The annual tradition in the NFL of firing head coaches the day after the regular season concludes has come and gone. Among the three (so far) firings, two were expected: Romeo Crennel of the Cleveland Browns and Rob Marinelli of the now historic 0-16 Detroit Lions.
At the opposite end, a somewhat surprise took place as Eric Mangini of the New York Jets was fired by team owner Woody Johnson after an 8-3 start.
Now that the smoke has cleared, who were the winners and losers for black Monday?
They've wanted to fire Romeo Crennel since about Week 10 in the regular season after a loss to the Denver Broncos dropped the team to a stellar 3-6 record. Despite their struggles, this team has the right ingredients to win.
They have a solid quarterback(s) in Brady Quinn and Derek Anderson. Kellen Winslow Jr. has been struck with injuries, but with the right system around him, could become a solid tight end. Jamal Lewis had his seventh career 1,000 yard rushing season, and don't forget, rushed for over 1,300 yards in 2007.
With a new coach also comes a new GM, as Phil Savage was also kicked to the curb. With Scott Pioli of the New England Patriots on the short list, this team could be a contender easily by next year with a few simple offseason moves.
The Browns' ownership is playing this smart. They are starting fresh with the two main positions and are truly seeking to position themselves as winners. Thus, so far they win.
Surprised? After a raising the bar for futility with the NFL's first 0-16 season, the Lions are off to a bad start. How? While firing Rob Marinelli was an automatic decision, the replacement for former GM Matt Millen was...well, confusing.
Rather than looking outside and choosing someone who had no prior affiliation with the organization, owner William Ford Sr. chose Martin Mayhew, the former assistant GM.
Already the Lions are taking on a piece of the last eight years of constant losing and out-right embarrassment. It doesn't make too much sense to promote an assistant GM who likely helped out in poor draft choices, coaching hires, and leadership choices.
How have other losing teams in the past fixed themselves? Bringing in outside help. The greatest example is the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins' leadership sought help from Bill Parcells, and now, they're in the playoffs.
What's next for the Lions? Hiring mainstream coordinator from the NFL and possibly making some serious offseason moves to bring in experienced players, especially a quarterback.
In the middle
New York Jets
After an 8-3 start, everyone was sure Eric Mangini was safe for quite some time as head coach. A late season struggle and inability to adjust towards Brett Favre's aging shoulder ultimately did him in.
But was it the right decision?
Maybe, but probably not. Mangini clearly had a firm grasp on the team and many players appeared to buy into his tough coaching style. The only sour point was Brett Favre, as his shoulder simply gave out. Whether the coaching staff failed to notice this or Favre told them to make nothing of it, something never quite clicked.
The firing of Mangini may come back to bite the Jets, but it may not. Tom Coughlin once upon a time had a tough coaching style with a struggling QB. What happened? He relaxed a little, went back to running game and before he knew it, had a Super Bowl ring.
Mangini could have taken a page from Coughlin's book and pursued the same, with or without Brett Favre by simply going back to the running game for 2009. But would Favre have bought into the system? Leon Washington and Thomas Jones are great players who weren't used enough in the previous system.
Woody Johnson made a painful selection, although I think he too had some reservations about letting Mangini go. Whomever the Jets pick up as coach, he will inherit a pretty good team that can contend.
But will the new coach be as tough as Mangini? Unlikely. Will the new coach have as much knowledge about the AFC East as Mangini? Also unlikely. But will the new coach bring the Jets back deep into the playoffs? Most likely.
2009 will be interesting for these teams and certainly, many others.