You knew it was coming. A substantial number of the coaches (and executives) involved doubtless knew it was coming, too. That’s right: it’s Black Monday, a.k.a. the day every head coach of every underperforming NFL team gets canned, in hopes that this next hire will be the one that strikes gold, the one who turns into that franchise’s Bill Belichick. That’s almost never what happens, of course, but still most of these teams could use a change. And change, for better or worse, they will get. Here’s which coaches are on the way out; all photos via Getty:
Andy Reid, Eagles.
Well, you knew this was coming. Reid, as much flack as he’s taken over the years, had a lot of success in Philadelphia: a Super Bowl appearance, nine playoff appearances, eight seasons of 10 wins or more, five NFC title game berths. But none of those things happened over the last two years, and when the Eagles’ free agent frenzy of 2011 was met with a disappointing 8-8 finish and a 4-12 disaster this year, you knew Reid’s time with the Eagles had run its course.
Apparently, so did the Eagles, who today did what everyone knew they were going to do and fired the NFL’s longest-tenured head coach. Reid finishes with a 130-93-1 record in Philly, and 14 years is a long, long time to stick around in today’s NFL. But after a season this bad, a season that featured a 1-11 finish, even Reid himself might have to admit it was time for a change. Whether that change will bring Chip Kelly over from Oregon, Mike McCoy from Denver, or someone entirely unexpected is unknown, but change is coming – and for this Eagles team, it’s not a moment too soon.
Reid’s future head coaching prospects: Very good. Most coaches wear out their welcome eventually, even the good ones. Look at Jeff Fisher: fired by the Titans after 2010, then found work as soon as he wanted it with the Rams… and led the team to a five-win improvement over last season. Expect him back on the sidelines as an NFL head coach in 2014 at the latest.
Pat Shurmur, Browns.
Another highly expected move, thanks to the Browns’ revamped ownership and front office. The team showed some life under Shurmur after an 0-5 start this season, eventually improving to 5-8, but then lost their final three games, sealing Shurmur’s fate. Well, his fate might have been sealed anyway considering neither the Browns’ owner nor CEO were around yet when Shurmur was hired, so 5-11 – even with a young roster – definitely wasn’t going to save him. It wasn’t going to save GM Tom Heckert, either, who got the boot and will presumably be replaced with someone Banner’s more familiar with.
Shurmur’s future head coaching prospects: Eh. The Browns were better this year than last, but 4-12 to 5-11 isn’t exactly an awe-inspiring jump. Granted, that was with an offense that leaned on two rookies in Brandon Weeden and Trent Richardson, but a 9-23 record isn’t going to look too inspiring to teams with future vacancies. Shurmur will probably need a hugely successful run as an offensive coordinator elsewhere to get another shot as a head man.
Romeo Crennel, Chiefs.
File this one under “the Chiefs were so bad, this had to happen.” A miserable season on the field (the Chiefs finished 2-14) made even tougher to get through by the horrific murder-suicide committed by linebacker Jovan Belcher a month ago had most figuring Crennel’s time in Kansas City was done. He earned his shot at the permanent head coach in Kansas City after he led an also-dreadful 2011 team to a 2-1 finish, but this year, just about nothing went right. Well, except that the Chiefs get the No. 1 pick in the draft in 2013.
Crennel’s future head coaching prospects: Pretty much nil. Part of that is that Crennel’s 65, so he’s not a guy you could picture sticking around anywhere long-term, and another part is that he’s now been a head coach twice, and it didn’t work out either time. There were occasional bright spots, sure: his 10-6 record with the 2007 Browns is the only time Browns II have won double-digit games in a year, and he did an admirable job guiding the Chiefs through the end of 2011. But those factors can’t overcome his age and a 28-55 overall record… and at this point in his career, we have a hard time believing Crennel would even want to be a head coach again anyway.
Chan Gailey, Bills.
The Bills of 2012 were the Bills of 2011 were the Bills of 2010 were the Bills of 2009 were the Bills of 2008 were the Bills of 2007 were the Bills of 2006 were the Bills of 2005. That is to say, a sub-.500 team. And if you want to find a Bills team in the playoffs, you have to go back over a decade, to 1999. Gailey was the third Bills coach since the franchise’s last winning season. What’s one more?
Gailey’s future head coaching prospects: Not great, we don’t think. Like Crennel, this wasn’t Gailey’s first rodeo, and his previous head caching jobs didn’t end well for him in the NFL (the Cowboys fired him in 1999 after two seasons) or in college (he lasted six mostly mediocre years at Georgia Tech). Now, he’s 60, and in a game more and more about young, dynamic guys on the sidelines as well as on the field, it’s hard to see Gailey getting another shot as the top guy. He’ll probably get a coordinator job if he wants it, though.
Lovie Smith, Bears.
OK, this one was kind of surprising. Yeah, the Bears hit a rough patch, losing five of six after starting 7-1 and eventually missing the playoffs, but Smith’s teams had won 10 or more games in two of the last three seasons, made a Super Bowl, and only finished with losing records in three of Smith’s nine years in charge. He was the Bears’ most successful coach since Ditka.
Of course, Ditka eventually got fired too, and if the Bears’ offense had ever shown much improvement under Smith, he wouldn’t have gotten the boot. Chicago’s offense ranked in the top half of the NFL in yards gained once (barely) during Smith’s tenure. That was the Super Bowl year. Of course, the inability to field a good offensive team also must fall on the shoulders of the front office, but if Smith could have just found an offensive staff that could have gotten Jay Cutler to be Good Jay just a little more often…
Smith’s future head coaching prospects: Like Reid, he’ll have a job if he wants it. For all the Bears’ weakness on offense, Smith finishes his tenure in Chicago with an 81-63 regular season record. That’s pretty good. And unlike Reid, he’ll arrive at whichever job he gets next without the baggage of having last presided over a falling-apart team. NFL GMs, take note: if you’ve got a good offense, but your defense needs fixing, we know a guy.
Ken Whisenhunt, Cardinals.
GM Rod Graves got the boot, too. The Cardinals finished 5-11 this season, but that includes a 4-0 start that now ranks very high among the “How the hell did they do that?” 4-0 starts in NFL history. Because the Cardinals had no quarterback. It’s not even they had bad quarterback. It’s actually that when the team lined up, there was no one to take the snap. Kevin Kolb? John Skelton? Ryan Lindley? Brian Hoyer? Figments of our imagination, one and all. OK, Kolb had a bit of success when healthy, tossing eight touchdown passes and three picks, but the other three guys? Three TDs, 18 INTs. Hard for any team – or coach – to survive a number like that.
Whisenhunt’s future head coaching prospects: Not bad, all things considered. Whisenhunt’s only 50, so he’s got plenty of coaching ahead of him, and he did make the playoffs twice – and almost won a Super Bowl. What happened to the Cardinals’ offense isn’t all on him, evidenced by Graves getting fired also, and wherever he’d wind up next would almost have to have a better QB situation by default. Give him a while as an offensive coordinator elsewhere to burnish his reputation, and we could imagine another team taking a shot.
Norv Turner, Chargers (almost certainly).
No official announcement yet, but let’s face it: Turner is gone. It’s been suspected for weeks now, and Adam Schefter reported as imminent. The Chargers’ record has gotten worse in each of the last three seasons, and it’s time for someone to come in and try to reverse that trend. Turner had success early on, but after three straight playoffs-less seasons, it’s time for new blood. A lot of new blood: according to Schefter, the Chargers are letting GM A.J. Smith go, too.
Turner’s future head coaching prospects: Not good. Turner, like Gailey, is 60 now, and having been fired from three different head coaching jobs (assuming the Chargers go through with firing him, anyway), he’s beyond a retread. He’ll get an offensive coordinator job if he wants it, and most likely be very good at it, but his days as a head coach are likely over. 15 seasons as a head coach in total – not too bad for a guy who was the butt of near-constant jokes for much of that time.
Other odds and ends.
– The Panthers might fire Ron Rivera, too, but not right away: The Panthers had a disappointing year overall, but finished strong and their 7-9 record marks a one-game improvement over last year. If Rivera does get the boot, seems a little early and like he’d deserve another shot as a head coach somewhere else, no?
– Jets firing Mike Tannenbaum, not Rex Ryan: Because someone had to take the fall after that nightmare. Tannenbaum out, Tony Sparano reportedly out: one more bad year, and one has to think Rex Ryan’s done, too.
– Jaguars fire GM Gene Smith: He’s been there longer than Mike Mularkey, so it makes sense that if one of the two were to be the fall guy for the awful product the Jaguars put out there this year, it’d be Smith.
Well, that’s about it… for now. We’ll update this post if any other pink slips get handed out. Yes, this is a depressing post.