Black Monday has been and gone, and there are already no fewer than five head coaching vacancies, and two new general manager position available. We track the casualties, and their replacements right here.
San Francisco 49ers—Jim Harbaugh, Mutually Parted Ways.
It’s hard to consider Harbaugh a true “casualty” of black Monday in the traditional sense. Harbaugh and the 49ers announced, in a joint media briefing, that they had mutually agreed to part ways. That said, by all accounts, had Harbaugh dug in his heels and refused to “mutually” walk away, he would certainly have been pushed. Harbaugh clearly rubbed several key people up the wrong way this season, and, in spite of a respectable enough 8-8 season, and two recent Super Bowl trips, was never returning.
The 49ers could promote from within, with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, OC Greg Roman, or DC Vic Fangio all possible candidates, or land a high-profile outside coach like Josh McDaniels or Adam Gase. The 49ers have known Harbaugh would be gone for some time, so likely have already put feelers out to their top candidates, though thus far, no official interviews have been confirmed.
Chicago Bears—Marc Trestman (HC) and Phil Emery (GM), Fired.
Marc Trestman was considered one of the shrewdest hires during the 2013 offseason. Now, two failed campeign later, The Bears wasted no time moving on from him. Trestman was brought in specifically to try to get the best out of Bears franchise QB Jay Cutler. He couldn’t, becoming the next in a long line of coaches and coordinators to have tried, and failed, to have done so.
Many have wondered aloud if Cutler, not his coaches, is the problem, but the Bears were not willing to give Trestman another try. Emery, who was instrumental in bringing in Trestman, and has had multiple sub-par drafts since his hiring in 2012, was also let go, with the team determined to clean house, and start again. However, whoever takes over will not have complete freedom to rebuild, as they will be handcuffed to Cutler, and his $126 million contract for the foreseeable future, unless they can trade him, as his salary is fully guaranteed through the end of the 2016 season.
The Bears have not indicated who they are considering as replacements yet, but Kansas City Chiefs special teams coordinator Dave Toub and Director of Player Personnel Chris Ballard have been tipped for the jobs, and could come as a package deal. If that doesn’t happen, Jay Cutler has already thrown out the name of one coach he thinks deserves another shot at a top job in the NFL—Mike Shanahan. If the Bears are really convinced that Cutler is their future, reuniting him with the coach who drafted him could be the best way to kick-start his career.
Atlanta Falcons—Mike Smith, fired.
It was always unlikely that Smith would survive the season, and the Falcons wasted no time in cutting ties with him. The bigger question was always whether he would take general manager Thomas Dimitroff with him, and, at least for right now, he appears to be safe.
Dimitroff appears largely to have been given a pass for his role in the teams disastrous collapse during 2014, though owner Arthur Black has made no promises that he will remain in the role indefinitely. Dimitroff will likely play a role in the interviews and appointment of the new head coach, but, depending on who ends up being hired, may be expected to step aside, if the new head coach has strong feelings about the type of GM he wants to work with.
The Falcons have already asked permission from the Denver Broncos to hire offensive coordinator Adam Gase, and appear interested in Seattle Seahawks Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn too, though with both teams gearing up for a deep playoff run, will likely also be forced to look elsewhere, including the college ranks, and out-of-work former coaches, rather than risking losing out altogether.
New York Jets—Rex Ryan (HC) and John Idzik (GM), fired.
Another long-awaited house cleaning saw Jets head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik fired after a 4-12 season in 2014. The Jets have not been as bad as their record indicates, and injuries, and player regression at key positions has really cost this team dearly. But while some teams, like the Arizona Cardinals, have found their identity in the midst of their challenges, the for Ryan and the Jets, it has just revealed how much identity they lack.
The owners will look to install a head coach and GM with a strong vision for the future, and an even stronger sense of what they want the team to be, and Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn is expected to fit this mold, and will almost certainly get a call. Quinn has been instrumental in shaping the Seahawks defensive identity in recent years.
However, prior to this, owner Woody Johnson—with help from Charlie Casserly and Ron Wolf—will look to hire a GM. Who they hire will have a big impact on the type of head coach they pursue, and the Jets feel getting a GM first puts them in the best position to succeed.
Early favourites include Ravens assistant Eric DaCosta and former Seahawks personnel wizard Scot McCloughan, both of whom are considered experts at identifying the building blocks of successful franchises, though other former GMs like Scott Pioli and Mark Dominik could also be in play.
Regardless, an early draft pick, and the chance to appoint a head coach to work alongside himself will make the Jets the go-to destination for the top GM candidates.
Oakland Raiders—No head coach since Week 5.
The Raiders fired their head coach Dennis Allen early in the season after an 0-4 start. Since then, interim head coach Tony Sparano has gone 3-9. The record was not enough to automatically lock up the job permanently, and the Raiders will interview outside coaches for the position. However, those three wins all came against teams with winning records, and the team looked much improved over the latter part of the season, and this appears to be enough to at least secure Sparano an interview, that is more than just common courtesy.
Sparano appears to be in real contention for the job, but is certainly not the only candidate. The teams number one candidate, Jim Harbaugh, appears set to join Michigan, in spite of a very serious offer from the Raiders, and were reportedly genuinely in the mix to sign the head coach. Harbaugh could still be convinced not to sign with his alma mater, but the Raiders must now look in other directions. Colts OC Pep Hamilton, or recently fired Jets head coach Rex Ryan could both get a look in, though Sparano now appears to have the inside track.
The bigger question, however, is what will happen to GM Reggie McKenzie. McKenzie’s tenure as GM has been, largely, a disaster, and he has failed to turn the Raiders into serious contenders, in spite of unprecedented cap space in 2014. Indications are that McKenzie’s contract, which still has two years to run, would make it expensive to cut him, and he will be involved with the coaching search. However, an unwillingness to move on from McKenzie may be seen as a lack of commitment to success by top coaching candidates, so the team may still be forced to move on from him to secure the best coach they can get.
Up in the air:
New York Giants—Tom Coughlin reportedly safe.
To everyone’s surprise, the Giants have reportedly informed Tom Coughlin that he will still be their head coach in 2015.
Coughlin was considered a lock to be let go, after a disappointing 2014 which saw the team go 6-10. Offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo was considered to be his replacement, after his success developing the relationship between Eli Manning and breakout rookie Odell Beckham Jr.
However, the reason this remains “up in the air” is that, given his age, and storied career to this point, there are suggestions that this may all charade which will allow Coughlin to leave on his own terms, and for the Giants to proceed with their plan to promote McAdoo anyway. This would, of course, do the Giants a favour, as Coughlin is well liked, and well-respected, and firing him would always have drawn criticism, and also does a lot to help Coughlin’s Hall of Fame chances.
Coughlin may indeed return in 2015, but we would not be surprised to see him retire before then.
Buffalo Bills—Doug Marrone (HC) and Doug Whaley (GM) not fired yet.
At 9-7, the Doug Marrone and Dough Whaley have likely done enough to keep their jobs in Buffalo. Their record was better than expected, especially considering the hardships the team have faced this season. The team are firmly in the midst of a rebuilding, and 9 wins indicate that the process is on track.
However the Bills have a new owner, and that always causes concern for a franchise. Terry and Kim Pegula seem committed to maintaining the status quo at this point, and keeping the franchise in Buffalo was a key part of their bid.
That said, now their purchase has been approved, things could still change. 2015 will mark their first full season as owners, and, while reneging on their plan to stay in Buffalo would be frowned upon, stamping their mark on the franchise in other ways, including a new coach and GM are not out of the question. They reportedly want Marrone to return, but seem less committed to Whaley, and many new GM’s would insist on appointing a head coach, unless they have ties to the existing one.
Additionally, Marrone could choose to walk, if he is not convinced by the Pegula’s plans for the future. According to reports, his contract includes a three-day “escape clause” which would allow him to unilaterally void the contract.
This clause—which is common in many head coaches contracts—was triggered by the ownership change, and allows a head coach to leave whenever a franchise changes hands. Marrone has not spoken publicly about his future in Buffalo, and while he has not indicated he intends to leave, neither has he vocally pledged to remain.