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We have entered the part of the offseason where NFL teams sends a few grown men to apply for unemployment, while simultaneously employing a similar number of men in a new role. What I’m referring to is when the teams fire their head coaches (and/or coordinators). It is an annual, unavoidable occurrence. So with that, let’s get into an analysis of this year’s firings.
First off, we should note that coaches are fired quite often. There are a few reasons for this. The first is that usually, the coach deserves it. They may be a poor coach or just a poor choice for coach with the given roster. Also, it is easier for a GM to pass off a team’s bad performance as a result of poor coaching instead a poorly constructed roster. We’ve witnessed this a lot in Oakland. Finally, sometimes it’s just media pressure to see something happen.
The head coaches that we saw fired since the regular season ended were Eric Mangini, formerly of the New York Jets; Mike Shanahan, formerly of the Denver Broncos; Romeo Crennel, formerly of the Cleveland Browns; and Rod Marinelli, formerly of the Detroit Lions.
Of these head coaches, Rod Marinelli without doubt deserved it. The Lions, while lacking in talent, also lacked in preparation. When it was obvious that their offense should’ve been just throwing jump balls to Calvin Johnson, Marinelli took about 10 weeks more to realize it and then had the change made.
The other coach I feel should have been fired was Romeo Crennel. In his time in Cleveland he never achieved consistent performance out of his players. That was on display this year when they beat the Giants, but lost to teams like Denver and Cincinnati. Really, Cincinnati? You’re more likely to find a criminal there than lose to one of their sports teams.
As for Mangini, I don’t think he deserved to be fired. I think Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum felt the heat from the NY papers after having done a massive talent acquisition during the offseason to win now and had to take the pressure off of himself. Mangini didn’t do a great job this year, but it was not poor, given his roster. I don’t think many coaches could have gotten that much more out of the team.
As for Mike Shanahan, I’m torn on his firing. Yes, he has not made the playoffs in three years and the Broncos have not made the Super Bowl in the new millenium. But Shanahan has also not had any poor seasons as a coach in the new millenium, has dealt with a revolving door at running back, and this year he had poor talent at defense to coach. I think Shanahan probably should have been given an extra year and then that would be the year that helped make the decision.
I would also like to look at two coaches who were not fired who should have been…
The first is Herm Edwards of the Kansas City Chiefs. Edwards has poor clock management, and his teams get consistently worse. He often misses the most obvious coaching decisions to make. While the Chiefs did not have a good QB, many teams have had poor QBs with good running backs and finished with more than two wins.
The other coach I think is long overdue to be fired is Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals. His teams have had all sorts of players with character issues (not completely his fault, but he should be able to motivate his players enough that this wouldn’t be a frequent occurrence), and tons of poor performance. Who’s been the notable players of his coaching tenure? Chad Johnson, T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Carson Palmer, and Chris Perry. No one else notable has been on the team in that time, showing that Lewis and his staff don’t know how to take an average talent and mold them into something more. Lewis made the playoffs once in his six years and has otherwise finished at .500 or below.
Of course, when there are firings, former coaches are often brought up as possibilities to replace the recently fired ones. This year, the names we’ve heard are Marty Schottenheimer and Bill Cowher. In the case of the Lions and Browns, I don’t see how either could have performed more than a win better than they did with anyone as coach besides their coaches. And given the Broncos’ lack of talent on defense and how their running backs continuously went down to injury, I don’t see how they could have done much better with Cowher or Marty. In fact, they may have done worse, given how Shanahan is able to make magic at RB.
The Jets are the one team where maybe having Cowher or Marty could have made a difference. Both coaches are familiar with the 3-4 defense that the Jets often used this year, and had more experience with subpar and/or aging quarterbacks. I think that the results, though, would not have been substantially better. And that may not have been enough given the tiebreakers in the AFC East this past season.