All the bromides will be said … It’s not personal, just business. Things just didn’t work out. Appreciate all your hard work. But those hounding bastards in the press didn’t give us any other option.
Among those about to pay a visit to Helen down the hall in HR are failed head coaches, failed coordinators, failed GMs and – soon enough – failed starting quarterbacks.
Reports suggest anywhere from five to 13 head coaches will be shown the door in the days ahead. As a result, dozens of their assistant coaches will pack up and uproot their families, too. Happy New Year.
The doomed quarterback under-performers probably won’t learn their fates until February or March – just before teams have to commit however many more guaranteed millions to them.
Here’s who we think are likeliest to sing their swan songs (above right … er, maybe that’s a different Swan Song) at their current NFL stops only hours from now:
ANDY REID, Philadelphia Eagles. For more than two months, Reid (my camp photo, right) has been the lamest duck since Daffy tried to convince Elmer Fudd it wuth wabbit season. Six NFC East titles, nine playoff appearances and five NFC title-game appearances – all things of the past in the 14-year Reid regime. Philly is 4-11 this year, and 12-19 over the past two seasons. Reid’s dispirited, mistake-ridden team was expected to compete both last year and this for the Super Bowl, but never got close. This year’s Eagles are tied for the worst record in the NFC. A fresh start is required for all.
NORV TURNER, San Diego Chargers. Turner himself has already admitted he’d be content merely to be an offensive coordinator elsewhere next season. And that’s likely his next landing spot – soon. San Diego is Turner’s third failure as NFL head coach, after previous thuds in Washington and Oakland. At age 60, a fourth chance is unlikely. Turner appears to have made peace with that fate.
ROMEO CRENNEL, Kansas City Chiefs. How does a team with five Pro Bowlers wind up 2-13 heading into Week 17, likely to land the No. 1 overall draft pick next April? By being terribly coached – full empathies notwithstanding for what Crennel personally endured in the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide tragedy. On the field, Crennel’s offence behind QBs Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn has reeked. And the defence – supposedly Crennel’s specialty – massively underperformed.
MIKE MUNCHAK, Tennessee Titans. After a pair of humiliating blowout losses, owner Bud Adams described his Titans’ play this season as “embarrassing,” “not acceptable,” and “in my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I’m at a loss to recall … such a disappointment for myself and fans of the Titans. We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish.” That about covers it. The second such loss was just last Sunday. Munchak’s only argument is that he’s only in Year 2.
PAT SHURMUR, Cleveland Browns. New owner. New top football man. Ergo, new head coach. Shurmur actually has done an admirable job. He’s had to work with the youngest, greenest roster in the NFL this year. The Browns broke camp with 26 first- or second-year players on the 53-man roster, and that number now stands at 27. Yet since late October, the Browns are 4-4. The 47-year-old Shurmur deserves another head-coaching gig some day.
TONY SPARANO, offence, New York Jets. Can you think of any measure by which Sparano’s first year in New York has been anything but a complete failure? Me either. Talent shortages abound, sure. But he made Mark Sanchez worse, not better. And Sparano remains the only human with a clue as to both what he was trying to accomplish with Tim Tebow, and why he chose the times he did to insert him.
MIKE TICE, offence, Chicago Bears. Quarterback Jay Cutler was only speaking for virtually all Bears fans when he cold-shouldered Tice for all the world to see after another non-sensical series of play calls this season. If Cutler is at his wit’s end, head coach Lovie Smith probably is too.
SCOTT LINEHAN, offence, Detroit Lions. Lions head coach Jim Schwartz is head-strong and unpredictable enough to retain Linehan, if only to defy his quickly growing and evermore vocal critics among media and fans. But even when Linehan had healthy WRs besides Megatron to work with this season, the Lions passing attack hiccupped at all the wrong times, especially in the red zone.
DAVE WANNSTEDT, defence, Buffalo Bills. (Above, my camp photo). A defence that had one of the league’s best playmaking safeties (Jairus Byrd) and an all-pro calibre defensive tackle (Kyle Williams) added one of the top rookie cornerbacks (Stephon Gilmore) and a $100-million pass-rush specialist (DE Mario Williams). And he reinstalled the 4-3 scheme that all defenders were more comfortable with. Yet the Bills defence remains among the NFL’s most putrid, statistically and otherwise. The late-season flourish occurred against struggling offensive units of mostly bad teams. Even if GM Buddy Nix and head coach Chan Gailey are retained – and in our view, either both will be retained or both will be fired – Wannstedt is the scapegoat who’ll be axed.
A.J. SMITH, San Diego. As with head coach Norv Turner, his firing is a mere formality on Monday or Tuesday. Smith barely survived after last season. He won’t be so fortunate this time. He threw all his chips into one wagon and hitched it to Turner.
SCOTT PIOLI, Kansas City. Unless you’ve listened to Kansas City sports radio on Mondays this season, you have no idea just how much the locals despise this man and the job he has done since 2009. In only four years, Pioli is 0-for-2 on head coaches (Todd Haley, Romeo Crennel), and o-fer on all QBs (Matt Cassel, Brady Quinn, Kyle Orton …).
MIKE TANNENBAUM, New York Jets. The Jets have a dearth of talent only at these positions: quarterback, running back, wide receiver, offensive tackle, defensive line, linebacker, safety. Exacty. This year’s draft was a bust, too, as the first two picks – DL Quinton Coples and WR Stephen Hill – have been low-to-no-impact players. The fate-sealers: extending Mark Sanchez’s contract, and trading for Tim Tebow.
MARK SANCHEZ, New York Jets. With the exception of a solid Week 1 performance against a bad Buffalo defence, Sanchez has been awful – a 64.0 passer rating from completing just 53.7% of his passes for 10 TDs and 16 interceptions. Sanchez is the 33rd rated passer in a 32-team league. Done.
TIM TEBOW, New York Jets. Perhaps only Tom Cruise at the Oscars has been passed over more times than the Sunday-school poster-boy was this fall. When Rex Ryan finally had had enough of Sanchez after Week 15, he gave the ball to greenhorn Greg McElroy instead. Jacksonville beckons.
BLAINE GABBERT, Jacksonville Jaguars. Even before he’d hurt his shoulder, and even before Maurice Jones-Drew went down for the year with a nasty foot injury, the second-year Gabbert was firing blanks – left, right, centre, deep and short. Whether or not the Jags cut him, it’s hard to see him serving as anything but an emergency backup, anywhere.
RYAN FITZPATRICK, Buffalo Bills. There’s a lot to admire in this Harvard grad. Works his tail off. Great team player. Great in the community. Fitz just isn’t very good at football at the NFL level. That’s a detriment. He has milked every ounce of talent from his not-so-talented body. His biggest failing? A weak arm combined with shoddy mechanics that render him unlikely to complete deep balls. And everyone knows it.
MICHAEL VICK, Philadelphia Eagles. (my camp photo, right). Turnover machines who are 33 years old – as Vick will be next summer – either start for bad teams, or do the ball-cap/hand-clap thing on the sidelines for good teams. Ten years ago Vick would have been a breathtaking candidate to run one of the newfangled zone-read-option based attacks. Now, he’d just get hurt even sooner.
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We’ll spare you repeat reasons for the rest. You know why they’re listed here. They suck:
Matt Cassell, Kansas City
Brady Quinn, Kansas City
Kevin Kolb, Arizona Cardinals
John Skelton, Arizona Cardinals
Carson Palmer, Oakland Raiders
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THREE HOT-SEAT COACHES LIKELY TO SURVIVE:
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions (my camp photo, right). His team wildly under-performed in 2012, and might be the NFC’s worst. But he did take over an 0-16 team after 2008. Will be given another chance to right the ship. Adding a shard of discipline wouldn’t hurt.
Dennis Allen, Oakland Raiders. Year 1 of the attitudinal about-face in Oakland was disastrous. Allen should get at least one more year to transform the Raiders into the disciplined, defence-first team he envisions.