Sunday, December 29, 2013

NFL Sunday Could Determine Black Monday

NFL head coaches better check their backs

NFL ownership doesn't wait very long to determine the fate of their head coaches. It's the reason the Monday following week 17 has become known as Black Monday.

Some head coaches have already met their fate - Houston fired Gary Kubiak in the midst of a disastrous season that saw the Texans enter Sunday with two wins.

Here's the coaches likely to go, those who will survive, and those whose status is still up in the air.

Headed to the Guillotine:

Is there any way that Mike Shanahan keeps his job in Washington? I can't see it. Owner Dan Snyder gave Shanahan everything he asked for when he hired him prior to the 2010 season, but the results have not been there. The Redskins have been well under .500 in three of four years under Shanahan with the exception being last year's 10-win season led by rookie sensation Robert Griffin III.

But it was Shanahan's decision to keep playing Griffin on a bum knee that helped lead to the Redskins' 2013 debacle. Griffin wasn't the same QB he was in 2012 and reportedly didn't see eye to eye with his head coach. Shanahan has one-year and $7MM left on his contract, but if you truly believe  he's not the guy, why would you keep him around? I don't think Snyder will.

The Houston Texans had such high hopes after back to back playoff appearances and a 12-win regular season in 2012. Gary Kubiak paid the price for two straight early playoff losses and a bad start this season. Things didn't get appreciably better under interim coach Wade Phillips - they entered Sunday's play with 2 wins - and the job is Penn St.'s Bill O'Brien's to lose.

Detroit Lions fiery head coach Jim Schwarz is as good as gone. You're only as good as your players, but Schwarz had the players this year to make the playoffs and didn't. The Lions went from 2 to 6 to 10 wins and the playoffs in Schwarz's first three seasons at the helm and the future looked bright. Then came a 4-12 mess in 2012, followed by this season's collapse when the Lions controlled their destiny.

Three straight losses - to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and the Giants - eliminated the Lions from playoff contention before the season's final week and will eliminate Schwarz's job as well.

He hasn't had a steady lineup in his two seasons in Oakland, but Dennis Allen will be the eighth coach to come and go since 2000. The Raiders won just four games in 2012  and entered Sunday against the Denver Broncos with four wins again. This one seems pretty much cut and dried.

Teetering like Humpty Dumpy:

It appeared that there was no way Jason Garrett would survive the chopping block if the Dallas Cowboys didn't make the playoffs this season. Though not all his fault, the Cowboys have been a December train wreck since Tony Romo took over as the Cowboys starting QB.  He can't take all the blame if Dallas misses the playoffs this year since he led a touchdown winning drive in week 16 to keep the Cowboys season alive and will miss the season finale after undergoing back surgery.

Will that have an affect on owner Jerry Jones' decision making? I don't think anything short of a Super Bowl appearance saves Garrett's job. The odds of backup Kyle Orton leading the Cowboys to a victory over Philly and their red-hot offense is less likely than winning Powerball.

Rex Ryan is a big talker; most of the time too much of a talker. For the most part he's been relatively quiet this year and perhaps it's no coincidence that he might be doing his best job as head coach since he took the New York Jets head coaching job in 2009.

The Jets were supposed to be awful this year and the forecast got even grimmer when much maligned QB Mark Sanchez got knocked out for the year in the pre-season. Despite the ups and downs of rookie QB Geno Smith, the team never quit on Ryan. Not only that, but they finished at .500 after they defeated long time rival  Miami in the 16th game of the season Sunday.

First year GM John Idzik would like to have a coach that is his hire, but it would be difficult to let Ryan go after the team showed so much heart. Prediction - Ryan stays, but assistants go.

Tom Coughlin's Giants have won two Super Bowls in the last seven seasons, but you wouldn't know it based on this year's team. Compounded by a plethora of injuries, underachievement, particularly on offense, and a good dose of malaise, the Giants lost their first six games. A four game winning streak against mediocre teams and/or QBs produced false hope.

Eli Manning had the worst season of his career and led the NFL in interceptions. The offensive line did a horrible job of protecting Manning and didn't open any holes for the running backs either. The Giants counted heavily on second year back David Wilson to lead the running attack, but he got fumbleitis and then suffered a career threatening injury.

Overall the defense played well, but was on the field too much due to the offensive's ineptitude. The feeling here is that like their stadium counterparts, the head coach remains, but there's a shakeup among the assistants.  The biggest bulls-eye is on offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, who could/should lose his job despite endorsements from Coughlin and Manning.

Miami Dolphins head man Joe Philbin is one of those coaches that may be let go not just for the team's performance, but because of the public's perception. The Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying fiasco happened under Philbin's watch and team owners do not like when their personnel make the organization look bad. (Though the NFL seems to care less about it based on the number of player arrested every year and the rampant use of PEDs.)

To make matters worse, the team had a chance to make the playoffs after winning three straight, including a huge home win over the Patriots. Then came back to back losses the last two weeks of the season against Buffalo and the Jets. Philbin is a goner.

Rumors are that Cleveland Browns head man Rob Chudzinski is on the verge of joining the one and done club after a four-win season. Which isn't really fair since the team decided to blow things up early - dealing Trent Richardson - don't have anything more than a mediocre QB on their roster, have veteran Willis McGahee as their leading rusher, and when it comes right down to it, don't have much of anything. PERIOD.

Ozzie Newsome and the front office have done a bad job. Chudzkinski should get a chance to work a second year with a new cast of characters, but it's unlikely he'll get that chance based on the way the front office has handled things this year.

Minnesota's Leslie Frazier could also join the list despite not having a lot of talent at QB and having his star running back, Adrian Peterson, banged up. The defense couldn't stop a Fiat, but the Vikings kept a lot of games within reach. They finished the last six contests 3-2-1 after a 2-8 start. I think Frazier gets a reprieve.

Safe For Now:

After a 7-9 NFL coaching debut, Tampa Bay's Greg Schiano looked to be as good as gone after the Bucs started 2013 with eight straight losses and Schiano and QB Josh Freeman butted heads. Four wins in five weeks should save his job even though the wins were not against stellar teams.  On the other side of the coin you also have to look at the fact that the Bucs lost three of those first eight games by three points or less.

It appeared that Schiano lost control of his squad, but despite losing second year stand out running back Doug Martin after six games, the team came back together under rookie QB Mike Glennon. The product of North Carolina St. University entered Sunday with 17 TD passes and eight interceptions in 12 games.

Somewhere Between Safe For Now and Nothing to Worry About:

Mike Munchak, Gus Bradley,  Marvin Lewis (A third straight first round exit in the playoffs could drastically change things.), Mike Smith

Nothing to Worry About:

Everyone else - Bill Belichik, Jim Harbaugh, John Harbaugh, Mike Tomlin, Marc Trestman, Doug Marrone, Chip Kelly, John Fox, Pete Carroll, Mike McCarthy, Ron Rivera, Sean Payton, Andy Reid, Bruce Arians, Jeff Fisher, Chuck Pagano, Mike McCoy

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