LOS ANGELES, December 22, 2012 — Tis the season for hard-nosed football. For players, as John Randall reminds us, “This is when the big dogs come out.” For coaches, this is the season for pink slips. This might be the first NFL season in some time when all 32 NFL teams get through the regular season without firing the head coach. However, the day after the season ends may be a blacker Monday than usual. In fact, 16 teams or half of the league, may have different coaches next year. Welcome to the coaching carousel.
Two of these situations “don’t count.” The New Orleans Saints have an interim Head Coach in Joe Vitt who is just a caretaker while Sean Payton serves a one year “Bountygate” suspension. Payton will most likely return, so this is not a firing situation.
The Indianapolis Colts has the feel-good story of the year. Head Coach Chuck Pagano came down with leukemia and interim coach Bruce Arians has led the team to the playoffs.
Arians has stayed fiercely loyal to Pagano, who is finally returning to the team. Yet there is not room for both of them now that Arians will probably get offers next year for the top spot. That leaves 14 teams that may make coaching changes in the traditional manner.
Several of the guys on this list have experienced personal tragedies. Dennis Allen (Raiders) lost his father unexpectedly. Andy Reid (Eagles) lost his son. Romeo Crennel (Chiefs) saw one of his players commit suicide right in front of him.
Jason Garrett (Cowboys) had one of his players drive drunk and accidentally kill one of the other players. These are all heartbreaking situations, and these coaches are all good guys. Yet football is a business, and their jobs are to win football games. As former coach Jerry Glanville famously quipped, the NFL stands for “Not For Long.”
With that, here is the coaching carousel followed by the NFL 2012 Week 16 Preview.
San Diego Chargers: Norvelous Norv Turner is gone. He should never have been hired, and the fans have wanted him fired since he took over six years ago. He never wins anywhere. He is one of those retreads like Dave Wannstedt and Ray Rhodes, who should have stayed as coordinators rather than assume the top spot. Turner inherited a 14-2 team and eventually drove it into the ground. There are fans begging the team to keep him, but those are Raiders and Chiefs fans wanting the Chargers to perpetually underachieve.
Philadelphia Eagles: Walrus Lite Andy Reid
is gone after 14 years coaching here. This will be a travesty. Andy Reid is an excellent football coach who has done everything but win a Super Bowl. Eagles fans ran Randall Cunningham out of town and did the same to Donovan McNabb. Andy Reid took over losers and turned them into winners. Jeffrey Lurie will regret it for years if Reid is let go, but Reid will have several job offers within five minutes of his release. Perhaps Lurie can do what Seattle did a few years ago with Walrus Mike Holmgren. Strip Reid of his additional personnel titles and reduce his responsibilities to just head coaching. Being a coach and GM is perhaps too much to ask.
Oakland Raiders: Dennis Allen needs to go. Al Davis had a good coach in Hue Jackson, who had the Raiders on the verge of the playoffs before injuries hurt the team. Yet after consecutive 8-8 seasons, a man Davis never would have hired has the team at 4-10. The Raiders are not just losing, they are losing badly. Virtually all of their losses are by double digits. Other teams have worse records, but the Raiders are just not competing.
Kansas City Chiefs: Romeo Crennel took over a team going in the wrong direction last year, but they have the worst record in football at 2-12. Crennel does not have a reliable quarterback, but this well-respected defensive coordinator has struggled now with two different teams as the man in charge. The players really like him, but it will be tough to justify bringing him back.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Mike Mularkey also has his team tied at 2-12 for the worst record in football. Perhaps he lasted this long because nobody even knew who the team’s coach was. Mularkey failed in Buffalo and is having an unsuccessful stint here. Blaine Gabbert has underwhelmed, but there is so much wrong with Jacksonville that it will be tough to make a case for his retention.
Buffalo Bills: Chan Gailey is yet another coach who is on his second stint with a lack of results. In Dallas, he did lead the team to the playoffs, but he inherited a playoff team that regressed. Buffalo shows flashes of promise but in the end is not close to being competitive. They lost at home this past week 50-17. Buffalo is 5-9 and has not been to the playoffs since 1999, the longest drought in the league. He may survive, but only because nobody wants to live or work in Buffalo. That is more a problem with the city than the team.
Cleveland Browns: Pat Shurmur was hired by Walrus Mike Holmgren, and the new owner got rid of Holmgren. Cleveland has been awful for much of the last 50 years, but after a 2-8 start Shurmur saw the Browns win three straight. This just seems to be a case of an owner wanting to bring in his own guy and less about Shurmur.
Carolina Panthers: Ron Rivera is another one of those guys that stays under the radar because nobody knows who he is. That’s the benefit of playing in a smaller market. After a promising 6-10 season last year, Carolina regressed, as did their star quarterback Cam Newton. Carolina does not have a ton of talent, but after starting 2-9, they won consecutive games by double digits, including top rated Atlanta. A strong finish will probably save Rivera, but his seat will be hot next year.
Tennessee Titans: Mike Munchak took over after Jeff Fisher led the team for 16 seasons and got the Titans to the playoffs in his first season. Yet this year the team has tumbled backwards as neither quarterback Jake Locker or old man Matt Hasselbeck has gotten the job done. Munchak will most likely survive, but the third year is the critical one.
Arizona Cardinals: Ken Whisenhunt is begging for a quarterback. Kurt Warner got the Cardinals to their only Super Bowl appearance. Since his retirement, the Cardinals offense has been a disaster despite having an all-world receiver in Larry Fitzgerald. This year Arizona began 4-0 and then lost nine straight, including one game 58-0. This coaching decision could go either way. It’s a close call.
New York Jets: Rex Ryan is in the largest media market, and he over-promised and under-delivered. His quarterback Mark Sanchez has badly regressed. Injuries have killed the Jets, but that is part of the game. After consecutive AFC Title Games, the last two years have been a circus. Ryan finally benched Sanchez, and his early success may be just enough to give him one more year.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett has seen his quarterback Tony Romo rally the Cowboys to a three-way tie in the division with an 8-6 record. Yet the Head Coach of the Dallas Cowboys is always on the hot seat, especially when the owner is crazy. Jerry Jones forced out Bill Parcells after going to the playoffs, and he had two Super Bowl rings. He forced out Jimmy Johnson right after winning two Super Bowls with Dallas. So if the Cowboys miss the playoffs, especially at 8-8. Jones may blow the whole thing up because he is that unpredictable.
Chicago Bears: Lovie Smith never gets the respect he deserves, but the problem is most of his Bears’ teams, even when they have good records, do not come close to the Bears of 1940 or 1985. Brian Urlacher is nearing the end of his career, and Jay Cutler is a temperamental quarterback. Chicago began the season 7-1 and has gone 1-5 since. The players like him, but they do not get it done. He will probably survive, although making the playoffs would ensure that.
Detroit Lions: Jim Schwartz is not going anywhere. He took over the only 0-16 team in NFL history. The Lions were the biggest laughingstock in all of sports, and last year he got them to 10-6 and the playoffs for the first time in over a decade. This year the team fell back to 4-10 with some horrific fourth quarter collapses, where they blew double digit leads. Yet Schwartz will get a mulligan for this season specifically because last season gave him some time. Quarterback Matthew Stafford is still good and Megatron Calvin Johnson is the best receiver in the league, but defensive star Ndamokung Suh has to learn how to play clean, hard football.
Now for the Week 16 Preview:
Atlanta Falcons (4) @ Detroit Lions is the Saturday night game.
(Upset special — Lions win outright)
Oakland Raiders @ Carolina Panthers (8.5)
(Panthers win but fail to cover)
New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys (2.5)
(Upset special — Saints win outright)
Tennessee Titans @ Green Bay Packers (12.5)
Minnesota Vikings @ Houston Texans (7.5)
(Texans win but fail to cover)
New England Patriots (14.5) @ Jacksonville Jaguars
(Patriots win but fail to cover)
Indianapolis Colts (7) @ Kansas City Chiefs
(Colts win but fail to cover)
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins (4.5)
(Dolphins win but fail to cover)
San Diego Chargers @ New York Jets (2.5)
(Upset special — Chargers win outright)
Washington Redskins (6.5) @ Philadelphia Eagles
(Redskins win but fail to cover)
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers (3.5)
St. Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3)
(Upset special — Rams win outright)
Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos (13)
Chicago Bears (5.5) @ Arizona Cardinals
(Bears win but fail to cover)
New York Giants (2.5) @ Baltimore Ravens
(Upset special — Ravens win outright)
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks (Pick) is the Sunday night game.
Brooklyn born, Long Island raised, and now living in Los Angeles, Eric Golub is a columnist, blogger, author, public speaker, satirist and comedian who is obsessed with the National Football League. There is no offseason. Every February he pretends to care about other sports while sobbing uncontrollably each Sunday until September. Eric is the author of the book trilogy “Ideological Bigotry, “Ideological Violence,” and “Ideological Idiocy.” When not watching football, his only other hobby is Republican, Jewish women. Republican, Jewish women, you may contact Eric above.
Follow Eric on Twitter @TYGRRRREXPRESS Eric Golub is an independent writer for the Communities. Read more from Eric at his TYGRRRR EXPRESS blog.
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