Takeaways from Latest NFL Coach, GM Firings and Job Openings

Alex KayContributor IJanuary 10, 2022

Takeaways from Latest NFL Coach, GM Firings and Job Openings

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    Doug Murray/Associated Press

    Black Monday is here, bringing about the annual ritual in which underwhelming NFL head coaches and disappointing general managers are dismissed following the conclusion of the regular season.

    The Denver Broncos, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings and Miami Dolphins all have new head coach openings, joining the Jacksonville Jaguars—who fired head coach Urban Meyer last month—in the hunt to find key personnel this offseason.

    Here's a look at who has been canned and some takeaways from each decision.

Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos

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    Jack Dempsey/Associated Press

    The Broncos made a quick decision to fire head coach Vic Fangio after three seasons at the helm.

    Fangio, who posted a 19-30 record with zero playoff appearances and no winning seasons during his tenure, finished on a disappointing 4-10 run—including losses in each of the last four games— following a surprise 3-0 start to the season.

    Broncos CEO Joe Ellis suggested apathy from fans—there was an average of 10,000 open seats at home games this year—played a role in the decision to fire Fangio.

    "We're not the only team going through that, but you've all seen—[and] I've seen—that stadium when it's electric and it's packed," Ellis said, via Carly Moore of KDVR.com. "We've got to figure out a way to start showing the fans that they're going to come back [to] watch these games and be energized and excited about them."

    Ellis' words could hint at a splashy hire this offseason, one that would excite fans again after some tepid years. The Broncos have now missed the postseason for six consecutive seasons. They haven't made it back since winning Super Bowl 50 in quarterback Peyton Manning's final season.

    The Broncos finished eighth in total defense and third in points allowed this year, but they were hamstrung by an offense that averaged fewer than 20 points per game. With Teddy Bridgewater finishing out his one-year deal, Denver also figures to be in the market for a quarterback.

    The Broncos, who own the No. 9 selection in the 2022 draft, may look to bring in a new head coach who can develop a top-tier quarterback prospect. They could also explore a trade, dealing for a proven signal-caller such as Kirk Cousins to solve their woes at the position.

Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

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    Nam Huh/Associated Press

    The Bears are ready to forge a new path after cutting ties with both head coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace on Monday.

    Nagy and Pace found immense success together in 2018, winning the Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards, respectively, after securing Chicago's first NFC North title and playoff berth since 2010. However, not much has gone right for the Bears since.

    The team struggled to find consistent success after opening the Nagy era with a 12-4 record, going just 22-27 in the three seasons since. While the Bears did make the postseason with an 8-8 record last year, they were quickly bounced in the Wild Card Round.

    Pace's run as Chicago's GM won't be remembered fondly, as the club went just 48-65—including 0-2 in the postseason—and had numerous draft failures in his seven years.

    No mistake is more glaring than Pace's decision to deal four picks to move up one slot to take quarterback Mitchell Trubisky during the 2017 draft. The No. 2 pick—selected before the likes of Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes—failed to develop into a serviceable starter and is no longer with the organization.

    After whiffing on Trubisky and seeing pricey free-agent pickups like Mike Glennon, Nick Foles and Andy Dalton stumble in the Windy City, it remains to be seen if 2021 first-round pick Justin Fields—Pace's final quarterback project—will pan out.

    Chicago's next head coach could be tasked with developing Fields after an ugly rookie campaign. The Ohio State product showed flashes of potential, but he finished with only 1,870 passing yards and seven touchdowns against 10 interceptions in 12 games (10 starts).

    The Bears hold a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft and may elect to give the new regime a clean slate, allowing them to decide if they want to take a prospect of their choosing or give Fields another shot in 2022.

    Considering the long history of quarterback failures in Chicago and how hungry fans are to finally have a franchise player at the position, the upcoming hires will have their work cut out for them as they try to sort out the situation under center.

Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings

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    After missing the playoffs in back-to-back seasons, the Minnesota Vikings opted to clean house on Monday, firing both head coach Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman.

    Minnesota handed the reins to Zimmer seven years ago, making him the seventh-longest tenured head coach in the league before his dismissal following an 8-9 campaign. 

    The Vikings went 72-56-1 under Zimmer during the regular season, but they never had much playoff success. The club went 2-3 in the postseason, maxing out with an NFC Championship Game appearance in 2017.

    Spielman's firing comes as a bit of a shock after the general manager spent nearly 16 years on the job. While he's had some great draft classes in the past—including a home run pick with wide receiver Justin Jefferson in 2020—Minnesota's rookies have left much to be desired in recent years.

    Dalvin Cook is the last remaining holdover from the 2017 class, Brian O'Neill and Tyler Conklin are the lone starters from 2018, and Garrett Bradbury looks to be one of the only solid selections from 2019.

    More change could soon be on the way in the Twin Cities. The new regime must make a potential franchise-altering decision this offseason. 

    Quarterback Kirk Cousins has an eye-popping $35 million base salary in 2022, the final season of a two-year, $66 million extension he signed last year. While he had another strong statistical campaign—he finished among the top 10 leaguewide in yardage, touchdowns and interceptions—he's guided Minnesota to only one playoff appearance in his four years under center.

    With such a lofty price tag, expectations will be high for Cousins if the next Vikings general manager and coach elect to retain him.

Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins

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    Eric Espada/Getty Images

    Brian Flores' run as the Miami Dolphins head coach surprisingly ended Monday after three years on the job.

    Flores came aboard in 2019 after winning four Super Bowls as an assistant with the AFC East rival New England Patriots, but he struggled to find his footing early on as a first-time head coach.

    The Dolphins limped to a 5-11 finish in Flores' initial season but bounced back in 2020 with a promising 10-6 record. While Miami couldn't end a four-year playoff drought with its first winning season since 2016, the team went into 2021 with plenty to be excited about.

    Things went off the rails during a 1-7 start, but Flores rallied the squad to a strong finish. While the team went on to win eight of its last nine games, Miami once again fell just shy of a playoff berth.  

    Regardless, Flores' midseason turnaround seemed impressive enough for him to get another shot in 2022.

    According to SI.com's Conor Orr, a longtime coaching agent called the decision to can Flores "insane," but ownership reportedly believed he wasn't a fit for the club anymore. ESPN's Jeff Darlington tweeted that Flores' deteriorating relationships with quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and general manager Chris Grier led to his dismissal.

    Miami's next head coach may have the tall task of working with a young quarterback with an ambiguous future in South Beach.

    The Dolphins were a fixture in the rumor mill leading up to the trade deadline, flirting with the idea of bringing in veteran signal-caller Deshaun Watson. While the organization eventually decided to keep Tagovailoa as the starter, the 'Phins could opt to move on from the 23-year-old in the near future. 

    With so much uncertainty surrounding this franchise and the nature of Flores' dismissal, the Dolphins job may not be the most appealing for marquee candidates this offseason. 

Dave Gettleman, New York Giants

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    Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

    Dave Gettleman elected to retire after four disappointing seasons as the New York Giants general manager on Monday. 

    New York went an abysmal 19-46 in the Gettleman era, the worst four-year run in the franchise's storied history. The team went just 4-13 in 2021 and never finished better than 6-10 in that span.

    Big Blue fans are now waiting to see if the other shoe will drop, as head coach Joe Judge is reportedly meeting with owner John Mara this afternoon. CBS Sports' Josina Anderson reported Judge will retain his current role, but that potentially controversial decision has yet to be made official.

    Judge has gone 10-23 in his two campaigns at the helm, failing to find success after he was tasked with turning around an organization that had just gone through a pair of head coaches in Ben McAdoo and Pat Shurmur over the previous four seasons.

    Big Blue has made the playoffs only once since vanquishing the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI, getting eliminated in the Wild Card Round back in 2016.

    The G-Men are reportedly considering six candidates to replace Gettleman, including former interim general manager Kevin Abrams and ESPN analyst Louis Riddick. Whoever ends up taking the job will have some important choices to make on the future of some key players.

    That includes quarterback Daniel Jones—whose $21.3 million fifth-year option they need to decide upon by May 3—and running back Saquon Barkley, who is set to become a free agent following the 2022 campaign.