LOS ANGELES, December 30, 2015 — Happy New Year. You’re fired. Welcome to a fresh start. Clean out your desk. Enjoy 2016. Hand in your bathroom key and your playbook. The NFL Coaching Carousel is about to spin like a Dreidel. Where it stops only the owners know.
The Tennessee Titans fired Ken Whisenhunt after a 1-6 start this year. Miami Dolphins Coach Joe Philbin survived Black Monday 2014, but was fired in 2015 after only four games and a 1-3 record. The 6-9 Philadelphia Eagles, in a very surprising move, did not wait until after the season finale. Rather than let Chip Kelly enjoy New Years Eve with his family, owner Jeffrey Lurie fired him with one game left. Pat Shurmur will coach the finale.
It seems silly, but last year Ron Rivera was on the hot seat. Now his 14-1 Carolina Panthers have the best record in football. Jay Gruden was all but gone in Washington. Instead he has an 8-7 NFC East Champion Redskins squad.
There are several rules owners should follow. Never ever fire a coach after a winning season. Never fire a coach after two losing seasons if they had four or five winning seasons prior. If a coach has won a Super Bowl for you, leave him alone. If he has won two Super Bowls for you, give him a lifetime contract. Lastly, if it is a close call, give the coach one more year.
These reasons are why John Harbaugh, despite the Baltimore Ravens being 5-10 after several winning seasons, is as safe as it gets. Owner Steve Biscotti is not crazy. He knows Harbaugh is the right guy.
This year, 16 teams, a full half of the league, could have coaching changes. To be fair, at least two of these potential firings are serious reaches with with almost zero credence or rationale.
Black Monday 2015 actually comes on January 4, 2016 due to the abnormally late conclusion to the 2015 regular season. Here is an analysis of each NFL situation where even the slightest chance of a coaching change could occur.
Here are the 2015 Black Monday predictions.
Deserve to be fired and will be fired:
San Francisco 49ers — Jim Tomsula
What should happen: Owner Jed York should fire himself, General Manager Trent Baalke, and Tomsula. The 49ers are a 4-11 disaster. Yes, the 49ers suffered a rash of retirements, but Tomsula is not ready to be an NFL head coach. They truly are bad in every faze of the game.
What will happen: York would rather gouge his eyes out than admit he made a mistake by firing Jim Harbaugh last year. York put his pride above the good of the team last year and will again. Tomsula stays because York prefers a failing company man than the prickly but successful Harbaugh.
San Diego Chargers — Mike McCoy
What should happen: The Chargers are terrible, and before the season they appeared to be a talented team. Philip Rivers is still playing at a high level. This comes down to coaching. McCoy has not gotten the job done.
What will happen: The Chargers do not even know what city they will be playing in next year. Dean Spanos wants to move to Los Angeles. He needs a big name that inspires people. McCoy is gone.
Tennessee Titans — Mike Mularkey
What should happen: Mularkey is an interim coach, and was not successful in his previous head coaching stint. The Adams family knows they have a franchise quarterback, and they want somebody who can develop Marcus Mariota. Mularkey does not inspire anyone and is not an upgrade over the fired Ken Whisenhunt.
What will happen: The Titans are 3-12. may end up with the top pick in the 2016 Draft. The Adams family wants a big name. Mularkey is gone.
Miami Dolphins — Dan Campbell
What should happen: Campbell is an interim coach who provided a brief respite after the turbulent Joe Philbin era that quickly faded. Owner Stephen Ross is desperate for a big name. He wants celebrities coming to his games like they do with the Miami Heat. It stuns him that one of the most exciting cities in America has one of the most boring football teams. Campbell is an absentee owner who lives in New York. He refuses to sell the team, but he does hear the complaints.
What will happen: Campbell is gone. Ross is prepared to throw money at whatever rock star coach accepts his offer.
Philadelphia Eagles — Pat Shurmur
What should happen: It is unfair to put Shurmur on this list because he is the professional football equivalent of Gerald Ford. Ford was the accidental president and Shurmur is the accidental coach. Ford got to lead America for 2 1/2 years. Shurmur will lead the Browns for about six days. Then he will be gone. There is no chance he will get the head coaching job.
What will happen: It kills owner Jeffrey Lurie that the coach he fired, Andy Reid, is becoming a rock star in Kansas City. Reid is going to the playoffs and Lurie and Kelly are not. Lurie may take some personnel power back from the next coach, but he is not going to admit he made a mistake in getting rid of Reid. Kelly is the beginning. Lucie is going to blow the whole thing up and start over, although some people will say Chip Kelly already did that.
Deserve to be fired but will stay:
Dallas Cowboys — Jason Garrett
What should happen: Garrett is an incredibly nice guy who should have been fired years ago. Last year’s 12-4 season was an aberration. The Cowboys overachieved. They looked sensational this year for two weeks before Tony Romo and Dez Bryant went down with injuries and the season washed away.
What will happen: Garrett has survived this long by being a toadie for Jerry Jones. Jerrah is desperate to win a Super Bowl without players drafted by Jimmy Johnson. Despite a 4-11 season, Jones is desperate for an excuse to keep Garrett. Although trading running back DeMarco Murray was Jones’s fault. Injuries destroyed everything. Nothing will be Garrett’s fault. He will be back.
Deserve to stay but will be fired:
Indianapolis Colts — Chuck Pagano
What should happen: Pagano should be given a contract extension. Owner Jim Irsay should then fire General Manager Ryan Grigson before firing himself. He blew up the staff three years, firing legendary personnel man Bill Polian and Coach Jim Caldwell. He got lucky with Pagano. While it is true that Bruce Arians coached the team while Pagano was recovering from cancer that first year, it was Pagano who got them to the AFC Title Game. Grigson and Pagano do not get along. Somebody has to go, but it is Grigson who failed to draft people to keep Andrew Luck healthy.
What will happen: Irsay will overreact again. He will fire Grigson and Pagano. Success that he has had virtually nothing to do with has spoiled him. Several good seasons are followed by the inevitable bad season, and he cleans house. This will turn out to be a blessing for Pagano, who will move on to a better job where the owner is lucid and functional.
Very close call, could go either way:
Detroit Lions — Jim Caldwell
What should happen: Caldwell should stay. He is one of the most decent men in football. He took the Colts to a Super Bowl before losing Peyton Manning and seeing the team collapsed. The Lions started 1-7 but have been 5-2 since. The Lions lost one game on a Hail Mary and another one with a fumble at the one yard line. The Lions could easily be 8-7 instead of 6-9. They lost their defensive standout Ndamokung Suh before the season to free agency.
What will happen: This one can go either way because nobody knows what 90-year-old owner Martha Ford will do. Her late husband was a patient softie. She is a nice but tough lady. She sacked the general manager at the mid-point, and the team has played well since. Caldwell is a very likable, honorable, hardworking man. That may be enough to save him. If you have to bet this close call, wager that he survives.
New York Giants — Tom Coughlin
What should happen: Tom Coughlin should be allowed to retire whenever the heck he wants, and not one day sooner. He willed inferior teams to two Super Bowl wins. Tom Coughlin teams never ever quit. They did get blasted in their most recent loss to fall to 6-9, and the normally very patient Giants appear to have run out of patience.
What will happen: This will be the closest and toughest of all the calls, but if one has to place a bet, Coughlin survives. If Coughlin is fired, then the whole organization needs to be blown up. Fire the general manager, get rid of Eli Manning, and rebuild from the ground up. The Giants have been rewarded for being with patient with Coughlin. He still wants to coach. His players respect him immensely. He should be given one more year. If next year fails, obliterate the entire team and start over.
Cleveland Browns — Mike Pettine
What should happen: This is not the easy call it seems even though the Browns are 3-12. Mike Pettine has been saddled with a mess, and general manager Ray Farmer has not been drafting well.
What will happen: This could come down to the last game. If Johnny Manziel helps knock Pittsburgh out of the playoffs, that actually could save Pettine’s job for one more year. Owner Jimmy Haslam is tired of being ridiculed and starting over. He will probably fire Farmer but give Pettine another year if and only if Pettine can work with Manziel.
Not going anywhere:
New Orleans Saints — Sean Payton
What should happen: Payton should be given a lifetime contract. He turned the Saints from the biggest laughingstock in the league to a Super Bowl champion. With Drew Brees possibly leaving or being cut, Payton may want a fresh start in a new city. It will be his decision.
What will happen: The smart money already has Payton with one foot out the door, ready to sell his services to the highest bidder. After all, he is a Bill Parcells disciple. However, do not underestimate owner Tom Benson coming up with a truckload of money. There will be enough pressure on Benson to keep Payton happy. Give him money and power, and he stays.
Cincinnati Bengals — Marvin Lewis
What should happen: Some will question why a coach with an 11-4 team taking the Bengals to their fifth straight playoff appearance could possibly be at risk of being fired. The Bengals have been bounced out of the playoffs without a win for for straight years. They have not won a playoff game in 25 years, with Lewis coaching the team for the last 15 years.
What will happen: Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson is a dynamo, and owner Mike Brown cannot keep them both. If Jackson leaves to get a head coaching gig, it will hurt Andy Dalton and the offense. Yet the Bengals were an embarrassment to humanity before Lewis arrived. Even a first round playoff exit will not seal his fate because the team is playing with a backup quarterback. Lewis stays.
Pittsburgh Steelers — Mike Tomlin
What should happen: This is another case that seems farfetched. Tomlin took the Steelers to one Super Bowl title and nearly brought home a second Lombardi Trophy. Losing to lowly Baltimore should not have happened. At 9-6, a loss to even more lowly Cleveland and missing the playoffs would trigger an avalanche of criticism.
What will happen: Tomlin is not going anywhere. The Steelers have been successful because they are the model of stability and patience. Tomlin is very respected, and many teams in the league would love for a 9-7 season to be considered a disaster. The Rooney family is not known for overreacting, and they will not start now.
Jacksonville Jaguars — Gus Bradley
What should happen: Bradley should stay despite the 5-10 record. They have had three losing seasons, but Blake Bortles is progressing quite well. They seem to be on the verge of improving. Bradley deserves one more year.
What will happen: Owner Shad Khan made it official on Tuesday. Bradley is coming back next year. Bradley is lucky that he is in the smallest television market where expectations are low. Khan sees the progress, and he is fairly patient. The team must improve further next year or Bradley will be gone.
Buffalo Bills — Rex Ryan
What should happen: Ryan took over a 9-7 team and now has a 7-8 team. Rumors of a player revolt on the defensive side of the ball seem surprising given that Ryan has always been a players coach beloved by his defense. For new owner terry Pagula to fire Ryan after one season would seem to be an overreaction. A win over the Jets could knock them out of the playoffs as well and cement Ryan’s status. His success will be tied to developing Tyrod Taylor.
What will happen: Ryan was given a four year contract. Petula is not going to eat three years of that. Ryan will be back, but next year his seat will be quite warm.
St. Louis Rams — Jeff Fisher
What should happen: Fisher is one of the most respected guys in football. His critics label him overrated, but guys who go 13-3 three times can coach. The Rams have not had a winning season in Four years with Fisher, but this team is 7-8 and has won three straight down the stretch.
What will happen: Fisher stays. When Bud Adams turned the Houston Oilers into the Tennessee Titans, Fisher provided stability. Owner Stan Kroenke likes Fisher, and will need stability if the Rams move back to Los Angeles. The Rams swept Seattle, and Fisher needs a franchise quarterback to take the pressure off his very good defense.