Following his team’s unforgivable second-half disintegration against Denver, San Diego’s Norv Turner was all set to sit atop the throne with the hottest seat for embattled NFL head coaches.
But then Andy Reid displayed Tuesday how much the heat is getting to him in Philadelphia.
Reid’s firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo reeks of desperation. It also reflects poorly on Reid. He was the one who so adamantly insisted that Castillo could make a successful transition from handling Philadelphia’s offensive line — and being quite good at it — after having not coached on the defensive side of the football since the mid-1980s or possessing coordinator experience outside of his days at Kingsville (Texas) High School.
Reid stubbornly stuck with Castillo last season as the 2011 Eagles fluttered to a 4-8 record. When the unit finished the year strong, Reid retained Castillo, but fired secondary coach Johnnie Lynn. Lynn’s replacement, Todd Bowles, is now the new defensive coordinator.
If he wasn’t fully convinced that Castillo could capably handle the job, why not fire him in the offseason and hire Bowles for the coordinator spot rather than make this change in mid-October?
While the Eagles’ defense wasn’t dominating this season, it also wasn’t the team’s biggest problem during a 3-3 start. That falls primarily on Reid’s area of expertise — the offense — and the ongoing struggles of quarterback Mike Vick.
Reid, Turner and Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel aren’t the only head coaches with job security that has come into question. But there also is a very legitimate possibility that no HC will be fired in-season for the first time since 2006 because of the individual dynamics involved with each situation.
We’ll explore that in our look at the top-five candidates for termination six weeks into the regular season.
ANDY REID/EAGLES (3-3)
What has gone wrong? The Eagles haven’t played like a .500 team for most of the season, with their three victories coming by a combined total of four points. Although the defense hasn’t produced a sack during the past three games (which contributed to Castillo’s ouster), the offense has frequently put that unit in a rough spot with an NFC-high 17 turnovers. Reid and his staff have proven unable to correct the mistakes being made by Vick, who has thrown eight interceptions and lost five fumbles.
In defense of: Reid is a proven winner during his 14 seasons with Philadelphia (129-84-1) and has adroitly handled adversity before. One such example came in 2008 when the Eagles rebounded from a 5-5-1 record to reach the NFC Championship Game.
Let’s not forget, too, that this may be the most difficult year in Reid’s life from a personal standpoint. His long-troubled son Garrett was found dead in a dorm room during training camp over the summer.
Forecast: Reid was placed under the gun in the preseason when Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said another 8-8 record would be “unacceptable.” Reid is coaching for his job, which helps explain why he fired an assistant during the season for the first time since becoming Eagles head coach in 1999. The next change could come at quarterback, with Vick in danger of being bumped by promising rookie Nick Foles.
ROMEO CRENNEL/CHIEFS (1-5)
What has gone wrong? Just about everything. The Chiefs are the only team that hasn’t led for a single second in regulation. Particularly damning is Kansas City being outscored 51-6 and 62-7 in the first and third quarters respectively. That reflects poorly on game plans and on the inability to make sufficient adjustments at halftime.
Crennel has bit off more than he can chew by also serving as Kansas City’s defensive coordinator rather than hiring someone during the offseason to handle the role. Counting his previous stints in Cleveland (2009 and 2010) and Miami (2011), teams with Brian Daboll as offensive coordinator are a combined 17-37.
In defense of: Crennel is in his first full season as head coach after assuming the position on an interim role for the final three games in 2011. Maybe he can right the ship when given a chance to reassess and make adjustments during the team’s bye week. One area of improvement must involve getting better play and fewer turnovers from whichever quarterback (Matt Cassel or Brady Quinn) is under center Oct. 28 when the Chiefs host Oakland.
Forecast: If an irate fan base had its way, both Crennel and general manager Scott Pioli would have gotten canned during the bye week. Owner Clark Hunt continues to show his faith in the duo, but that becomes more difficult each week with how poorly the Chiefs have played.
NORV TURNER/CHARGERS (3-3)
What has gone wrong? The decision to retain Turner as head coach following a second straight season without a playoff appearance was poorly received, to put it mildly, by a very vocal portion of the team’s fan base. The cries for Turner’s dismissal are now deafening. One game after allowing New Orleans to score the final 17 points in a 31-24 loss, San Diego suffered an even bigger collapse Monday night against visiting Denver. The Chargers squandered a 24-0 halftime lead in a 35-24 loss.
In defense of: Quarterback Philip Rivers (four interceptions, two fumbles) and a defense that allowed Denver’s Peyton Manning to complete 13 of 14 passes in the second half did Turner no favors. Such disastrous failings against New Orleans and Denver as well as his inability to lead San Diego to a Super Bowl overshadow the fact Turner has won 60.5 percent of his regular season games (52-34) since becoming head coach in 2007. He’s also gone 3-3 in the playoffs. San Diego’s offensive production during that stretch has reinforced Turner’s standing as one of the NFL’s best play-callers.
Turner has weathered heavy criticism before and emerged unscathed with his players never quitting on him even during tough times. He needs that to continue when the Chargers return from their bye Oct. 28 against Cleveland.
Forecast: Chargers general manager A.J. Smith put his own job and reputation on the line in 2007 when making the controversial decision to hire Turner after firing Marty Schottenheimer largely because of personal animosity and differing football philosophies. It was no secret entering this season that anything less than a playoff appearance would assuredly spell the end of Turner and Smith in San Diego.
With the Chargers still tied for the AFC West lead, Turner deserves the chance to right his ship, even if he may be ultimately remembered in the same light as Schottenheimer with 100-plus career victories as a head coach but no championships.
JASON GARRETT/COWBOYS (2-3)
What has gone wrong? The Cowboys do an excellent job of finding creative ways to lose. Last season, Garrett iced his own kicker when calling a timeout before a potential game-winning field goal was missed against Arizona.
Garrett again did Dan Bailey no favors late in last Sunday’s 31-29 loss to Baltimore. Bailey was forced to attempt a 49-yard field goal, which he missed, after the Cowboys let 20 seconds run off the clock without being able to run a play that potentially would have given him a closer kick. Such gaffes add fuel to critics who believe Garrett is overmatched as a head coach.
In defense of: Although he is the team’s play-caller, Garrett can’t be held responsible for all of the physical mistakes being made on offense. Quarterback Tony Romo is off to a disappointing start, tight end Jason Witten was plagued early by uncharacteristic drops and, as evidenced by his dropping the two-point conversion pass that would have tied the score against Baltimore, wide receiver Dez Bryant remains far too inconsistent.
Forecast: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has a history of remaining loyal to his coaches, even if he stuck with several of them for too long (i.e. Dave Campo, Wade Phillips). Garrett also knows that part of the criteria of being Cowboys head coach is letting Jones remain hands-on with the team and command the media spotlight, even if that sometimes undermines him. Expect Jones to continue with his support of Garrett, although that could change in January should Dallas fail to reach the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons.
Pat Shurmur/Cleveland (1-5)
What has gone wrong? The Browns are not only likely to miss the playoffs for a second straight season under Shurmur — extending the franchise’s overall streak to 10 — but also may finish with five or fewer victories for the fifth consecutive year. Cleveland’s young offense is showing weekly improvement, but a defense sorely missing a quality pass-rusher is ranked 30th in the NFL.
In his defense: Shurmur and first-year offensive coordinator Brad Childress are just getting the chance to work with promising rookies like QB Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson and WR Josh Gordon. The Browns aren’t good, but they’re nowhere near as bad as when Shurmur took over.
Forecast: Shurmur could very well be gone in January regardless of Cleveland’s record. That’s because the Browns have a new owner (Jimmy Haslam) who is expected to place his own footprint on the franchise.
Two big changes already occurred Tuesday after Haslam’s purchase was officially approved by NFL owners. The Browns announced that team president Mike Holmgren, who hired Shurmur along with general manager Tom Heckert Jr., would be retiring at season’s end. Ex-Philadelphia Eagles executive Joe Banner will now reportedly be running the franchise. Banner has a history with Shurmur and Heckert from when all three were with the Eagles, but he and Haslam may have other ideas about who they want as head coach and GM.
Haslam told the media Tuesday that Shurmur’s future could be decided by whether the Browns are headed in a “positive direction.” One way to keep the arrow pointed up after a Week 6 upset of Cleveland — winning Sunday in Indianapolis (2-3).