When the world first got a glimpse of the year 2018, things were supposed to get wild in the NFL coaching circles, with one of the bloodiest Black Mondays in recent years coming down the pipe. Instead we were treated to a totally different situation, as only six jobs opened up over the course of the first 24 hours.
The Raiders were a surprise when they dumped Jack Del Rio, who announced the news at his own press conference immediately after losing to the Chargers, but the coaches of the Lions, Bears, Giants and Colts either had already been fired or was obviously going to happen. We did get one bombshell with the news of Ted Thompson being removed as the Packers GM, although the shock factor of a GM change is still much smaller than that of a high-profile coaching change.
Even a slow day of coaching news leads to plenty of carnage. So, with the understanding that we could see plenty more change in the coming week, let’s try to break down some of the winners and losers from the first 24 hours of coaching rumor and search season.
The former Cardinals coach did not win in the sense of staying a coach and taking another shot at winning a Super Bowl, but it’s hard to argue he didn’t go out on a high note. It is really, really difficult to walk away from the NFL as a champion; even a guy like Peyton Manning needed help from a historically great defense and didn’t win on his arm.
Arians could not secure a Super Bowl title as a head coach (he has a pair as a coordinator), but he did win his 49th game on Sunday with the Cardinals, making him the winningest coach in franchise history. Bonus: that game came against the Seahawks, after Arians pointed out the Cardinals owned the division rival in their own stadium. After the game, Arians was able to tell his players about his decision in a perfectly Arians way, slinging f-bombs around in an emotional locker room speech.
“It’s been my pleasure to be your head coach.”@BruceArians shared this message with the team after the game last night. #BeRedSeeRed #ThanksBA – @AZCardinals
On Monday Arians held an emotional press conference, saying it hit him hard when he realized his son was turning 40 soon and it almost snuck up on him.
It’s a credit to him that his players kept the news a secret for nearly 24 hours, and it’s a credit to Arians that the Cardinals are prepared to move forward — there was never any sort of power struggle with GM Steve Keim and Arians. Arians even said Keim was “like a younger brother” in his retirement speech.
The Cardinals didn’t have the season many hoped this year, but they battled hard down the stretch despite tons of injuries. Arians walks away from the NFL having done a heck of a job in Arizona.
The ESPN “Monday Night Football” announcer is expected to be the next coach of the Oakland Raiders, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting as much on Sunday night.
“Jon Gruden is going to be the next coach of the Oakland Raiders.” – @AdamSchefter
This came on the heels of the Raiders surprisingly firing Jack Del Rio — Del Rio was just a year removed from a 12-win season that earned him a contract extension. It’s likely the only scenario in which he’s fired is if Gruden is willing to leave the booth and come back to Oakland, where he was the coach from 1998-2001 before being traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There are several factors in play with the Gruden thing. One, it is believed Raiders owner Mark Davis is going to offer him some kind of ownership stake in the franchise. That’s not priceless, but it is fairly close. The red tape required could hold up an announcement, as could Gruden calling ESPN’s Wild Card Weekend playoff game, but if Oakland wants him, Oakland can get him.
Additionally, it’s possible Gruden looked far into the future and realized his MNF gig might not always be there. Maybe this was the perfect spot to get back into coaching, with a team stocked with young talent (Derek Carr, Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack are one of the best trio of building blocks in the NFL). He’s going to get paid huge both short- and long-term, and Raiders fans will be amped to see him walk through that door.
Ryan Pace and Mitchell Trubisky
No one was surprised by John Fox being fired. Fox — and everyone else — knew it was coming for the last few weeks. The good news for Pace and Trubisky is there was some rope extended by the Bears in the form of an extension for the general manager on Monday afternoon.
That Pace would win a power struggle with Fox is no surprise at all; it was sort of obvious that would happen when he didn’t bother telling Fox he was drafting Trubisky. The important thing is that the Bears, as CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported, are willing to go all in on developing Trubisky. Acquiring some weapons will be critical, but the biggest thing that needs to happen is finding the right coach.
The Bears’ goal with Trubisky should be to recreate what the Rams did with Jared Goff and Sean McVay last year. As much as possible anyway — Jordan Howard isn’t Todd Gurley, but he’s a franchise running back. Cameron Meredith will be forgotten, but he has upside. They’ll need to hit with some draft picks and be smart in free agency (the Rams got Andrew Whitworth and then traded for Sammy Watkins), but it’s not out of the question. Best of all, having a young GM with an extension in hand and a promising second-year quarterback makes this an attractive job for someone like Josh McDaniels. The Bears should come out of this with a strong coach.
By all accounts, it will be Ballard who is in charge of the coaching search, taking Jim Irsay out of the equation outside of simply signing off on the choice. That’s good for Ballard, because it gives him an opportunity to actually work with someone who he wants to work with, and it’s good for Colts fans, because it should mean a lot less dysfunction between the front office and the coaching staff. No one wants Ryan Grigson-Chuck Pagano Part Deux.
There is a good argument that Ballard already knows who he wants. Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star makes a compelling point that Ballard has basically already decided to try and bring his old colleague Dave Toub, Andy Reid’s long-time special teams coach, to Indianapolis. That’s something La Canfora reported back when Ballard was hired; the Colts had already decided to give Pagano an extra year (that’s on Irsay, so, yeah).for the Colts on Monday and Toub is right there. Personally, I would want the Colts to secure an offensive guy who will take care of Andrew Luck, but landing Toub and having him bring in an offensive guru from the Reid coaching line would be perfectly fine too.
How on earth did Koetter keep his job? Tampa fans were sick of him, and the Glazer family has been crazy quick with the trigger when it comes to coaches ever since firing Gruden after the 2008 season. In the nearly decade since, the longest-tenured coach for Tampa is Raheem Morris. Wild stuff.
There is a pretty good chance if Gruden was willing to come back to Tampa we would have seen the end of Koetter, and it may have spelled trouble for the front office as well. The Bucs’ season was a disaster, and the regression from Jameis Winston should be a major red flag. But Winston, the former top overall pick, did look impressive down the stretch, and Koetter and GM Jason Licht can point to that when making the case for another shot in 2018. Outside of the Roberto Aguayo disaster (which was more on ownership than most people know), Licht has been very good in the draft since taking over.
Seats will definitely be warm in Tampa next year, but the Bucs could surprise as a post-hype sleeper in the deep and dangerous NFC South. It doesn’t hurt to point out there are three playoff teams in the division either, so give some of the blame for this season to tough circumstances.
With the very important caveat that no one has ever really left Bill Belichick’s nest in New England and been good, it is worth noting we could see some serious turnover for the Patriots coach this offseason in terms of his staff. Belichick won’t care, for sure, at least for a few weeks. And he will likely encourage guys like Josh McDaniels and Matt Patricia to seek employment in spots that will benefit their careers (and not totally interfere with his plan for world domination).
But you have to figure that the heat those coaching candidates are getting, what with multiple former Patriots front office guys situated around the league — most notably Bob Quinn with the Lions — likely isn’t ideal for Belichick making a Super Bowl run. There are always interviews that can get in the way of preparation, although it certainly did not bother the Patriots last year. As good as Belichick is, losing his offensive and defensive coordinator in a single offseason would be suboptimal.
The man who engineered not just one, but two Super Bowl titles.
Make no mistake: Thompson isn’t being taken out of his job on his own accord. A “front-office shakeup” that features the GM taking on another role isn’t the sort of thing you expect to see when the GM has two Super Bowl rings and was responsible for drafting Aaron Rodgers. This is not getting as much play as it should: the Packers essentially firing the only guy who has been GM since 2005 and is a pretty huge deal.
The Packers haven’t had to worry about their GM in over a decade and now will be conducting a full-blown search. Expect someone from inside the building to emerge.
As Green Bay Packers reshape their front office, some in that organization believe Brian Gutenkunst will emerge as top in-house GM candidate – @JasonLaCanfora
What on earth is happening in Cincinnati right now? The Bengalsof Marvin Lewis, allowing the coach to “walk away” without a new contract. Then the Bengals go out and win their last two games and it somehow . The way Lewis talked about the future in his press conference on Monday would lead you to believe that the Bengals coach was not just in charge of whether or not he was going to return, but only willing to return if he received more power in terms of crafting the roster.
“The one thing that we’ve been consistent on since I began here is being on the same page,” Lewis said. “I think that’s important. There’s a direction the owner wants to have and there’s a direction he’s hired me to do a job and we’ve got to make sure we stay aligned in that and if his direction is different than my direction then that’s probably not good. We just have to make sure we’re all on the same page.”
Does that sound like a dude who is getting fired? It sure does not. It sounds more like Maura from “Seinfeld,” George’s girlfriend who simply refuses to break up with him. Marvin is not turning his key.
You can really get a sense that Lewis is going to be back in 2018, or at least that it’s better than a 50/50 proposition. That’s wild considering the circumstances.
The group getting hosed here, though, are the Bengals coaches, who currently do not have contracts and who must decide if they should seek employment elsewhere or if they should wait and see if Lewis gets extended.
Black Monday often strikes quickly and with little nuance. In other cases these situations can get seriously dragged out. It appears as if the Bengals will be running a marathon, not a sprint.
Personally I’m a big proponent of John Dorsey and his ability to find talent in the draft. Handing him four picks in the top 40 of this upcoming draft, including the No. 1 overall pick and the No. 4 overall pick, should produce a lot of premium talent. At the very least you’re going to see a lot of “Browns win the draft again” stories this offseason (which is perhaps not that different from other offseasons, and we know how that has worked out). But if you’re a Browns fan, you cannot be happy about what happened over the last 48 hours.
For starters, Cleveland lost its last game of the season to fall to 0-16. That is depressing, as low as it gets for an NFL fanbase. And despite that, Jackson kept his job, having been promised to stay on as head coach earlier in the year by owner Jimmy Haslam. It appears Dorsey didn’t have a say, which is odd for a new general manager who theoretically has been given a lot of power.
Then add on Jackson’s comments after the 16th loss.
“I don’t think anybody else could have done this job” – Hue Jackson – @DustinFox37
I mean, that’s just insulting. Literally anyone else could have done this job. He didn’t win a single game! No one else might have been able to do his job and not get fired after doing it, but that’s a different story. The way Jackson handled DeShone Kizer was way beyond questionable, and there’s no doubt he cost the Browns several games with bad coaching.
The Browns deciding not to blow it all up again is admirable, but it’s hard to fathom a situation where Jackson suddenly wins a bunch of games next year.
Just like Belichick, there is a good chance Reid could see his assistant cabinet raided. Toub has been mentioned with the Colts and other teams. Matt Nagy’s star is rising quickly, thanks to the Chiefs’ offense taking off down the stretch after he was handed playcalling duties by Reid during the Chiefs’ midseason lull.
No one has a deeper coaching tree (it’s an offshoot of the Mike Holmgren tree, which is an offshoot of the Bill Walsh tree) in the NFL right now, with Reid’s influence spreading far and wide across multiple staffs — Ron Rivera of the Panthers, Doug Pederson of the Eagles, Sean McDermott of the Bills, Todd Bowles of the Jets and John Harbaugh of the Ravens all coached under Reid. Pat Shurmur and Steve Spagnuolo are at least candidates this year to secure head coaching jobs.