Fort Myers, December 27, 2017: The holiday cheers on the gridiron have changed. The 2018 NFL Coaches’ Black Monday Carousel is spinning. Happy Hanukkah. You’re history. Merry Christmas. You’re fired. Clean out your desk.
Happy New Year. Best Wishes for 2018, but first hand in your playbook and your building and bathroom key cards.
On Black Monday, the NFL Coaches Carousel will spin like a Dreidel
It seems silly, but in 2014 Ron Rivera was on the hot seat. In 2015 his 15-1 Carolina Panthers made the Super Bowl. In 2015 Jason Garrett was on the hot seat after a 4-12 season with the Dallas Cowboys. Jerry Jones stayed patient and in 2016 Garrett had the 13-3 Cowboys atop the NFC.
Even Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin was briefly on the hot seat a few years ago, an action that would be unthinkable today.
Rules to (not) fire NFL Coaches on Black Monday by
There are several rules owners should follow.
- Never ever fire a coach after a winning season.
- Do not 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.
Little upset in the 2017 Regular Season
The 2017 regular season has been relatively quiet. The normally patient New York Giants fired Ben McAdoo this year when the team was 2-10, only one year after an 11-5 season. However, McAdoo probably would have lasted the whole season had he not benched Eli Manning.
In an unusual move, Marvin Lewis announced that he would be resigning as head of the 5-8 Bengals after the team played its final three games. He has coached the Bengals for 15 seasons with multiple division titles but is 0-7 in the playoffs.
There is a slim chance that the firings could be on Black Tuesday instead, assuming owners are not heartless enough to fire guys on New Year’s Day. That could be wishful thinking.
As Jerry Glanville once said, the NFL stands for “Not For Long.”
With that, here are the 2017 Black Monday NFL Coaches predictions.
Black Monday firings to anticipate:
What should happen: Spagnuolo is the interim coach, but he is not head coaching material. He should absolutely stay on as defensive coordinator, where he excels. The Giants need a head coach who can either revive Eli Manning or develop his successor, or both. That is not Spagnuolo’s specialty.
What will happen: Ownership is very loyal, and Spagnuolo has earned that loyalty. However, the fan base is clamoring for change. They will try to work out a way for “Spags” to stay on as defensive coordinator and assistant head coach.
2-14 teams need change at the top, not continuity.
What should happen: Owner Jimmy Haslam properly fired general manager Sashi Brown, insisting that Jackson will be back in 2018. However, going 0-16 changes everything. Jackson was given a terrible team, but even the expansion 1999 Browns under Chris Palmer went 2-14 including a road win at Pittsburgh. Jackson went 1-15 last year and is going 0-16 this year.
Now if Cleveland shocks the world and beats the Steelers in Pittsburgh this week, Jackson might stay. However, releasing Jackson would be doing him a favor. Let him coach a team where he actually has players.
What will happen: Jackson did not create this mess, but he should be put out of his misery. He can then taken the rival Bengals job, revitalize Andy Dalton, and beat up on the Browns twice per year.
What should happen: Pagano was properly given a contract extension two years ago. Last year owner Jim Irsay fired General Manager Ryan Grigson. Irsay should fire himself, but that will not happen. Andrew Luck missed the entire season, but Peyton Manning missing the entire 2011 season did not save Jim Caldwell.
What will happen: Pagano will be fired. It would be a blessing in disguise. He could start over somewhere else where some salary cap money is actually invested in the offensive line.
What should happen: The Buccaneers have gotten everything wrong in the last decade. They should never have fired Jon Gruden after his 2008 team started 9-3 but went 0-4 down the stretch to miss the playoffs. They should never have hired Raheem Morris or Greg Schiano. Koetter did get the Bucs to 9-7 last year, but the entire team has regressed this year to a 4-11 mess. Jameis Winston, in particular, has been awful. The Bucs need a disciplinarian with experience who commands instant respect. They need to bring back Jon Gruden.
What will happen: Publicly, the Glazer family will insist it is deliberately reviewing things. Privately they will offer Jon Gruden the moon, sun and stars, and pray that this is enough to get him to leave ESPN. If they do not land Gruden, they will go after other big names. Koetter will not survive Black Monday.
Coaches that deserve to survive Black Monday, but won’t:
What should happen: Fox is a winner. Fox took both of his previous two teams to a Super Bowl. He was let go from Denver after a 13-3 season. Fox then took over a talentless team with a talented head case in quarterback Jay Cutler. He has had three straight losing seasons, but it is tough to coach without players.
What will happen: Fox is a good coach, but the Bears gave him three seasons and will seek to bring in somebody else. Fox could use a change of scenery with a team that gives him more to work with. Ownership will oblige him.
Deserve to stay but will resign or retire:
What should happen: Lewis already announced after Week 14 that he would leave after the final three games. If he changes his mind, he should be welcome. Yes, he is 0-7 in playoff games, but remember how pathetic the Bengals were before he arrived. Lewis deserves one more year to turn it around. Having Hue Jackson as his offensive coordinator would help Andy Dalton and A.J. McCarron.
What will happen: Lewis is gone. Ownership believes Lewis has done everything he can with the group of misfits on defense. The team wants a fresh start.
What should happen: Arians will survive Black Monday. If he leaves it is because he wants to leave. He has hinted at retirement before. He is old by coaching standards, and he has an aging team on the decline. They were one game away from a Super Bowl two years ago, but Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald may opt to call it a career. Unless Arians believes his team can seriously contend next year, he will hang it up.
What will happen: Arians has had a successful career. His legacy is secure. Sticking around for a rebuilding would would tarnish that, especially if he is not in it for the long haul. Unless Palmer and Fitzgerald both insist they are staying, Arians should leave. The best scenario is all three of them leave as beloved figures who revived a moribund franchise, even if they fell just shy of the Lombardi Trophy.
NFL Black Monday survivors:
What should happen: The Raiders are the biggest bust of this season after going 12-4 last year. The Raiders have been awful in all three phases of the game. Jack Del Rio did the right thing by firing defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. The defense has vastly improved under John Pagano. However, firing offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave in favor of Todd Downing was a drastic error that hurt Derek Carr. As terrible as this season has been, Del Rio turned the Raiders from perennial losers to winners last year. That alone should earn him more time.
What will happen: Unless Jon Gruden wants his old job back in the Black Hole, Del Rio is safe. With the move to Las Vegas a couple years away, the last thing Mark Davis wants is more chaos. However, Todd Downing needs to return to his old job in favor of a far more experienced offensive coordinator. The entire team will be on the hot seat in 2018.
What should happen: Denver collapsed this season after a 3-1 start with eight straight losses. The quarterback carousel spins inconsistent results from Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, or Brock Osweiler. President John Elway called his own team soft. Despite all of that, the team rallied for two straight wins in recent weeks. It is also only Joseph’s first year.
What will happen: Elway does not want a reputation as a guy who constantly changes coaches. He forced out John Fox after a 13-3 season. He lost Gary Kubiak to medical retirement and allowed beloved defensive coordinator Wade Phillips to leave. Joseph was his pick. He will give Joseph some latitude especially since it is Elway’s job to draft a top tier quarterback. Joseph comes back.
What should happen: Despite three straight 9-7 seasons and two straight AFC South championships, O’Brien even faced calls for his firing before this season crashed and burned. He was seen as a guy with a great defense, but no offense. However, the offense was much improved this year until DeShaun Watson was lost for the season. They also lost J.J. Watt.
What will happen: Bob McNair is a very patient owner. His team suffers many injuries to its biggest stars on both sides of the ball. O’Brien will be given a chance to see what he can do with a healthy team. He is safe for at least another year.
What should happen: The Titans were judged highly, even when they were 8-4. To be blunt, they are soft. Teams can push them around. Now they have lost three straight but can still make the playoffs with a win. Either way, nobody fears Tennessee. They have no identity. Exotic smash mouth is a meaningless slogan. That is on the coach. However, there is still time for Tennessee to improve.
What will happen: No matter how this season ends, Mularkey will be given another year. However, he may be forced to fire some assistants. His seat will be very hot next year.
What should happen: In mid-2016, owner Martha Ford fired everyone except Caldwell. The Lions have been in the hunt but missed the playoffs the last two years. Losing to Cincinnati last week should not have happened.
What will happen: The Lions were once 0-16 and perennial losers. They went 11-5 in Caldwell’s first season. He is a calm, quiet man who turned around the team. Caldwell has revitalized Matthew Stafford. Caldwell is not going anywhere.
What should happen: When it is a close call, give the coach one more year. The Redskins at 7-8 are a confounding team. At home they look like a different team than on the road. There is no consistency, and Kirk Cousins can go from terrific to terrible and back. Gruden is supposed to be an innovator, but this is a results-oriented business. However, the Redskins have been average, not awful. To go from 7-9 or 8-8 to 10-6 and the playoffs is very realistic.
What will happen: Owner Dan Snyder was incredibly impatient with other coaches but has been very patient with Gruden. 2018 will be the year the Redskins either take the next step or fall on their faces. Gruden will be on a short leash.