Eight NFL coaches – 25% of that coaching universe – lost their jobs as soon as the 2018 regular season ended. They are:
- Todd Bowles (Jets): I have said before and I continue to believe that Bowles was not “the problem” in NY; I believe the roster needs work. In the final quarter of the season when the Jets were obviously out of it, he still had the team playing hard.
- Adam Gase (Dolphins): Seemed to me that the Dolphins were a middle-of-the-road team, so, I have to conclude that ownership in Miami thought the team should have been one of the top teams based on this personnel move.
- Hue Jackson (Browns): After going 1-31 over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, I was surprised to see him coaching the Browns at the start of the 2018 season.
- Vance Joseph (Broncos): The Broncos’ fortunes have been in decline since their Super Bowl win in 2015. Vance Joseph took the fall for that decline.
- Dirk Koetter (Bucs): The Bucs have been pretty bad the last two seasons, so this move does not surprise me all that much.
- Marvin Lewis (Bengals): Turned the franchise around 15 years ago but the Bengals have been a disorganized mess for the last several years. It was time for a change in Cincy.
- Mike McCarthy (Packers): Of the coaches told to hit the bricks this year, he is the only one with a Super Bowl ring. Yes, it was a while ago; but he has one…
- Steve Wilks (Cards): I am surprised he is gone after only one year on the job; that roster was not built to win in 2018 – AND – the Cards had a suspended GM for a while last year, so roster building was hampered.
Normally, at this point, I would comment on the various rumors about who is being interviewed by whom for which position and what the odds and prospects might be. I want to do something different this morning. I want to talk about how good – or how not-so-good – each of those vacancies are. Yes, I know that “not-so-good” is a relative term given that there are only 32 positions of this kind in the known universe. Still, some of these jobs are better opportunities than others. So, without further prelude:
- Arizona Cardinals: The Cards have a young QB who looks as if he can develop into a franchise QB over time. The problem on offense there is basic. There are not nearly enough stars surrounding QB, Josh Rosen, to make the offense a real threat. With Larry Fitzgerald possibly retiring – and starting the countdown on the retirement clock to his enshrinement in Canton, OH – a significant question is to what degree can Christian Kirk take over the leadership duties for the WRs on the team. The defense is good-not-great, and the Cards have the overall #1 pick in the draft for this year. I doubt this team will turn it around in a year or two; this is a developmental assignment.
- Cincy Bengals: This may be the worst job of the lot. The team is aging on defense; the starting QB is a “Lake Woebegone QB” – he is slightly above average; they have one playmaker at WR and a decent running attack. Add to that the history of boneheadedness on the parts of various players on the team that seemed to be condoned by the coaches and management. That is not a spigot one can turn off at will.
- Cleveland Browns: If Baker Mayfield is for real and not a one-year wonder, this is the best job of the lot. The Browns’ defense is both young and very good; Nick Chubb is a solid running back; what the team needs is a top-shelf outside threat. Moreover, the AFC North may be ripe for turnover. The Steelers have an ageing QB and way too much drama going on; the Ravens’ fortunes could be on the uptick – – or not (See Below); the Bengals are a hot mess (See Above).
- Denver Broncos: The problems in Denver are simply stated. The defense is aging and is not nearly what it was when it helped carry the team to the Super Bowl title in 2015 AND there is no capable QB in town. The first problem can be resolved through the draft and free agency; the Broncos have shown they know how to do that. The QB problem is different. John Elway was a great QB who has shown exactly ZERO ability to find anything better than a marginal QB for the team since he became the GM. (He did not find Peyton Manning; they found one another.) Without a franchise QB the Broncos are a team lost in the wilderness – and there do not appear to be any “can’t miss” QB prospects coming out of college this year.
- Green Bay Packers: The allure here is obvious; Aaron Rodgers is there to play QB. The fact that his cap number ranges from $26.5M to $37M (in 2022) could make roster building more difficult than it has to be. Whoever gets this job will be expected to produce annual division championships and serious runs at Super Bowl appearances while Rodgers is still playing; he is signed through the 2023 season). There is plenty of room here for the appearance of underachievement and failure to perform to expectations.
- Miami Dolphins: For reasons that escape me, the team and its fans seem to think that Don Shula and his championship teams happened about 3 years ago, and the current team is on the cusp of greatness. It is not. The Dolphins have a mediocre team led by a mediocre QB. Adam Gase won 10 games with the Dolphins in 2016 and finished 2nd in the AFC East – behind the perennial champs there – twice in three seasons. And he got fired. Good luck to the new guy in town – – even if Don Shula is that “new guy”.
- NY Jets: If the Browns’ job not the best job of the lot, then the Jets’ job is. Sam Darnold has the potential to be the best Jets’ QB since Joe Namath. [That may seem as if I am damning by faint praise, but I am not.] The defense has several young and solid players to build around. The Jets will have a high draft pick this year AND they have plenty of cap room to play with in free agency. If the coach and front office bungle the opportunity here, they deserve to have a short tenure in NYC – – and the tabloids there will see to that. [Aside: Just so you know, the NY Post has already declared that Giants’ coach, Pat Shurmer, is already in the “show-me” phase of his tenure there.]
- Tampa Bay Bucs: The new guy here will be the fifth coach of the Bucs in a 10-year span; let’s say that stability is not a key element of this team. Jameis Winston is a question mark at QB; his physical talents are prodigious; his mental errors and his immaturity surrounding his off-field behaviors are less-than-satisfactory. The Bucs appear to be on their way to picking up the final year option on his rookie contract; if he falters next year, the team will be back looking for a QB. The defense is a mess; the top-shelf asset on the team is WR Mike Evans who is certainly one of the 10 best at the position now – – and perhaps one of the top 5. The coach who gets this job ought to rent not buy…
Above, I said to “see below” regarding the Baltimore Ravens. In addition to the fact that the team may be in a QB transition phase from Joe Flacco to Lamar Jackson, the fact is that coach John Harbaugh’s deal is up as soon as the Ravens play their final game of the season. Owner Steve Bisciotti chose not to extend Harbaugh at the end of last season – and admitted that he thought of making a coaching change then. Presumably, Bisciotti will offer Harbaugh contract after making the playoffs this year – – but will Harbaugh accept the offer or look elsewhere? If the Ravens change coaching staffs AND change QBs at the same time, there would be plenty of uncertainty around the vector heading for the team fortunes in the near term.
Add to the turmoil and turnover here the possibility of two other coaches losing their jobs between now and the Super Bowl. I am NOT saying that either of these coaches deserves to be fired – – but it could happen:
- Jay Gruden (Skins): If he is fired, he is yet one more scapegoat for the chaos incubation chamber that Danny Boy Snyder has cultivated for the Skins over the two decades of his ownership there. The coach is NOT the problem here; the roster is the problem. The Skins have kept far too many players that they drafted simply because they drafted them even after those players have shown they are marginal on-field performers. There are clearly locker-room problems as shown by the DJ Swearinger mess, and that may be Jay Gruden’s undoing. However, if he is fired, he will have a job as an offensive coordinator somewhere in the NFL before the 2019 season starts – – if he wants one.
- Doug Marrone (Jags): Look, the Jags were the biggest disappointment in the NFL last year; if that grinds the gears of the owner, then Marrone could be looking for work. Rather than focus on the underperformance of the Jags in 2018, I think it is equally proper to look at their amazing overachievement in 2017 when they went to the AFC Championship Game with Blake Bortles at QB. The Jags do not have an NFL-caliber QB on the roster and will not be a top-shelf team until they acquire one. Ka-beesh…?
Finally, Brad Rock had this observation in his column, Rock On in the Deseret News about a week ago:
“Drew Brees sent a commemorative football to 174 former teammates he believed helped him become the NFL’s all-time passing yards leader.
“Said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ secondary, ‘What about us’?”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports ………