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Black Monday is Here for NFL Head Coaches

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In an annual ritual, certain coaches will be let go so that the teams making the change can get off to the earliest start possible. Usually, this is after a run of failure. That may not be the case for all the fired coaches this year, though.

Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

Safe

AFC West:

Andy Reid – KC; John Fox – Denver; Mike McCoy –San Diego

NFC West:

Pete Carroll – Seattle; Bruce Arians – AZ.

AFC North:

Mike Pettine* – Cleveland; John Harbaugh – Baltimore; Mike Tomlin – Pittsburgh; Marvin Lewis – Cincinnati.

NFC North:

Mike Zimmer* – Minnesota; Mike McCarthy – Green Bay; Jim Caldwell – Detroit.

AFC South:

Chuck Pagano – Indianapolis; Bill O’Brien* – Houston.

NFC South:

Sean Payton – New Orleans (although it is likely that DC Rob Ryan will be let go as a sacrifice for a disappointing season.)

AFC East:

Bill Belichick – New England (what I am hoping is that Brady and Belichick retire the same year and then the Patriots become the east coast version of the Raiders); Joe Philbin – Miami (when the owner tells your team after a week 16 win that the coach will be back, the coach is going to be back).

NFC East:

Chip Kelly – Philadelphia; Jason Garrett – Dallas.

* - First year Head Coach

Questionable

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:

Jeff Fisher – St. Louis. As much as I and the New York Giants may really object to the Fisher coaching style, he has likely bought himself another year by winning a few games with Johnny I Forget His Name playing QB for the season. He also has two years remaining on his contract, with a pretty stiff buy-out and rumors of the team leaving St. Louis to return to its ancestral homelands. He should be back.

Lovie Smith –Tampa Bay. With another season like this, Smith may not get the usual 3-year audition. Watch for what the ‘bucs do about the QB situation in the off-season. This may not be a secure gig going into year 2 of the Smith regime. As bad as things have been in Tampa Bay this year, Lovie will most likely be back.

Tom Coughlin – NY Giants. This is a peculiar situation. There is no question that the team has badly deteriorated in the last two years, but there is also recognition that Coughlin has been trying to make chicken salad out of chicken dookie. Most observers give Coughlin a lot of credit for squeezing effort from his team that has had a bad talent drain and injuries ravaging the remaining talent. He has also changed offensive systems and not stood pat while trying to compete in the NFC East. The O’Mara family reportedly loves Coughlin and what this comes down to is if they feel the best thing for him and their team is for Coughlin to retire with dignity now or risk another pratfall in 2015 if Coughlin wants to come back. Stay Tuned.

Ken Whisenhunt – Tennessee. One and done situations are pretty rare in the NFL (except in Oakland), but the Tennessee fan base has been screaming for Whisenhunt’s head since November. This is another team that has a sketchy QB situation, but it certainly seems as though the franchise has concluded that Jake Locker is not part of the future. He probably comes back, but many are starting to wonder if Whisenhunt may not be something Bolts fans would recognize well; an excellent offensive coordinator that makes a fairly poor head coach.

Gus Bradley – Jacksonville. Most expect that Bradley will get a shot at a 3rd year to try and get the Jaguars back to respectable. This is the youngest team in the NFL and if Bradley can get some health and growth from his team next year, particularly from Blake Bortles, Jacksonville may have some things to cheer about next year.

Jay Gruden – Washington. He is in his first year, but Daniel Snyder is one of the more volatile owners in the league and it is tough to guess what he is thinking. The situation is even more difficult when the coach (and the rest of the rest of the team) were openly critical of the QB (who has the support of the owner) that the front office mortgaged its future acquire 3 years ago. RGIII’s deficiencies already cost Shanahan his job; his tearing apart of the locker may end up costing Gruden his. More than likely, Gruden returns, but the fallout from the handling of Robert Griffin III makes this a precarious situation.

Doug Marrone – Buffalo. This is a coin flip. If the owner figures cleaning out the stables now will enhance his investment, Marrone is out. If the front office believes that getting a better QB than EJ Manual and Kyle Orton will get the team back to the playoffs sooner than the stable cleaning, Marrone will be back. I have a feeling that Doug Marrone will be let go.

Ron Rivera – Carolina. With the performance against Atlanta, Rivera likely saved his job again and will be back in 2015. This is also a shaky situation, and Rivera may still be looking for work or planning on what he wants to do for a year break from the game. With Carolina in the playoffs though, it is likely that Rivera will get to return next season.

Tony Sparano – Oakland. The question here is what Jim Harbaugh wants to do. If he wants to leave his kids in their schools, let his wife keep her friends, and not have to move to Ann Arbor, the Oakland job is reportedly his for the taking. If Harbaugh figures that a return to the college ranks (and $48 Million over 6 years) makes Michigan the next (maybe last) career move, it is likely that Sparano will be back. The players in Oakland reportedly love him and there has been no question of the effort he has gotten from them, only the results look awful. If you are Sparano though, do you really want this gig? Personally, knowing that I was the second choice behind the other guy is not a situation I would relish, but I suppose that’s just me.

Gone

In no particular order:

Rex Ryan – NY Jets. Word is that Ryan has been cleaning out stuff from his office and telling friends that he expects to be fired on Monday. This is probably a couple seasons late in coming.

Marc Trestman – Chicago. The irony here is that the front office’s buyer’s remorse in making Jay Cutler the highest paid QB in the NFL cost Trestman his locker room and ultimately his job. The only more dysfunctional situation between a team’s management and its QB is in Washington, but being able to point and say "but THEY’RE worse" does not go far in the NFL. This really came up over the last 6 weeks and there is not anyone in Chicago that is happy with what the team has become. The new coach has an incredibly difficult situation to walk into, as Cutler will be just too expensive to release and is a team killer as soon as he sulks off to the sidelines after a bad play.

Jim Harbaugh – San Francisco. To me, this is utter insanity, but as a Bolts fan, I have seen this movie before (twice, actually). Trent Baalke has apparently won the internal power struggle / office politics battle with Harbaugh and observers have expected Harbaugh to be out since early December, if the 49’ers failed to make the playoffs for the first season of Harbaugh’s four year run. Never forget how vicious this business is; after winning coach of the year, 3 straight playoff runs, a + .700 winning percentage, the ‘niners have decided another coach could do a better job. As I said, utter insanity…

Mike Smith – Atlanta. Falcons owner Arthur Blanc was reported in early December as telling friends that he was going to fire Smith at the end of the season, even if the Falcons made the playoffs. That will not be helped with the at home pratfall against the Panthers in Week 17. Blanc is also reported to be interested in hiring Rex Ryan as his next head coach…