The Monday after the final regular season games in the NFL has long been dubbed “Black Monday” by those who cover the league. This season, eight NFL coaches lost their jobs in total. Two of the firings/departures took place during the season and six took place at regular season’s end.
Here is a list of the departed coaches.
Team: Cincinnati Bengals
Tenure: 16 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 131-122-3
Team: Cleveland Browns
Tenure: 3 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 3-36-1
Team: Denver Broncos
Tenure: 2 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 11-21
Team: Green Bay Packers
Tenure: 13 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 125-77-2
Team: Miami Dolphins
Tenure: 3 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 23-25
Team: New York Jets
Tenure: 4 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 24-40
Team: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tenure: 3 seasons
Win/Loss Record: 19-29
Team: Arizona Cardinals
Tenure: 1 season
Win/Loss Record: 3-13
A look at the Numbers
When you look at the list above a few things become clear.
AFC vs NFC
The AFC lost five head coaches to the NFC’s three. This probably isn’t a big deal. All it means is that in this current climate NFC teams generally feel more comfortable with where they’re at coach and most likely QB. This makes sense when you consider the QBs in the NFC – Wilson, Rodgers, Newton, Goff, Brees, Trubisky, Stafford, Ryan, Prescott, Wentz, etc. The NFC has a solid list of QBs that are mostly in the early to prime years of their careers. On the AFC side, you have quality older QBs and a lot of rookie and second year QBs that no one is certain about yet. Brady, Rivers, Watson, Luck, Mahomes, Roethlisberger, and from there it gets sketchy. This may something about the balance in terms of who is winning the next few Super Bowls, but otherwise is neither here nor there.
Six of the coaches fired had their jobs for less than five years. Of those six, only one had the job for more than three years.
If you take out Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy who both fall in the category of coaches who have well worn out their respective welcomes in Cincy and Green Bay, you are left with six fired coaches that averaged out at about two and a half seasons each.
In any other season, this might be the most compelling wrinkle in the Black Monday discussion. Teams are bailing out on coaches very early. Gone are the days of getting four to five seasons to get a system in order, find the right QB, tweak your other skill position players and then make a run. Coaches are being asked to fix it and fix it now, which isn’t always as feasible in the NFL as it might be in other sports.
Sometimes a coach can be one season short of everything clicking. Or, depending on your perspective sometimes a coach can be the last stumbling block in the way of a dynasty and a new voice is what was needed to move forward. Golden State’s move from Mark Jackson to Steve Kerr is a prime example of this discussion.
Even more interesting than the short term stays for a lot of these coaches is the lack of long term experience that their replacements are bringing in. At this point it seems like the waterboy from the Rams is a possible candidate for a head coaching gig. But that’s a completely different discussion.
Five of the coaches fired were African-American. If the numbers were reversed this wouldn’t be anywhere near a big deal. Last season 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams were helmed by caucasian coaches.
The five African-American head coaches fired represent 71% of the total African-American head coaches in the NFL.
Based on current projections, the 2019 NFL season will begin with only three of the thirty-two franchises being led by an African-American head coach – Anthony Lynn with the San Diego Chargers, Mike Tomlin with the Pittsburgh Steelers and potentially Brian Flores with the Miami Dolphins. That makes for a whopping 9% a steep drop from the already low 21% that would have made up the 2018 head coaches.
In a league made up of 70% African-American players, this seems like a bit of an issue.
There has long been an issue with the disparity in African-American representation in the NFL coaching ranks. After years of movement towards more and more representation, this offseason is a major step backward and could be a sign of a continued trend. When you consider that the Steelers could seriously begin considering moving on from Tomlin due to the Bell and Brown fiasco (which is possible if they think it’s a crisis of culture and they hold Tomlin responsible for culture) we may find ourselves at the end of next season with only two African-American coaches in NFL. And if Lynn or Flores have any type of disaster there may only be one.
When you consider these moves and add in the Colin Kaepernick situation, it sure does seem like the NFL is moving backwards in its race relations.
Race + QB Situation
Of the five African-American coaches to lose their jobs, three were in a position of coaching a first year QB selected in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The other two were Denver, who is still searching for a QB in the aftermath of Peyton Manning and Cincinnati who had Andy Dalton and the longest tenured coach to be fired, Marvin Lewis.
Tampa Bay fired Koetter as they take the approach of bringing in a new voice to turn around the Jameis Winston nightmare or someone to prepare for a rebuild with a freshly drafted rookie QB or someone to retool with a freshly acquired free agent QB.
Miami fired Adam Gase for not being able to QB whisper Ryan Tannehill into a playoff bound or winning QB. This might be the most questionable of the moves considering Tannehill was routinely injured and the defense consistently underperformed. Also, who knows where Miami is going next. They need an answer at QB and a number of other areas across the team, this is a multi-year rebuild. Flores may just be the next Jackson or Bowles – stick around during the worst part of the rebuild then handing the team off to someone else when the team finally lands a franchise cornerstone QB.
For the other teams – the Jets, Cardinals and Browns – each of their coaches were fired while overseeing promising rookie seasons from three first round drafted QBs. Given the short tenure of each of these coaches – along with the fact that they were all coaching in QB situations that were in flux at best and a total crapshoot at worst.
Name the Jets, Cardinals or Browns starting QB/s for the last two to three years? Wait, I will do the work for you.
Jets Starting QBs
2016 – Ryan Fitzpatrick, Bryce Petty, Geno Smith
2017 – Josh McCown, Bryce Petty
2018 – Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
Browns Starting QBs
2016 – Cody Kessler, Josh McCown, RGIII
2017 – DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan
2018 – Baker Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor
Cardinal Starting QBs
2016 – Carson Palmer, Drew Stanton
2017 – Carson Palmer, Blaine Gabbert, Drew Stanton
2018 – Josh Rosen, Sam Bradford
First off, McCown played for two of these three teams. In any event, were any of them remotely good? Palmer had a solid season but got injured and was not on the team for Wilks single year at the helm. I understand that QB and coach usually go hand in hand, but that is mostly when the QB and coach come in together or are otherwise closely intertwined. But none of these three coaches had a QB that was legitimately “their guy”. I see reasoning behind firing some GMs based on this list, but not necessarily the coaches.
None of these coaches had hitched their wagons to a QB of the future and failed, they were all dealing with particularly messed up QB situations all around. I get it, someone has to get the blame and sometimes you just need an excuse to get rid of a guy and reboot the culture, restart the rebuild, etc. But man these dudes got really short leashes.
Wrap It Up
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I am reading too much into this like everyone who I told I was writing this article told me I was. It is an interesting thing to consider as you look at the landscape of the league, its relationship with the President and its recent history with approaching social activism.
Given that the coaching ranks in the NFL just got a lot whiter, very quickly should at the very least make you step back and say “hmmmm”.