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NFL Black Monday head coach primer: AFC North

Our look at possible vacancies continues to the AFC North. This is a bit more unstable.

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. We started with the AFC East, and today, we have the AFC North.

The AFC North will have some decisions to make this year. It’s hard to predict firings since these are either first-year head coaches or coaches that have had to deal with injury issues. I do think there will be some change-up, not because the rookie head coaches are losing, but how and the circumstances of such. Let’s get to it.

Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns were supposed to turn the page. They got rid of Hue Jackson and promoted offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens to head coach. Not only did they promote him, but they gave him a helluva roster to work with. Like the 49ers at the start of the season, I didn’t see the Browns making the Super Bowl, but I felt they had a good year in them and 2020 it might be Cleveland vs. San Francisco in 2020 for a Lombardi.

How wrong I was. Not only are the Browns 5-7, but they are losing to teams they should be blowing out. Sunday’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers adds more evidence to that.

I’ve said first-year head coaches need time, but the Browns have tried to keep Kitchens’ offense around from 2018—and it’s taken a step back. It’s not like Kitchens just walked through the door and started a rebuild. He looks in over his head, and I’m not sure what his offense’s identity really is besides trying to get it to Nick Chubb. I think the Browns clean house with the roster they have before it’s too late. This is the time where a “first-year” head coach needs to be one and done.

While they’re at it, you might want to show general manager John Dorsey the door before it’s too late. Though I think he’ll get one more year and a head coach a la Trent Baalke.

Who should get fired: John Dorsey and Freddie Kitchens

Who will get fired: Freddie Kitchens

Baltimore Ravens

I thought John Harbaugh would get sacked last year due to the fact the Ravens had only one 10-win season under him since winning Super Bowl XLVII. Then the Ravens went 10-6 in 2018. Right now, they are 10-2 and just got done beating the San Francisco 49ers to become the best team in the NFL. Gotta love the 49ers’ ways of springing teams to that.

In a world where we thought Harbaugh would walk, he’s now priming for a Super Bowl run. I mean, who else in the AFC is good? Beyond the Chiefs and the Texans...and maybe the Patriots? No one, I suppose. It’s the NFC that decided to be loaded. That buys Harbaugh another couple of years.

The one thing that doesn’t have two years is that offense. Trust me; it will get figured out in another year. It has before, and the NFL will do it again. By then, Harbaugh will just rebuild because he’s shown he can rebuild a team.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody

Pittsburgh Steelers

Will this be it for Mike Tomlin? He signed a one-year extension with the Steelers putting him through 2021.

The Steelers are one of the more stable organizations in the NFL. They don’t change coaches much, and stability has helped them immensely. They haven’t had the greatest of seasons, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger going down for the season and the Antonio Brown Mr. Big Chest offseason.

To be perfectly honest, this season is why Tomlin should stick around. He not only got Brown out of Pittsburgh before he self-destructed in the city, but he also held the team together with the Roethlisberger injury and is trying to keep the ship on course. That’s what good coaches do.

Being that Tomlin is going to be kept until 2021 on his current deal, I think the Steelers give him a year or two and then either let him walk or lock him up.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody.

Cincinnati Bengals

One year with a new coach in over a decade and the Bengals may want another one after what Zac Taylor has brought. The thing is, Taylor hasn’t had much to work with on this squad. Wide receiver A.J. Green has been injured, and quarterback Andy Dalton has been in and out of the lineup.

The only win to Taylor’s name? The New York Jets. The Bengals have been on the receiving end of far too many beat-downs and are suffering the same issues of Matt LaFleur’s Green Bay Packers: they have a good offense, just not the right person behind the wheel.

This is Cincinnati, though, and while this season is miserable, it took them forever to get rid of Marvin Lewis. It’s hard to see them making another coaching change after they kept Taylor’s predecessor for so long. The fact the roster they handed Taylor is bad as well goes to show that he’s going to assist in a rebuild, even if he’s not the answer.

He has one more year.

Who should/will get fired: Nobody