Let the NFL firings begin!
Black Monday is well underway. The league’s most disappointing teams have begun the process of terminating coaches and general managers who failed.
Agents are on red alert. Successful college coaches and up-and-coming NFL coordinators are in big demand, as some of the former coaches currently raking in the easy TV money.
Here is what the scene looked like on Monday:
Andy Reid’s 14-year run as Eagles coach ended unceremoniously with a 42-7 loss to the rival Giants. He has been a dead coach walking for weeks and his players honored him with a classic season-closing tank job. The Eagles owe Reid $6 million for 2013. He vows to coach somewhere next season, so he seems unlikely to finish out his contract as an Eagles consultant while catching his breath. Reid reached the playoffs nine times in 14 years, so he shouldn’t be out of work for long. As for Philly, Oregon coach Chip Kelly would be the sexy hire.
Norv Turner’s reign of error is ending in San Diego. The Chargers missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season and Turner seemed resigned to his fate. He has one year and $3 million left on his contract. General manager A.J. Smith also appears doomed.
The Bills appear ready to start over again. They haven’t been in the playoffs since 1999. Coach Chan Gailey won just 16 of 48 games during the last three seasons. A total overhaul will begin once 900-year-old owner Ralph Wilson fires Gailey and Buffalo general manager Buddy Nix.
New Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is assembling an entirely new football operation for 2013. Football czar Mike Holmgren, general manager Tom Heckert and coach Pat Shurmur are all moving down the trail. NFL Network analyst Michael Lombardi could become his new football czar. If he does, he could target failed Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels for the coaching gig. Browns fans also dream of a Nick Saban overture, but why would he leave Alabama for this job?
Owner Shad Khan will drop the plunger in Jacksonville. General manager Gene Smith is a goner and coach Mike Mularkey could exit after just one season. ESPN suggests up-and-coming personnel experts Jason Licht (Cardinals) and Tom Gamble (49ers) are candidates for the GM roles. Licht could try to woo Penn State coach Bill O’Brien (despite his $9 million contract buyout clause) and Gamble could favor San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman for the coaching role. Another coaching possibility is Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, who could be a good fit for potential Jaguars quarterback (and future Florida governor) Tim Tebow.
Arizona could axe general manager Rod Graves and coach Ken Whisenhunt. The Bidwill family has watched the 49ers, Seahawks and Rams make great strides at the expense of the Gridbirds. The organization has some solid in-house options for GM. Whoever coaches the team hopes to have a real quarterback in place.
Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli is fighting to keep his job against all odds, but there is no hope for coach Romeo Crennel. Pioli proposed hiring Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz, who has fallen into a Pinkelesque rut (19-19 in this last three years) up in Iowa City. Various experts, including Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, have since shot down that trial balloon.
Once again Bears fans are calling for the head of coach Lovie Smith. Improbably, Chicago missed the playoffs after starting the season 7-1. The Bears have reached postseason play just once in their last six seasons.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera won four of his last five games, but his fate will rest in the hands of the yet-to-be-hired general manager. That position has remained vacant since Marty Hurney got the short haircut earlier this season.
The Jets fired general manager Mike Tannebaum this morning. Coach Rex Ryan served up the head of offensive coordinator Tony Sparano and managed to keep own job. But will Ryan win over his next general manager or did he merely earn a temporary reprieve?
Some thoughts on the wonderful world of sports:
— The Rams made their closing statement on the 2012 season by containing the explosive Seahawks offense for 55 minutes in Seattle. They came up just short, again, but offered myriad indications of real progress after one year under coach Jeff Fisher. Overcoming five seasons of sustained failure — 65 losses in 80 games — is no small task.
— The new regime is rebuilding this team on defense. Pass rushing defensive ends Chris Long and Robert Quinn offer a sturdy foundation, as they demonstrated again Sunday. Both reached double figures in sacks this season, which is a unique accomplishment. Defensive end William Hayes also excelled, so the Rams must make every effort to retain the potential free agent.
— Cornerback Trumaine Johnson filled a bigger role the past two weeks with veteran Cortland Finnegan hobbled. He made numerous standout plays on the ball. The Rams’ failure to draft and develop capable cornerbacks led directly to the franchise’s ugly and prolonged downturn. Strong cornerback play is critical to the Fisher defense. Johnson and Janoris Jenkins appear to be tremendous building blocks.
— When healthy, defensive tackle Michael Brockers emerged as a disruptive force in the middle of the Rams defense. But he started the season on the injured list and he finished with an ankle injury. A full offseason of NFL-caliber training should make him appreciably better. The Rams should be even tougher at the point of attack next season.
— The Rams offense lagged behind the defense, due significantly to injuries and instability along the offensive line. But the late-season work of young receivers Chris Givens (29 catches in his last seven games) and Austin Pettis (14 catches, two TDs in his last four games) suggest better times are coming. Rookie running back Daryl Richardson wasn’t as busy during the second half, but overall he averaged 4.8 yards per carry and 10.2 yards on his 24 catches.
— Quarterback Sam Bradford finally enjoyed some downfield passing success during his third NFL season. He improved his pocket awareness, learned to scramble more effectively, threw more effectively on the move and improved his red zone efficiency down the stretch. Bradford undid the damage of last season’s full-scale collapse, but this season he only hinted at his true potential. Fisher will demand a lot more from him moving forward.
— Despite these promising signs, expect extensive roster turnover between now and the Week 1 of the 2013 season. The Rams are still early in their rebuilding process. Fisher has the authority he never had at Tennessee and he will make full use of it.
MYSTERIES OF THE UNIVERSE
Questions to ponder while wondering how, exactly, Adrian Peterson did what he did this season:
Seriously, is this guy even human?
While finally ironing out a new collective bargaining agreement, will the NHL and NHLPA agree when the next lockout should start?
Is there a worse surprise than running into a mixed martial arts fighter while trying to rob a grocery store?
QUIPS ‘R US
Here is what some of America’s leading sports pundits have been writing:
Mike Tanier, Sports on Earth: “The latter-day Eagles dripped with mismatched, disinterested talent. The Dream Team fiasco of 2011 brought the kind of big-name talent Reid would have killed for in 2000. It also brought about the collapse of the Andy Reid Eagles. The last two seasons have been an attempt to fit square pegs into USB ports. They have been about players and assistant coaches with their own agendas. The Eagles spent the last two seasons proving that Andy Reid’s organization was no longer organized. They tarnished memories of a team that did everything the right way, even when they did not do everything right.”
Don Banks, SI.com: “On the one-year anniversary of his major knee reconstruction, in a game the Vikings had to win to reach the playoffs for the first time in three years, Peterson was his super-human self, rushing a career-high 34 times for 199 yards, with one score on the ground and another through the air in Minnesota’s thrilling 37-34 defeat of visiting Green Bay. It was a heroic end to a heroic regular season for the sixth-year Vikings running back, and even though he came up nine yards short of breaking Eric Dickerson’s 1984 record of 2,105 rushing yards — a mere first down away from history — Peterson’s MVP credentials couldn’t be any stronger. He didn’t quite reach the record, but he wasn’t stopped by anything but time.”
Les Carpenter, Yahoo! Sports: “Into another stadium tunnel Tony Romo walked Sunday night, a loser again in the season’s final game. This stroll must be so tiring for him now. He limped along the floor of the concourse that leads to the visitors’ locker room at FedEx Field. His legs ached. Nobody walked near him. Once more he would endure his suffering alone. There are the Dallas Cowboys and then there is Tony Romo. As much as they all talked about team and togetherness, Romo will forever be an entity bigger than all of them. It is on his shoulders that they rise or fall. He understood this as he hobbled away from more imploded expectations, this time a 28-18 loss that gave the NFC East title to the Washington Redskins. It was the third time in five years he has handed away the division on the final day. All of Sunday night’s wretched scenarios danced in his mind: The three interceptions. The receivers missed. Another season so close and yet once more empty.”
Rick Morrissey, Chicago Sun-Times: “What was on display inside Ford Field was the same product that has been on display during most of the Smith Era — a ball-hawking, playmaking defense and an offense that couldn’t score if you gave it four tries from an opponent’s 5-yard line on National Positive Self-Esteem Day. The Bears forced four turnovers and had the kind of field position that makes offensive coordinators get teary-eyed. They had the ball at the Detroit 24-, 10-, 23- and 13-yard line and settled for three field goals and a touchdown. It raised a question: Are you kidding me?”
“The draft is like picking behind a prize door. You don’t know what you’re going to get. Luckily he fell into our laps. I had no clue who he was in training camp. No one did except for Coach (Mike) Shanahan, and he found a gem. His contributions to this team are unmatched.” - Redskins left tackle Trent Williams, on Redskins running back Alfred Morris.