A Preview of Black Monday

The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Every season an average of 25% of the NFL’s coaches hit the unemployment line. Rarely is this event a triumphant retirement after a storied career. Based on the records, tenure, and team history, I am figuring 3 coaches will absolutely get fired (one already has) and another 8 COULD be fired depending on how things shake out in Week 17.

Coaches That Are Safe

AFC West:
  • Andy Reid* – KC
  • John Fox – Denver (Although, if the Broncos win the Super Bowl, Fox may decide to go out on top while his heart is still in reasonable shape. There has been no mention of this, but weirder things have happened and I am certain that the thought has crossed a few other minds than mine.)
  • Mike McCoy* –San Diego
NFC West:
  • Pete Carroll – Seattle
  • Jim Harbaugh – SF
  • Bruce Arians* – AZ
AFC North:
  • Rob Chudzinski* – Cleveland
  • [UPDATE: A story circulating Sunday seemed to point to "Chud" getting fired after one season. Crazy...]
  • John Harbaugh – Baltimore
  • Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh (The Rooneys have employed exactly 3 head coaches since 1969)
  • Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati (You could win a lot of bar bets by wagering "Who currently has the second longest tenure as a head coach with the same NFL team, after Bill Belichick?")
NFC North:
  • Leslie Frazier – Minnesota
  • [UPDATE: Word out of Minnesota is that Frazier's status is in question and will be "reviewed" this week.]
  • Marc Trestman* – Chicago
  • Mike McCarthy – Green Bay
AFC South:
  • Chuck Pagano – Indianapolis
  • Gus Bradley* – Jacksonville
NFC South:
  • Ron Rivera – Carolina
  • Sean Payton – New Orleans
  • Mike Smith – Atlanta
AFC East:
  • Bill Belichick – New England (Bill will be on the New England sideline until he decides to call it a career.)
  • Doug Marrone* – Buffalo
NFC East:
  • Chip Kelly* – Philadelphia (Look for Philly to have a few cracks at the playoffs. The other teams in this division are flat out BAD, with problems that require complete overhauls, not just tune-ups.)

* - Denotes First Year Head Coach

Coaches That Might Get Fired

In what I would consider reverse order (the first names on this list are the "safest") here are guys that I consider possible casualties of Black Monday:

Joe Philbin – Miami Dolphins. Beating the Jets and making the playoffs would not quite move Philbin into the "Safe" list. On the heels of the scandal that broke over the team earlier this year, it is somewhat remarkable that Philbin has a decent chance to survive the situation. One of the unforgiveable sins in the eyes of any NFL front office is a perception that a head coach has lost control of his locker room. This is the NFL though and a playoff appearance, like love, covers a multitude of sins.

This status gets shakier if the ‘phins lose their last game and extend the playoff drought. I’m thinking that Philbin is back, no matter how the game against the Jets goes, unless…

The NFL’s investigation of the "bullying" in the locker determines that Philbin and his staff was complicit in what Incognito and Crew were doing to Lawrence Martin or tried to cover-up their role in the toxic locker room. At that point, only a playoff run would possibly save Philbin from being fired. If the Dolphins make the playoffs and the league suspends Philbin, Miami may be in the same position in 2014 that the Saints were in 2012.

Dennis Allen – Oakland Raiders. Like father, like son? Despite assurances that stability and continuity was going to be the new order in Oakland, rumblings are that Allen may be replaced after this season (his second). In stark contrast to the Steelers, Oakland has had 10 head coaches the last 19 seasons, with three of them lasting only one year. Allen may be a decent head coach, but it is unlikely that Vince Lombardi or Bill Walsh could have gotten a winning season out of the players wearing black this year.

As a bona fide Raider Hater, I am hoping that the league’s banner franchise for dysfunction continues to operate a revolving door of coaches. In all fairness though, the Oakland front office may be better served trying to get some decent players instead of shopping for a new coaching staff to try and make chicken salad out of chicken manure. A rational front office in this situation tries to get some more talent and brings back Allen for a 3rd year to see if he can get the franchise back into an upward trajectory. Of course this is the worst run franchise in football (until proven otherwise), so who the heck knows what they will do?
[UPDATE - In a frightening sign of rational thinking, word is that Allen will be brought back next year.]

Jeff Fisher – St. Louis Rams. Nothing would please me more than Fisher to be placed on a permanent vacation, along with Cortland Finnegan, before the Bolts have to play the masters of the cheap shot next year. Fisher is in his 2nd year, and while 7 or 8 wins does not guarantee a return, it is improvement over the dumpster fire that this franchise became after the Greatest Show on Turf days. My bet is that Fisher will be back for a 3rd season.

Greg Schiano – Tampa Bay Buccaneers. We are starting to get into shakier territory here. Schiano is completing a tumultuous second year, in which widespread whispers of him "losing his locker room" abounded in mid-season after the release of Josh Freeman. It is possible that ‘bucs front office lets Schiano get another year to get "his type of guys" on the team, but with all of the stuff surrounding the team this year, I believe this is a coin flip.

Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys. For the 3rd year in a row, the Cowboys are playing a "win and you’re in" game on Sunday Night football. If the Eagles can complete the trifecta of despair for Dallas fans; doing what the Giants did in 2011 and the {insert ethnic slur here}s did last year, I cannot see Jerry Jones bringing back Garrett after 3 straight 8-8 seasons.

One thing is certain, Tony Romo will not be the QB throwing any costly interceptions in this game. Garrett’s employment status depends on the league’s worst defense stopping the league’s 3rd best offense enough times for the Cowboys to put more points on the board. Expected to put those points on the board is Kyle Orton, the QB that lost his last starting job to Tim Tebow. This immediately flips into the "safe" column if the Cowboys can somehow pull off a miracle Sunday Night and return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

Rex Ryan – New York Jets. Word is that when John Idzik was hired as GM last year, there was a string attached – no firing Rex Ryan last season. Well, it is not last season anymore. While I personally do not care for Rex Ryan as a head coach, I will give him credit for job well done this year is squeezing at least 2 or 3 more wins out of this team than I thought the talent could produce. Ryan told his team two weeks ago that his job was in jeopardy and who I am to disbelieve that statement? There are only a few times a coach can go to that particular well, so it is probable that Ryan is gone from New York on Monday. Idzik may recognize the work that Ryan has done this season and decide to not petition Woody Johnson for his firing, but my feeling is that Idzik wants to get one of "his guys" on the sideline for 2014.
[UPDATE - Word out of the NY Jets and ESPN is that Ryan will brought back, although a lot of his coaches and his own contract status is still up in the air. Stay tuned.]

Tom Coughlin – New York Giants. Two years removed from a Super Bowl win, there was a quiet buzz that the Giants may have entered a rebuilding mode going into this season. The team has certainly deteriorated to the point at which the need to rebuild is obvious to all and speculation has become near certainty that Giants management and Coughlin himself recognizes that the rebuild should start with new coaching. After a long tenure in New York and two Super Bowl wins, a firing is not as likely as a graceful retirement at the suggestion of John Mara. I believe that will happen, but the luster may not be completely gone from the 2011 Lombardi Trophy and he could be brought back.
{UPDATE - The Mara family has promised Coughlin that his job is secure for as long as he wants to keep it. Retirement is always an option, but this appears to be about as safe a situation as there is in the NFL.]

Mike Munchak – Tennessee Titans. After starting the season 3-1, the Titans have gone 3-8 since then. While part of it can be blamed on Jake Locker being hurt, the Titans were advertised as a throwback team, playing strong defense with a ground oriented ball control offense. Looking at the losses, the Titans’ defense has not held up its end of the deal.

Ryan Fitzpatrick is not the most horrible back-up QB in the league and it is likely that the QB situation for this team did not drop-off too badly with Locker being out. A coach’s 3rd year in the NFL is critical. By any measure Munchak has not had a good 3rd year. I believe he will be shown the door on Monday, but Adams stuck with Fisher through some lean years and he may do that with a man coaching a team that retired his number.
[UPDATE - Munchak and management are meeting Monday to discuss items that need to be fixed going forward. Team sources indicate that if Munchak and management do not agree on how to fix the team's problems, Munchak will be let go.]

Consider These Coaches Gone

In no particular order:

Mike ShanahanWashington Redskins: One of the few Head Coach / GM in one person teams left in the NFL, Washington showing Shanahan the door is predictable. Dan Snyder pals around with last year’s 1st round pick, which GM Shanahan mortgaged the future for and then Coach Mike has done his best to physically ruin the most valued asset of the franchise over the last two years. Add-in the shaky talent on defense and lack of depth on offense and this train wreck will start to be cleaned up after January. This announcement on Monday should come as no surprise to anybody.

Jim Schwartz – Detroit Lions. After squandering a stranglehold on a division that was getting QB play from back-ups (and shaky back-ups at that) for most of 2013, this is also predictable. The Lions have become experts at committing penalties and turnovers at the worst possible times; the lack of discipline and self-control on this team would have made Al Davis red-faced with rage. Schwartz has truly coached himself out of a job since mid-November, going 1-5 (and a really UGLY 1-5) since a win against the Bears on November 10.[UPDATE - In what to me seems to be a case of institutional lunacy or stupidity, word from Detroit in that Schwartz MAY be brought back!]

Phillips/KubiakHouston Texans. Beginning the season as a touted Super Bowl contender, this team managed to literally stroke out its own head coach in a flurry of Schaub Pick 6’s, an underperforming defense, and an offensive line loaded with talent that inexplicably could not block anyone this season. Wade Phillips is the interim Head Coach and he has publicly stated that he does not want to be a head coach ever again, no matter what the situation. Phillips is hoping to remain as defensive coordinator; it only remains to be seen whether that is with the new staff in Houston or for another team.

So, who on the maybe list do you think is gone? Participate in the poll and offer up your opinions prior to the players settling things on the field in Week 17.

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