After the NFL’s “Black Monday,” 7 coaches are out and 3 new ones in. In a playoff version of his weekly NFL Diary, Ryan Bradley looks at the coaching carousel. Are teams making the right hires? Who still needs to go? Here’s the rundown.
The season is over for most teams and as a result the yearly coaching carousel is well underway. The day after the end of the regular season has come to be known as “Black Monday” for all the coaches who get fired immediately after their teams’ disappointing seasons have finally ended.
Last season seven head coaches lost their jobs on Black Monday. This year seven head coaches have again lost their jobs so far, five of those coming on Black Monday, one during the season (Gary Kubiak), and one on Black Monday Eve (Rod Chudzinski). Of course, it’s quite possible a couple more will go in the coming weeks. But I fully expected this to be an unprecedented year for firings. Teams all over the league under-performed this season, many under head coaches who’ve had a few years to figure things out.
What was most surprising to me, however, were the teams that have, at least outwardly, expressed they will stick by their head coaches. None more so than the New York Jets. Rex Ryan has been begging to be fired for a couple seasons now. Not literally, of course, but from his odd fixation on Mark Sanchez to his erratic self-delusions (which are second in the NFL only to Eli Manning’s), Ryan would have been on the chopping block long ago with most teams.
Likewise we have Jason Garrett in Dallas, who I talked about at the beginning of the season. He was a great Offensive Coordinator, but not unlike Josh McDaniels, has done nothing to prove himself to be worthy of a head coaching job. Monte Kiffin is likely to be given a nice retirement package after one horrid season as Defensive Coordinator (much to Rob Ryan’s delight, I’m sure), but I’m a firm believer the Cowboys need more than a better DC; they need a head coach with a different demeanor, and more confidence.
Every year there are also the coaches who have had long successful runs with their teams, but whose influence over their squads seems to have plateaued. I don’t expect Tom Coughlin to get fired in New York, or Marvin Lewis in Cincinnati, but I think they both ought to be. Coughlin has overseen a rollercoaster era in New York, one that has been patterned after his delusional starting quarterback. Sure, he’s had success, but it’s time for a change of culture there, and also time to start looking for a new quarterback. The Giants need to accept Eli is not elite, and will not be in the future. He is a quarterback who had a couple great years, but hell, that can be said about Vinny Testaverde, too.
Marvin Lewis has also seen some success, but his Bengals have never been able to reach the next level. And looking at what happened in Houston this season—you can only reach the same plateau so many times before you crash and have to start over—the Bengals need to be pre-emptive and find a leader who can take the Bengals to the next level before the same process sets in. They were a dark horse for the Super Bowl this year and, now after the first round, they’re home. Andy Dalton and the rest of the team deserve plenty of blame, but change needs to start at the top. Sometimes changing the culture surrounding a team is necessary.
Some teams have already hired their new coaches and frankly I’m baffled by all three. Jay Gruden will head up Washington’s squad after a severely disappointing season. I see the thought process that led to Gruden’s hiring. He’s a good offensive mind and a fresh enough face that it’s reasonable to believe he’ll have a better handle on a young quarterback like RGIII than the old codger, Mike Shanahan. But there is a much deeper set of problems in Washington and I expect a few years of setbacks, not the least of which could be RGIII’s health. The one thing Gruden has going for him is Kirk Cousins, who I think will be a better fit for Gruden than RGIII anyway. Circumstance could pair these guys together more than the fan base hopes.
The Texans choice of Bill O’Brien is a bit weird. After years of success and then a horrible season, the Texans could have made a statement by hiring a big name, show their fans they are serious about getting back to their pre-2013 level. O’Brien seems like a choice that screams “rebuilding.” And Tampa Bay hired Lovie Smith. After the mistake of going with the untested Greg Schiano, Smith’s hiring seems like a peace offering to the world, an apology shouted from the rooftops, and a desperate gamble to try and return to some glory days of the past.
The coaching carousel is always interesting to me, as morbid as I find the process of publicizing the firings of people. And I’ll be watching closely as the rest of the positions are filled. The real test of course will be the 2014 season. And as the playoffs wind down, I’m already looking forward to that, too.