Surviving Black Monday doesn’t mean every NFL coach’s job is safe

NFL Black Monday Survivors

1/1/14 in NFL   |   PAULLEBOWITZ   |   109 respect

With Black Monday over, several coaches who were in danger of losing their jobs survived. For some, Nov 4, 2013; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin addresses the media during a press conference at the Doctors Hospital Training Facility at Nova Southeastern University. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports it could be a temporary reprieve as they’re being evaluated more closely by owners and general managers. The majority of the firings on Black Monday were obvious and justified. Before the survivors get comfortable, they need to remember that Marty Schottenheimer got fired in February of 2007 a month after his Chargers were bounced in the second round of the playoffs following a 14-2 regular season. Owners might wake up one morning and change their minds. Black Monday isn’t the deadline day to make a change. It’s just the day that produces headlines.
 
Here are the coaches who survived…but would be well-advised not to get too comfortable in their jobs, homes, offices, etc.
 
Joe Philbin – Miami Dolphins
 
Owner Stephen Ross was disgusted with his team’s performance against the Jets on Sunday and is considering changes. What that entails could mean anything. General manager Jeff Ireland is reportedly in trouble and offensive coordinator Mike Sherman—who was used as a human shield by quarterback Ryan Tannehill—is not expected back. If they’re firing the GM and firing the offensive coordinator, what possible reason would there be to keep the head coach?
 
All the posturing and anger of the owner aside, how is Philbin to be evaluated? Is he the offensive guru who worked with Brett Favre and helped develop Aaron Rodgers with the Packers? Is he the vanilla personality who acts like the substitute teacher we all goofed on with no fear of retribution? Is he the inept leader who let Richie Incognito run roughshod over his locker room? Or is he the coach who kept the team together in the immediate aftermath of the embarrassing and possibly career-killing Jonathan Martin – Incognito “bullying” scandal?
 
Let’s suspend disbelief and give him a pass for the Martin-Incognito mess. It’s hard to accept that the issues that Martin claims to have been going through didn’t reach the head coach, but perhaps he didn’t know the extent of it and certainly didn’t believe that it would blow up as it did. Without it, have the Dolphins shown enough improvement in Philbin’s two years as the head coach to give him another year?
 
Blaming the offensive coordinator is a copout. It happens all the time, but the head coach is the boss. It’s Philbin’s team and his offense. It’s understandable that a first time head coach will be willing to make a change with his coordinators to keep his job, but if Ross thinks that’s going to solve the problems then he’s not entirely aware of what the problems are in the first place.
 
If there wasn’t an issue with the general manager, I’d say keep Philbin for another year and make a change with the offensive coordinator. If they fire Ireland, telling the new GM he has to keep Philbin is absurd. Ireland and Philbin should either both stay or both go.  

Nov 24, 2013; Baltimore, MD, USA; New York Jets owner Woody Johnson (r) laughs with head coach Rex Ryan (l) prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mitch Stringer-USA TODAY SportsRex Ryan – New York Jets
 
We’ll never know whether owner Woody Johnson and GM John Idzik changed their minds after the Jets finished at 8-8 and the widespread reaction to the rumors that Ryan was going to be fired were so adamant in support of the coach. Although with two games remaining Ryan allegedly told the team he was going to be fired at the end of the season, the decision had probably not been made with finality. I have a hunch Idzik told Johnson he wanted to see how the team played in the last two games before deciding. Since they won and the players, fans and media were so steadfast in supporting the coach, Ryan saved his job.
 
The Jets are reportedly talking about a one year extension for Ryan so he’s not a lame duck in 2014. With that, he could be in the same position a year from now, wondering about his job status. If Ryan’s the guy then he has to be the guy. That includes the commitment of at least two years on a contract extension. They don’t want to have to deal with this again in a year and it’s not fair to Ryan. He’s done enough good work with the Jets to warrant more respect than that. 
 
Jason Garrett – Dallas Cowboys
 
Garrett was a backup quarterback for the Cowboys during their Troy Aikman glory years, so he knows what it’s like to be a center act in Jerry Jones’s traveling carnival. Back then, he was a roadie. Now he’s corralling the acts and trying to get them to perform.
 
It’s hard to blame Garrett when his job is to be the offensive mastermind and the offense was fifth in the Nov 28, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett during a NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports NFL in points. He had nothing to do with the defense nor the hiring of the defensive coordinator. If the coach doesn’t hire the coordinator and isn’t involved with the scheme, how is he at fault if it goes poorly? The Jones method of handling his head coach is that of informing rather than consulting. They’ll get a new defensive coordinator who—one would think—will be a better fit for the personnel with his preferred scheme than Monte Kiffin. Kiffin’s age was not the reason the defense was bad. He wasn’t the right man for the job.
 
Dave Wannstedt was the special teams coach for the Buccaneers under Greg Schiano and now that the Bucs have fired Schiano and replaced him with Lovie Smith, Wannestedt will be looking for work. Back to the Cowboys with Jones and Garrett as the defensive coordinator would be a good idea. 

Dec 29, 2013; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin looks on from the sidelines during the third quarter of a game against the Washington Redskins at MetLife Stadium. The Giants defeated the Redskins 20-6. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsTom Coughlin – New York Giants
 
Coughlin’s status isn’t as secure as is implied. General manager Jerry Reese and owner John Mara have said they Coughlin back, but Coughlin is intensely loyal to his coaches. If there’s an ultimatum that offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride needs to go and Coughlin tries to save Gilbride’s job, it could be a “you fire him, you have to fire me too” situation. Then the front office will have to decide whether they’d like to sully the two Super Bowls the Giants have won under Coughlin with a grisly divorce.
 
This isn’t about the team giving up on the coach or his age. The team didn’t quit even when they were 0-6 and wound up with a respectable 7-9 record. I don’t see why Coughlin’s age should even matter. The game hasn’t passed him by; he’s mellowed from his glowering, humorless disciplinarian act; and if he was 57 instead of 67, no one would bring up his age at all.
 
If Coughlin tries to save Gilbride, he could wind up going down with him. Gilbride might simply resign to save Coughlin the risk. This isn’t over yet.
 
Mike Munchak – Tennessee Titans
 
Munchak brought the Titans to a 7-9 record after losing his starting quarterback Jake Locker. Wins in their final two games made the record somewhat respectable. They came against the woeful Texans and Jaguars. The team played hard for Munchak and as a Hall of Fame player in his own right, they certainly respect him.
 
The Titans got blown out of one game this season against Peyton Manning and the Broncos. They weren’t expected to be a playoff team and with Locker entering his fourth season, Munchak should get another year. It’s hard to fire the coach when he loses his starting quarterback and keeps the team competitive with limited talent and expectations. 
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