Tough to see Zorn as Skins head coach in 2010

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Though he was not heard from last week, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder is getting itchier than ever, according to NFL sources.

Redskins coach Jim Zorn survived this week but, short of making the playoffs this season and advancing in them, it's now difficult to envision a scenario in which he retains his job for next season. It no longer seems a question of if Zorn will be fired, but when, multiple sources agreed last week. The Zorn watch now is underway, and it will not end any time soon.

To read more about what's in store for Zorn, plus additional notes on the plight of the Browns, the return of Mike Holmgren and the Niners' glut of first-round draft picks, you must be an ESPN Insider.Insider

Washington hosts winless Tampa Bay today, then plays at winless Carolina, then hosts winless Kansas City. Another loss to another winless team could cement Zorn's fate. Yet Washington also knows Zorn gives the team its best chance to turn its season around.

It's why the Redskins talked among themselves this week about how they now must do the opposite of last season, when they started 6-2 before flaming out. Now, after a slow start, Washington must build confidence and momentum to have the type of season it envisioned. It's not over yet, not by a long shot. But when Washington lost to Detroit last week, the Redskins and their fans lost some faith in Zorn.

And that might be the loss that, eventually, winds up costing Zorn his job.

Ex-coaches make hot seats hotter

Keep in mind that NFL owners might be itchier than ever to act, simply because of which coaches are on the sideline.

Any team that wants to hire a high-profile coach such as Mike Holmgren, Mike Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden or anyone who's out there will want its first choice. The team that gets first choice is the team that fires its coach the soonest.

This, ultimately, might be why hot seats become hotter even quicker this year. There's outside heat being felt by the current crop of head coaches.

Holmgren to get back in the game

As these coaching seats in certain cities get hotter, former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren is preparing to return to the league. It now is a foregone conclusion that Holmgren will be back for the 2010 NFL season either as a head coach, a Bill Parcells-type executive or maybe both.

Those who know Holmgren said this week "he wants back in and he wants back in very badly. He misses it." In fact, Holmgren already is taking baby steps toward returning.

He now is scheduled to work as a one-game CBS-TV analyst for the Tampa Bay-New England matchup at Wembley Stadium in London on Oct. 25 that Jim Nantz and Phil Simms are scheduled to work.

Get used to Mangini, Cleveland

Cleveland might be unhappy with Browns coach Eric Mangini, but for now it is stuck with him.

High-ranking Browns officials scoffed this week at the suggestion that their head coach is on the hot seat. In fact, the suggestion was termed "ludicrous" by one Browns executive.

The Browns believe Mangini, who was given a four-year contract, needs more than three games to implement his program and change the culture that has suffocated that franchise.

You can never say never, but there were zero indications this week that Mangini will be let go any time soon. Cleveland might not like it, but it had better get used to it. For better or worse, Mangini is its man.

Theories abound as to what has gone wrong in Cleveland. There are on-the-field and off-the-field theories.

On the field, NFL personnel men said this week the Browns have been unable to replace the playmaking ability tight end Kellen Winslow provided. Without Winslow, teams now can double-team wide receiver Braylon Edwards, and without Edwards in the mix, the offense has gotten stuck in the mud with a multitude of screen passes and checkdowns.

Quarterback Brady Quinn provided little hope. He looked frenetic in the pocket, did a poor job looking downfield and, when he got rushed, he tucked the ball away and was unable to throw on the move.

But the biggest question raised about the Browns regarded their identity. While Pittsburgh is known for the Rooneys, New England is known for Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, Baltimore is known for Ray Lewis and Ed Reed, Cleveland has no identity. Its owner, Randy Lerner, would barely be recognized in any city. No quarterback has distinguished himself. And the most recognizable aspect of the Browns might be the Dawg Pound, which is a compliment to the fans but has little bearing on games.

2010 offers owner escape route

As the NFL prepares to head into the great unknown of 2010, different issues are surfacing. One of the most notable involves struggling players with bloated contracts.

In an uncapped year, which most everyone now is expecting, teams would be free to cut any high-priced player without any salary-cap ramifications.

In other words, the Raiders could unload quarterback JaMarcus Russell and wide receiver Javon Walker, the Panthers could do the same to quarterback Jake Delhomme and any team could purge any player without having to go to salary-cap jail. Bad financial decisions would be wiped off the books. And there also would be another side consequence.

What now might wind up happening is that this winter's free-agent class could have a whole new crop of retread players no one was expecting after the Great Purge of 2010.

Niners draft future looks bright

San Francisco still doesn't have this year's first-round pick, Michael Crabtree, signed. But it could have as many as three No. 1 picks in April.

The 49ers have their own first-round pick; they have Carolina's, which they acquired for their second-round pick in April; and they could trade the rights to Crabtree after March 5, 2010, and recoup a third first-round pick.

But right now, they are assured of having at least two -- and one could be a higher pick than anyone anticipated. The Panthers are off to an 0-3 start as they head into this weekend's bye. But once they return, their non-division road schedule does not get any easier. The Panthers still have games at the Arizona Cardinals, at the New York Jets, at the New England Patriots and at the New York Giants -- not to mention two more games versus the Saints.

Carolina liked Florida State defensive end Everette Brown a lot last April. But he might wind up costing it a chance to draft its quarterback of the future.

Broncos stabilize roster

Those attributing Denver's early-season success to its schedule also need to consider another important factor. Since they finalized their 53-man roster and practice squad early last month, the Broncos have not made a single roster move -- not one.

This is the clearest illustration of how much stability and health have contributed to Denver's early-season success. One year after the Broncos made over 40 roster moves between their active roster and practice squad, Denver hasn't had to do anything this season.

It is one more reason these Broncos head into today's game versus the Cowboys with a 3-0 record.

Seattle D to try to keep plays from Peyton

Seahawks defensive players will wear wristbands today with their play calls so they don't have to shout them out and allow Colts quarterback Peyton Manning to pick them up. Seahawks coach Jim Mora and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley came up with the idea this week, not so much as an advantage for them but to prevent Manning from getting any more of an advantage. Seattle's defensive players do not want to shout anything out at the line of scrimmage, and everything the players need to know will be on their wristbands.

Think pink -- the NFL is

Look for an outbreak of pink today and for the rest of the month, as all NFL players will be wearing a pink ribbon decal on their helmets in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Captains will also be wearing pink patches.

Players didn't wait long to try to bring attention to the issue. During this week's practices, Saints quarterback Drew Brees wore pink cleats. Steelers running back Willie Parker will wear pink cleats for tonight's game versus San Diego. Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss wore pink gloves at practice this week. And multiple players will be doing the same for today's games.

So do not be alarmed at the outbreak of pink -- it will be everywhere, and it is to bring attention to a worthy cause.

Matchup to watch: Ware vs. Clady

Great underrated matchup of the day happens in Denver, where Broncos left tackle will be blocking Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Ware.

Clady is the game's top young left tackle. Ware led the NFL last season with 20 sacks. But this season, Ware has not been the same.

Dating back to last year, he now is on a four-game sackless streak -- and he goes up against his toughest competition of the season today.

Smith finishes suspension

Anyone that needs help at defensive tackle -- hello, Carolina -- is likely to be on the phone soon with former Browns lineman Shaun Smith, who is eligible to return to the league Monday after serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's anabolic steroids policy.

Over the past two seasons, Smith started 20 games for the Browns. Shortly after Cleveland released him last summer, he signed a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Lions, who wound up releasing him. But now Smith is free, and he already has begun receiving calls from multiple teams.

Smith's most memorable NFL moment might be an off-field incident when he had a run-in last December with Browns quarterback Brady Quinn.