There were some thoughts that Black Monday may become Black Tuesday, with Monday being New Year’s Day and all. Not the case. It was a very busy day in the league with coaches being told their services were no longer needed.
This year, five vacancies open up in the NFL head coaching ranks. We’ll be looking at the coaching pool in subsequent posts, but for now, we want to look at who has been let go of. We also want to pull our own quotes from our Black Monday primer, just to see how we did in some of these predictions.
Of honorable mention is the retirement of Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians. Arians announced his retirement in a very teary press conference on Monday. The Cardinals are hard at work figuring out who on the roster will stay, but are wasting no time reaching out to the top candidates this year: Matt Patricia and Josh McDaniels. Both are defensive and offensive coordinators respectively of the New England Patriots.
Marvin Lewis (Cincinnati Bengals)
What we said: Fired — “It’s time.”
What happened: Retained — Will stay with the Bengals and it’s complicated.
The Bengals head coach is going to be something with the team next year. Whether it’s a head coach or a front office executive is yet to be determined. Anyone who knows what Lewis will do next year has a guess as good as ours, but one thing is for sure, he’s not fired.
Jack Del Rio (Oakland Raiders)
What we said: Retained — “Del Rio signed an extension in February of 2017, which means he’s not going anywhere after this season—which hasn’t been kind.”
What happened: Del Rio fired, Jon Gruden en route
There’s no way the Raiders would fire Del Rio after inking an extension and having the season they had if they were not confident they could get Gruden. The coaching pool this year is mighty thin unless they think they can get Josh McDaniels to come out to Las Vegas. According to Adam Schefter, there was no pause, no awkwardness, no hesitation, they flat out said they were moving on. As of this writing, the Raiders will need to fulfill the Rooney Rule. They also are going to need to have Gruden approved as an owner as part of the package to lure him from ESPN involves giving him ownership of the team.
Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts)
What we said: Fired — “With [GM Ryan] Grigson’s exit and the Colts responsible for some of the dumbest plays, Pagano’s fate is all but certain.”
What happened: Fired — Pagano
One of the obvious ones this year. There was no way the Colts would keep Pagano on payroll with the skid the team has been on. Two .500 seasons and then this clunker sealed the fate of Pagano. Part of the frustration of 2017 is attributed to Andrew Luck’s injuries, and part of this is to some shaky playcalling. Pagano finished with a record of 42-38, but I’m omitting his 2011 season due to him being diagnosed with Leukemia and having a leave of abscense. In his place, future Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians took the team to 9-2 and the playoffs.
Vance Joseph (Denver Broncos)
What we said: Fired — “Joseph may get canned after just one season to save face.”
What happened: Retained — Joseph
While it we suggested Elway get canned for the massive failure that is the Broncos quarterback room, Vance Joseph would take the brunt of the blame and be shown the door. Then Elway tweeted this gem out:
Vance and I had a great talk this morning about our plan to attack this offseason and get better as a team. We believe in Vance as our head coach. Together, we'll put in the work to improve in all areas and win in 2018.— John Elway (@johnelway) January 1, 2018
Yeah, that’s a start. Here’s what the plan should be: get a quarterback! The Broncos have what should be one of the better defensive rosters in the league on paper. Their head coach is a defensive-minded coach, yet they are ranked 22nd in points against. That’s not exactly inspiring. In any case, he’s sticking around.
Meanwhile, the Broncos are releasing offensive coaches in a massive purge and doing a huge overhaul to the offensive side of the ball. But they are keeping Joseph. Whatever.
Todd Bowles (New York Jets)
What we said: Fired — “The Jets may look to offload Bowles and bring in someone fresh after this season.”
What happened: Retained — Bowles extended to 2020
Given the Jet’s struggles, it was speculated Bowles would get shown the door. Luckily, the Jets realized what he can do with subpar talent in a year they were supposed to be tanking (which could be a firable offense in and of itself). Bowles got extended to 2020, which is probably the right move. Unless the Jets think they can land Matt Patricia or Josh McDaniels (not happening given the relationship the Jets have with Bill Belichick) Bowles is the best coaching candidate they could have. Especially this year.
Hue Jackson (Cleveland Browns)
What we said: Retained — “Jackson will get one more year and he should.”
What happened: Retained — Jackson is coming back
Expected, but what wasn’t was the friction that happened almost immediately after the announcement. John Dorsey made the executive order for Jackson to hire an offensive coordinator. Not exactly a good thing to be told your job is safe and then issued orders. Plus, from what’s been printed, many think Jackson can still get the ax. For now, Jackson has survived Black Monday and getting “The Vince”.
John Fox (Chicago Bears)
What we said: “John Fox may be coaching his last few games with the team (and the NFL)”
What happened: Fired — Fox
This was probably the easiest prediction to make for the firings. John Fox was as good as gone. The amusing part is, this may have been decided long before the 2017 season began. The trade and pick of Mitchell Trubisky was not known to the coach until a few hours before the pick actually happened. From there, Fox was basically saddled with a quarterback he probably wasn’t banging on the door for. That may have helped with motivation for the crowd-pleasing 5-11 finish.
The communication with Fox has been documented as being atrocious and it seems like he was nothing more than a placeholder while general manager Ryan Pace got the team built up. Whether Pace succeeded or not is up for debate. Despite the fact Pace made that trade with the 49ers to move up a spot for Trubisky, he has received an extension while Fox has been sent packing. Pace’s job is on the line though. One bad coaching hire and he’ll be given a pink slip.
Jim Caldwell (Detroit Lions)
What we said: Fired— “Caldwell has lost both playoff games in his tenure as head coach of the Lions and brought a sort of repetitiveness that only a firing can heal.”
What happened: Fired — Caldwell
Not as confident as the firing of Fox, but Jim Caldwell’s job was all but gone with the Lion’s elimination from the postseason. While a great offensive coordinator, Caldwell’s head coaching careers may never get another kickstart again. With both Indiapolis and Detroit now releasing him, he’ll find a job as an OC. My money is on the Bears.
Jason Licht (General Manager, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
What we said: Fired — “In the second round of the 2016 NFL Draft, the Bucs drafted kicker Robert Aguayo who is now out of the league.”
What happened: Retained — Licht is sticking around along with head coach Dirk Koetter.
A general manager with picks out of the league? Coaches that are inconcistent? And an underachieving roster beneath them? Gee...this feels oddly familiar. In any case, Licht will stick around to burn draft picks on kickers. Koetter has been announced as being retained as well, which means the Bucs are either going to be sniffing the playoffs or giving fans more of the drovel they saw this year.
Dom Capers (Green Bay Packers)
What we said: Nobody gets fired — “Dom Capers [won’t get fired as well] who’s had plenty of dirt in his file to get canned.”
What happened: Fired — Dom Capers
Mike McCarthy may want to be looking over his shoulder. The Packers today fired Dom Capers. If this or this couldn’t get him fired, then it was safely assumed he’d be there until he decided to retire. The Packers are shaking up the defensive side of the ball and are also making heavy front office changes with Ted Thompson being moved to a different position.
The entire coaching staff is on notice. Capers is a warning that the front office isn’t happy. This doesn’t happen unless they want to send a message given Capers’ long tenure.
Every year as a sort of right of passage, the coaches all deserve a proper send off. That send off is “The Vince”. The requirements of “The Vince” are simple: get fired. If you retire, step down, or do anything that is not getting your job yanked from you, you do not get The Vince.
This year’s recipients of “The Vince” are: Jim Caldwell, John Fox, Chuck Pagano, Ben McAdoo, Jack Del Rio, Dom Capers, and a bunch of offensive coaches for the Denver Broncos.