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NFL Black Monday head coach primer: AFC West

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Our look at front office/head coach openings in the NFL continues today with the AFC South. AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East

Denver Broncos v Indianapolis Colts Photo by Andy Lyons/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 West.

The AFC West has been fighting to not be the doormat of the NFL for years and just when it seems like that attribute may be exorcised, it returns with a vengeance.

At least, that’s what would be said three weeks ago. Now all the sudden three of the four teams are fighting for a playoff spot and things are getting competitive. Credit to the Los Angeles Chargers for returning to their late winning streak ways Norv Turner was famous for. Still, there’s been some less than desirable results for a couple teams and we will definitely see some turnover.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders were the up and coming class of the AFC (man it feels weird saying that). Quarterback Derek Carr was given a hefty contract extension in the offseason due to playing lights out with his rookie deal and helped the Raiders to their first winning season in 2016 since 2002. Unfortunately, injuries (including one suffered a few games earlier by Carr) plagued the team into the playoffs and they were an early exit

Head Coach Jack Del Rio was brought on in 2015 and steadily took the Raiders up the winning ladder, helping them to that first aforementioned winning season in some time. The hiring of Jack Del Rio was mostly praised, but some dissenters brought up his tenure with the Jacksonville Jaguars as a reason the Raiders might not crack anything besides a few playoff wins. Del Rio’s time in Jacksonville was lukewarm at best; not terrible, not amazing. Despite his prior records, Del Rio has created a consistency with the coaching staff not seen for years. Prior to Del Rio’s hiring, no Raiders coach made it past three years since the turn of the century

Del Rio also signed an extension in February of 2017, which means he’s not going anywhere after this season—which hasn’t been kind. The Raiders are sitting in 3rd place of the AFC West, and beginning to return to Raidering games away. Some may blame injuries, but it wasn’t near as devastating as it was for the team last year.

Still, with a move to Las Vegas and a recent extension to a head coach, there’s not going to be much change in the office this season. General Manager Reggie McKenzie built the Raiders into a decent roster, there’s no way they’d axe him this season. This team needs another year.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers hired Anthony Lynn in the offseason, a popular hire given how his offense did in Buffalo after offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s firing. Lynn was seen as a decent hire in the offseason and many thought he’d wind up staying with the Buffalo Bills. He instead was hired by Los Angeles.

The beginning of the season couldn’t have gone much worse with the Chargers being mostly ordinary. The team went on a four-game losing streak to start 2017. After a couple of wins mixed with two more losses, most were ready to say Lynn was a dud. Then the Chargers went on a four-game winning streak averaging 32 points a game while their opponents managed just 17. Before their loss to Kansas City, many were claiming the Chargers as the team to beat.

The coaching roles are safe here. In the front office, Tom Telesco may have a warmer seat though if it wasn’t for the fact the team was performing. Telesco is a advocate of building a team through the draft and then making final touches through free agency. In the last few years that approach hasn’t exactly made the Chargers a contender. If the Chargers re-enter a skid, expect Telesco to go under the microscope, but he most likely will get another year with Anthony Lynn before they decide to change management.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Denver Broncos

It’s amazing how bad the Broncos have been this year, considering they won the Super Bowl just two years ago. Peyton Manning’s retirement effectively hamstrung the team and their quarterback situation behind him just couldn’t replicate the success.

Brock Osweiler was drafted with the clear expectation he would succeed Manning. Unfortunately, Osweiler isn’t a good quarterback. After leaving the Broncos in free agency, getting benched after a very large contract in Houston, and returning to Denver a year later to remain the backup, it’s clear that he’s not the long-term answer. Neither is current starter Trevor Siemian. The last few years, the Broncos quarterback situation has seemed like a large band-aid with no clear solution from general manager John Elway. Two years after being drafted, Paxton Lynch has shown nothing to hope for either. They had a shot at Colin Kaepernick, but salary issues and dealing with Trent Baalke put the kibosh on that real quick. And this was before the kneeling fiasco.

Then there’s Vance Joseph, head coach of the Broncos in his first year. Joseph had the balls to bench Siemian for Osweiler in Week 9—a very questionable decision. Especially when said benching transpired a week or two after the coach said the offense was, “not a Trevor problem”. A defensive minded coach, the Broncos defense has been allowing an average of 23 points a game, and this is a defensive roster ranked as one of the best in the league. Not good. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but while Elway has found several nice pieces, one has to wonder if he just simply was the guy to sign Peyton Manning.

Oh and this was Kyle Shanahan’s choice of destination in the 2017 coaching search. The Broncos choose Joseph over Shanahan. And Joseph’s defense in Miami wasn’t exactly world-beating in the playoffs last year either. Not sure about that one. It all points to a possible restart, akin to the 49ers’ rebuild last year. Given the Super Bowl luster, Elway will get another year or two. Joseph may get canned after just one season to save face.

Who should get fired: John Elway — he should have addressed the QB position, and had plenty of time to.
Who will get fired: Vance Joseph

Kansas City Chiefs

When Andy Reid came to Kansas City, he quickly turned it into the same teams he had with the Philadelphia Eagles: competitive but unable to win when it mattered. They certainly have one of the most talented rosters in football; Travis Kelce is one of the best tight ends in the league, Tyreek Hill is one of the fastest wide receivers in the league, Kareem Hunt is making a name for himself as a decent running back when Spencer Ware’s injury left question marks on the backfield. On the defensive side, the KC defense is absolutely filthy—when it is healthy, and when it feels like it. Unfortunately health has been the issue. When safety Eric Berry went down in the first week, something strange was going on, and the defense slowly began to regress.

And then there’s Alex Smith. The Chiefs drafted Patrick Mahomes in the 2017 draft and Smith responded with one of his best seasons ever. A season where he was done throwing to just Kelce and instead went downfield. The funny thing is, when things have gone bad for the Chiefs, it seems like Smith becomes the scapegoat. 366 yards, 31 points, and a loss against the New York Jets? The blame falls on Smith for his lone interception to end the game. While Smith has had his share of bad play, more often than not he’s been the recipient for the brunt of the glass ceiling the Chiefs received.

Andy Reid has surrendered playcalling in games which is a bit of a strange move, considering he has been the primary playcaller most of his career. The Chiefs have also fired general manager John Dorsey—another strange move given that they have had some decent drafts under his tenure, however it was less about his decisions and more about his style that led to his dismissal. Brett Veach was promoted within as the new GM and away they go.

Andy Reid brought back a culture of winning and it seems like they’ve made all the adjustments they’re going to make. He’s made the Chiefs competitive, albeit inconsistent. Don’t expect any job openings here unless they go on a massive losing streak. Well...except for one job.

Who has been fired: John Dorsey
Who should get fired: Nobody
Who will get fired: Alex Smith :(