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NFL Black Monday head coach primer: AFC South

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

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.

The AFC South is a bit of a weird one. There were some questionable coaching decisions, almost strong-armed, last minute decisions, but they are also decisions only a year old. A lot of coaching turnover happened last year to half the division and the other half just hasn’t reached a point where they want to go in a different direction. Don’t be surprised if there are no vacancies in the AFC South, it’s the safest division for a coach in 2019.

Indianapolis Colts

The Colts deserved all the pity people threw upon them at the start of 2018. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels agreed to be the Colts’ new head coach. Then, at the 11th hour, and I mean the absolute 11th hour, McDaniels pulled out and elected to stay in New England. The interview process to get McDaniels was drawn out due to the Patriots deep playoff run and the NFL’s interview guidelines and this incident shows why the rule needs a revision. Perhaps coaching interviews for the NFL at large can’t happen until after the Super Bowl? Who knows, but with McDaniels leaving, and all the other hires gobbled up, the Colts turned to Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Frank Reich.

And away they go. The Colts haven’t been awful this year, they sit firmly at .500 as of this writing, but they are very inconsistent. A lot of their more productive moments came when quarterback Andrew Luck managed to dig them out of a hole. Then there’s lowlights like where they lose to the Jacksonville Jaguars this past week by six points.

Actually, let me rephrase. They didn’t lose by six points, well they did, but that’s because there was six points scored total. Given the Colts’ roster issues and tireless search of identity, there’s a lot of things that you can let slide. Losing to the opposing team by six points when you failed to score any is not something that flies. The Colts have shown they can score points, getting into the 30s on the regular, but they are still without a consistent running back, lack costars for T.Y. Hilton with the wide receivers, and have a defense that makes the San Francisco 49ers go to shame in lack of productivity.

Given that Reich was a last-minute decision and not a ‘second choice’, as well as them retaining all of McDaniels’ assistant coaches after McDaniels bailed (leaving Reich with no choice in his staff) may mean they go in a different direction. But it’s a mistake. He’ll get one more year. It depends on what second-year general manager Chris Ballard decides.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Houston Texans

Last year, I said the Texans ceiling all depended on how Deshaun Watson recovered from his knee injury. Well, since the Texans are 9-3 and leading the division, it’s safe to say he’s doing just fine. The Texans very well may be the most balanced team in the league. Kansas City has more firepower, but their defense is questionable. Only the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints are in this category.

Remember, I said balanced, not game-breaking. It’s a solid squad that Bill O’Brien can now take credit for developing, and the organization can get a pat on the back for keeping him around in some tumultuous seasons (the Brian Hoyer, Ryan Mallett, Tom Savage drama comes to mind). The Texans have solid players in every position, but the question is how it does against what could be superior foes.

That said, the team is stable, winning the division, and competing for a first week bye in the playoffs. No one is getting canned. It’s the other way around, that coaching staff could get gutted by other teams

Who should/will get fired: Not a chance.

Tennessee Titans

Well, foot in my mouth. I thought after their first playoff win in 14 years Mike Mularkey would be sticking around. They instead gave him the ax after losing to the New England Patriots and getting bumped out of the playoff race.

So in is Mike Vrabel, former DC of the Houston Texans (remember that gutting thing I talked about? O’Brien can flat out coach and gets assistants that do the same). The Titans are having an off year, sitting at .500, but that’s a rebuilding issue that is being fixed. Given that it’s Vrabel’s first stint as a head coach, some bumps are expected.

He’s a rookie head coach in his first year and the Titans are at .500. He’s not going anywhere. General manager Jon Robinson definitely isn’t going out either. Many of his draft picks have stuck with the team either as starters or depth despite a few misses. Next year if the production does not improve Robinson would go, but it’s too early to press the button here.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Jacksonville Jaguars

The Jaguars being a dominant force seems like forever ago. They were something weren’t they? A defense so good, it meant something with Jimmy Garoppolo carved them. I sure loved Niners Nation’s Twitter war with Jalen Ramsey too.

But just as quick as the Jaguars became relevant in 2017, they went back to the pit of mediocrity. Blake Bortles got a three-year deal to start the season and then proceeded to have an epiphany that he’s Blake Bortles. The consequence was Jacksonville finally admitting a quarterback problem by Bortles trading his helmet for a headset and putting Cody Kessler in.

So who’s to blame in this? Well, probably Bortles. The Jaguars defense has been awful, largely because of the position Bortles puts them in time and time again (this sounds familiar). It’s certainly an off-season and maybe Bortles isn’t the one to shoulder all the blame, but he’s going to be the one to take one for the team. Marrone will want his quarterback and he’ll be looking to the 2019 draft to get him. And possibly a running back that can stay healthy. Considering they went to the AFC Championship last season, it’s safe to say Marrone and Tom Coughlin by extension, aren’t going anywhere. Just a season that didn’t work out.

Who should get released: Blake Bortles
Who will get fired: Nobody