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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?

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 has gone basically like this: There’s the Patriots, and then there’s everybody else. Things could be changing this year. The Buffalo Bills are starting to get a handle on this football thing, and it’s not by depending on a gazillion pieces to fall into play so they can make the playoffs, the Bills are a decent football team. They might not be all the way there yet, but they could be on the way to shake things up. But let’s have real talk: 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.

Half the division had new coaching hires; the other half is now going to be in the postseason. This is the safest division in football. Well, beyond one team which we’ll get to. But first:

New England Patriots

In a season everyone thought once again would be the decline of Tom Brady, the Patriots sit at the top of the AFC East. Unlike the 49ers who have to steamroll good teams to get respect, the Patriots are considered the best in the biz thanks to their quarterback. Except the Brady now isn’t like the Brady years ago. He’s in no way bad, but the decline, ever so slight, is there.

Outside of that, it’s business as usual for New England. Two years ago, there was some speculation that the wheels were falling off due to the Jimmy Garoppolo trade to the San Francisco 49ers. Well, it’s been two years, and they’ve got another Super Bowl, so, so much for that idea.

It won’t be who leaves now, but who succeeds Bill Belichick. After his episode of flaking out at the last minute on the Indianapolis Colts, Josh McDaniels would be that guy. He’s the only guy that would be on the open market, but you know how this goes.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Miami Dolphins

I have no idea what to say about this team. The Dolphins are clearly trying to tank the season away, and when they do that, how can you blame their coach? Brian Flores came over from the New England Patriots and is in his first year. With the Dolphins doing nothing but shipping players off for draft picks, there’s not much he can do installing a system or a culture.

He’s got two wins and with this team? That’s like winning a Super Bowl in my book. No one knows what the future holds for Flores, but if he goes, you may as well fire general manager Chris Grier while you’re at it. He’s been around since 2016 and had the bright idea to bring in Brock Osweiler. If you have all these picks and resemble the 2016 San Francisco 49ers, starting fresh might be the way to go.

But I don’t see anything happening. The Dolphins knew this was coming after they sent everyone away. There is no way to see what you have with Flores unless his teams have completely given up. And if they are getting wins in this situation, that might indicate they haven’t.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Buffalo Bills

Last year, I thought Sean McDermott would get canned. Boy, how happy I am to be wrong. How can you not like the Bills? They almost knocked off the Patriots, but the Patriots seemed to have gone to that same well of luck that the Seattle Seahawks do and got quarterback Josh Allen knocked out in their game. Ugh.

Despite that, the Bills have lost three games this year and are primed for a wild card spot. They could even win the AFC East if the Patriots can stumble (cue everyone’s laughter).

McDermott has started to get something going with that defense in the Bills, and Josh Allen is coming into his own as a quarterback. He’s not lighting the world on fire, but he’s definitely showing that he’s developing and not Mitch Trubisky even though the numbers may say otherwise.

Safe team. No one is getting fired here.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

New York Jets

If the San Francisco 49ers are any indication, the NFL should know you need TIME to turn a roster around. One year never does it for a head coach. Patience, encouragement, and again, time are what is needed in order for a regime to get things going. That said, it’s not when a team loses, but how it loses. If you compare the 49ers in 2017 to those in 2015 and 2016, you saw a team in 2017 with an identity. It was nowhere near there, but you could see what they were trying to do. The 2015 and 2016 teams just didn’t offer much of anything. They looked like they gave up and didn’t have a clue.

Finally, you need to have a GM and head coach in a symbiotic relationship. There can’t be a hierarchy here. They need to be working together or (as we learned with Trent Baalke) it doesn’t work.

That leads me to the New York Jets. This is, well, weird. Gase was fired from Miami, which I felt was a bit of a mistake (I thought he should have gotten another year, especially with Miami planning to tank). He came to New York, and shortly thereafter, general manager Mike Maccagnan was fired. This was a good idea, as he was the one who sabotaged Todd Bowles with terrible acquisitions, and the Jets somehow won some games anyways. In came Joe Douglas as the new GM, and he has control of the 53-man roster.

The difference is there is a bit of a good history with him and Gase, and they were said at the start of the season to be working well together. But it’s hard to do that when you lose, and the Jets had an awful start to the season, losing four straight, beating the Dallas Cowboys, and then losing another three (including one to Miami where Gase was rumored to be fired if he lost).

If I’m the Jets and Gase/Douglas aren’t pointing too many violent fingers at each other, I give them another year to right this ship. If they can get along, which they were.

Gase needs another year to get things installed, and the Jets need to clean out the stench of Maccagnan further. Firing him in his first year if he and Douglas are getting along, is a mistake. Unfortunately, the fans aren’t happy, and I can’t think the Jets are too happy either.

Who should get fired: Nobody

Who will get fired: Adam Gase