As always, handfuls of NFL coaches were sent to the chopping block as team’s seasons ended earlier than owners had envisioned.

Mike Shanahan brought Denver its only two Super Bowl trophies and has just two losing seasons in 14. He was shown the door following the 2008 season.

Despite leading the Broncos two their only two Super Bowl victories, Mike Shanahan was shown the door following the 2008 season.

Some were warranted – Rod Marinelli and Romeo Crennel – while others were head scratchers.

Two days after the Denver Broncos lost their final three games to finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs, Mike Shanahan was fired.

The Broncos finished the season with 15 players on the Injured Reserve list – seven were running backs. Despite the rash of injuries, Shanahan nearly guided the Broncos to a playoff berth.

Shanahan coached the team to its only two Super Bowls victories. He had two losing seasons in 14 as the Broncos head coach. He leaves Denver with a 138-86 regular season record and an 8-5 mark in the playoffs – the most successful coach in team history.

Unlike Shanahan – who got a quick axe – the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Jon Gruden almost a month after the regular season, leaving him virtually no chance to secure a job for the 2009 season.

Gruden guided the Bucs to their only Super Bowl victory during his first season with the team in 2002. The next two seasons were a struggle for the Bucs as they battled salary cap trouble and rebounded from the two first round and two second round picks surrendered to bring Gruden to Tampa.

Over the past four seasons, the Bucs had three winning seasons and two division championships. Gruden was axed after the Bucs collapsed down the stretch of the 2008 season and missed the playoffs – losing their last four games to finish 9-7. Like Shanahan, Gruden was handed his walking papers as the franchise’s winningest coach.

Then there’s Eric Mangini, ousted after three seasons with the Jets. He inherited a 4-12 team from Herm Edwards and led the Jets to a 10-6 record and playoff berth the next season (2006).

After the wheels fell off in ’07 (4-12), Mangini led the Jets to a winning season (9-7) in 2008. The Jets fizzled down the stretch, but that could be blamed on Brett Favre’s dead arm as much as Mangini’s coaching.

Either way, Mangini is out after three seasons – two of which were winning campaigns.

The Broncos, Buccaneers, and Jets all fired coaches coming off .500 seasons or better and all three teams replace them with coaches that have zero head coaching experience in the college or pro ranks.

New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels (32) was offensive coordinator with the Patriots the last three years; new Bucs coach Raheem Morris (32) worked under Monte Kiffin, but was never an NFL coordinator (he does give players excellent flying chest bumps); and new Jets coach Rex Ryan (46) has been the Ravens defensive coordinator for four years.

Mangini quickly hitched on as head coach with the Browns, but it appears Shanahan and Gruden will be jobless in 2009 – with three Super Bowl rings between them.

Meanwhile Herm Edwards (6-26 in his last two seasons with the Chiefs); Marvin Lewis (one winning campaign in six seasons with Bengals); and Dick Jauron (three consecutive 7-9 seasons with the Bills) still have jobs. Go figure.

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