Black Monday Mistakes These 7 NFL Teams Will Regret
Black Monday is one of the biggest and most important dates on the NFL calendar. It is on this day that many teams dramatically reshape their organizations, for better or for worse.
While I agree with some of the firings made on Black Monday, a few teams made decisions that were truly baffling and could have a negative effect on those franchises.
Before I list the Black Monday mistakes from least to most damaging, following are the honorable mentions:
1) Detroit Lions Keeping HC Jim Schwartz and GM Martin Mayhew
I think Schwartz and Mayhew deserve the opportunity they’re getting to return in 2013, but just barely. 2012 was nothing short of a wretched season in Motown, as the Lions lacked discipline both on and off the field.
I wouldn’t have had a major problem if either guy was let go, as the Lions simply must do a better job with organizational accountability. To Schwartz’s credit, he’s already promised a “different dynamic" this offseason, according to Anwar S. Richardson of MLive.com.
It’ll be up to Schwartz and Mayhew to see it through, or else there’ll be new men running the show in Detroit come 2014.
2) Chicago Bears Fire HC Lovie Smith
This is another close call, but I’m leaning on the side of Bears GM Phil Emery here: I think this (Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com) was the right move.
Lovie Smith is a very good head coach who, on the whole, did a nice job in Chicago, the highlight being the team’s appearance in Super Bowl XLI. I expect Smith to be a head coach again in the NFL sooner rather than later.
But Lovie's time in Chicago had run out. Emery inherited Smith, and a new GM will almost always want to pick his own head coach, so when the Bears missed the playoffs, even with a 10-6 record, the writing was on the wall for Smith.
Bottom line: The Bears went to the playoffs only one time in the past six seasons. That’s not good enough.
It was time for Smith to go. I do expect him to draw significant interest on the coaching market. Look for Buffalo to make a run at Smith.
3) Mike Mularkey and Ron Rivera Being Left In Limbo
I think both Mike Mularkey (Jacksonville) and Ron Rivera (Carolina) deserve the opportunity to return in 2013.
With new general managers to be hired, I fear for Mularkey and Rivera. Even though Jacksonville went 2-14, the Jaguars played hard for Mularkey, and he had very little talent to work with. Despite a rough start in Carolina, the Panthers finished strong, winning five of their final six games.
I hope both men return in 2013, but I don’t feel good about their chances.
Now, the Black Monday moves that NFL franchises will regret:
7. Tennessee Titans Retain Mike Munchak
2012? That was a different story, as the Titans finished a disappointing 6-10. When owner Bud Adams told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean that changes could be on the way, I thought the right move would be made: the firing of Munchak.
But according to Wyatt (h/t Bryan McIntyre of Yahoo! Sports), Adams announced Monday that Munchak would be retained and, in bizarre fashion, made former general manager Mike Reinfeldt, most recently the team’s president, the scapegoat.
By all accounts, Munchak is a skilled communicator who has the respect of his players. But his inability to surround himself with the right staff has been his undoing.
Jerry Gray has been an unmitigated disaster as defensive coordinator, as the team allowed a league-worst 471 points. The team fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer, but that failed to spark a stagnant offense.
Munchak still has the ability to succeed if he hires the right staff, which is why this move is ranked last on my list. It would be an absolute coup if Munchak could convince Tom Moore to stay on as offensive coordinator.
At this point, though, I don’t have faith in Munchak. The Titans will end up regretting this decision.
6. Cleveland Browns Will Hire a HC Before GM
I thought Jimmy Haslam knocked his first major move as Browns owner out of the park when he made the decision (Mary Kay Cabot of The Plain Dealer) to fire head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert. Shurmur, in particular, was clueless, seemingly coaching not to lose instead of to win.
However, something Haslam said on Monday, according to a tweet by Cabot, gave me pause: The team will look to hire a head coach before a general manager.
That statement sends a clear shot across the bow of the NFL coaching carousel: The Browns are swinging for the fences, looking to acquire a marquee head coach and bestow him with organizational autonomy. Chip Kelly and Jon Gruden are the two names that come to mind here.
I don’t believe in that methodology. Any personnel man worth his salt would balk at going to Cleveland now, knowing he won’t have final say over the 53-man roster.
With several attractive openings already on the market (Chicago, Philadelphia and San Diego, to name three), the Browns could find themselves out of luck if they strike out on the big names they’re seeking.
So, while Haslam made the right move in relieving Shurmur and Heckert of their duties, I think the decision to hire a head coach before a general manager is a mistake he’ll undoubtedly regret.
5. New York Jets Retain Rex Ryan
First, the good news: The Jets fired hapless general manager Mike Tannenbaum, according to Ben Shpigel of The New York Times. That’s a great job by owner Woody Johnson, as Tannenbaum’s horrendous personnel decisions didn’t give the Jets an opportunity to succeed in 2012.
But there’s bad news, as Rex Ryan will return as head coach.
Ryan did an awful job in both 2011 and 2012. This year was an abject failure, as the team set offensive football back to the Stone Age en route to a 6-10 campaign.
It was Ryan who hired Tony Sparano to run the offense. It was Ryan who stubbornly stuck with atrocious quarterback Mark Sanchez, despite everyone else on the planet being able to see the obvious: Sanchez was single-handedly losing games for the Jets.
Do you think someone like Norv Turner would want to be the Jets offensive coordinator? No chance. What established offensive mind would want to be a part of the Jets circus, to potentially coach an incapable quarterback like Sanchez?
With Tannenbaum out and Ryan returning, there’s no question that Ryan’s influence in the organization will grow. Whoever is hired to replace Tannenbaum won’t have the opportunity to hire his own head coach, as Ryan is already established.
Would you want Ryan to have the final say over your franchise’s 53-man roster, when he can’t even figure out which quarterbacks to make active in a given week?
I didn’t think so.
So, while Tannenbaum rightly lost his job, it wasn’t enough for the Jets. There’s no way that Ryan should have been retained.
This decision will set the Jets back for at least a year—and probably even more.
4. Dallas Cowboys Retain Jason Garrett
On that note, my 2013 New Year’s resolution will be to never again pick a Jason Garrett-coached team in a must-win game.
Let’s face facts: Things in Dallas will never truly change for the better until Jerry Jones the owner fires Jerry Jones the general manager, but we all know that’ll never happen.
There’s no question in my mind that the Cowboys would be better off without Garrett. His awful play-calling at Detroit (Week 4, 2011) and horrible clock management in Arizona (Week 13, 2011), at home against the Giants (Week 4, 2011) and in Baltimore (Week 6, 2012) made Herm Edwards look like Chuck Noll.
Then, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (h/t Brian Sessler of NFL.com), reports Monday stated that the Cowboys are looking for a “play-calling offensive coordinator” to help assist Garrett.
Isn’t that what Garrett essentially is?
Wouldn’t the Cowboys be better off in firing Garrett, along with their overrated defensive coordinator, Rob Ryan, and hiring a defensive-minded head coach like Cincinnati’s Mike Zimmer, and then bringing in someone like Norv Turner to run the offense?
Think about it: Garrett’s strengths are supposedly his offensive mind and play-calling ability. His weakness is game management in its myriad forms.
So what do the Cowboys want to do? Take away what Garrett does best and exacerbate his most glaring weakness.
It’s a recipe for failure in Big D, and I haven’t even discussed Tony Romo. That’s a column for another time.
Black Monday was not a good day for the Cowboys organization. They’ll be lucky to go 8-8 again in 2013.
3. Arizona Cardinals Fire Ken Whisenhunt
I wrote that the scapegoat for the Cardinals' disastrous 2012 season should be general manager Rod Graves.
When reports broke on Monday that Graves was out, I felt great for Ken Whisenhunt, as it appeared he’d return in 2013. A few minutes later, the other shoe dropped, as Whiz was relieved of his duties, according to Gregg Rosenthal of NFL.com.
I couldn’t possibly disagree with this move more. Whisenhunt is an outstanding head coach. They’d have named streets after him in Arizona if the Cardinals defense had held on the final drive of Super Bowl XLIII.
The decision should have been easy for Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill: retain Whisenhunt and defensive coordinator Ray Horton, fire Graves and replace him with highly regarded VP of player personnel Steve Keim.
Instead, Bidwill opted for a clean sweep. If the Cardinals are unable to retain Keim, who will surely be a hot commodity this offseason, I fear for the team’s future.
In the meantime, expect Whisenhunt to draw significant interest on the coaching market.
2. Buffalo Bills Retain Buddy Nix
I give the Bills credit for firing head coach Chan Gailey. That was absolutely the right move, as Gailey was 16-32 in his three years in Buffalo. He couldn’t fix the defense, his play-calling was questionable at best, and the offense (his specialty) regressed in 2012.
But there’s no sugarcoating the absolutely awful decision to bring back general manager Buddy Nix. This will absolutely set back the franchise for years.
Nix is clueless. Remember, this is the man who bragged about being “asleep” at the start of the 2010 free-agent period. He bestowed Fitzpatrick, an average quarterback, with an outrageous contract in 2011 after six games of production. He hired Gailey, an outright failure at head coach.
Nix’s draft record is decent, but there just isn’t enough talent on the roster.
And now Nix will have the chance to hire another head coach? It’s a slap in the face to the diehard Buffalo Bills fanbase.
Nix failed the Bills in the two areas that matter most: head coach and quarterback. He should have been fired along with Gailey. This was the second-worst decision made on Black Monday.
1. Kansas City Chiefs Retain Scott Pioli
Caveat: If the Chiefs end up firing Pioli, as his status appears to be up in the air, then I consider Kansas City’s Black Monday to be a riotous success, as they have already fired clueless and overmatched head coach Romeo Crennel, according to ESPN.
But as it stands right now, Pioli is still running the football operations of the Kansas City Chiefs.
What a joke.
Like Nix, Pioli failed the Chiefs in the two areas that matter most: head coach and quarterback. Crennel was earmarked for failure, and Matt Cassel has proven to be a bust of epic proportion, as he actually managed to lose his job to Brady Quinn this season.
The Chiefs hold the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft. After monumental swings and misses with top picks Glenn Dorsey, Tyson Jackson and Dontari Poe, would you really want Pioli making that franchise-altering selection?
I’m hoping that Chiefs owner Clark Hunt comes to his senses and does the right thing, relieving Pioli of his duties and bringing hope back to a jaded Chiefs fanbase.
If he doesn’t, the Chiefs are the single biggest losers of Black Monday.
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.