NFL Coaches: Final Grades for the 7 Fired Coaches
Black Monday 2012 has come and gone and seven coaches faced the chopping block. Back in November, I released my annual “Can I see you in my office?” awards with the list of coaches who were likely going to receive pink slips at season’s end. Many of the coaches released made the list but there were some surprises this year as well.
What I find strange about this day, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter echoed this on SportsCenter on Monday, is that while Black Monday has turned into entertainment or even hope for some fans, it’s still someone losing their jobs. Nevertheless, that’s life in the NFL.
With most jobs, there’s the exit interview and the final assessment on your performance. Here are the final grades of each fired coach on their performance in this latest coaching stop.
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Philadelphia Eagles—14 seasons
130-93-1 regular season; 10-9 playoffs
Nine playoff appearances; Six NFC East titles
Five NFC Championship game appearances
One Super Bowl appearance
Only three losing seasons
Andy Reid spent 14 seasons as the Philadelphia Eagles’ “Football Czar.” He was the final say on all football matters for most of that time and finished his time there as the all-time winningest coach in their history.
From 2001-2004, Reid’s Eagles put on a clinic in the NFC, winning four straight division titles and advancing to the NFC Championship Game all four years.
Andy was known for finding players who were average talents at best but fit well in Reid’s system. Guys like Duce Staley, Jeremiah Trotter and Koy Detmer were staples of the early Reid years. Hell, remember Reno Mahe? Of course not!
Reid’s biggest failure was his inability to win a Super Bowl and many would say that was based on his biggest flaw, stubbornness. Reid wanted to win his way and never cared what people thought he should do.
As a Philly native, the most common complaint I heard for 14 years was “Why won’t he run the freaking ball?”
Reid also was stubborn when it came to players, making some questionable decisions and overruling anyone who questioned him—Quinton Caver, Jerome McDougle and Hank Baskett to name a few. His stonewall, say-nothing approach was also not appealing to fans.
Even with all that, Reid’s success spoke for itself and the Eagles will be hard-pressed to find a coach to equal that success.
USA TODAY Sports
San Diego Chargers—Six seasons
56-40 regular season; 3-3 playoffs
Three playoff appearances; Three AFC West titles
One AFC Championship game appearance
Only one losing season
No one has ever doubted Norv Turner’s offensive ability; it’s his ability as a head coach that everyone questions. However, he had his most successful head coaching stop in San Diego. He took the Chargers to the AFC title game in his first season and won the AFC West title three years straight.
The next few seasons, Norv had a trend of slow starts and strong finishes, just barely missing the playoffs in 2010 and 2011.
The Chargers were seen as constant underachievers under Norv given the talent he had over the years—Philip Rivers, Vincent Jackson and LaDainian Tomlinson to name a few. Prior to arriving with the Chargers, Norv had made the playoffs only once in eight seasons as a head coach.
Turner’s problem is that his regime peaked too fast.
The team was successful under predecessor Marty Schottenheimer. Marty was 14-2 in his final season with the Chargers but his constant playoff failures sealed his fate.
Norv Turner was brought in to get them over the hump. He took them to the AFC title game right away and then couldn’t get them back there. When he failed to do that, Turner was ostracized by Chargers fans. The window started closing, Tomlinson got old and the division started getting better.
Turner will likely be a top target as an offensive coordinator. His record for running offenses is well stated. One losing season in six years with half of those ending in playoff appearances is a reason to be proud.
Had Norv inherited a worse team from Schottenheimer, Turner might still be here. Although, I think we may have seen the last of Norv Turner, the head coach.
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Chicago Bears—Nine seasons
81-63 regular season; 3-3 playoffs
Three playoff appearances; Three NFC North titles
Two NFC Championship game appearances
One Super Bowl appearance
Only three losing seasons
Lovie Smith’s firing was the biggest surprise of Black Monday. After nine seasons, the Bears front office decided that the offense “didn’t have enough consistency.” The Bears were known for their stout defenses during Lovie’s tenure.
After a rough first season, Smith took the Bears to two straight playoff appearances and made it to the Super Bowl in the second appearance. He had the distinction of being the first African-American to coach in a Super Bowl.
He lost to his former boss and mentor Tony Dungy, coach of the Indianapolis Colts. It was the Bears' first Super Bowl appearance since the ’85 Bears 21 years prior.
The offense struggled for many of the years that Smith coached in Chicago. In his first few seasons, he dealt with a carousel of Rex Grossman, Kyle Orton and Brian Griese.
In 2009, the Bears traded two first round picks and Kyle Orton to acquire Jay Cutler. While Cutler had some success, Lovie just couldn’t get the team going.
The Bears went through three offensive coordinators between 2009 and 2012—Ron Turner, Mike Martz and Mike Tice. While the Bears defense played decently, they were ranked in the top 10 in total defense in only three of Lovie’s seasons.
In his defense, after his rookie season Smith never lost more than seven games and he only lost seven twice.
Lovie will get some interviews for another head coaching job but he will need to solidify the offensive side of his staff with a strong OC. Lovie did make a Super Bowl run in 2006, but his teams were just slightly above average most years.
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Arizona Cardinals—Six seasons
45-51 regular season; 4-2 playoffs
Two playoff appearances; Two NFC West titles
One NFC Championship Game appearance
One Super Bowl appearance
Only two losing seasons
Ken Whisenhunt did something that had only been done once in the 25 seasons prior; take the Cardinals to the playoffs. In addition, he led the Cardinals to their first division title since 1975.
From 2008-9009, the Cardinals were the kings of the “NFC Worst," a name attributed to the NFC West due to the sub-par play of the other teams in their division. Kurt Warner had a career resurgence, leading the Cards to two straight playoff appearances including a berth in Super Bowl XLIII.
After the departure of OC Todd Haley (became the Chiefs head coach) and Kurt Warner (retirement) the Cardinals floundered in the NFL’s worst division.
Whisenhunt could never seem to get his offense back on track and had one of the worst quarterback situations in the league. A trade to bring in Kevin Kolb appeared to solve the problem but Kolb underachieved…when he wasn’t injured.
Whisenhunt’s name has surfaced in the 2012 head coaching scramble, but he will likely need to regain some coaching cred on the coordinator level again.
Without Todd Haley and Kurt Warner, his teams just weren’t good even in a bad division. Whisenhunt’s only two winning seasons were in the Kurt Warner years.
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Cleveland Browns—Two seasons
9-23 regular season
Pat Shurmur came into the Browns as someone who could lead their offense and develop the talent, like what he had done with Sam Bradford.
Due to the NFL lockout in 2011, Shumur had no time to install his offense or even get any kind of cohesiveness on the team at all. Cleveland’s offense finished both of Shurmur’s seasons 25th or worse in the NFL.
The team did start to show some improvements in 2012. The defense finished ranked 10th in total yardage and with the addition of rookies Brandon Weeden, Trent Richardson and Josh Gordon, the offense looked to have some pieces in place to build upon.
Alas, with the change in ownership and Mike Holmgren being shown the door it just wasn’t going to happen.
Shurmur was essentially playing out the season as there was much speculation that the revamped front office would be looking to put their own guys in place on the sidelines.
Shurmur may have been able to get the Browns to a few more wins in 2013, but he just didn’t show enough to convince the new management.
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Kansas City Chiefs—Two seasons
4-15 regular season; 2-1 in his first season as interim coach
This was Crennel’s second head coaching stop. After Todd Haley was fired before the end of 2011, Crennel led the Chiefs to a 2-1 record as the interim coach including an upset win over the previously undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Given his standing with the team and how the players responded, he was installed as the permanent head coach.
Crennel faced a season that very few coaches would be able to deal with. The team never got on track and was the worst team in football. Of their 14 losses, only three were by seven points or less.
A year that started with promise quickly crashed down after a season-opening blowout loss at home to the Falcons. The quarterback situation was atrocious. Matt Cassel was terrible and Brady Quinn didn’t fare any better.
The day before their Week 13 game against the Panthers, linebacker Jovan Belcher committed suicide at the team facility in the presence of Crennel and Scott Pioli. The Chiefs won their game the next day, their last win of the season.
At Crennel’s age (65) and given his overall record (28-55) he probably won’t be a head coach again.
Firing a coach after one season is tough—even Rod Marinelli—especially when the quarterback situation was so bad and a tragedy such as the Belcher incident had taken place.
However, I didn’t see the Chiefs improving much under Crennel in future seasons.
Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
Buffalo Bills—Three seasons
16-32 regular season
Gailey started his first season as head coach at 0-8. The team came on strong at the end, winning four of eight and finishing 4-12.
Gailey carried the success over to 2011 with a 4-2 start heading into the bye. He also led Buffalo to their first win over the Patriots since 2003. Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and wide receiver Stevie Johnson were playing well and emerging as potential stars on the team.
However, after the bye, Gailey’s team went 2-8 the rest of the way to finish 6-10. 2012 wasn’t any better as the Bills finished 6-10 for the third time in four seasons.
The Bills underachieved for the majority of Gailey’s tenure. They showed sparks of promise at times but could never get out of last in the division.
The defense was simply dreadful, leading to the eventual firing of defensive coordinator George Edwards after 2011. New DC Dave Wannstedt wasn’t any better as the defense gave up 30-plus points six times including two 40-point and 50-point performances.
The Bills were no better off with Gailey than the previous regime of Dick Jauron. Gailey’s last job as a head coach ended in 1999 and that was with the remnants of the juggernaut Cowboys teams of the 90’s.
At age 60, Gailey’s days as a head coach in the NFL are likely over.
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