For 20 NFL teams, their season comes to and end Sunday. Which means that Black Monday is upon us. The day where pink slips are more common than a Bird Box meme on Twitter.
Two teams have already jumpstarted the process by ousting their head coach and finishing the season with interim guys.
Some guys are all but a certainty to return, safe from getting the axe; Bill Belichick, Frank Reich, Mike Vrabel, Bill O’Brien, Mike Tomlin, John Harbaugh, Andy Reid, Jon Gruden, Anthony Lynn, Doug Pederson, Sean Payton, Mike Zimmer, Matt Nagy, Kyle Shanahan, Pete Carroll, and Sean McVay all seem to fall into that category.
Some because of their success, some because their organizations are historically loyal (I’m looking at you Tomlin) to their head coaches, and some because of commitments made that don’t seem likely to be broken in spite of limited (VERY VERY limited) success (aka, the Bay Area coaches).
Some league owners aren’t really prepared to jettison their coach yet, but will probably be hitting this button a few times over the spring, getting those seats all warm and toasty for the fall.
In the AFC East it is expected that Sean McDermott and Adam Gase will survive to see another year. Both though should feel their rumps getting a little roasted. Todd Bowles will likely not be so lucky, and I expect will be on the receiving end of owner Woody Johnson’s boot come Monday.
The AFC South should be one of the more stable divisions in football. The Colts, Texans, and Titans all appear to be ascending teams in the AFC, and as such Bill O’Brien, Mike Vrabel, and Frank Reich appear safe. Doug Marrone in Jacksonville seems to be the lone question mark. Coming off a 2017 season in which the Jaguars appeared to be the new “it” team, the 2018 campaign was a severe disappointment. All reports out of North Florida indicate that Marrone will get a chance to right the ship in 2019, but it would be expected that Tom Coughlin keeps a short leash.
In the AFC North there has already been one firing. “Coach” Hue Jackson was fired mid-season and replaced on an interim basis by Gregg Williams. Since that point the Browns have played well. Not just well for the Browns (a low bar to jump over for sure), but well, period. A lot of credit has been spread around to both Gregg Williams and offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens. Ideally the Browns would move forward and remove the interim tag from their business cards. The fly in the ointment though could be if someone tries to poach Kitchens. That would force Cleveland to try and determine for whom more credit is owed, Williams, or Kitchens. I honestly can’t say who is more responsible for the Brown ascension. I just assume that whichever decision is made would be the wrong one.
Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh is safe. The Steelers endured a turbulent season, headlined by Le’Veon Bell’s hold out. A Steeler supporter would tell you that the Steelers are always in championship contention with Tomlin at the helm. Most people outside of western Pennsylvania would tell you the Steelers would have been in a couple more superbowls without Tomlin. Regardless though the Steelers change their head coach less often than the Raiders change home cities, so Tomlin is safe.
John Harbaugh by all reports is safe and working towards an extension in Baltimore.
All common sense would say that Marvin Lewis is done in the Queen City, but that same common sense would have seen him fired about 7 times this millennium. The above photo certainly depicts Bengals owner Mike Brown when discussing his team’s coaching situation. I’d love to say that Lewis is at least on the hot seat, but who the hell knows.
In the West, Andy Reid, and Anthony Lynn are coming off two of the best coaching jobs in the league. Neither has anything to worry about come Monday except for their upcoming playoff opponents. Jon Gruden has $100 million reasons to believe his job is safe. But Vance Joseph’s job should go up in smoke. In true Denver fashion I expect John Elway will ask Joseph to puff puff, pass his office security badge over.
The NFC East is just a giant mess. Every team has reason to believe they’re poised to head to the front of the pack next year, and they’re all legit. Any one of the four squads could win in 2019, and any one of the four could fall flat on their faces. The end result is that going into next season, all four coaches should return, but all four should feel pressure to succeed, or else they’ll find themselves on the outside looking in come NYE 2020.
Rumors out of the NFC South have mentioned that Ron Rivera could be on his way out of Carolina. And to teams with job openings, nothing could be finer. Rivera would have his pick of jobs and would be scooped up before the ink was dry on his pink slip. As such, I don’t see it happening. I do think his seat will be a little warm next year, but he’ll be back.
Sean Payton could be found to be Jack the Ripper, and he’d be back in New Orleans next year. No need to worry there. The rest of the NFC South though may want to avoid phone calls on Monday though. Dirk Koetter in Tampa Bay will likely go. And I’d give the odds are around 28-3 that Dan Quinn makes it to Tuesday as the Falcons coach. But hey, I’ve seen that spread beat before.
The remaining three coaches in the NFC North appear safe. Zimmer in Minnesota has his team poised to sneak in through the backdoor of the playoffs. Matt Nagy in Chicago is this year’s wunderkid, and currently untouchable. Matt Patricia’s Lions have struggled, but they’ve continued to compete, and after 1 year it doesn’t seem likely that GM Bob Quinn is going to give up on his guy.
The Packers gig is already open as Mike McCarthy was fired a few weeks ago, replaced by former Dolphins coach Joe Philbin. Unlike in Cleveland, it doesn’t seem likely that Philbin will be given the chance to stick around. The Packers have some nice young pieces, especially in their secondary. Obviously getting along with his highness Aaron Rodgers seems the key to job security in Wisconsin.
The NFC West has some questions. Will 49ers brass give Kyle Shanahan another shot understanding that losing male model Jimmy Garoppolo early on was a blow that their roster wasn’t prepared to take, let alone seeing Jerrick McKinnon on IR as well? I think so.
The desert sun doesn’t feel like it’ll treat Cardinals first year coach Steve Wilks as well though. A rookie QB, a first year head coach, and minimal talent all across the field doesn’t seem like it’d add up to much. And it didn’t. Rumblings all over the place have Wilks gone come Monday. Not sure how fair that is, but no one ever said the NFL was a fair place.
Pete Carroll has done wonders with a re-vamped defense, and a renewed commitment to the running game. Down in L.A. Sean McVay will certainly be back. McVay could go full Harvey Weinstein and still be the toast of the town. Nothing to see there, superbowl appearance or not.
So of the 32 head coaching gigs in the NFL, 2 are already open, and I expect 5 more to open up:
GOING: TODD BOWLES – NEW YORK JETS
GONE: HUE JACKSON – CLEVELAND BROWNS (ALREADY FIRED MID SEASON)
GOING: VANCE JOSEPH – DENVER BRONCOS
GOING: DAN QUINN – ATLANTA FALCONS
GOING: DIRK KOETTER – TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
GONE: MIKE McCARTHY – GREEN BAY PACKERS (FIRED MID SEASON)
GOING: STEVE WILKS – ARIZONA CARDINALS
It’ll be interesting to see who gets these open gigs. There have already been reports of retreads like Jim Caldwell and Chuck Pagano being interviewed in Green Bay. The above scenario, if correct would also leave the NFL with only 4 minority head coaches (Marvin Lewis, Mike Tomlin, Anthony Lynn, and Ron Rivera).
Some names to be on the look out for;
Lincoln Riley – University of Oklahoma Head Coach
Matt Eberflus – Indianapolis Colts Defensive Coordinator
Freddie Kitchens – Cleveland Browns Interim Offensive Coordinator
Gregg Williams – Cleveland Browns Interim Head Coach
Josh McDaniels – New England Patriots Offensive Coordinator
Mike McCarthy – Former Green Bay Packers Head Coach
Eric Bienemy – Kansas City Chiefs Offensive Coordinator
Pete Carmichael – New Orleans Saints Offensive Coordinator
Kirby Smart – University of Georgia Head Coach
Gus Bradley – Los Angeles Chargers Defensive Coordinator
I’m sure there will be others, but those are the names I expect to be bounced around the rumor mill. Its all just a reminder that the regular season may end come Sunday, but that the NFL is a year round enterprise.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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