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Top NFL coaching candidates

Dan Quinn, Todd Bowles and Josh McDaniels could all be in the mix for head-coaching jobs. USA TODAY Sports

NFL teams have hired at least seven head coaches in each of the past four offseasons, but without many "hot" candidates to consider this year, league insiders are leaning toward the "under" when it comes to the number of changes expected this offseason.

"If you have any reason not to fire someone, you are going to use it," one executive said as the start of NFL's firing season loomed over a handful of NFL cities.

The San Francisco 49ers would be an exception to that general rule, after announcing they had "mutually agreed to part ways" with Jim Harbaugh following an impressive four-year run. Harbaugh will take a 44-19-1 record with him to the University of Michigan. Only New England, Green Bay and Denver had better records than the 49ers had under Harbaugh during that time frame.

Harbaugh would have topped any list of candidates if he had remained in the NFL. With that in mind, I've put together a list of leading candidates for current and pending NFL vacancies, based on conversations over the weekend with NFL team executives and agents. That leads my list of 10 takeaways from Week 17.