Handicapping the NFL Coaching Moves for "Black Monday"

By Jason Lisk

Nine coaches, I believe, have a realistic chance of being relieved of their duties in the immediate aftermath of the season. A tenth–Joe Philbin of Miami–I don’t believe will be fired even if the Dolphins lose on Sunday, though the Jonathan Martin/Richie Incognito situation is lurking and is a variable for the off-season, once the NFL concludes that investigation. We’ll set that aside and handicap the outlook for the others.

Also, while I will look at more specific factors for each, I also tried to take a look at past coaches with similar records through X number of years (since 1978). Of course, finding similar record patterns was easier for shorter coaching careers (like Dennis Allen and Greg Schiano) than longer ones with more years.

Here is my estimate, from nine to one, of the likelihood of those who have been mentioned as possible candidates to be gone.

9. Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Jerry Jones has said Garrett is safe. The defense has been dreadful, the offense usually decent. Whether you think Tony Romo’s injury and potentially missing the showdown game influences the decision or not, I tend to think Garrett is safe . . . for one more year.

Of the most similar three year starts at a team, only one was fired after year 3 (Carroll with New England). Some of those guys made the playoffs at least once, unlike Garrett if he loses Sunday. However, even those that did not (Fisher, Erickson, Kubiak, Jauron) were given a fourth year.

Prediction: 10% chance, SAFE

8. Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders 

However, coaches who start similar to Allen are frequent. Here are the most similar starts to a coaching career, and just under half were fired.

Oakland underwent a seismic shift, and are taking a much different approach after the death of Al Davis. If they are taking the view that this is a multi-year project, then Allen gets one more year for the team to make a jump.

Prediction: 30%, SAFE

7. Rex Ryan, New York Jets

Five years in, there are really no good comparables for Rex Ryan’s run in New York. The closest might be Jerry Burns with Minnesota, who had 44 wins through five seasons, reached a NFC Championship Game with a top defensive team that went 8-7 in year 2, and in year 5 went 6-10. He got a sixth year. Another one is Sam Rutigliano, who had 28 wins in his first three years, then two straight losing ones. He also came back. Dave Wannstedt, another defensive guy, wasn’t as successful as Ryan, but had between 7 and 9 wins each of his first four seasons, before dropping to 4-12. He also was retained.

Of course, all that means nothing, because the big variable here is what John Idzik thinks. Ryan has presided over some dreadful offenses, with by my unofficial count, 1,345 failed offensive coordinators. He can coach defense, getting results out of some less than stellar personnel in certain spots. Chase Stuart has broken it down and Rex Ryan reportedly told players he thought he was going to be out.

I have zero feel, and nothing would surprise me here.

PREDICTION: 50%, Toss Up on Monday Morning

6. Tom Coughlin, New York Giants

There have been nine coaches since 1978 who had a long tenure with a team, and sometime between year 9 and year 11, had a losing year after a long string of success (Mike Ditka, Tom Flores, Jeff Fisher, Dennis Green, Mike Holmgren, Chuck Knox, Marv Levy, Jim Mora, and Marty Schottenheimer). Six of the nine were not back with the team the next year.

Maybe he is allowed to go out differently, and not fired on the first day. He still might not be back. I think it’s close to a toss up, because that Super Bowl from two years ago masks a general decline in the team, particularly the defense, over several years, and Coughlin is one of the oldest coaches in the league.


5. Mike Munchak, Tennessee Titans

Not too many similar situations, though Forrest Gregg did go 8 wins, 8 wins, then 4 with the Packers. Like Gregg, Munchak was a former Hall of Fame lineman with the same organization. Will that, and Locker’s injury, by him another year? The Titans’ young defense was tough at times, and the offense was inconsistent but showed flashes. Still, too many squandered opportunities in a year for the taking in the AFC South.

Bud Adams’ death starts a new era for the Titans. Will Munchak be part of it?


4. Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

However, it says something that Schiano is only fourth on this list when he would have been public choice #1 at mid-season.


3. Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings

Frazier was a stabilizing factor after serving as interim coach when Brad Childress got fired. I’m not sure he merits keeping around for the rebuild, though.

The only coaches to take a big year 2 leap in wins only to fall back again were Raheem Morris (fired), Todd Haley (fired), and Jerry Glanville (ATL) and Lindy Infante (GB), both retained for another year.


2. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins

This has been morbidly fun, but surely Dan Snyder is going to put an end to it once the season ends, despite the very large sum of money owed to Shanahan. I think the two are engaged in a game of chicken, so the firing may not come in the first hours, but the has to be gone.


1. Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions

The most similar coaching path was Dick Jauron with Chicago. Two losing seasons for a rebuilding team, then a playoff year, then 4 wins, followed by 7 wins. He was fired and replaced by Lovie Smith.

[RELATED: Detroit Lions Censored Jim Schwartz Job Speculation From Postgame Presser Transcripts]

More to the point, though, I just don’t see how Schwartz survives the collapse after expectations for this team rose. Detroit appeared to have the best opportunity to win the NFC North, and now they are already eliminated after a 1-5 stretch. Too much talent (which was not the case when he arrived) to only win 11 games in two years, and the criticism has been lack of focus and discipline.