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NFL Black Monday head coach Primer: NFC South

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It’s onto the NFC South for our look at the state of front offices. AFC East | AFC North | AFC South | AFC West | NFC East | NFC North

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v New Orleans Saints Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

In 2014, the Carolina Panthers went 7-8-1, managing to win the the NFC South. The next two years, each winner (Panthers, and the Atlanta Falcons respectively) went on to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. With the exception of a single team rebuilding, the NFC South is pretty much on lockdown as far as hires go, both front office and coaching. Three of the four teams are expected to be in the playoffs this year, locking up both wild card spots. That means less fires.

New Orleans Saints

The Saints have been victims of a somewhat sudden and lengthy rebuilding project that seems to finally be coming to an end in 2017. Barring disaster, they should lock up the 4th seed and the division. During the rebuilding, head coach Sean Payton was considered to be anything from fired to traded each year. One of those years had high speculation he would come to the 49ers. That same year, he signed a 5 year contract ending any hopes of that. With the wins piling up and New Orleans having their only Super Bowl—and success by extension under Payton, there’s no way they’ll ax him now.

Mickey Loomis, the Saints general manager is in the same capacity. There’s been a lot of speculation he’d get fired, or at least hope by some fans, but he’s not going anywhere as well. In fact he’s running the Saints and the New Orleans Pelicans now. This front office/coaching staff is well tied up and the only way there’d be an opening is if a coordinator took a head coaching job—that’s not happening.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Carolina Panthers

Then Panthers have once again found themselves as a power in the NFC, largely due to quarterback Cam Newton’s play improving in recent years. The team has hit skids, mostly because of injuries (you don’t say?). This year they are once again nipping at a playoff spot in the NFC. Ron Rivera was brought in the same year Newton was drafted (2011), tying both at the hip. With Carolina’s competitive play and a recent Super Bowl appearance, there’s no way they’d fire “Riverboat Ron” now.

Same for the personnel department. Brandon Beane, once a candidate for the general manager job of the 49ers (taken by John Lynch) now sits at Buffalo as their GM. The Panthers have been able to find quality playmakers in the draft. This is ignoring 2017 1st pick, running back Christian McCaffrey, who scored his first touchdown in Week 9. There isn’t a reason to fire anyone on the Panthers. It’s safe.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Atlanta Falcons

Hot off a Super Bowl loss, and losing some no-name offensive coordinator who no one knows about and is probably coaching some group of misfits, the Falcons are trying to replicate their success in 2016. The loss of that one guy who coordinated their offense somewhat hurts, since they aren’t putting up the same numbers they did in 2016. Regardless, Dan Quinn has kept his team competitive and the Falcons are in place to take a wildcard spot at the end of the season.

And there is no way they are getting rid of their general manager either. Thomas Dimitroff has been there since 2008 and had a majority of hits over misses, even having the balls to give up five picks to the Cleveland Browns to snag Julio Jones. That gamble paid off, probably at the cost of former coach Mike Smith’s job. Regardless, Quinn and Dimitroff are fresh off a Super Bowl appearance and going back to the playoffs again.

As far as their former offensive coordinator, I don’t know what that guy’s doing. Probably hanging out in Santa Clara somewhere.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

All those solidified jobs talked about with the last three teams aren’t going to show up in Tampa Bay. This team is going to have some buttons pressed this offseason. A fire I don’t want to put money on is Dirk Koetter. While he posted a 9-7 record in 2016, the play of the Buccaneers this season has inconsistent, and an extension of 2016. When the Buccaneers lost, it was typically ugly. Still, Koetter may buy himself one more year, since the team loses by an average of nine points, but I see him getting shown the door. The Buccaneers haven’t had much in terms of threatening injuries (besides a shoulder injury that kept Winston out of games). In case you’re wondering, a majority of Bucs fans think he should be fired.

The Koetter hire was more of a knee-jerk reaction to the attention he gained as an offensive coordinator. Fearing that he would leave (and liking the work he was doing with quarterback Jameis Winston) the Bucs fired Lovie Smith and promoted Koetter a few days later.

Before Koetter, though, general manager Jason Licht may be the guy to get canned. Hiring Lovie Smith, and then Koetter is the beginning of some strange decisions made by the GM. In the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bucs drafted kicker Robert Aguayo who is now out of the league. The pick was aquired in an absolute dumping of a trade sending a third and fourth to the Kansas City Chiefs for their second rounder. There are many other picks, like their 2016 first round selection, Vernon Hargraves III that seemed to not live up to expectations.

Unfortunately, if Licht gets the ax, ownership may decide to hit the reset button and take Koetter along with them.

Who should get fired: Jason Licht
Who will get fired: Jason Licht