It's a tradition as common as any in the NFL: The annual casting-off of coaching disappointments in favor of possible coaching saviors. In other words, it's as good a time as any to examine the fickle nature of professional sports. Two years ago, Jim Harbaugh and John Fox were regarded as maybe the two best coaches in the NFL, and last month they were unemployed, if briefly.
Now that the coaching carousel has ground to a long, tedious halt, we can look back at the notable hirings and firings, as well as some of the harder-to-classify coaching switches.
NFL's 2015 Coaching Carousel
FIRED: JOHN FOX, DENVER BRONCOS
In four seasons under coach John Fox, Denver won four straight AFC West division titles. And, when Peyton Manning joined the fold, the Broncos were yearly Super Bowl contenders. But for all the regular-season success, the Broncos struggled in the playoffs, reaching the Super Bowl just once -- and getting blown out. Two straight blowout playoff exits in successive years pushed team vice president John Elway to make a change.
HIRED: JOHN FOX, Chicago Bears
Despite the lackluster playoff results, Fox was a hot commodity on the coaching market. He quickly landed in Chicago, where former coach Marc Trestman struggled to lead in the locker room and brought the Bears through two disappointing seasons. Fox has a great foundation to work with, but solving the franchise's quarterback problem will probably make or break Fox's tenure.
FIRED: MARC TRESTMAN, CHICAGO BEARS
Coming out of the Canadian Football League, Trestman was seen as an offensive guru. He struggled to translate in the NFL, though. After an 8-8 rookie coaching campaign, the Bears combusted in 2014, going 5-11. Weeks before the season's end, it was clear Trestman's time was at an end.
HIRED: MARC TRESTMAN, BALTIMORE RAVENS
Despite his failed tenure in Chicago, Trestman's offensive knowledge is still regarded as an asset in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens chose to fill its offensive coordinator position by hiring Trestman, who inherits a proven quarterback and will benefit from the franchise's top-to-bottom stability.
PARTED WAYS: JIM HARBAUGH, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
However it came to an end, one thing is clear: No one wanted this marriage to last. The entire 2014 season was littered with rumors that both Harbaugh and 49ers ownership were tired of co-existing and planned to correct that circumstance after the season. That's exactly what happened, with Harbaugh and the team "mutually parting ways" one day after the season finale.
HIRED: JIM HARBAUGH, MICHIGAN WOLVERINES
Harbaugh reportedly held out for a better head coaching position in the NFL, but when such an offer didn't come he decided to return to his alma mater. At Michigan, Harbaugh was greeted as a savior. The honeymoon period is always nice, but it'll end as soon as Michigan's inflated expectations are dampened.
HIRED: JIM TOMSULA, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
Recognize this guy? That's okay if you don't. As the team's defensive line coach since 2007, Tomsula hasn't exactly been tabloid fodder. His hiring to replace Harbaugh came among a lot of surprise and a little outrage from 49ers fans, who were hoping for more of a splash on the coaching scene. Tomsula is a respected veteran, but his workload just increased significantly.
PROMOTED: ERIC MANGINI, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
One smart move by Tomsula was to promote Eric Mangini from tight ends coach to defensive coordinator. Mangini has head coaching experience with both the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns, and he's regarded as a highly intelligent football mind.
HIRED: GARY KUBIAK, DENVER BRONCOS
Kubiak was a head coach before in Houston, where he built the Texans into a Super Bowl contender before the team completely imploded in 2013. After a year of rehabilitation as Baltimore's offensive coordinator, Kubiak's been handed Peyton Manning's arm and a roster built for instant playoff success. But given Manning's age, the pressure is on Kubiak to win now.
FIRED: DENNIS ALLEN, OAKLAND RAIDERS
Granted, he didn't have much to work with, but Dennis Allen didn't put down a strong body of work in Oakland. In a little more than two full seasons, Allen went 8-28. No matter who you are or how bare the cupboard, that's going to get you fired from an NFL gig.
FIRED: TONY SPARANO, OAKLAND RAIDERS
If there's a team you'd bet on to fire two head coaches in one season, the safe money is on Oakland. Yes, Sparano was only the interim head coach, replacing Allen after the team's 0-4 start. And Sparano did some good things, squeezing three wins out of a very bad team while helping rookie quarterback Derek Carr finish the season on an optimistic note. But in the long run, the Raiders felt they needed a better answer.
HIRED: JACK DEL RIO, OAKLAND RAIDERS
Oakland probably couldn't have done better than this. In Del Rio, the Raiders got a respected defensive coach with prior NFL head coaching experience -- and success, it's worth noting. Del Rio comes from a successful stint as the defensive coordinator in Denver, and he arrives as a hero returning home -- Del Rio grew up in the East Bay. Home run hire for a moribund franchise.
FIRED: REX RYAN, NEW YORK JETS
Rex Ryan is a good coach, and maybe given the right roster he could be a great coach. But after a strong couple of seasons, Ryan's tenure in New York was underwhelming. After Mark Sanchez fell out of favor, the Jets couldn't find a reliable alternative. Investing time into Geno Smith's development was a failure, and poor roster decisions before then held the team back from getting better. Ryan was axed as the franchise seeks a fresh start.
DEPARTED: DOUG MARRONE, BUFFALO BILLS
Why would Marrone leave a team he almost led to the playoffs in his second year? Maybe because his quarterback retired, leaving him up the creek without a paddle. Maybe because team ownership changed hands, activating a clause allowing Marrone to walk away without consequence. Or maybe because the clause guaranteed his $4 million salary even if he did abandon ship. Actually, it's probably all three.
HIRED: DOUG MARRONE, JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS
For whatever reasons he left, Marrone thought it best to land in Jacksonville as an offensive line coach and assistant to the head coach. The struggling franchise has some bright young spots, particularly on the offensive side, and Marrone could look like a genius if he's able to develop those raw talents into something cohesive on the field.
HIRED: REX RYAN, NEW YORK JETS
The Buffalo Bills lost one solid head coach, but they managed to find a strong replacement. Rex Ryan moves across New York state seeking to build a "bully" identity in Buffalo. He's already called it his last coaching job, but one he hopes will last a solid decade or more.
HIRED: TODD BOWLES, NEW YORK JETS
To replace the fired Rex Ryan, New York hired Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. Bowles is an accomplished defensive coach and a former NFL safety who served as a starter for the Super Bowl-winning Washington Redskins. Even without the best offensive pieces in place, the Jets are hoping Bowles builds a tough, defensive-minded team.
FIRED: MIKE SMITH, ATLANTA FALCONS
Smith had a long, successful run in Atlanta, and his 67-49 head coaching record is nothing to laugh at. In two seasons, Smith even led the Falcons to 13-3 regular-seasons. But they were never able to win a playoff game despite those successes, and back-to-back seasons of 4-12 and 6-10 were too much for Smith to survive.
HIRED: DAN QUINN, ATLANTA FALCONS
The defensive coordinator for the vaunted Seattle Seahawks, Quinn was highly sought as a head coaching candidate. He agreed to join the Falcons as a head coach while working with the Seahawks through this year's Super Bowl campaign, which fell just short of the franchise winning back-to-back titles. Quinn is a popular player's coach and has already injected excitement into the Falcons organization.
RELOCATED: KYLE SHANAHAN, ATLANTA FALCONS
As the offensive coordinator for the Cleveland Browns, Shanahan took issue with the franchise's mandate that Johnny Manziel be the starter -- regardless of coach input. For that reason, Shanahan resigned. He quickly bounced back when Atlanta's Quinn hired him as the team's offensive coordinator.