Once Thanksgiving has come and gone, it becomes easier to separate the NFL contenders from the pretenders, and it’s crystal clear which teams simply must make changes come season’s end.
Whether it’s the head coach (HC), general manager (GM) or quarterback (QB), the following nine teams are in need of an overhaul come Black Monday 2013.
Buffalo Bills – HC, GM, QB
The Buffalo Bills are a disaster, and recent weeks have only made me feel more confident in that analysis.
Last Sunday’s defeat at Indianapolis was the quintessential loss of the Chan Gailey era. It featured truly baffling in-game decisions (eschewing a 52-yard field-goal attempt in a domed stadium in order to punt; poor play-calling that handed the Colts three points at the end of the first half) and, of course, the refusal to run the football with his two best players, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson.
Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t a quality NFL starting quarterback. He’s 17-28 as the Bills signal-caller, and turns the ball over at an alarming rate. If he’s the Bills' franchise quarterback, then I come home to Kate Upton every night.
General manager Buddy Nix has failed the franchise where it matters most: head coach and quarterback. He famously said in 2010 that he’d be “asleep” at the start of the free-agent period. I’d argue that Nix has been sleepwalking through his entire tenure with the Bills.
Owner Ralph Wilson must replace all three men in order for the franchise to move forward in 2013.
New York Jets – HC, GM, QB
In a year full of embarrassing seasons, it’s quite possible that 2012 will go down as one of the most pathetic that the New York Jets have ever played.
If you watched Rex’s postgame presser on Thanksgiving night, you’d have seen a dead man walking. He was a coach with no answers. Bluster and bravado can only get you so far; it might work while you’re winning, but people see through your shallow proclamations when the team is losing.
Rex was the guy who hired a hapless Tony Sparano to fix the offense. The Jets are 28th in total offense, and Sparano has made former coordinator Brian Schottenheimer look like the lovechild of Don Coryell and Bill Walsh.
Sanchez has regressed badly over the past two seasons. Perhaps no play typifies the Sanchez experience more than his ill-advised slide into Brandon Moore’s butt on Thanksgiving, causing a fumble that New England returned for a touchdown.
When Moore’s butt has made more plays than you have, you don’t deserve to return the following season.
Tannenbaum has done a putrid job building the 53-man roster. The wide receiving corps is a joke. How Bart Scott is still on the roster is beyond me; he might still be chasing Shane Vereen. The decision to trade for Tim Tebow has backfired, as Tebow dominates headlines but rarely sees the field.
In New York, if you’re going to talk, you must back it up. The Jets haven’t.
That’s why there needs to be sweeping changes in 2013.
Cleveland Browns – HC, QB
Browns head coach Pat Shurmur has been in significant trouble ever since Jimmy Haslam bought the team and installed Joe Banner as his top decision-maker.
Every new regime wants to hire its own head coach, so it was up to Shurmur to dazzle the new guys and show them that he deserved to be back in 2013.
To put it lightly, that hasn’t happened.
Shurmur doesn’t coach to win; rather, he coaches not to lose. That much has been evident in games against Baltimore, Dallas and Indianapolis.
The offense, his area of expertise, finished ranked 29th in 2011, and it is ranked 29th thus far in 2012. That’s not good enough.
It’s also hard to imagine rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden being the team’s signal-caller in 2013.
Just look at what the other neophyte QBs have done this season, from Andrew Luck and RG3 to Ryan Tannehill and Russell Wilson. All four of those quarterbacks provide hope for the future. Weeden doesn’t, and he’s 29 years old.
The fact that Weeden called out Shurmur for the play-calling after their loss to Dallas shows that this isn’t the coach/QB combination needed to return Cleveland to the postseason.
I expect Haslam and Banner to find a new head coach and quarterback for 2013.
Jacksonville Jaguars – GM
Despite their record, I'm super impressed by the job that Jags head coach Mike Mularkey has done this season.
When he joins the SiriusXM Blitz every Friday, he always mentions that the mood of the locker room is upbeat and that the players continue to work extremely hard, despite a very disappointing season.
With that, I believe Mike Mularkey deserves to come back in 2013.
I cannot say the same for general manager Gene Smith.
Smith’s most critical failure came with the drafting of quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who has looked incompetent and overmatched in his two seasons in Jacksonville.
His propensity to draft players from small schools is quizzical. While players from non-traditional football powerhouses can certainly succeed in the NFL, it’s not wise to fill a roster with them.
Regardless of how the Jaguars finish the season, they need a new decision-maker. Smith should not return as the general manager in 2013.
Kansas City Chiefs – HC, GM, QB
Ladies and gentlemen, the worst team in the NFL: the Kansas City Chiefs!
Romeo Crennel is overmatched as the head coach. He’s a very nice guy, but smiles and handshakes don’t win games in the NFL.
General manager Scott Pioli has failed the organization with both coach and quarterback decisions, and his draft record has been spotty at best.
Owner Clark Hunt needs to hit the reset button at season’s end and find a new head coach, quarterback and general manager to try and win the franchise its first playoff game in 20 years.
San Diego Chargers – HC, GM
When Chargers owner Dean Spanos decided to bring head coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith back for the 2012 season, it was an easy first guess.
Norv’s tenure as Chargers coach unofficially ended in Week 6 when his team blew a 24-0 halftime lead at home on Monday Night Football to Peyton Manning and the Broncos. Turner's team has now lost five in a row after their 4-2 start. Lindsay Lohan will win the Nobel Peace Prize before Norv is an NFL head coach again.
Smith should have been fired after his comments to the San Diego Union-Tribune following the aforementioned Broncos loss—he buried his own team. He hasn’t drafted well enough, and decisions to let players like Darren Sproles and Vincent Jackson walk away have crippled the offense.
Spanos will do at season’s end what he should have done last January: Fire both men.
Philadelphia Eagles – HC, QB
Andy Reid might be the best head coach in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles, but he’s on borrowed time. He is most certainly going to lose his job on Black Monday, if not sooner.
Reid’s decision to bring defensive coordinator Juan Castillo back in 2012 after a disastrous 2011 predictably blew up in his face.
He didn’t upgrade the backup quarterback spot, despite employing the fragile Michael Vick. Rookie Nick Foles, currently playing due to a “significant” concussion suffered by Vick, has looked overmatched and not ready for prime time. Reid couldn’t have done better than Foles, knowing that Vick wouldn’t be available for all 16 games?
Then there’s Reid’s stubborn refusal to run the ball with LeSean McCoy.
As for Vick, there’s no way the organization can bring him back in 2013. Let Foles finish out the year, but if he’s not the guy, go out and sign or draft someone to be the guy.
Reid and Vick will both be ex-Eagles in 2013.
Dallas Cowboys – HC
Jason Garrett is not capable of winning games as a head coach in the National Football League.
There are so many different head-scratching moments over which Garrett has presided in his time as Cowboys coach. That includes hideous play-calling at Detroit (Week 4, 2011) and horrible clock management in Arizona (Week 13, 2011), at home against the Giants (Week 14, 2011) and in Baltimore (Week 6, 2012).
In a season where many (myself included) expected the Cowboys to make the postseason, their 5-6 record is nothing short of an abject failure.
The icing on top of the spoiled cake is their Thanksgiving shellacking at the hands of RG3 and the Washington Redskins. Jerry Jones doesn’t take kindly to getting blown out on national television.
Garrett will be the ex-head coach of the Dallas Cowboys in 2013.
Arizona Cardinals – GM, QB
I’m a huge fan of the Cardinals organization. What head coach Ken Whisenhunt and general manager Rod Graves have been able to do in their time in the desert has been nothing short of remarkable.
With that said, 2012 hasn’t been their best effort. With the team mired in a seven-game losing streak, it’s correct to say that Whisenhunt hasn’t done his best coaching job. But he’s a good enough coach that I believe deserves to return next season.
I can’t say the same for Graves, as his epic failure to address the quarterback situation needs to be his undoing.
Graves was the man who ultimately pulled the trigger on the deal that brought Kevin Kolb to Arizona, who lavished Kolb with an outrageous contract. Kolb has been unable to stay healthy, and he hasn’t sparkled when he has been on the field.
With Kolb out of the lineup, the pu pu platter of John Skelton and Ryan Lindley has failed in miserable fashion. One can only imagine the frustration Larry Fitzgerald must feel as Skelton, Lindley and Kolb are unable to get him the football.
The offensive line is also among the worst in the league. The general manager hasn’t done a good enough job acquiring players to protect his below-average quarterbacks, leaving Whisenhunt in a no-win situation.
Whisenhunt should be back in 2013. Graves shouldn’t.
Nick Kostos is the executive producer of the "SiriusXM Blitz," hosted by Rich Gannon and Adam Schein, on SiriusXM NFL Radio. You can follow Nick on Twitter.