We are at the point in the NFL season where speculation heats up with regard to coaches who are likely to be replaced in the upcoming off-season. To be sure, those sorts of discussions have begun but there seem to be other sorts of musings this year in addition to coaches on the hot seat. This year, there are reports/fantasies regarding NFL owners who are going to “clean house” in the front office or at least make significant changes in that part of their organization. Here is a sampling of what I have been reading/hearing and some of my thoughts on those musings.
In the AFC:
Browns: Jimmy Haslem bought the team in 2012. In 3 seasons he has had 2 head coaches and the current head coach is not on the firmest ground you can imagine. He has also gotten rid of 1 Team President and 2 GMs since buying the team. Reports say he might be ready for another shake-up. Why not? The current regime is not exactly setting the world on fire. On the other hand, this sort of turmoil and instability cannot be attractive to the top-shelf candidates in the coaching/exec world. As miserable as this season has been, it might behoove Haslem to leave things alone – if he can.
Titans: The coach is already gone and the interim replacement has not distinguished himself. Reports that ownership may be looking to sell the team is not particularly attractive but there are persistent reports that Peyton Manning and Bill Polian might be looking to join forces to run a football operation together and that Polian has his eye on Tennessee – where Peyton Manning happened to go to college. Polian is in the Hall of Fame as an exec; Manning surely knows something about the game. The current roster needs an overhaul and the Titans will have a top pick this year after grabbing their supposed franchise QB last year. This could be an interesting job situation.
Colts: Given Jim Irsay’s comments about the team and the coach before and during the season, I doubt Chuck Pagano will be back unless the Colts win the Super Bowl – which they will not. The problem with the Colts job is the mirror-image of the problem with the Browns’ job. The Browns have instability; the Colts have stability – but that stability is named Jim Irsay. These jobs seem to me to be a “pick your poison situation”. Reports are that Irsay wants to trade draft picks to get Sean Payton as the coach; if that happens, you may be sure that Payton will demand to come with his own hand-picked GM or to be the coach/GM himself. Remember, Irsay is the guy who fired Bill Polian…
Bills: The team is a mess and they are playing worse as the season wears on. Rex Ryan is still the new kid on the block so I guess he is safe but the roster is simply not strong enough or balanced enough to be a playoff team. If there are any changes in store here, I would look for the GM to take the fall.
Dolphins: They have fired the coach and some coordinators and the team is still mediocre on its best days. Owner Stephen Ross is impulsive and is one given to “splashy hires”. If the Saints are serious about letting Sean Payton walk in exchange for draft picks, it would not be surprising to see the Dolphins in the midst of the bidding. On the other hand, Payton might look at the roster and wonder what he is supposed to do with it if he does not have draft picks… The head of football operations is Mike Tannenbaum who used to be the Jets’ GM and he is new enough that he might survive a purge, but the GM himself…??? The key question here might be, how do Mike Tannenbaum and Sean Payton get along?
Chargers: With the team nominally poised to move to LA, they will need to kickstart interest in a team with a 4-10 record as of this morning. After two seasons with 9-7 records, the Chargers fell way short of expectations this year. However, they gave the GM, Tom Telesco, a 3-year contract extension back in the Spring of 2015 so it will cost them money to move him out. The coach, Mike McCoy, on the other hand…
In the NFC:
Lions: You can always count on the Lions to do something off-center. This year they have fired their GM and other front office folks and their offensive coordinator and – – you get the idea. The guy they retained is head coach, Jim Caldwell. Given how poorly the Lions have played – after winning 11 games and making the playoffs last year – Caldwell’s presence means one of two things:
He will be fired within 48 hours of the Lions’ final game – or –
He will be the Lions’ coach for life.
My money is on the former putting the Lions in the position of replacing just about everyone from the ticket sales manager on up. Former GM Ernie Accorsi has been hired by the Lions to consult with them as they look for a new GM but at age 75, Accorsi is probably not interested in doing the job himself.
Niners: They are in medias res with regard to changing the management structure. It began with last year’s power struggle wherein Jim Harbaugh “opted to leave” and take the job at Michigan. The new folks in charge could not land a top-shelf coaching candidate and handed the job to Jim Tomsula who had never been a coordinator. Tomsula is a nice guy by every report but is also someone considered to be significantly over his head in his job. Now, if the Niners fire Tomsula after only one year, what sort of message might that send to front office and coaching candidates? The problem in SF is squarely one of ownership.
Rams: This has been a disappointing season for the Rams and various rumors have owner Stan Kroenke starting over from scratch. I do not think that is likely to happen because I think Kroenke has much bigger issues to take up his time and attention than the coach and GM for his football team. According to reports, Rams’ GM, Les Snead’s contract is over at the end of this year, so if Kroenke wants to make a change, that makes it relatively easy. I believe that Fisher has one more year to go on his contract and that it would take something slightly north of $7M to buy him out.
Falcons: There are plenty of reports that Arthur Blank is poised to make sweeping changes in the football organization. Remember, Coach Dan Quinn only arrived on the scene last February and he signed a 5-year deal which also gives him control over the 53-man roster for the team. “Sweeping changes” would likely have to include getting rid of the relatively new coach and paying off 4 years out of a 5-year deal is not going to sit well with any owner no matter how much his net worth might be.
Giants: Ownership cannot be happy with the way this season has unfolded given that the Giants are in the hugely mediocre NFC East and are sitting in 3rd place in that pile of mediocrity as of this morning. The roster has a couple of star players and a bunch of journeymen; the coach has two Super Bowl wins on his ledger in the past 8 seasons. Tom Coughlin will be 70 years old when the NFL season starts next year; he may choose to retire but if he chooses not to retire, it might be a tough call for the owners to fire him. Ergo, if they feel they have to make changes, it might be only in the front office where change is easily accomplished.
Eagles: Chip Kelly now does it all in Philly and while it is still possible for the Eagles to make the playoffs, the season has to be considered “unsatisfactory”. A large – and very vocal – segment of the Eagles’ fanbase would welcome Kelly’s departure from either or both jobs that he now holds down. In fact, some would be more than willing to provide transportation for him and his family to the airport. I do not see Jeffrey Lurie firing Coach Kelly; I doubt he will fire GM Kelly, but if he feels he has to make a change, it will be in the GM position.
As mentioned a couple of times above, the New Orleans Saints are a wildcard in all of this because they might be willing to “trade” coach Sean Payton at the end of this year. I think several of the teams mentioned here could be interested in acquiring Payton but there is another team that could be “in the mix”. The Dallas Cowboys might lust after Payton; Jerry Jones has praised him publicly in the past and the Cowboys hardly performed well on the field this year. However, one thing is for certain; Jerry Jones is not going to fire the Cowboys’ GM because the Cowboys’ GM is the same Jerry Jones who owns the team. So, if the Cowboys are seriously part of the expected “Sean Payton Sweepstakes”, it will be a simple coaching transaction and Payton will have to accept the GM in place – who is actually the GM for life.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………