by Kent Sterling
First things first – if you are going to fire a coach, the owner or general manager should have a strong idea who they are going to hire as a replacement. The worst scenario possible is to fire a guy of whom you thought highly enough to hire a few years ago and then not be able to get the guy you covet this time around.
Hiring the guy who is seventh on your list is a nightmare, but it happens every year to a team or two, and it guarantees a return to the carousel in a couple of years.
Minus Jason Garrett, we can assume the decision has been made to fire or retain their current coach. Even with the Cowboys job, Tony Romo’s injury might drop the expectations for this Sunday’s winner-take-all tilt against the Philadelphia Eagle for the NFC East title low enough to keep Garrett from coaching for his job this weekend.
Of course, Garrett isn’t responsible for the den of mediocrity in Dallas, but the guy who is sure as hell isn’t going to fire himself because he owns the Cowboys.
Some of these moves are no-brainers, and others might be dependent upon the availability of the right replacement. None have coached their teams up to the level of fans’ expectations, and fair or not, that’s the bar coaches need to hit to keep their gigs.
Mike Shanahan – Washington Redskins (24-39 in four seasons; 170-137 in 20 seasons) Odds 1-10 he’s gone
Owner Daniel Snyder is a billionaire, so the $7 million it will require to compel Shanahan to walk away might be psychologically unpleasant, but not bring the level of financial hardship that would dissuade him from acting proactively to regain a foothold of hopefulness among season ticket holders.
Shanahan has been a poor fit for an activist owner, and so is Robert Griffin for the Shanahan offense. RG3 is the future of the franchise, and he can’t be excited about a future with Shanahan as the coach. Shanahan will be handed enough cash to comfortably live two lifetimes.
The loser in this deal is Kyle Shanahan, who will have a tough time getting a job from a head coach with whom he does not share DNA.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions (29-50 in his fifth season) Odds: 1-2 he’s gone
He is the anti-Chuck Pagano, who gets more out of his talent than anyone has a right to ask. In the thoroughly mediocre NFC North, the Lions had the division crown handed to them by injuries to the starting QBs of the two contenders. Schwartz and the Lions have dumped five of their last six to fall out of contention.
Not only have they lost when the team could least afford to, Schwartz screamed last week from the bench at home fans who dared voice their displeasure as the Lions botched a must win to the Giants in OT. The face of a franchise needs to be on very secure footing to treat with disdain the people who pay the bills with their season ticket renewals.
The Lions almost have to fire Schwartz to maintain calm among their fans.
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings (20-32-1 in three plus seasons) Odds: 1-2 he’s gone
Frazier gets a raw deal here as he will likely be canned after the Vikings game against the Lions (likely to be the last game for both Frazier and Schwartz). It’s almost impossible to win without a franchise quarterback, and Christian Ponder, Matt Cassell, and Josh Freeman need not apply for that status.
The Vikings have the worst pass defense in the NFL, and Frazier is a defensive minded coach from the Buddy Ryan tree. On paper, they appear to be a team that can succeed by controlling the ball and clock with Adrian Peterson and a stout defense. Yeah, not so much.
Frazier will be punted because their is no other reason to inspire hope among Minnesotans than a change at the top. Rumors are swirling that the Vikes are talking to Bill O’Brien at Penn State. O’Brien deserves better than being doomed to failure in the Twin Cities.
Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans (21-26 in three seasons) Odds: 3-1 he’s gone
Hard to hold Munchak accountable for the 21-26 record the Titans have posted in his three seasons. In year one, Matt Hasselback was the quarterback, then Jake Locker in year two. Because of Locker’s injury plagued 2013, Ryan Fitzpatrick has been under center for all or parts of ten games.
After three seasons, the personality of the Titans is still not well-established and that might make Munchak one of the coaches whose replacement might bring a positive result, but blaming him won’t be warranted until another bad year passes.
Tom Coughlin, New York Giants (89-70 in 10 seasons with the Giants – 157-130 in 18 seasons overall) Odds: 4-1 he’s gone
It’s sad that Coughlin seems unable to escape rumors that he will be fired. Year after year, this two time Super Bowl champ seems to dodge bullets. The Giants had a terrible start, losing their first six games before rallying to win six of nine, and that might be enough for this almost certain hall of gamer to be treated like one.
That run fell short of allowing the Giants to creep back into the race for the NFC East title, but it should allow enough hope to remain for him to keep his job. The team continues to listen to Coughlin, or they would have folded their tent at 0-6.
At 67, Coughlin is much closer to the end of the line than the middle, but over his career, Coughlin has gone 157-130. There aren’t many NFL coaches with that track record of success. In only six of 18 seasons have his teams lost more than they won.
Truly offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride might need to go as someone should pay for a league worst 41 turnovers.
Could Coughlin resign rather than risk being canned if they have another bad season in 2014? Maybe, but he doesn’t seem like a quitter, or a coach blinded by the glimmer of his own legacy.
Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys (29-26 in three-plus seasons) Odds: 9-2 he’s gone
Being the head coach of the Cowboys might be the worst job in sports. To be forced to coach the talent acquired by owner/GM Jerry Jones is bad enough, but having to answer questions based upon his wacky and constant ruminations must be like stepping into the seventh circle of hell every time he sees a microphone.
Garrett being fired would be amnesty more than termination.
The best part of Garrett keeping the gig would be that no one else would be tempted to accept the job.
I think Garrett keeps his job because he has managed to keep his sense of humor through an obviously unpleasant chapter in his life, and because there are other areas where blame is better invested – like on the head of defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Rex Ryan, New York Jets (41-38 in five seasons) Odds: 6-1 he’s gone
In his first two seasons, Ryan took the Jets to the AFC Conference Finals – no easy feat with Mark Sanchez as the quarterback. The question with Ryan is whether another coach could be expected to take a step forward with a team that lacks an obvious franchise quarterback, legit running back, or top receiver.
If the Jets win this weekend, they will be 8-8 – a quality result for this roster filled with mediocrity.
Ryan stays because it’s irrational to believe another coach would prompt an upgrade in results.
Mike Schiano, Tampa Bay Bucs (11-20 in his second season) Odds: 8-1 he’s gone
The Buccaneers are irrelevant, as would be any team with the inoffensive Mike Glennon at quarterback. Can Sciano’s rah-rah schtick work in the NFL? I don’t know. The Bucs are +11 in turnover ratio, but are 4-11 for the season, so there are things wrong here that need to be addressed immediately. They have gained fewer yards and gained fewer first downs than any team in the NFL, but the defense hasn’t been bad.
If the Bucs lose Sunday and are even steven on turnovers to finish +11, my guess is that they will be the first team in NFL history to lose 12 while winning the turnover battle by double digits. I’ll look that up once the season ends.
After losing their first eight games, the Bucs have rebounded to go 4-3 since. Four of the Bucs’ losses were decided by three or fewer points, but two of their four wins were also by three points. That gives reason for hope, and hope equals continued employment given rational evaluation.
Mike Smith, Atlanta Falcons (60-35 in his sixth season) 50-1 he’s gone
Any talk about Smith being canned is craziness. The Falcons are 4-11 this year, and when a team falls from elite status this quickly, sometimes a coach gets swept out by the undertow. But Smith was 56-24 going into this season, and coaches who can lead a team to more than twice as many wins as losses over five seasons are not easily found.
The rushing offense is dead last in the league, and the primary reason is free agent Steven Jackson. It’s hard to blame SJ39 for everything, but every team he has played for has been awful – or nearly awful. While his performance was often the best thing on dismal Rams teams, it’s impossible to ignore Jackson aggregate win loss record of 49-110.
We are neither here to bury Jackson, nor praise him, but regardless of who the back is for the Falcons, Smith will certainly return.
Dennis Allen (8-23 in two seasons) Odds: No line for Raiders coaching moves – too unpredictable
I don’t know what Allen does that is unique, and I don’t care. The Raiders are terrible, and changing coaches hasn’t helped since Jon Gruden was (sort of) traded to Tampa over a decade ago. The coach who began a season for the Raiders has not survived past the following season, so one thing the Raiders management should have learned is that the coach has not been the cause nor the solution to their problems.
If he’s fired, I hope Allen’s severance is righteous so he has time to get his bearings before pursuing other gigs.
Billionaires like screwing around with their toys, so who knows what might happen with head coaches in the NFL? The unpredictability of the irrational isa one of the best parts of watching professional sports rather than working in it. Anything can happen in the NFL, and it usually does.