Gruden suggested the Redskins should see what they have in Cousins before the end of the season.
Bill O'Brien -- Head Coach, Penn State
CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported Dec. 15 that Bill O'Brien would listen if an NFL team came calling, and that the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings had approached him. O'Brien, 44, is 15-9 during two seasons since taking over the Nittany Lions in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal. From 2007-11, O'Brien was with the Patriots, starting out as an assistant and later moving up to calling the plays as quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
Darrell Bevell -- Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
Who better to get Griffin III back on track than the man guiding Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson through an excellent sophomore season? Darrell Bevell was the Minnesota Vikings' offensive coordinator for five years before he joined Seattle in 2011. The 43-year-old Bevell reportedly interviewed for several head-coaching jobs last offseason and the Seahawks, whose offense ranks 12th in the NFL, signed him to a two-year contract extension.
Adam Gase -- Offensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos
At 35, Adam Gase runs the league's most prolific offense during his first year as the Broncos' coordinator. Of course, it helps to have Peyton Manning as your quarterback. Gase spent the past two seasons as Denver's quarterbacks coach -- helping Tim Tebow get the Broncos to the playoffs -- following two years instructing the wide receivers. He previously spent time with the 49ers and Detroit Lions.
One player who won't have to adjust to a new coach is linebacker London Fletcher, who announced Dec. 18 at Redskins Park that he would likely retire at the end of the season, his 16th overall and seventh with Washington.
"I'm about 99 percent certain that this will be my last season in the National Football League," Fletcher said. "I've got to leave at least 1 percent just in case I change my mind, but it's really just about having another conversation with my wife.
"But I just thought with this being the final home game, this being Dallas Cowboy week, an opportunity to go out in a bang, get the fans riled up, say thank you to them and beat the Cowboys -- what better way to end it?"
Despite struggling in 2013, Fletcher departs as a borderline Hall of Famer who went to four Pro Bowls, earned All-Pro honors twice and won a Super Bowl with the Rams. He has nearly 2,033 career tackles, 39 career sacks and 23 career interceptions. Two more tackles this season will give him 14 straight seasons of more than 100.
"I feel like I've accomplished everything I can accomplish in the National Football League from a player standpoint," he said.
During his retirement announcement, Fletcher provided a strong endorsement for Shanahan's return.
"The way I look at it, I think coach Shanahan is a great coach," Fletcher said. "Any player who's played for him, most guys -- probably 95 percent of the guys who've played for him -- would love playing for him. And as I look at the current situation, I think coach Shanahan is definitely the right guy. I think Mr. Snyder would be wise to let him see this thing through.
"Obviously, there's going to have to be some changes made, because when you're -- right now, we've won three ball games, and even if we win these next two, we will have [won] five games -- so there is change that needs to take place, but I don't think it needs to be with the head coach."
Shanahan praised Fletcher's work ethic.
"I've never been around someone who prepares like he does," Shanahan said. "And that's saying a lot, because I've been around a lot of great players. And it's the biggest compliment I can give somebody that every time he comes to work, everybody knows that he's going to prepare like it's the Super Bowl."
The 38-year-old Fletcher, who entered the NFL in 1998 with the Rams, will extend his consecutive games streak to 255 Dec. 22 against Dallas.
"Obviously, that's a part of my legacy," Fletcher said. "That's the thing that's talked about most, because when you look at it, it's hard for me to really grasp it, because I'm still in the midst of it. Really the way I've approached it is to go about my business, being accountable and not wanting to let my teammates down and the coaching staff."