It’s the last day of the year that was, and first off, I hope everyone reading has an enjoyable day tomorrow and a wonderful new year in 2011.
That said, there’s a bunch of guys who, in the week that’s upcoming, will be looking for new jobs — or at least, if their employers have any sense, will be. While the preceding sentence could apply to any number of people, in this instance, I’m talking about a number of NFL coaches who will be entering the unemployment line shortly.
Last off-season was a relatively quiet year for coaching changes in the league, but this off-season could result in a bloodbath — already, four teams (Dallas, Minnesota, Denver, and San Francisco) have canned their top men, one more coaching change than we saw all last season. And that’s only the beginning. There’s a good number more who should be cleaning out their offices — or would be, if I was the one making the decisions for these teams (surprisingly to me, one of those is not Lovie Smith, who shocked me completely by reigning in Mike Martz’ worst tendencies, inspiring his charges in Chicago, and leading my Bears to a first round playoff bye — I’m happy to admit I was way off on my prediction for the results in the Windy City this year).
So who should go? Four of my top candidates are:
Norv Turner — San Diego
So let me see if I’ve got this straight: the Chargers have had, for the entire season, one of the top-3 offenses and defenses in the NFL — yet they might now finish better than am embarrassing and underachieving 8-8? Well, at least Chargers fans have the playoff successes of recent years to fall back on. Or not.
The 2010 Chargers have been a mess since the Chiefs thoroughly handled them way back in Week 1. You can blame it on the injuries (to Antonio Gates and others), you can blame it on one o f the worst special teams in NFL history (which seemed to give up at least a touchdown a game), or you can blame it on the holdouts (like Vincent Jackson). But in the end, the ultimate blame lies with Turner, who has accomplished in San Diego pretty much what I expected him to do — less than what the talent dictated he should have. The Chargers mailing it in last week against the Bungles should have sealed his fate.
Jack Del Rio — Jacksonville
Speaking of mailing it in, how does a team playing for it’s playoff life at home against one of the most dysfunctional organizations in the NFL manage to put up the absolute stinker that the Jaguars did last week? Especially when their opponent was undermanned and less talented and led by Rex Freaking Grossman at QB? Has there been a bigger no-show by a team in a crucial game this season so far?
I was so certain of Jacksonville winning last week (admittedly, as much due to Washington’s failings as the Jaguars’ strengths) that I selected them in a Survivor Pool I was in (for the uninitiated, that’s a contest where you pick an NFL winner every week, but can’t select the same team twice). Much like Ron Burgundy and milk, I immediately regretted that decision as soon as the game started. As I posted elsewhere about the game: [The Jaguars are] a thoroughly mediocre team with mediocre personnel and a mediocre coach and led by a mediocre QB. Ownership can fix one of these problems on Monday by handing Del Rio his pink slip on Monday.
Mike Shanahan — Washington
Which brings us to the team that beat Jacksonville last week. That victory should do nothing to wipe away the unquestionable stench of what’s been the Redskins season, a season that may have resulted in a few more wins that last year’s debacle under then-coach Jim Zorn, but in many ways, has regressed the once-proud franchise even further.
It’s hard to believe now, but back in week 7, Washington beat the number two seed Chicago Bears in Soldier Field to raise their record to 4-3. The next week resulted in the surreal benching of Donovan McNabb in Detroit for Rex Grossman when the Redskins still had a chance to tie the game on the game’s final series — and ever since then, Washington has seen their season implode. The Redskins are 2-5 since then, they were embarrassed on national television by the Eagles, they have no quarterback for next season, they threw away draft picks to acquire McNabb, their talent level on both sides of the ball is lacking, and they have several malcontents on the roster stirring up trouble. Other than that, everything is rosy.
Shanahan is still living off the rep of having won two Super Bowls — it’s getting more clear every day that the credit to those belongs to John Elway and Terrell Davis, and far less to Shanahan’s “genius”, which has resulted in a whopping one playoff win in the eleven seasons since Elway retired. There’s no way Daniel Snyder will fire Shanahan after only one season of his five year deal gone — but for the sake of his team’s future success, he should.
Gary Kubiak — Houston
This entry shouldn’t surprise readers of the blog — I was detailing reasons why Kubiak should be fired last season — and once again, the Houston Texans coach is feeling the pressure of being on the hot seat. The Texans late season charge that resulted in four straight wins and the franchise’s first winning season saved Kubiak’s job then — though a meaningless winning streak when the team had all but been eliminated from the playoffs shouldn’t have blinded owner Bob McNair to the reality that Kubiak isn’t the man to lead the team to the next level.
There’s certainly plenty of talent on the Texans — Arien Foster’s emergence at running back has been one of the top stories in the NFL this year (though it should be noted that without the injury in the pre-season of Ben Tate, Foster would probably have been buried on Kubiak’s depth chart, just like he was last year), and the ultra-tough Andre Johnson is still one of the best receivers in the game. Matt Schaub’s play is still inconsistent, however, and the defensive performance this year has been a disappointment. The Texans’ performance can be summed up in the season’s third week, when following two victories (including one over their arch-rival Colts), Houston lost at home to Dallas — a simply inexcusable loss that exemplifies why Kubiak should be gone — even if it’s a year too late.
Other coaches I think should be fired? Jason Garrett (his unwillingness to discipline Marion Barber or Roy Williams during his tenure as top man shows he’s simply Wade V.2.0), Eric Mangini (overrated in New York, and he’s not Holmgren’s hire), and John Fox and Marvin Lewis (two guys who have worn out their welcome, and both of whom are in the last years of their contracts anyway). (UPDATE — Not long after I published this, Carolina announced that as expected, Fox would not return in 2011).
With that, I’m out of here. Happy New Year to everyone, and I’ll be back next week with my 2nd annual playoff predictions!