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Coaches Death Watch 2016 – The End of Season “Death-tacular”

coaches death watch 2016

By Jason From Indiana (JFI)

So, we finally made it to the end of the NFL season, which means we just had our annual ritual known as “Black Monday.”  This is the day when most head coaches who are going to lose their jobs meet with the proverbial coaching gallows.

If you’ve been following this series, you know that I had two lists: guys who were going to get fired, and guys who should get fired but probably wouldn’t.  Like anybody who tries to predict the future. I got some right, and I got some wrong. But unlike a lot of turd-swallowers in the mainstream sports media, I admit when I’m wrong.

Guys Who Got Fired Who I Didn’t Have On Either List

1) Gus Bradley, Jacksonville Jaguars

Why He Wasn’t On A List: Before the season, I made 3 bold predictions: The Raiders would make the playoffs (check), the Broncos would NOT make the playoffs (check), and the Jaguars would make the playoffs. No check here.

Why He Got Fired: I assumed Bradley and the Jags would take the next step after finishing 2015 looking strong, especially in the weak-ass AFC South which had every other team in it alive for the division title until Week 16. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Blake Bortles looked good at the end of last year and the Jaguars looked like they had some other talent on the team. Then it all went to shit this year. Somebody had to pay for that.

While I can’t say that I pay a lot of attention to Jacksonville (like anybody outside of northeastern Florida does), I did notice that the week after Bradley was fired,  Jacksonville responded and beat Tennessee, who were still in the hunt for a division title.  So, who knows what next year may hold for this team?

2) Chip Kelly, San Francisco 49ers

Why He Wasn’t On A List: Certainly the 49ers wouldn’t dump Kelly, putting themselves in the position of having their  4th coach in as many seasons, right? Swing and a miss. It’s obvious I underestimated what a clown show this organization is.  There’s a reason why general manager Trent Baalke got fired and won the Dubsy Award for Excellence in Career Suicide. Between Kelly, last year’s punching bag Jim Tomsula, and Jim Harbaugh (the guy Baalke ran out of town), the 49ers will be paying out over $60 million to coaches who aren’t coaching there anymore.  Plus, they still have to hire a new guy.

You really have to think that’s now the worst job in the NFL.  San Francisco has little to no talent on the field.  The team has nobody with any vision for the future , and the owner couldn’t care less. Denise DeBartolo never had any interest in being an NFL owner; the team got dumped in her lap after her brother Eddie DeBartolo had to surrender the 49ers after being convicted of a felony related to his attempt to bribe his way into the riverboat-gambling business in Louisiana.

Why He Got Fired: Even a shitty NFL team is a license to print money.  But there is something to be said about winning the ever-present public relations battle.  Nobody wants to tune into the local sports media to hear a three-hour conversation about how much of an idiot they are. That’s why it was time for team president Jed “Thanks For The Job, Mom” York to go for a clean slate. That’s why both Baalke and Kelly are renting U-Hauls today.

The bottom line is between Philadelphia and San Francisco, we’ve had four years to see that Chip Kelly just isn’t an NFL coach. His system worked in college, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him have success at the college level again. But when you’re going for a “fresh start,” everybody has to go.  I used to call the 49ers “Cleveland West,” but they’ve blown past the Browns in the battle for being the worst organization in the NFL. Let that sink in for a minute.

Guys Who Got Fired Who I Had On A List

1) Jeff Fisher, Los Angeles Rams

jeff fisher beer pack

What I Originally Said:

Would you like to know how long it’s been since a Jeff Fisher-coached team made the play-offs?  Here’s a few hints. Bill Clinton was still president, the smartphone had yet to be invented, and the #1 song in this county was “What A Girl Wants ” by Christina Aguilera.

That’s right. You have to go back to January of 2000 for the last time a team led by “Mr. 7-9” saw the play-offs.  Forget the fact his teams have a reputation for playing dirtier than the Road Warriors in a cage match.  Forget the fact that his teams are Rex Ryan-ish for collecting stupid penalties.  And forget the fact that his mustache makes him look like a cross between an Alabama state trooper and a 1970’s porn star. Luckily for him, he’s in a place where that isn’t going to matter for at least three more years.

A Dubsist pointed out that I was wrong about that, The Fish took the Titans to the play-offs in 2008.  But as J-Dub pointed out, one trip to January football in fifteen years is a pretty good reason to give this guy a date with the unemployment line. But, that doesn’t change the fact I missed this one.

Why He Got Fired: Obviously, the Rams were terrible, but that shouldn’t have surprised anybody.  I think Fisher’s record might have been overlooked for another year or two if not for his public feud with Eric Dickerson. Los Angeles loves its sports legends, and Dickerson is amongst them.  That means he’s ALWAYS going to win a public relations battle with a guy who just tied the record for being the NFL’s all-time losingest coach

2) Rex Ryan, Buffalo Bills

What I Originally Said:

I have Rex first on the list because it’s pretty cut and dried. The Bills’ general manager has publicly stated that if they don’t make the playoffs, Rex’s head will roll.  At least he knows what he needs to do to stay employed.  It will be tough for Rex to change his style, though. At some point he will make some kind of a guarantee that the team won’t back up.  He already declared that Buffalo “won the off-season”… whatever that means.

I doubt he will suddenly learn how to challenge calls, or instill enough discipline in his team to be able to get the right personnel on the field, or so at his team won’t lead the league in dumb personal fouls. Those are problems the Jets had under Rex, and he brought those problems to Buffalo.  It should also be noted that Buffalo already had a good defense and they got worse under Rex, who is supposed to be a defensive coach. Their sack total went from 54 in 2014 to just 21 last year. The Bills were a disappointing 8-8 last year, and I don’t see them being much better in 2016.

Why He Got Fired: The Bills didn’t make the playoffs, so GM Doug Whaley was true to his word.  Having said that, as a Patriots fan, a guy who find deliciousness in the tears of Bills fans, and who thinks Rex Ryan is a boob of the first order, firing him was not only a stupid move, it shows the Bills might be headed toward recognition as a 49ers-type  clown show. Fellow Dubsism contributor The Unknown Blogger is a Jets fan, and he agrees with me.  What the hell is the world coming to when a Patriots fan and a Jets fan agree that firing Rex Ryan was a bad move?

The first problem was the “playoffs or bust” ultimatum. Not only are such proclamations incredibly stupid, but making such a statement means you have to believe  the team is play-off ready.  I’m willing to bet you can count the number of people on one hand not named Doug Whaley who thought Buffalo  was ready to go 10-6 or better.  Start the debate right now on whether Tyrod Taylor is the real deal at quarterback, current injury not withstanding.  Speaking of injuries, you have to go to the Kremlin to see bigger red flags than having your workhorse running back be a guy who gets hurt as often as LeSean McCoy does.

That raises the issue of player personnel decisions, which were not being made by Ryan. Who brought in Reggie “Negative Rushing Yards” Bush? Who lit a dump truck full of money on fire for Mario “Weight Watchers” Williams? Who let Leodis McKelvin walk for nothing.  The answer to all those questions would be Doug Whaley.

Then there’s the timing of this move. Why fire Rex with a week to play? The popular opinion is that Rex wasn’t on board with benching Tyrod Taylor for Week 17.  The Bills would owe him about 30 million dollars guaranteed if he gets hurt. There’s more to that story based on what is coming out today; but it all points to yet another decision made by somebody other than Rex Ryan.  It’s never a good idea to tell a coach to make playing time decisions based on contractual concerns.  I get that, but I’m never in agreement with a GM or an owner making those kinds of calls. That’s a coach’s decision. The GM is the one who gave that to  Taylor in the contract, again, not Rex.

Worse yet, I’m not even sure I can say Whaley was true to his word on the “playoffs or bust” thing based on this week’s  bizarre press conference.  Now, Whaley is singing a song about not being in the meeting between Rex and ownership when the firing occurred, that he wasn’t consulted on the decision, and that he had no opinion on it. So, where did that “play-offs” ultimatum come from? Whaley’s either lying or covering for his boss, both of which indicate Buffalo might be a bigger dumpster fire than anybody thought.

3) Mike McCoy, San Diego Chargers

What I Originally Said:

To be fair, this year the Chargers have had a ton of injuries, but then again, they are always more beat up than Tina Turner when she was still married to Ike.  The Chargers are moving to Los Angeles because a new stadium in San Diego is as likely as the existence of a Donald Trump-Hilary Clinton sex tape.  That means at some point, there’s going to be a clean sweep for the Chargers.

Why He Got Fired: This team is best described as “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Charger.” San Diego is the team who beat a Super Bowl contender like the Falcons and nobody was surprised.  They are also the team who lost to the Cleveland Browns and nobody was surprised. Inconsistency is just a fatal to coaches as is losing.  If the rumors of an impending move to Los Angeles prove to be true, it means the Chargers could be looking to a fresh start in a new city.

Guys Who I Had On A List Who Didn’t Get Fired

1) Jim Caldwell, Detroit Lions

jim caldwell

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

Caldwell played the part of Nero last year, fiddling while the Lions burned.  Almost everybody in the organization other than him got canned.  My only guess as to why he didn’t get the boot last year is the Lions either didn’t have anybody else in mind as a replacement, or they did and they are waiting for that person to become available.  The offense did improve when Jim Bob Cooter (go ahead and laugh…everybody does) was brought in as offensive coordinator, but the defense still isn’t very good.  The Lions have Green Bay and Minnesota in their division, so I don’t see them making the playoffs, and barring a  playoff run, this has to be Caldwell’s last season in Detroit.

What He Did To Keep His Job: Welp. That whole not making the playoffs thing? Yeah, forget that. Caldwell not only made the playoffs, but had a shot at the division title in Week 17. Matt Stafford has his best year as a pro and had he not hurt the middle finger on his throwing hand, the Lions might have taken the NFC North.  You can credit Jim Bob Cooter al you wnat, but Caldwell deserves some love here too. Last year the Lions got rid of pretty much everybody other than him,  but he hung in there and would seem to have secured his job for a few years to come at least.

2) Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

Two of my biggest criticisms of a coaches’ performance are poor clock management and not playing to your opponent’s weakness. Garrett violates both of these on a weekly basis, and has been for years. He’s had a top-flight offensive line for the past 3 or 4 years, and yet until he was forced into it this year, refused to run the ball.  Instead, he kept opting to help Tony Romo build up his frequent flyer miles at the bone graft clinic.  As a result, Tony Romo has actually had more bones treated than Tony Roma’s.

There’s piss-poor clock management all over the NFL, but Garrett has made it an art form.  His team’s always end up with timeouts at the end of games when they need them, which means he can’t get personnel on the field when he needs to…yadda, yadda, yadda. When he does have a time-out, he ices his own kicker. Even the poster-child for over-rated coaches Tony Dungy knows how badly Garrett handles these situations.

What He Did To Keep His Job: It’s amazing what an offensive line and a good young running back can do for a coach. For me to give all the credit there and to rookie QB Dak Prescott would be a bit hypocritical, because Garrett recognized what he had and adapted. Who really calls the shots in Dallas is a bit fuzzy sometimes, but  the smartest thing they did as an organization was not going to Tony Romo when he was healthy. I firmly believe that had they gone back to Romo, Garrett would have had him throwing the ball all over the field and the Cowboys would have suffered.

3) Mike McCarthy, Green Bay Packers

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

Ever since the Packers won a Super Bowl in 2011, everybody always treats them like the young, bad-ass Elvis.  In reality since then, they’ve becomes the sweaty, bloated Elvis who is about three peanut butter and banana sandwiches away from being found dead in his bathroom. You guessed it, once again this is about play-off performance.

Since that win five years ago, the Pack has lost three home play-off games on what is supposed to be the hallowed ground of Lambeau Field.  Their sole win there came courtesy of the Dez Bryant episode of America’s favorite new NFL game show “Catch or No Catch?” I’ll even cut him some slack on the play-off loss in Seattle because playing there is really like walking into a buzz-saw.  But then again, if you’re supposed to be that good, and you have one of the top quarterbacks in the league, maybe you shouldn’t have to go on the road in the first place.

So what’s the problem? A lot of people in Green Bay say there is a rift between McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers, which even if its true, put on your “big boy” pants and get over it.  That’s part of being a professional. If you ask me, I think the problem is McCarthy’s tendency to lose his balls under his Elvis-fat when it comes to play-calling.  Go back to that play-off game in Seattle where the Packers had 4th and a Blade of Grass deep in Seattle territory and and McCarthy took the easy field goal. The Packers lost that game in overtime.  Winning in the play-offs is about taking chances at the right time. It’s also about throwing knock-out punches rather than defensive jabs.  McCarthy does neither far too often.

What He Did To Keep His Job: In all honesty, the Packers are going into the playoffs as the hottest team, and I really can’t see where McCarthy did anything differently. Rodgers got hot, the rest of the team followed his lead, and McCarthy isn’t going anywhere.

4) Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

Conveniently enough, H. Dumpty Pagano comes with his own wall.

Conveniently enough, H. Dumpty Pagano comes with his own wall.

H. Dumpty Pagano also defied the odds and stayed in Indianapolis.  On the upside, he’s made the playoffs every year that he’s had Andrew Luck for a full season. He also has tremendous support from his players.  He never lost the locker room. His players never quit.  To be fair, also, it’s not like he went 4-12 last year without his starting QB. He wasn’t that far from making the playoffs, albeit in the worst division in football.

Now for the downside. I know it’s only 1 play, but that fake punt debacle last year was unforgivable.  If you want to go for it, put your offense out there and go for it.  I understand the Colts were were trying to fight back against the bully that has tormented them worse than Scott Farkus (not to be confused with Andy Dalton) tormented Ralphie in A Christmas Story, but that play was the definition of ill-conceived.  It gets worse when you realize the guy who was supposed to be snapping the ball got hurt and Pagano replaced him with a guy who had never even practiced that play.

The bottom line is the Colts have ruled a lousy division for a long time, but that may be changing.  Tennessee may have found a QB to build around in Marcus Mariota, the Jaguars might be able to say the same about Blake Bortles, and the Texans defense will always be formidable as long as they have J.J. Watt.  In other words, January football is no longer a given in Indianapolis, but if it doesn’t happen again, the Colts will make an H. Dumpty omelet.

What He Did To Keep His Job: Absolutely nothing. Not one damn thing, period. The Colts could have won this division, as terrible as it is, if not for an epic meltdown in Houston in the final 5 minutes of a game they had in the bank, then losing the Texans at home, ad topping it all with a loss to the sorry-ass Jaguars in London. Despite that, the Colts have announced that Pagano and general manger Ryan Grigson are coming back next year. Good luck with that…just go ahead and pencil in 8-8 and missing the playoffs right now.

5) Hue Jackson, Cleveland Browns

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

I normally wouldn’t put a first-year coach on this list, but head coaches in Cleveland have the life-expectancy of Fredo Corleone on a fishing trip.  I don’t have any thing bad to say about Hue Jackson yet, because the only experience we have with him as a head coach happened in Oakland, the NFL’s other train wreck.  From that experience, I’m sure Jackson knows to rent, not buy.  I’m also pretty sure he knows that since 1999, the Browns have led the league in the number of blown draft picks, starting quarterbacks, and head coaches.

Like I said, I think it’s unlikely that Jackson would get the ax after one year, but here’s a piece of advice, Hue.  If Jimmy Haslam wants to take you fishing…don’t get in the boat.

What He Did To Keep His Job: I’ll say this about the Browns: they played hard all year, even when 0-16 was a real possibility. This might sound crazy, but I don’t think Cleveland was the worst team in the league, despite their record.  It’s not like they got blown off the field fifteen times. They were competitive in mos, and had a lot of last-minute losses, like those against Miami and Baltimore.  The bottom line is nobody can expect Jackson to take 3 boards, a brick, and some Krazy-glue and build a house.

6) Mike Tomlin, Pittsburgh Steelers

mike tomlin stymie

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

For starters, because he has 1 playoff win in the past 5 years, and that was a “Jelly of the Month Club” gift from the next guy on this list.  Then there’s the fact if there were an award for the worst game plan, Tomlin should have won it for allowing Tim Tebow to do the ONE thing he’s good at, which cost the Steelers yet another play-off loss.

The once-proud and disciplined Steelers are now a festival of sloppiness under Tomlin, and that starts with starting with the coach himself.  don’t forget about the time he got fined “accidentally” wandering on to the field and interfering in a kick return against Baltimore.   It goes on from there. Remember that riot during last year’s Bengals-Steelers play-off game? Remember whose assistant coaches were in the middle of it, and not as peacemakers?

Stuff like that is why nobody should be surprised that the Steelers rack up a load of suspensions, and I can see one on the horizon for Antonio Brown if he doesn’t stop having sex with invisible people every time he scores. Tomlin’s response to this is not to tell Brown to knock the shit off, but to go to the league and ask what is and isn’t allowed.  Need I say more?

At the top  of all this is the fact the Steelers defense stinks, especially the secondary, which is a problem because Tomlin is supposed to be a defensive guru.  You can get away with outscoring opponents 38-34 in the regular season, but that rarely works in the play-offs…which is how you get one play-off win in the last five years.

What He Did To Keep His Job: The Steelers won their division and are the #3 seed in the AFC play-offs.  Combine that with the fact Pittsburgh has had exactly three coaches since 1969 including Tomlin, and it becomes obvious “Stymie” isn’t getting shit-canned anytime soon.  But Terry Bradshaw was still right.

7) Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals

Why I Thought He Would or Should Get Fired:

It’s very simple. “Messy Marvin” is a worse play-off coach than Mike Tomlin.  The Cincinnati Kitties haven’t won a playoff game under Lewis despite having ass-loads of talent. You can blame Andy Dalton if you want, but this team as a whole consistently shrinks in big games faster than George Costanza in a swimming pool.

The bottom line is this team has one of the most talented rosters in the league; they have 2 good running backs, one of the best offensive lines in football, a stud wideout, and when Tyler Eifert is healthy, he’s one of the best weapons at tight end in the league.  Dalton may not be great, but he’s good enough. and the Kitties still can’t get the job done.

Why? Because of what they don’t have… a head coach who knows how to close the deal. Despite that, the powers that be in Cincinnati have crowned Lewis football king of the “Queen City” for life.marvin-lewis-wkrap-in-cincinnati

What He Did To Keep His Job: A Pagano-like nothing. No playoffs, and this team’s window for winning isn’t just closing; it’s about to boarded up faster than a Kmart.  The Bengals are the Kmart shoppers of the NFL; they aren’t going to pay for a coach until they absolutely need to, and even then they will wait until they have a coupon.

Just because this is the end of the season doesn’t mean the Coaches Death Watch doesn’t march on.  Don’t forget that last year Lovie Smith was a later after-season firing, and when Jim Caldwell got axed from Indianapolis in favor of Pagano, it was nearly a month after Black Monday.  Anything is possible.

Don’t forget JFI was the original author on who you think could or should be fired.  He’s waiting for your comments at @jbhickle on Twitter or email jfisports1@gmail.com .

Email Dubsism at dubsism@yahoo.com, and follow us @Dubsism on Twitter, or on our  Pinterest,  Tumblr, Instagram, and Facebook pages.

About JFI

I tend to think outside the box and question mainstream thinking.

2 comments on “Coaches Death Watch 2016 – The End of Season “Death-tacular”

  1. sportsattitudes
    January 8, 2017

    I too don’t think the firings are done yet. I am surprised more gentlemen have not been ushered out. I’m been calling for Marvin to be fired pretty much as long as I can remember. Pagano is a curious story indeed. Thought he was gone mid-season. Caldwell will likely be gone next year. I guess Stafford’s injury bought him another one.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jbsptfn
    January 14, 2017

    Lewis and Pagano are the most inexcusable retainings this coaching change season.

    Pagano and Grigson are incompetent. And, it seems to me that the Bengals are afraid to fire Lewis because they don’t want to go back to the 90’s or something. Well, what ushered in their 92-02 era of fail was when they got rid of Sam Wyche and brought in Mr. Nepotism (Dave Shula). One of the biggest mistakes in franchise history.

    Wyche led them to a Super Bowl. Lewis can’t even win a playoff game. They should have held on to him 25 years ago, and let Marvin go today. Dumb organization. If they want a new stadium in another 20 years, the fans and city should turn their backs on them.


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