I want to start by saying that it gives me no joy when coaches are fired (exceptions: Adam Gase (forever and always), Jon Gruden and Urban Meyer). These are real people with real families and losing one’s job is never easy. I understand that coaches make a lot of money and this makes them less sympathetic to others. However, a career is much more than a paycheck. It is partly how we define ourselves. No coach goes into a job expecting to be bad and all want to bring success and pride to their fanbases. Believe me, I will miss many of these coaches more than anyone else, Joe Judge and Urban Meyer made for great content on our sports/comedy podcast Not Sauce for Work.
However, the coaches have been fired and rumors have been swirling about their replacements. As such, I tried to give context to the firings and help sort through the rumor mill. Here it is folks:
Las Vegas Raiders
In all honesty, when Chucky got the job in Vegas, I had low expectations. This was another “cult of personality” leader and one who had been out of coaching for a decade. However, I did not expect the horror show that unfolded in 2021. Coach Jon Gruden was forced to step down in disgrace as his name was tied to scandal as the NFL investigated the Washington Football team and their sexual inpropriety that allegedlty victimized their cheerleaders. In that we learned that John Gruden, who was employed by broadcast partner ESPN at the time, used racist language made sexist and homophobic comments regularly and openly disparaged both the head of the NFLPA and the commissioner of the NFL.
The season was also marred by Henry Ruggs committing manslaughter as a result of reckless driving while under the influence of alcohol. A video surfaced a few days later that showed defensive back Damon Arnette armed and threatening to kill someone. This led the Raiders to cut their first two picks from the 2020 class. Both incidents also added to the embarrassment that the team was facing in the middle of the season. The most recent incident that plagued Raiders personnel was a DUI by Nate Hobbs.
Still, the Raiders rallied around interim coach Rich Bisaccia. They played well down the stretch, and earned a playoff spot. Once in the playoffs they had an opportunity on the last play to tie the game and send it into overtime. OVerall, the season ended more prematurely than the Silver and Black would have wanted but, they succeeded far beyond anyone expected the circumstances.
Potential Replacements in Las Vegas
After leading the Raiders to a very unprecedented playoff appearance and coming within a single play of sending the game into overtime, Rich Bisaccia may have done enough to earn a promotion from interim to head coach. Josh McDaniels is someone who may be an interesting candidate as well. This time around he’ll have less input in the front office and he’s likely learned a lot since his ill-fated attempt as a head coach previously. The latest rumors are that Dan Quinn may be taking the reins. While his tenure in Atlanta ended terribly, he had previously built an excellent coaching staff that would eventually get poached and gutted.
The Jags were the second team to require the carousel as they fired their Head Coach Urban Meyer prior to him completing his first season as a head coach. Who could have seen this coming? The answer is, everyone, of course. Urban Meyer’s wrap sheet for crimes against football and respectability runs longer than Interstate 295. While he was at Jacksonville he failed to develop Trevor Lawrence (the first overall draft pick in 2021). He chose not to take a flight back from Ohio and instead took the opportunity to publicly finger bang a female patron at his own establishment. He mismanaged situations with several of his players (James Robinson most notably). Beyond poorly managing inter-player dynamics he allegedly kicked former kicker Josh Lambo before cutting him from the team. He brought in the long-since retired Tim Tebow to compete for a position he never played professionally (or even at the collegiate level). Prior to that he attempted to hire Chris Doyle as a strength coach despite allegations of racist behavior and a pending lawsuit.
However, the greatest crime in the NFL is, and has always been refusing accountability. This is something that coaches preach from as early as pop warner. You’ll hear statements like “be there for the guy next to you.” However, when taken to task about the benching of James Robinson for a largely ineffective Carlos Hyde, Meyer blamed running backs coach Bernie Parmalee. He also held a meeting ripping professional coaches with far more accolades in the NFL as losers and insisted he was a winner. This isn’t the behavior of a leader. Urban Meyer revealed himself to all as a petulant child.
Potential Replacements in Jacksonville
If teams did things that made sense the singular name on this list would be Jim Caldwell. Jim Caldwell was mercilessly cut loose after a fairly successful succession in Indianapolis. He out coached the incumbent Chuck Pagano and it is ludacris that he isn’t an NFL head coach. However, the Khan’s are not above listening to input from fans so we may see fan-favorite and Jaguar alum Byron Leftwich finally get his head coaching opportunity.
Brian Flores’ firing by the Miami Dolphins seemed surprising to most fans of the teal and orange as well as to football fans in general. Despite a sub-par record it is understood that his initial season’s record was related largely to the team’s “Tank for Tua” philosophy that they implemented 3 years ago. It was so obvious that they drew the ire of many in sports media including former head of NFLPA and current ESPN analyst Dominique Foxworth. The team had no intention of truly competing but, in fairness to Flores, the team did compete more than expected. Moreover, the team has been trending in the right direction. They have had back to back winning seasons for the first time since 2002-2003.
Then there’s the downside. Flores has done little to show his commitment to 5th overall pick Tua Tagovailoa. Between bringing in Ryan “The Closer” Fitzpatrick or choosing to start Jacobi Brissette when Tua was healthy enough to throw. His lack of commitment was plain to see. Last season, Flores turned to the ghost of Chan Gailey to work as the offensive coordinator. This year the team went with a mind boggling decision to go with the pair of offensive coordinator Eric Studesfeld and George Godsey. They had two offensive coordinators and the team’s offense looked constipated for most of the season. We’ve also heard the smear campaign from the Dolphins camp about Flores’ poor relationship with Tua, several coaches on the staff and GM Chris Grier. There was also stories about Flores being petty and embarrassing players. It’s hard to discern fact from fiction here but, I do remember Flores alienating former receiver Kenny Stills as well as a story of a shouting match between Tua and his head coach that led to Tua screaming “you can’t treat people this way”. This would lend to the belief that where there is smoke, there is fire.
The team also failed to make the playoffs in any of the three seasons when Brian Flores was the head coach. The team failed to develop an offensive line or develop the quarterback and the part that Flores is responsible for was his inability to put together a competent offensive staff. There is no doubt that the team played hard for Flores. They over achieved last season and this season saw them flal a game short of the playoffs despite their multitude of disfunction. That is however, only part of the job. Managing personnel is the most important part of the work. Many in the Belichick coaching tree have been criticized for operating in this fashion. What many fail to realize about Belichick is that while he is tough on players many have described him as fair, a good man and someone who isn’t cruel. The vast majority of his ex-players speak glowingly about Belichick and the Patriots organization. Such is not the case in Miami.
Potential Replacements in Miami
I see this as going one of two ways. In order to make a determination on Tua Tagovailoa, the Dolphins may seek to get an offensive mind who will help break out of the sandbox offense and begin to build consistency. At the moment the revolving door at offensive coordinator and the inability to protect Tua is on track to put him in the same position as Ryan Tannehill during his tenure. If this is the case expect Ryan Daboll or Eric Bienemy’s phones to ring off the hook. However, if Stephen Ross finally does pull the trigger on acquiring Deshaun Watson, they may look to get another big name coach to deal with that heat. Miami has a bad history hiring “football messiahs” (Bill Parcells, Jimmy Johnson, and Nick Saban all failed to return the team to prominence).
***update: It appears as though the Dolphins are no longer interested in Deshaun Watson. Insiders report that the Miami Dolphins will pursue Jim Harbaugh as soon as he resigns from the Michigan Wolverines.
It’s hard to remember but before Matt Nagy was a caricature who had faux Quixotic aphorisms he was a coach of the year in 2018. However, the season ended with the now infamous double doink. For years since, the twitterverse made mention of how this “broke him”. At first, I thought this was a narrative. After several years however, I’m starting to think it had a huge impact on someone who was tracking to be a very good coach. He was brought on as an “offensive genius”. However, he failed to maximize David Montgommery until late last season. He failed to help Mitch Trubisky take the next step after a fairly positive start to his career. The team seems to have gotten worse every year since 2018, he was seemingly unprepared to integrate first round pick Justin Fields, and had several poor in-game management decisions.
In Nagy’s last three seasons, the team ranked 29th, 22nd and 27th in points scored. Allen Robinson failed to make any impact despite being the receiver with the strongest resume in the locker room. He also oscillated between playcaller and relinquishing the reins several times per season over the last two years. He’s coached like someone afraid of losing his job and in this industry, the sharks circle the blood in the water quickly. Where this all came apart however was the team made an investment in Justin Fields (second pick overall) and Matt Nagy did not seem to be willing to buy-in.
Potential Replacements in Chicago
Teams tend to over-correct after firing a coach. They were promised an offensive genius in Matt Nagy. This didn’t pan out as such it wouldn’t surprise me if Todd Bowles or Dan Quinn would get the opportunity to lead the Bears. They’re defensive minds who’s personality couldn’t be more opposite to Matt Nagy with regards to their disposition. One of the names that keeps coming up is former Super Bowl winner Doug Peterson. Sure he looks like he is always waking up and kicking aside empty bottles of Jack Daniels and smashed and hollowed cans of beer. Sure, he’ll wear out his welcome in less than 3 years. Doesn’t that scream Bears however?
I feel like for most of the season we watched the Broncos drive down the field, gain yards, take 16 plays and eat 8 minutes of clock to either settle for a field goal, or in some cases, end a drive empty handed. At this point, we know what Teddy Bridgewater is. He’s smart, he’s effective, you can take him home to your parents and they’ll instantly approve. Perhaps this is due to what was once considered almost certainly a career ending injury. Perhaps this is who he truly always was. However, to win Super Bowls you need a bad ass and that ain’t Theodore. The team itself is pretty well constructed. The running game is physical and dynamic. The defense isn’t the world burning unit that carried the carcass of Peyton Manning. However, saying a team is just a quarterback away may as well be saying the team is on Mars.
The Broncos ended up being what everyone thought they would be. They were unspectacular, they were not memorable but, they did compete and played a hard nosed brand of mediocre and sleep inducing football. This is a far cry from the days of Jon Elway and Terell Davis. Elway has seemingly had a hard time finding a quarterback during his tenure with the Broncos. His strategy of “why can’t these guys just be me” seems to have failed. I don’t know what the plan is for them here but whatever coach takes this position has to realize that it is doomed from the start unless they can find someone who is better than just serviceable.
Potential Replacements in Denver
Dan Quinn is the leading horse right now. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere. He’s capable of building a competent staff and given a long enough leash I think he can hold down the job until they find a quarterback that can truly lead this offense. Lions defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn has been mentioned and Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett has also been considered but, it is reasonable to believe that given the period of transition the team would be looking to have a general in place rather than someone who excels with game planning and play design.
New York Giants
The New York Giants under Joe Judge were an abject failure. We seemingly have less information about Daniel Jones then we did before the season. In mid-december the organization gave Joe Judge a vote of confidence and indicated that he would be returning next season. I was shocked. The team was boring, uninspired, unsuccessful and has become a laughing stock due to his weekly press conferences. Don’t get me wrong, as someone who hosts a sports-comedy podcast, I enjoyed making fun of Judge’s defensive and nonsensical post game press conferences. Most recently he talked about receiving a dozen emails a day (weirdly bragging about what seems to be a very limited amount of correspondence) about players who wanted to play for him and/or return to the Giants. He also bragged about the team not making vacation plans or having their golf bags around the locker room despite being out of contention. It would seem odd to remove the golf clubs from their cars only to bring them into the locker room to be forced to bring them back to the car after the game.
Joe Judge’s arrogance and inability to communicate seems to be the root cause of his firing. Once David Gettleman retired (Gettleman had a spotty record as a GM and was likely going to be fired as well), it appeared Judge’s days were numbered. To think, David Gettleman finally learned how to turn on a computer just to part ways with him the next season. Poor guy. I’ve also never seen someone perform more poorly with their job on the line. Judge came into the organization preaching that his team would compete game in and game out. Yet, in his final game as Giants head coach he called a quarterback draw on third and 9. This drew ire from Giants fan and laughter from everyone else. This hardly seems like competing in every game.
Potential Replacements in New York/errrrrrr…. New Jersey
At this point, the question becomes, who wants this job? It’s a huge market, the team has a better reputation than they deserve and they’re committed to an alternate version of themselves that only exists in their minds. Make Giants Great Again, anyone? The team doesn’t have a GM and there are questions at Quarterback. At this point it’s anyone’s guess; this is my article however, so this is my guess. Given that the Giants seem to be pursuing Rams head of player personnel Ran Carthon, the Giants may be eyeing the Rams running back coach Thomas Brown. This makes sense as the Giants like to showcase that they think they’re smarter than everyone else.
Perhaps the easiest coach firing to justify. Heading into the season, we all knew what Kirk Cousins is. He’s a good quarterback who needs the right pieces around him to be successful. Well, heading into the season with Dalvin Cook, capable backup running back Alexander Mattison, and a pair of excellent receivers (Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen) it seemed as though the Vikings would be a shoe-in for the playoffs. Even the defense which is a far cry from it’s once dominant form was expected to be much better. However, the 2021 Vikings proved to be inconsistent. Some weeks, they looked like the best team in the league. Other weeks, Mike Zimmer was not able to get his team up to compete.
In the last few weeks it seemed to me that Mike Zimmer knew his time was done in Minnesota. He got very defensive in multiple post game press conferences and responded harshly to questions about his job tenure and backup QB/turned third string Kellen Mond. He criticized a journalist for asking about the rumors about his impending firing. Zimmer snapped back in a way that felt unnecessary. Clearly, he knew his time was done.
Potential Replacements in Minnesota
This is a situation similar to the Giants as the Vikings also cleaned house in their front office. The names that make the most sense to me are Kellen Moore and Eric Bienemy. Both have shown the ability to design and call a creative offense. The pieces around Cousins are all there, the Vikings need to make the most of this window. I’ve also heard names of coaches who are defensive coaches such as Demeco Ryans. This would be a travesty given the team’s roster construction.
NFL fans and pundits outraged by the firing of Brian Flores in Miami. However, to me the most egregious firing was David Culley in Houston. Culley’s deal was so raw it was sushi. The team had to deal with Deshaun Watson’s refusal to play for the team followed by his looming legal cases. Shortly after starting the season with Tyrod Taylor at QB, they made the shift (due to injury, and then performance) to Davis Mills. Under Mills the team was fairly successful. After a dreadful start to the season Houston quickly began to compete in games.
The Texans’ roster was atrocious. The defense was porous, the only established threat at wide receiver was Brandin Cooks and they had a three headed committee at running back that included Mark Ingram (now on the Saints), Philip Lindsay (now on the Miami Dolphins) and the little bit of tread left on the David Johnson tires. To add insult to incompetence Lindsay served as a very good change of pace back/special teams player for the Dolphins to end the season and Ingram actually started a few games and looked quite good replacing an injured Alvin Kamara. The roster is among the worst I’ve seen. Given that this was, by all accounts, a tanking once they deactivated Watson I was shocked to see Culley dismissed.
Potential Replacements in Minnesota
There’s only one name here. It’s Brian Flores. The reason Deshaun Watson wanted to play in Miami was Bryan Flores. Since Flores’ firing, Culley was fired (the order of events is important here), and the Dolphins have now distanced themselves from Watson despite some very public courting during the season. The Dolphins over tampering would have made Magic Johnson blush. They went so far as to try to settle Civil and Legal cases against Watson so they could acquire the superstar QB. Yeah, that is insane! However, that didn’t work out and it seems as though this would be the Texans last attempt to try to stabilize the Deshaun Watson led team. Expect Flores to be the first hire in the off season.