NFL teams searching for coaches saw a big name stunningly burst onto their radar screens.
The Denver Broncos fired Mike Shanahan, the league's second-longest tenured coach, on Tuesday after 14 seasons that included Super Bowl titles in 1998 and '99. But the Broncos blew a three-game lead in their division with three games to go this season to miss the playoffs.
The Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Oakland Raiders and St. Louis Rams are seeking new coaches, and they were moving forward with the process Tuesday before Shanahan tumbled into the potential mix.
The Buffalo Bills won't be joining them after team owner Ralph Wilson announced he was retaining Dick Jauron despite a third consecutive 7-9 season.
The Browns scheduled an interview Tuesday night with fired Jets coach Eric Mangini, a person with knowledge of the meeting told The Associated Press.
Mangini, dismissed Monday by the Jets after they collapsed down the stretch and missed the playoffs, was set to meet with Browns owner Randy Lerner in the New York area, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the interview.
Meanwhile, his old team was going to talk to Bill Cowher, a person familiar with the search told The AP. While no formal discussions have been scheduled yet, the team plans to speak soon with the former Super Bowl-winning coach, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the individual was not authorized to discuss the search.
Cowher has expressed interest in the job, the person said.
Cowher told Cleveland's Lerner on Saturday he had no plans to coach in 2009 and wanted his name removed from the Browns' list of candidates.
The Jets will meet with New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo on Saturday, according to another person familiar with the coaching search.
New York is expected to interview a pair of in-house candidates: offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who also served as assistant head coach under Mangini. Lerner is also trying to schedule a meeting with Spagnuolo, as well as Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz and New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
The Lions also reportedly have sought permission to talk to Spagnuolo. Detroit already has permission to interview Washington secondary coach Jerry Gray.
Shanahan went 24-24 over the last three seasons, missing the playoffs each time. His overall record was 146-89, but the Broncos remained stuck at only one postseason victory since John Elway retired in 1999 after Denver's second championship.
This season, Denver became the first team since divisional play started in 1967 to blow a three-game lead with three games left.
"After giving this careful consideration, I have concluded that a change in our football operations is in the best interests of the Denver Broncos," owner Pat Bowlen said.
The Rams' first candidate will be Winston Moss, the Green Bay Packers' assistant head coach and linebackers coach, due to be interviewed at the end of the week. General manager Billy Devaney said interim coach Jim Haslett, 2-10 after replacing Scott Linehan, will be among the finalists for the job.
Two other teams made major changes to their assistant coaching staffs.
Mike Martz, the headstrong coach who took St. Louis to the 2002 Super Bowl, was fired as offensive coordinator after one season by the San Francisco 49ers.
The dismissal did not come as a surprise. He had installed journeyman J.T. O'Sullivan as his quarterback under head coach Mike Nolan at the start of the season. When Mike Singletary took over as interim coach after Nolan was fired, he benched O'Sullivan, made Shaun Hill the quarterback, and together they finished 5-4, bringing the 49ers to 7-9 overall.
Houston Texans coach Gary Kubiak, dissatisfied with the slow development of a defense featuring three first-round picks, fired coordinator Richard Smith and two other assistants.
The dismissals of Smith, secondary coach Jon Hoke and defensive line coach Jethro Franklin, came after Houston finished 8-8 for the second straight year. The Texans' offense finished the year ranked third in the NFL, but the defense was 22nd, allowing more than 336 yards per game.
In Buffalo, Wilson acknowledged the dissatisfaction of Bills fans but elected to retain Jauron and the entire coaching staff, believing the team is "better served by continuity in the coaching staff rather than a disruptive overhaul."
The decision came shortly after Jauron met with Wilson at the owner's home in suburban Detroit.