NFL Coaching Carousel: Tracking Fired Coaches and Their Ideal Replacements
For 12 lucky NFL teams, the end of the regular season means the start of the postseason chase toward a Super Bowl. For the other 20 franchises, jobs across the coaching spectrum are on the line after disappointing seasons in which goals and objectives were not met.
Today is known in the NFL as "Black Monday," the inevitable beginning of the NFL's coaching carousel.
In 2012—after a regular season in which zero head coaches were let go—we've already seen a record amount of firings on the first offseason day for 20 teams.
In the following slides, we'll track each coaching firing while also providing a shortlist on the ideal replacements for each. Check back here often for all the updates you need on the coaching carousel.
Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles
His 14-year tenure with the Eagles concluded Sunday with a 42-7 thrashing at the hands of the New York Giants. A winner of 130 regular-season games, Reid ends his run as the franchise's winningest coach. He appeared in five NFC championships games and one Super Bowl.
Ideal Replacements: Chip Kelly, Bill O'Brien, Jon Gruden
— Kelly is maybe the most attractive college head coach, but it remains to be seen how much control over personnel he wants at an NFL job. The Eagles probably won't give him much. He's the splash Philadelphia wants, however.
— O'Brien, the former Patriots offensive coordinator, did a terrific job reuniting the Penn State football program in 2012. He'll be a hot name across many jobs.
— Gruden may not leave his comfy seat as a Monday Night Football color commentator, but the Eagles job could be the one that is too good to pass on.
Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns
A 9-23 record over two seasons in Cleveland was enough for the Browns to axe Pat Shurmur on Monday, according to ESPN. Joining him on the chopping block was Browns GM Tom Heckert.
While not unexpected, both firings are clear signs that both owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner are starting an overhaul of a franchise that has been to the postseason just one time since reentering the NFL in 1999.
Shurmur's nine wins are the least by any Browns head coach since Chris Palmer, who won just five of 32 games from 1999-2000.
Ideal Replacements: Bruce Arians, Kelly, O'Brien, Aaron Kromer, Dirk Koetter
— Arians brings an expertise to the quarterback position that could benefit either Brandon Weeden or the next drafted quarterback in April. The Colts interim head coach has successfully worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck in his NFL career.
— Kelly will be hotly pursued by several franchises, but the Browns' No. 6 pick in the 2013 NFL draft could be one selling point for Cleveland. The Browns could likely draft whichever quarterback Kelly wants at that spot.
— Like Kelly, O'Brien is going to show up on many teams' lists. His resume should put him on the Browns' shortlist.
— Despite a 0-4 start as the Saints' interim head coach, Kromer remains a hot name. He was discussed last offseason at a few openings.
— Koetter has helped transform the Falcons' run-based offense into a vertical, high-volume unit under Matt Ryan. He's a name that should get interviews at multiple openings.
Romeo Crennel, Kansas City Chiefs
Just a year after lifting the interim tag from Crennel's title, the Chiefs gave the veteran coach his walking papers Monday (via ESPN).
A 2-14 season that secured the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft is the obvious reason why, but Crennel's overall coaching record of 28-55 did him no favors. The Chiefs were also awful in almost every statistical way this season, including points per game, turnovers and quarterback passer rating.
Ideal Replacements: Arians, Kirk Ferentz, Mike Zimmer, Josh McDaniels, Lovie Smith
— Arians' experience with quarterbacks makes him a perfect fit in Kansas City. While not a cure-all, the Chiefs need to find a quarterback in the 2013 NFL draft and pair him with a working mind at the position like Arians.
— The connections between Ferentz and Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli go back to the 1990s. While he went just 4-8 at Iowa in 2012, Ferentz has an NFL-ready system that could work with the Chiefs' talent base.
— Zimmer's availability likely won't last past this offseason. His top-10 defenses the past two seasons have been a big reason why the Bengals have made back-to-back trips to the playoffs.
— Most won't like to hear McDaniels' name tied to this job, but he's a strong offensive mind who still has a lot to offer as an NFL head coach. In his case, don't let the past cloud what the future could hold.
— Smith won't fix the quarterback issue, but he could win with a strong defense and running game. The Chiefs, in theory, could have both under Smith's watch next season.
Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears
Likely the most surprising fire of Monday (at least so far) has been Lovie Smith, who went 10-6 with the Bears in 2012 but missed the postseason. Chicago announced the decision Monday, according to ESPN.
Smith went 81-63 over eight seasons in Chicago, but missing the playoffs in five of the last six years was likely the nail in his coaching coffin with the Bears. However, the Bears would have made the playoffs in 2012 had the Green Bay Packers defeated the Minnesota Vikings Sunday.
Smith leaves behind arguably the best job of the 2012 offseason, one with talent on both sides of the ball and a franchise quarterback in place.
Ideal Replacements: Mike McCoy, Jay Gruden, Dave Toub
— McCoy's name is going to be a hot one this offseason. The offensive coordinator for the Broncos has developed winning game plans for both Tim Tebow and Peyton Manning, so the Bears can feel confident that he could work out something with Cutler in Chicago.
—The lesser known of the Grudens, Jay has built a solid resume and could be ready for the head-coach jump. His work with Andy Dalton in Cincinnati speaks for itself.
— The Bears might be one of the only teams with candidates to promote from within. In that scenario, Toub is the best choice. The Bears special teams have been widely touted for years, and special teams coordinators are starting to gain steam as potential head coaching options.
Chan Gailey, Buffalo Bills
Three straight non-playoff finishes was enough for the Bills to can Chan Gailey on Monday, according to ESPN.
The Bills gave Gailey ample time to get a struggling franchise turned around, but the veteran head coach produced just 16 wins in 48 games for Buffalo. The playoff drought for the Bills stretched to 13 years under Gailey's watch, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
With a 34-46 career record, the 60-year-old Gailey may not receive another head coaching opportunity at the NFL level.
Ideal Replacements: Zimmer, Smith, Greg Roman, David Shaw
— The Bills defense has been mostly a disaster under Gailey, despite efforts in free agency and the draft to address its issues. Zimmer would immediately provide the framework of a defensive turnaround, which gives Buffalo a chance to be a contender as soon as 2013.
— Much like Zimmer, Smith would bring his extensive knowledge on the defensive side of the football to Buffalo. If Smith were hired, would the Bills take Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o to be the next Brian Urlacher?
— Roman is an interesting fit and one that could come with an important string attached. The 49ers offensive coordinator has adjusted on the fly with Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick, but Roman could potentially bring Smith with him to Buffalo this offseason.
— Shaw is mostly a pipe dream at this point, but the Bills would likely jump at any chance of getting the Stanford head coach to come to Buffalo.
Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
Turner exits San Diego with GM A.J. Smith, who was also fired Monday.
After a 32-16 start to his career with the Chargers, Turner finished just 23-24. San Diego went 7-9 in 2012 after a disappointing season in 2011, and it has now missed the playoffs in three straight years.
Turner's head coaching career, and his 114-122-1 record, might have come to a close.
Ideal Replacements: Pete Carmichael Jr., Arians, Gus Bradley, Rich Bisaccia
— Carmichael was on Marty Schottenheimer's staff for the better part of four years, so the Chargers have some familiarity with the Saints' offensive coordinator. While Sean Payton gets most of the credit in New Orleans, Carmichael remains one of the game's better offensive minds.
— Arians will get his name thrown in the Chargers' hat because of the problems Philip Rivers has suffered through the past two seasons. Fixing the quarterback position will be a top priority for the Chargers this offseason.
— If San Diego wants to go defense, its could look to Seattle's Bradley for an option. A younger, fresher name, Bradley has helped turn Seattle into one of the better attacking defenses.
— With Turner out of the picture, the Chargers could look to their current assistant head coach. Bisaccia is also one of the few special teams coordinators who could get head coaching looks.
Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona Cardinals
A 1-11 finish after a promising start to the 2012 season was the final straw for Ken Whisenhunt as the Arizona Cardinals' head coach, according to ESPN.
The Cardinals started 2012 a surprising 4-0, but faded down the stretch, as the game's worst quarterback play doomed another season. Arizona's 58-0 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 14 remains one of the season's biggest embarrassments.
Whisenhunt, 45-51 in six seasons with the Cardinals, is joined in his exit by GM Rod Graves.
Ideal Replacements: Ray Horton, Andy Reid
— The problems in Arizona were mostly contained to the offense, so Horton—a respected defensive coordinator—has a chance to be an internal replacement in Arizona. If the Cardinals could find the right guy to run the offense (quarterback and coordinator), things could get turned around quickly.
— Expect Reid's name to be tied to this job frequently. He's a proven winner, and reuniting Reid and Kevin Kolb could be the right solution on offense. Money might be one deterrent, however.
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