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NFL Black Monday head coach primer: AFC East

Our look at the coaching needs across the league takes us to the AFC East. Could a 49ers coach wind up there? AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

We’re going to go around the league, looking at each division and seeing what vacancies could open up for Black Monday. Thankfully there probably won’t be any in Santa Clara, but a coach could bail to fill one of the vacancies elsewhere. Today, we have the AFC East.

The AFC East goes basically like this: There’s the New England Patriots, and then there’s everybody else. In spite of the Miami Dolphins’ win last night, this remains the Patriots division. For this reason, there’s a lot of turnover in this division, simply because the Patriots are winning it almost every single year. Since the year 2000, the Patriots have come in second place within the AFC East a total of two times. The rest of those seasons? First place.

Most of the coaching changes that would happen, happened last year. There’s been enough from most organizations to at least merit a second year from these coaches. Front office organization isn’t near as dysfunctional as some other places on the west coast, so it’s safe to say there will be little unemployment this year.

New England Patriots

The Patriots certainly have something going to not win the AFC East twice within almost two decades. That can largely be attributed to the play of Tom Brady, arguably the greatest quarterback to play the game. In a league where the QB is being more protected under injury rules and concussion penalties, Brady has managed to play into his 40s and may not be going anywhere for awhile.

However, he’s also 40 years old. Father Time is unbeaten and even Brady, with his strict clean eating diet and disciplined regime, can’t fight it. The Patriots did have a replacement for their Hall of Fame quarterback, however that replacement has now found his way to the San Francisco 49ers.

The rumor has it that this was not a coaching decision, but a decision on ownership. It’s speculated that Brady would have been traded after this season, leaving the reigns of the team to now-49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. Unfortunately, while Bill Belichick was ready to make the trade, owner Robert Kraft stepped in and made sure Brady finished his career as a Patriot. This mirrors a similar situation years back when the 49ers dealt Joe Montana to the Kansas City Chiefs and at the 11th hour, then-49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo almost intervened. The 49ers got another decade out of Young while Joe Montana had only two more seasons.

If Garoppolo pans out for the 49ers, this may be one of the worst decisions ever made for the Patriots organization. Given the time left on Brady, they can’t get more than three seasons out of him and are back to training an unknown, one who may not have the talent that Garoppolo or Brady had.

Beyond the QB situation, the Patriots have the rare ability to take has-beens, misfits, and other passovers and turn them into stars. Once many of them leave the organization, they just don’t produce what you’d expect. Still, it’s an amazing system they have there, from the execs to the coaches. If anyone is safe for their jobs, it’s someone in Foxboro.

But people will be calling for Robert Kraft’s head if this Garoppolo thing blows up in their face.

Who Should get Fired: Robert Kraft (owner) if Garoppolo pans out
Who Will Get Fired: Nobody

Miami Dolphins

The Miami Dolphins just can’t catch a break, can they? At least from the quarterback position. Last year, Adam Gase came aboard and led the team to the playoffs for the first time since 2008. Too bad his quarterback managed to get knocked out of three games last year, and for an entire season this year due to an ACL injury.

Enter: Jay Cutler. Fresh off his one-month broadcasting career, Cutler came in and did just about exactly what he did for the Chicago Bears ... not a whole lot of much. He bounced in and out of the starting lineup due to injuries, leading to Matt Moore to come in and try to make magic. That changed last night with a solid primetime performance by Cutler to secure the upset against New England.

Despite all the QB issues, the Dolphins have remained competitive for the most part. While they may miss the playoffs this year, there’s a certain consistency and identity Gase’s coaching gives them. Even if Tannehill’s injury heals and he’s back next year, chances are good the Dolphins may be looking for a new signal caller in this draft. It’s far too early, being Gase’s second year for the Dolphins to fire him, especially with the quarterback injuries and production as a result. Tannehill has had his own issues and doubts when healthy, but Gase managed to get the team 10 wins last year. He’s safe for at least another year. Same for GM Chris Grier who came in 2016. Grier will be first to go before Gase, but both will get one more draft.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Buffalo Bills

Hooo boy. Now we’re getting to the dysfunction. The Bills hired Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane in the 2017 offseason and they’ve managed to completely shock and awe the world. And by that it was making a shockingly awful decision: Benching quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Taylor played behind an offensive line that allowed the seventh most sacks in the league. While he would never put up Tom Brady numbers, he was far from the problem in Buffalo. In his place came Nathan Peterman who managed five interceptions in his NFL debut.

Now that’s already atrocious, but when McDermott says they did this benching because, “We need to win now,” that just creates laughing heads. Why? Any coach worth their salt has to know if a rookie quarterback is truly ready. Sure, that QB may have some setbacks and stumbles, but five interceptions isn’t a setback, that’s just not being ready, picking the wrong game, or poor preparation—all things McDermott has to know.

Which makes us wonder whose idea this was: McDermott or Beane? Because while Taylor may not have a future in Buffalo, a statement echoed by the regime preceding McDermott/Beane with their own agenda against him, benching him for Peterman proved asinine and that era lasted only a game before Taylor returned. The Bills have a lot of work ahead of them in fixing the team, akin to the job left for Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch, but if you compare the regimes, that’s what a bad start is, and that’s when you start to regret the decision made in the offseason.

Who should get fired: Whoever made the call to bench Taylor for Peterman
Who will get fired: Nobody

New York Jets

Well, I’m pretty sure no one expected the Jets to have the competitive team they have fielded this year. It’s not going to win a Super Bowl, but these were a group of players brought in for assumed tanking purposes.

Quarterback Josh McCown has played enough to earn an ‘S’ for satisfactory. He’s not the answer, but he’s certainly grown into the role. The Jets are also putting new players in positions to succeed and flash, letting them know what they should look for in this year’s roster.

Credit to head coach Todd Bowles. This guy put together a respectable first season with Ryan Fitzpatrick under center of all people. While Bowles’ second season was a paltry 5-11, his third season he’s had less talent and done more. The Jets may look to offload Bowles and bring in someone fresh after this season, but it would be a mistake given they have failed at giving him fresh talent. Bowles has done what he can with what he has, and needs at the very least a decent quarterback. If anyone should get canned it’s Mike Maccagnan for failing to get the Jets to tank for the No. 1 pick which everyone figured they were trying to do this year in the first place. Silly Jets.

Who should get fired: Mike Mccagnan
Who will get fired: Todd Bowles