Black Monday has come and gone, with many well-deserving and a few surprising Head Coaches receiving the axe. In this month that has followed, many teams have made decisive upgrades at the position, while others have people taking the let’s wait and see approach. Below in a breakdown of these manoeuvres.
Black Monday Departures
Doug Marrone out, Urban Meyer in at Head Coach
It didn’t come as a shock to anyone that Marrone would lose his job after a 1-15 performance in which the Jaguars were dreadful most games. Since playing in the AFC title game in 2017, Jacksonville has gotten progressively worse, winning only 12 total games. It was time for a new era.
Urban Meyer was the surprise here. In 2018 he retired from Ohio State, after having coached for 33 years at the college level. Though we do not know how his game will necessarily convert to the pro level, many are excited to see where a coach as successful as Meyer can lead this floundering franchise. Urban Meyer introductory press conference: https://www.nfl.com/videos/urban-meyer-s-jacksonville-jaguars-introductory-press-conference
Dave Caldwell out, Trent Baalke in a General Manager.
Caldwell was fired after the Jaguars week 12 loss. Though he drafted many Pro Bowl level defenders since joining Jacksonville in 2013, he was never able to find a franchise quarterback to help the team win. He also couldn’t retain the talent he drafted, as much of them are now making big plays for other teams.
When Caldwell was fired, he was replaced by Baalek as an interim General Manager. The former 49ers GM has done enough since then to claim the full title
New York Jets
Adam Gase out, Robert Saleh in as Head Coach
New York was so done with Gase after just two seasons as the Head Coach, that they didn’t even wait until Monday; they fired him right after the game on Sunday. He only managed to win 9 games with the Jets, but that wasn’t even the worst part. His teams were extremely uncompetitive the first half of the seasons, with late wins teasing a future without fruition. He also did an awful job developing young talent on the team.
Saleh brings what Gase couldn’t. He has enjoyed much success as the defensive coordinator of the San Francisco for the last 4 years. He is fiery and charismatic and has learned to overcome adversary in a crazy, injury-plagued 2020 season. Many from the Jets, 49ers and around the NFL applauded the decision. With the hire, Saleh became the first Muslim Head Coach in NFL history. Robert Saleh’s introductory press conference: https://www.nfl.com/news/new-jets-hc-robert-saleh-preaches-togetherness-mum-sam-darnold-future
Doug Pederson out, Nick Sirianni in at Head Coach.
Pederson’s firing was just as surprising as his decision-making process during his final game. You’d think a coach that is just two years removed from bringing a city its first Super Bowl win would have a certain level of immunity, alas that was not the story. Whether it was a result of back to back losing seasons, the regression of their star QB, an unresolved quarterback controversy, several questionable calls, or perceived tanking in his final outing, we will never know. It could just be a combination of all of the above. Either way, he’s finished.
Sirianni is praised as being a meticulous strategist with incredible focus. Since 2004 he has climbed the NFL ranks to his most recent position of Offensive Coordinator of the Colts for the last 3 seasons. Many of those who have played for him in the past applaud his interpersonal skills and believe he is the right man to help straighten out Carson Wentz and the quarterback situation. At the age of 39, he is one of the 3 Head Coaches below 40 years old that have been hired this off-season.
Los Angeles Chargers
Anthony Lynn out, Brandon Staley in as Head Coach.
The firing of Lynn took many by surprise at first. He was over .500 in 4 years as the Chargers head coach, despite having all sorts of roster issues over the last two season (Gordon holdout, Ekeler injury, etc). Looking deeper, however, on can see the handwriting on the wall. Over the last two seasons, 16 of his 20 losses were by one score or less, demonstrating the complete opposite of what it means to be clutch. Then, we factor in poor clock and timeout management, and it can clearly be seen why he was fired, despite being an incredible player-friendly coach.
The funny thing is that Lynn being released isn’t even the more shocking part of this story. Staley’s rise to become his replacement is even more bizarre. Staley has only been in the NFL for four year and only has one year of experience as a defensive coordinator (Rams 2020), yet somehow the Chargers have complete faith in their new, 38-year-old Head Coach. With this faith, he has begun to make an immediate impact as he has already begun to connect with several of the key members on the roster. Respect and building relationships are what he views as the keys to success.
Bill O’Brien out as Head Coach and General Manager, David Culley in as Head Coach.
So, screw being professional for a moment: Bill O’Brien sucks! He sucked as a Head Coach, he sucked as a General Manager, and according to some of the players he coached, he sucks as a person. Many people were shocked when he was fired just four weeks into the season, but I still don’t understand how. He was already 0-4, losing those games by a combined 43 points when he decided to get involved in a public argument with one of his star players. Before that he traded away mega-star, wide receiver, Deandre Hopkins for an above average, starting running back. He was at constant odds with his star players, earning the disrespect of DeShaun Watson, JJ Watt, Jadeveon Clowney, Hopkins and more, as he wasted some of the best years of their careers. The team won in spite of him, one can only imagine how great they would have been with even a mediocre Head Coach. How he held onto this job since 2014 is an outright debacle, in my opinion.
The thing that makes this even worse, is the fact that damage he did to this franchise is still continuing. He was influential with trades that yielded them little outside of no 1st round draft picks the next two season, and he helped to permanently damage the relationship between the Texans and their super-star quarterback, Watson. For more on that developing story: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/30794678/deshaun-watson-asked-houston-texans-trade-sources-say
The Houston Head Coach search finally came to a conclusion last night, as Culley emerged from the final two candidates as per sources. It was suspected for a while now that he was the Texans’ choice, but it is at last official. Culley comes with a long and impressive resume, as he has been a coach on some level for 42 years now. He has 26 years of experience in the NFL with 6 different teams, as an offensive assistant, wide receiver and quarterback coach. Many around the NFL wish Culley well as he is getting his first shot at being a Head Coach at the age of 65. Follow the developing story: https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/30791872/houston-texans-hire-baltimore-ravens-david-culley-head-coach-sources-say
Nick Caserio in as General Manager.
Caserio has been with the Patriots since 2001, throughout their 6 championships and 9 Super Bowl appearances. He has worked for hands on with Bill Belichick, as New England’s director of player personnel. He has held that title since 2008. Caserio knows first hand what it takes to build a championship team, learning from one of the greatest to ever do it.
Dan Quinn out, Arthur Smith in as Head Coach.
Quinn was beloved by the players and the front office alike, but unfortunately, he had been doing too little with the talent he had over the past few seasons. After starting off 0-5 this year, the Falcons front office knew what they had to do. Many saw this coming with Atlanta in the middle of their worst start in 23 years. Since being on the wrong side of a historic Super Bowl comeback, the Falcons talent had not shown the same potential that it did in getting there. The offense was struggling, the defense was poor and their reputation for losing one-score games was growing. Quinn was finished after 5 games into his 6th season as Atlanta’s Head Coach.
It was no surprise to find out that Smith landed the job, as he was both one of the hotter coordinators on the market and the Falcons top choice. Smith had been with the Titans for the past 10 seasons but really began to shine in the last 2 as their offensive coordinator. He has earned the reputation of an offensive guru, as his unit was in the top 5 of both rushing yards per game and quarterback rating the last two season. The sky is the limit with what this 38-year-old head coach can do with the likes of Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Matt Ryan.
Thomas Dimitroff out, Terry Fontenot in as General Manager.
Dimitroff had severed as the Falcons GM since 2008, helping them draft and retain a lot of talent. The sad truth, however, is that it just wasn’t enough. Under his direction, Atlanta was a team of almost come close. His inability to re-sign defensive leaders over the last few seasons, combined with the 0-5 start, was enough for the Falcons to want to wipe the slate clean and start over again. Dimitroff has served the last 18 years as an NFL executive.
Fontenot comes over with some very strong credentials, having spent the last 16 years in the Saints front office. There he held the role of vice president and assistant general manager of pro personnel. Fontenot is someone who has been praised for his recognition of talent and relationship building. He is the perfect fit for a team with strong veteran players that are looking to get over the hump.
Matt Patricia out, Dan Campbell in as Head Coach.
The only thing surprising about Patricia being fired was that it didn’t happen sooner. Many thought it would be after the Lions 1-3 start this year, but somehow he survived until a brutal Thanksgiving Day loss. Ever playing the part of the victim, he deflected any and all blame to others, all but losing the locker room at the end of the 2018 season. Not a popular man with anyone except GM Bob Quinn, Patricia somehow survived a season and a half longer than he should have.
Campbell comes over from the Saints, where he spent the last 5 seasons as their tight ends coach. This isn’t quite his first gig as a head coach, as he spent the second half of the 2015 season as the Dolphins interim head coach. Campbell has a tough and fiery personality and has the advantage of having had Bill Parcells as a mentor when he was a player. He has already demonstrated his brash creativity by saying “we are going to bite a kneecap cap off” of their opponents. Whether his reign will be one of prosperity or terror remains to be seen, but we at least know he’s going to be fun to watch. Here’s a link to some highlights from his animated press conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VyC9sd4vP9I
Bob Quinn out, Brad Holmes in as General Manager.
Quinn’s connection to and defensive of Patricia made it to where they were linked together, therefore his firing was of no surprise. Had he gotten rid of the coach at the end of the 2019 season he might still have his job today, being that the Lions have more been a product of bad coaching, rather than bad personnel. He stuck by his guy, thus his 4 years as the Lions GM came to an end.
Holmes gets his first shot at being a General Manager after working his way up through the Rams’ executive ranks over the course of the last 18 years. For the last 8 years he has worked as their director of college scouting, recruiting the talents of players like Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. The thing that’s even greater than his body of work, is that he had an immediate connection with Campbell, and has a clear vision for the future.
In Other News
Marty Hurney out, Scott Fitterer in as General Manager.
Hurney’s second stint as the Panthers GM had been on the rocks for a while before it came to an official end this off-season. He was loved by ownership, was good with most of the players, and also had a great eye talent. He had one major flaw, however, which the owner could no longer overlook. He failed to embrace analytics, however, as his slow regression failed to keep with where the NFL is heading. Some might also speculate that his firing may be linked to him losing the respect of some of the veteran players, as a result of the way he handled the Rivera firing a year ago. Either way, he’s out and Rivera is doing well in Washington.
Fitterer comes from the Seahawks, where he has risen the ranks as an executive over the course of the last 20 years. The most recent position he held with them was vice president of football operations. In Seattle, he helped to build and scout both the Legion of Boom and the current offense, including super-star quarterback, Russell Wilson. Needless to say, his resume speaks for itself. He now gets his first to chance to be a General Manager in the NFL.
Las Vegas Raiders
Paul Guenther out, Gus Bradley in at Defensive Coordinator.
When your team is in playoff contention and you give up 150 points over the last 4 games, something has to give. Head coach Jon Gruden was not about to take the fall and axed Guenther. Despite the fact that the Raiders made strides towards relevance since Gruden’s return, their defense has been ranked amongst the bottom ones in the league under Guenther’s reign.
Bradley comes over from the Chargers, where his defense over the last 4 years has shown flashes of brilliance at times and mediocre play at other times. The hope is that the change of scenery, personnel and influences will lead to Bradley emerging into a new elite form. Any way you look at it he’s still an upgrade, even if he were to only be mediocre.
With all of the Head Coach and General Managers vacancies finally filled, we are are now all looking forward to Super Bowl LV!
Three things to look forward to: https://worldinsport.com/super-bowl-lv-3-things-to-look-forward-to-in-this-years-game/
How the teams got there –
Title Games: https://worldinsport.com/buccaneers-and-chiefs-set-to-showdown-at-super-bowl-lv/
Divisional Round: https://worldinsport.com/buccaneers-d-frustrates-the-saints-chiefs-hold-on-without-mahomes/
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