NFL’s Black Monday — the first day after the final game of the league’s regular season has come, and so far, several head coaches who were on the sidelines just a day ago, are now team-less. For those unfamiliar with the term, this is the day associated with NFL teams conducting their annual house cleaning and jettisoning team executives and coaches to begin rebuilding their staff as they prepare for the upcoming season. So far their have been five coaches informed that their services will no longer be needed, as the offseason has begun early for the 20 teams that did not make the playoffs, the number of coaches getting the axe will be something to watch as league offices continue their revamping of coaches and personnel.
Here are a look at the teams that have had coaching vacancies and other key departures within the last 24 hours following yesterday’s final game of the regular season– these are the franchises that will be involved in the coaching carousel set to take place over the coming weeks.
*The Houston Texans are not included as they fired their head coach Gary Kubiak following the Texans week 14 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The Cleveland Browns
Key Departure: Head Coach Rob Chudzinki
Rob Chudzinski may be the most questionable firing of the head coaching lot after only being given one season at the helm as Cleveland Browns head coach. The Browns started a promising 3-2 before dropping 10 of their next 11 games and finishing last in the division with a 4-12 record. The former Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator was fired after his first season with the Browns; a season that many would deem a rebuilding year after the team jettisoned one of its star athletes in 2012 first round pick Trent Richardson. The team dealt the former first round pick just two games into the season in what was considered a rebuilding move to the Indianapolis Colts for a 2014 first round draft pick as reported by ESPN services.
During this morning’s live press conference which aired on NFL Network, Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, who apparently liked Chudzinski and thought he was a good man, the organization lacked confidence in his ability to make the team a playoff contender. Haslam claimed the rationale behind the firing was that the Browns needed to build for the future and with Chudzinski, the “team was not getting any better” (NFL Network live broadcast).
The Detroit Lions
Key Departure: Head Coach Jim Schwartz
The coach given the largest sample size (5 years as Lions head coach) to display his coaching aptitude out of the Black Monday casualties was Jim Schwartz. Schwartz, who had arguably the most talented roster at his disposal, was among the least shocking of the firings today– his lack of wins during his tenure in Detroit was the direct reason for his firing as stated by Lions president Tom Lewan and general manager Martin Mayhew in a press conference earlier today.
Schwartz finished 29-51 in his 5 seasons as Detroit Lions head coach showing flashes of promise, narrowly missing the playoffs this season and leading the team to its first winning season in nearly a decade just two years ago. Jim Schwartz’s 6-3 start to this season was followed by a second half of the season meltdown which saw the team drop 6 of its final 7 games. His firing is certainly justifiable by contemporary NFL league standards which place the focus on ‘winning now’ as opposed to building continuity. Unfortunately for Schwartz, in his final season as Lions head coach, two other division foes (Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears) were playoff contenders despite missing their head signal callers for portions of this season. As reported by Albert Breer on NFL Network’s Around the League Live, the door was wide open for the Lions to win the NFC North and the “landscape of the division played into Ford’s (Lion’s owner) decision, it was something they had to do”.
The Minnesota Vikings
Key Departure: Head Coach Leslie Frazier
Leslie Frazier was given four seasons to right the ship and make the Vikings a division contending team, but this season’s Vikings failed to emulate the success of the 2012-2013 team that earned a wild card playoff birth. Last season’s success set a precedent that this year’s quarterback challenged roster could not reproduce, placing the 4th-year head coach in the front offices cross heirs finishing 4th in the NFC North. The Vikings began the season dropping its first three games behind shoddy quarterback play by Christian Ponder playing catch up to the Lions, Packers and Bears for most of the season.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Key Departures: Head Coach Greg Schiano and General Manager Mark Dominik
The writing may have been on the wall early on this season for Greg Schiano as the coach was involved in a bit of controversy involving his then quarterback, Josh Freeman. Schiano was reported to have intentionally leaked information which could have led to a league imposed suspension for substance abuse. The coach was reported to have allegedly rig the vote to cast Freeman as one of the team’s captains, a move which raised questions about Freeman’s leadership and served as an ongoing distraction for the Buccaneers during the early stages of the season.
Schiano never lead the Buccaneers to a winning season in his two years with the team, and the competitiveness of NFC south hurt the coaches chances of making the playoffs. The controvery surrounding Schiano, coupled with the lack of wins over his two year stint, were too much for Schiano overcome in order to dig himself out of the doghouse in Tampa Bay.
General Manager Mark Dominik (the only GM to receive the axe so far) was only able to reach the post season once during his 5-year tenure with the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay, who finished 7-9 last season, took a step backwards this season finishing with a dismal 4-12 season, leading the Buccaneers brass to “find a new direction” as stated by Bryan Glazer in a statement issued by the team.
Dominik was responsible for hiring Schiano and the latter had a rough go (11-21) in his two year tenure with the Buccaneers eventually dooming the coach and GM duo.
The Washington Redskins
Key Departure: Head Coach Mike Shanahan
The former Superbowl winning coach saw his team drastically digress this season, finishing 3-13 just a year removed from last year’s playoff birth. Last year’s storybook season came to a bitter end when franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III tore his ACL and LCL in the 4th quarter at Fed Ex field firmly placing Shanahan on the coaching hot seat. Just a few weeks prior to the season ending injury suffered by RGIII, coach Shanahan came under scrutiny for allowing the rookie quarterback to reenter a game without being cleared by doctors to return after suffering a serious blow from the Raven’s Haloti Ngata.
Shanahan’s decision making came into question again this year after the coach decided to sit RGIII for the final three games of the regular season to ensure his health this offseason. The coach was unable to make the Redskins competitive this year falling out of playoff contention long before the season had ended forcing Daniel Snyder’s hand in firing the head coach, who also serves as executive vice president.
Look out for updates as the coaching carousel continues as offseason has already begun for the 20 teams not playing in the NFL’s second season beginning this weekend.