The regular season ended on Sunday, which meant only one thing - Black Monday was here, and coaches around America were losing their jobs.
The NFL is an unforgiving league at times, with teams looking for instant success and they will not wait around once the season is over. Five head coaches and a general manager lost their jobs on Monday, whilst one head coach failed to even see the season out. We'll begin the dismissals with the most shocking one...
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns
From an outsider looking in, the firing of Chudzinski looks incredibly harsh. Their 4-12 record is obviously disappointing, but he was dealt a rough hand to begin with. The quarterback issues continue for the Browns, whilst the trade of Trent Richardson gives them two first round picks in 2014. It was thought that this would enable Chudzinski to build the team how he wanted it, but after just one season, he's out of the job. There are plenty of rumours already doing the rounds, suggesting that the Browns players “hated” the former Panthers offensive co-ordinator, and that he refused to cut a big name player at the front office's request.
Ex-Broncos head coach and current Patriots offensive co-ordinator Josh McDaniels and former Lions head coach Jim Schwartz are believed to be in the running to replace Chudzinski, and with a handful of good young players such as Joe Haden, TJ Ward, Barkevious Mingo, Josh Gordon and Jordan Cameron, the new head coach will have a good foundation to work with – but they have to get a quarterback.
Chudzinski may struggle to land another head coaching job right now, and could revert back to being an offensive co-ordinator, with Miami looking like a good fit. Dolphins OC Mike Sherman appears to be on his way out, and with Chudzinski being a Miami University graduate, it could make sense to pair their young quarterback Ryan Tannehill with someone who worked so well alongside Cam Newton.
Leslie Fraizer, Minnesota Vikings
Whilst it doesn't seem quite as harsh as the firing of Chudzinski, Frazier can count himself quite unlucky. Having taken the Vikings to the playoffs last season, there was a certain level of expectation around the Vikings that they simply couldn't live up to, but once again, it all starts with the lack of a real quarterback – which is on general manager Rick Spielman, who has been assured that his job is safe despite the disaster pick of Christian Ponder in 2011. Frazier still has a future in coaching, and will likely find himself work quickly as a defensive co-ordinator, but should have been given another season in Minnesota to turn things around.
Again, there is plenty to work with for any new head coach, with Adrian Peterson, Kyle Rudolph, Cordarrelle Patterson and a strong offensive line, as well as defensive pieces like Harrison Smith, Brian Robison, Xavier Rhodes and Sharrif Floyd. Penn State's Bill O'Brien has been mentioned for the job but looks likely to replace Gary Kubiak as Houston Texans head coach, meaning they may have to look elsewhere – potentially in the direction of their former offensive co-ordinator Darrell Bevell, who has done an outstanding job in the same role with the Seattle Seahawks.
Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
It would be easy to say that the chaos with the Redskins is finally over with Shanahan's departure, but with Dan Snyder still calling the shots, that's unlikely. Shanahan's recent attitude was that of a man who was trying to get himself fired, and his treatment of the franchise's most valuable asset, Robert Griffin III, was laughable. A terrible season and a volatile atmosphere could only lead in one direction, and Shanahan finds himself out of the job. The whole of Shanahan's staff have been fired, meaning his son Kyle and former Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris are now available too.
Many Redskins fans want Baylor Bears head coach Art Briles to head to the capital in order to reunite with his college quarterback Griffin, but the 58 year old recently signed a ten year extension to his contract, keeping him there until 2023. Other names suggested are Cincinnati Bengals OC Jay Gruden, San Francisco 49ers OC Greg Roman and the aforementioned Seahawks OC Darrell Bevell. It seems that the Redskins are aiming to bring in an innovative offensive mind to replace Shanahan, but reports suggest that some candidates would be deterred by the possibility of AJ Smith being in charge of personnel.
Whilst some had suggested that Shanahan could be in the running for the Houston Texans job, that seems incredibly unlikely given the sour ending to his time with the Redskins. In fact, it seems almost inconceivable that a team would look to hire Mike after this debacle, but there will almost certainly be a number of offers for his son Kyle.
This was basically the shock that wasn't a shock. Schiano's relationship with the players had been well documented throughout the season, including the farce surrounding quarterback Josh Freeman. The Buccaneers finished 4-12 and it seemed that Schiano may have earned himself a stay of execution, but the Glazers have fired both the head coach and general manager Dominik. The latter brought star cornerback Darrelle Revis to Florida, as well as big names Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Dashon Goldson, but the lack of progression has cost him his job.
The frontrunner already appears to be former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, who worked with the Buccaneers as linebackers coach between 1996 and 2000. Smith developed the famous Tampa 2 defense with then head coach Tony Dungy, and achieved success with it in Chicago, leading the Bears to the 2007 Super Bowl – only to be beaten by his mentor Dungy's Indianapolis Colts. There could also be a return for former Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay, who drafted Buccaneers legends such as Warren Sapp, John Lynch, Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks during the 90's and early 2000's. With a young GM and a college coach the Buccaneers took a step backwards, and now it seems the Glazers will attempt to turn back the clock in order to move forward.
Schiano is the frontrunner to take over from Houston Texans-bound Bill O'Brien at Penn State, with some reports even suggesting that he would have taken that job even if Tampa Bay wanted to keep him. Dominik is still a young executive who brought a number of great players to the Buccaneers and drafted well recently, and has links with Redskins' Bruce Allen after the pair worked together in Oakland, and could land on his feet with Washington.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
You have Matt Stafford, Reggie Bush, Calvin Johnson and a strong offensive line, as well as Ndamukong Suh, Nick Fairley, Ezekiel Ansah et al on defense. You challenge for the NFC North with an Aaron Rodgers-less Packers, a Jay Cutler-less Bears and a competent quarterback-less Vikings. How on earth do you end up finishing third in that division?! Not only were the results not good enough, but a number of off-field issues with a handful of players would suggest a very indisciplined group of players.
Schwartz appears to be in the running for a return to Cleveland with the Browns, but the Lions have been linked with a few names so far. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is the hottest name in that particular discussion, though Lovie Smith and San Diego Chargers offensive co-ordinator Ken Whisenhunt have also been mentioned. There is plenty to work with in Detroit in terms of current personnel and that top ten draft pick in 2014, but they are pressed up right against the salary cap and won't have much wriggle room in free agency.
NFL Network had briefly talked about Schwartz joining forces with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett as the defensive co-ordinator in Dallas, with Monte Kiffin set for the exit. Schwartz will certainly be targeting a head coaching job first, but should he miss out on the available posts, a move back to co-ordinator could be on the cards, and a number of teams would be interested in his services.
There could be even more movement yet, with Tennessee head coach Mike Munchak and Raiders' Dennis Allen also meeting with their front offices to determine their futures. Gary Kubiak was obviously fired by the Texans at the start of December, whilst Rex Ryan (Jets), Joe Philbin (Dolphins) and Jason Garrett (Cowboys) all appear to be safe - for now.
image: © Matt McGee