LOS ANGELES — Happy Hanukkah. You’re history. Merry Christmas. You’re fired. Happy Festivus. Add this pink-slip to your list of grievances while you clean out your desk. Happy New Year. Best Wishes for 2020. But first hand in your building and bathroom key cards and your playbook. Which brings us to today’s exciting topic: CDN’s Black Monday Coach Firing predictions for the closing days of this NFL 2019 season.
The NFL coaching carousel is about to spin like a dreidel. The final regular season games are played on Sunday, December 29th. New Year’s Eve-Eve is Black Monday Coach Firing time. Its the NFL owners’ favorite time of year to make like Scrooge and fire coaches and other underperforming personnel. Owners could theoretically wait until Wednesday, January 1st to fire employees. But the NFL is a cold place in losing environments. And the annual ritual of Black Monday Coach Firing is a long established NFL tradition. As retired coach Jerry Glanville used to say, “NFL” stands for “Not For Long.”
This season’s NFL 2019 Black Monday Coach Firing Carousel
The 2019 regular season coaching carousel was relatively quiet and then heated up in December. The normally patient Carolina Panthers in a stunning move fired Ron Rivera after nearly 9 years. The even more patient Jacksonville Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin as team President. This was the second time the Jaguars fired Coughlin. He was fired as their coach after the 2002 season. Both Rivera and Coughlin deserved better.
A time to fire: Rules of the Black Monday Coach Firing ritual
Owners can fire any of their employees they want whenever they want, but that does not mean they should. There are certain unwritten rules that owners should consider before firing (or not) NFL coaches on Black Monday.
- Never fire a coach after a winning season. No matter how badly the team underachieves, some teams would kill to go 9-7.
- Do not fire a coach unless it is absolutely definite that a better replacement option exists.
- Do not fire a coach after one season unless there is zero hope for improvement. Bill Parcells won only three games in his first season as an NFL head coach. Jimmy Johnson won one game. Tom Landry won zero games and tied one.
- Do not fire a coach after two losing seasons if they had four or five winning seasons prior. Allow two or even three bad seasons if the coach has the ability to turn things around.
- If a coach has won a Super Bowl for you, leave him alone for a few years.
- If he has won two Super Bowls for you in non-consecutive years, give him a lifetime contract.
- Lastly, if it is a close call, give the coach one more year.
With that, here are CDN’s NFL 2019 Black Monday Coach Firing predictions.
Black Monday firings that are necessary:
Dallas Cowboys — Jason Garrett
What should happen: Jerry Jones created this mess. He used to be wildly impatient with coaches. To overcompensate, he has been way too patient with Garrett. Jones undermined Garrett before the 2019 season started by saying that he expected a deep playoff run. Nobody in the organization wants to tell Jerrah the truth. He severely overestimated the talent on his team. The Cowboys were not a Super Bowl caliber team. Dak Prescott is overrated. Amari Cooper has underperformed. The defense is not a top tier defense. Ezekiel Elliott is for real and the offensive line is outstanding. That is not enough. Garrett is a good coach but he will not get the Cowboys to the next level.
What will happen: Garrett was given a reprieve last year. He has run out of rope. He’s gone.
Jacksonville Jaguars — Doug Marrone
What should happen: The Jaguars led 20-10 on the road in the fourth quarter of the AFC Title Game two years ago with Blake Bortles at quarterback. Ever since that 24-20 heartbreaking loss, the team has collapsed. Bortles was not the answer. It is unfair to judge Marrone without giving him a quarterback, so the team went and got Nick Foles. Then Foles got injured in the opening week of 2018. Then he returned and underperformed. Gardner Minshew put up some impressive numbers but the Jaguars kept losing games by wide margins.
What will happen: Shad Khan is a fairly patient owner, and last year’s patience a situation was justified. This year, Khan’s patience has justifiably run out. Team President Tom Coughlin was fired due to disputes with several players over his attempt to instill much-needed discipline. Khan is cleaning house. Marrone is gone, as is General Manager Dave Caldwell.
Carolina Panthers: Perry Fewell
What should happen: Riverboat Ron Rivera should not have been fired. He has led Carolina to multiple division titles. Four years ago the Panthers were 15-1 and in the Super Bowl. Cam Newton has been injured for much of the past two seasons. When team founder Jerry Richardson stepped down after 23 years, new owner David Tepper wanted to bring in his own guy. He waited one year but now wants to make it his team. Perry Fewell is the interim coach and the team has only gotten worse.
What will happen: Rivera will be the hottest coaching candidate on the market. Because he is Hispanic, he can immediately be hired without worrying about any Rooney Rule violations. Owners love the best of all worlds, a top notch coach who is also a pillar of the community and a diversity hire. Fewell is a placeholder and may be allowed to stay on as a coordinator, but not a head coach.
Cleveland Browns — Freddie Kitchens
What should happen: After being terrible for so many years, the Browns were being hyped as a 2019 division winner. Some analysts even projected them as a Super Bowl contender. They were never that special. Being the most improved player is not the same as being the most valuable player. When the team improved in 2018 after Hue Jackson was fired, offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens was given the credit. This was a mistake. The improvement was because of defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. After being cast aside in favor of Kitchens for the top job, Williams made a lateral move to the Jets.
What will happen: The Browns did not improve when Kitchens took over. Kitchens has lost the locker room. Owner Jimmy Haslam needs to swallow his pride and offer Gregg Williams whatever he wants to return after satisfying the Rooney Rule requirements.
Deserve to stay but will be fired:
Washington Redskins — Bill Callahan
What should happen: The Redskins problem is owner Daniel Snyder. He recycles coaches, and the results are awful. Yet he was right to fire Jay Gruden, and he was right to have Bill Callahan be the interim coach. Team President and General Manager Bruce Allen knows how to evaluate talent. Because of Snyder, most coaches do not want the Redskins job.
What will happen: Callahan did take the Raiders to a Super Bowl in 2002, but in 2003 he also presided over the team’s utter collapse. He deserves a second chance to show that he can lead a team. He is an excellent offensive line coach who made Oakland’s offense more vertical than it was under Jon Gruden. Snyder will probably replace Callahan in an attempt to get a flashier hire. That would be a mistake in an endless series of them.
Should be fired but will stay:
Detroit Lions — Matt Patricia
What should happen: The late William Clay Ford was far too patient. He was a lovable softie. His widow Martha Firestone Ford is 94 and not a patient woman. She was totally right after the 2016 season to fire the team president and the general manager. She was also totally right to keep coach Jim Caldwell. After 2017, she made a mistake in firing Caldwell. Matt Patricia inherited a 9-7 team and went 6-10 in 2018. This year the Lions have won only three games. Quarterback Matthew Stafford missed most of the season with an injury, which allowed Patricia to be given a mulligan.
What will happen: Patricia has already been told that he is coming back in 2020 with a win or else mandate. If the Lions are terrible again, Ford should correct her only mistake and bring back Caldwell. He is a good coach and one of the finest, most decent men in all of sports.
Cincinnati Bengals — Zac Taylor
What should happen: Andy Dalton may not have ever been as good as advertised, but he is nowhere near as bad as he is currently made out to be. A.J. Green was out the whole year. Rookie Zac Taylor has a 1-14 team. He inherited a 6-10 team from Marvin Lewis. The Bengals are fighting hard for Taylor. They overcame a 23-point deficit last week to force overtime. However, the Bill Parcells maxim still holds true. Your record is what it is.
What will happen: Owner Mike Brown is not known for opening up his pocketbook for players or coaches. Who would take the job besides Hue Jackson or some coordinator with no head coaching experience? Maybe Marvin Lewis would return. Taylor will be given another year so Brown does not have to search for another coach.
New York Giants — Pat Shurmur
What should happen: New York is a tough town and needs a tough coach in the mold of Bill Parcells and Tom Coughlin. Forcing out Coughlin was a mistake, and replacing him with nondescript men like Ben McAdoo and then Pat Shurmur were twin mistakes. Shurmur failed with the Cleveland Browns. In New York, Eli Manning was made the fall guy. Rookie quarterback Daniel Jones has shown flashes of talent, but he keeps fumbling the ball. New York is a power football town, and Shurmur is a West Coast Offense dink and dunker. It’s a bad fit with bad results.
What will happen: The Mara family are patient owners. They almost fired Parcells after a terrible first season, and their patience allowed a future legend of the game to flourish. Shurmur is no Parcells, but will benefit from the traditional Big Blue patience.
Atlanta Falcons — Dan Quinn
What should happen: Three years ago the Falcons led 28-3 in the third quarter of the Super Bowl. The nightmarish collapse was followed by a downward spiral. The offense malfunctioned with Kyle Shanahan now in San Francisco and Julio Jones injured. The team has not quit. Quinn deserved time last year to turn things around. This year the team inexplicably fell to 1-7, but has gone 5-2 down the stretch. That could be fool’s gold. The defense is not good, and Quinn comes from the defensive side of the ball.
What will happen: Owner Arthur Blank is not one to react too quickly. Quinn will get another year, but his seat will be white hot next year. A bold move would be firing Quinn and replacing him with Ron Rivera. Riverboat Ron would love to have the chance to beat his old team twice a year. However, Quinn may have done just enough in the second half of the season to save his job.
Closer calls – Black Monday survivors who deserve to stay:
Pittsburgh Steelers — Mike Tomlin
What should happen: Why is Tomlin ever on this list? Every two or three years the fans call for his head. In over 10 years as head coach, he has never had a losing season. The Steelers began 0-3 and 1-4, roared to 8-5, and then lost consecutive games. However, this may have been Tomlin’s finest coaching job. Ben Roethlisberger missed the season injured, and the Steelers have been down to their third string quarterback. For the season finale, running back James Conner is also injured. Tomlin’s teams are always competitive, and this year he got more out of much less.
What will happen: The Steelers are a very patient organization, and that patience has been well rewarded. They should do what their most hated rival Baltimore did last year. Announce a contract extension for Tomlin. Give him as much time as he wants. With two Super Bowl trips and one win in the big game, he’s earned it. That strategy paid big dividends for John Harbaugh in Baltimore and Sean Payton in New Orleans. It would in Pittsburgh with Tomlin as well. Tomlin is also a great ambassador for the game and a community bedrock. Tomlin isn’t going anywhere, nor should he.
Los Angeles Chargers — Anthony Lynn
What should happen: The Chargers have a history of underachievement. They are loaded with talented players at quarterback and on defense. Last year Anthony Lynn led the Chargers to a 12-4 record. This year the team collapsed to 5-10, but don’t put that on Lynn. Melvin Gordon held out for half the season, requiring Philip Rivers to try and carry the team. The Chargers biggest mistake was in leaving San Diego for Los Angeles. That is on owner Dean Spanos. The Chargers play in a 30,000 seat soccer stadium. They do not even have home field advantage due to Los Angeles sports apathy. Road teams typically have more fans than home teams. The Chargers move into a new stadium next year, but they will still be an afterthought behind the Rams and even the Raiders.
What will happen: Going 12-4 in 2017 means Lynn earned the right to keep coaching this team for at least another year. The team may even see the retirement of Rivers. With a ton of possible instability on the horizon, the Chargers need a steady, stable hand. Lynn is as calm as it comes. He is most likely safe, and he should be.
— Headline image: Cleveland Browns Coach Freddie Kitchens. August 2019.
Image by Erik Drost via Wikipedia entry on Kitchens.CC 2.0 license. Cropped to fit CDN format.