NFL Black Monday Tracker: Latest coaching vacancies and the best fits for each team
Several NFL teams got a head start on the off-season by firing their head coaches before Week 17. There will be more moves coming before the end of Black Monday, the first day after the close of the regular season.
We’re tracking all the coaching news, and what the fallout may be.
49ers reportedly set to fire Chip Kelly, GM Trent Baalke
Broncos’ Gary Kubiak reportedly expected to step down
Rams fire Jeff Fisher
Goff has done little since his insertion into the starting lineup to prove the delay a mistake.
The QB always makes for an easy target. There were issues all over the field this season, starting with the abysmal play of Los Angeles’s offensive line. Between their ineffectiveness up front, their lack of playmakers in the passing game and game plans that often seemed to ignore running back Todd Gurley completely, the Rams didn’t exactly put their quarterbacks in favorable positions.
Still, Fisher might have survived the season had the Rams not totally unraveled, starting with a Week 11 loss to the Dolphins. A 42–14 home loss to the Falcons—one of five home losses for Fisher this season at the Coliseum, in which L.A. averaged 12.6 points—was the final straw.
“This was solely a performance-related issue,” said Rams COO Kevin Demoff at a press conference announcing the move. “When you look at the team, and where it is, and how we get better moving forward—for the fans, for the players, for the coaches, for the organization—we wanted to make sure games like [the Atlanta loss] doesn’t happen again.”
• Possible replacements: Josh McDaniels, Kyle Shanahan, Jon Gruden, David Shaw, Harold Goodwin, Sean Payton.
That said, the Rams have one of the game’s most exciting young backs in Gurley, plus a QB in Goff who—unless they’re willing to throw in the towel already on their substantial investment—has to be the assumed starter moving forward. The combination requires vision and creativity on offense, points lacking badly during Fisher’s tenure. A sharp offensive coordinator could help, but it’s more likely the Rams focus on fixing those problems from the top down.
So, any of the league’s rising offensive coordinators could be considered here. The MMQB’s Peter King also mentioned the possibility of a wild-card option like Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen.
Shanahan carries name recognition and generated plenty of buzz guiding Atlanta’s offense to astounding heights this year (on top of the possibility he’d bring his father Mike along as some sort of advisor in the front office). McDaniels could be much better in his second job than he was in his first, but there would be hesitancy because of what happened in Denver. Shanahan would be a more exciting move for a franchise in need of a splash.
Jaguars fire Gus Bradley
The most painful mark on Bradley’s record is that he never came close to replicating the defensive success he oversaw as a coordinator in Seattle. The Jaguars’ pass defense finally took a major step forward this season, thanks in no small part to rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, but it was too little, too late. Jacksonville ranked 28th, 26th and 31st in points allowed during Bradley’s first three seasons; it sat 26th headed into Week 17 this year.
Which brings us to Blake Bortles. Those points-against numbers are inflated because Bortles has been a turnover-prone headache through much of his three years (and counting) as Jacksonville’s quarterback. He recently threw his 11th career pick-six—the most by a quarterback over his first three NFL seasons—and has 51 career INTs. He’s also fumbled 27 times, including a league-high 14 last year.
“There are no untouchables in this organization,” GM David Caldwell, an embattled figure himself, said via Jacksonville.com. “My vision of looking at this team is this is going into our first year. We’ve got to correct this and make sure that, regardless of how people got there, they have to live up to their abilities. With that being said, I do still believe in Blake very much. The head coach will have a lot of input as to who the quarterback will be.”
The Jaguars showed promise in the passing game last season, with both Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns topping 1,000 yards. No Jaguar will reach 1K this year, dragged down by Bortles and the lack of a sustainable rushing attack.
• Possible replacements: Tom Coughlin, Josh McDaniels, Matt Patricia, Kyle Shanahan, Doug Marrone, Sean Payton, Doug Marrone.
• Ideal hire: McDaniels. Look no further than McDaniels’s current boss, Bill Belichick, to see how a coach can turn it around given a second shot—Belichick was fired by Cleveland after posting a 36–44 record; he now has 200 wins with New England. Any concern in Jacksonville over McDaniels’s shaky first stop could be countered with the fact that Bradley had no prior NFL head coaching experience. Is it better to have a coaching retread or a rookie?
McDaniels without question will again be one of the hotter names this off-season, should he choose to leave New England for another shot. That’s a potential sticking point: If McDaniels is waiting for a perfect opportunity, does he see one in a team that hasn’t been able to compete in the downtrodden AFC South?
If so, his experience—both as a head coach and within the Patriots’ organization—give him a leg up. Again, this would be a script flip, switching from a defense-first coach to an offensive-minded one.
Something to watch, though: The Jaguars closed the season strong under Marrone’s interim leadership. He, too, has prior head coaching experience.
Bills fire Rex Ryan
“I’m responsible for everything,” Ryan said of the 10-men-on-the-field error. “But everybody professionally has a job to do. That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen, and it should have never happened, but it did happen. And it cost us the game. That’s how I look at it. That play right there contributed mightily in costing us the football game.”
He was let go a couple days later.
The Bills’ defense didn’t measure up in 2015, despite Ryan’s reputation as a defensive-minded coach. There was little to no tangible progress this season, either, despite Ryan bringing on his brother Rob as the defensive coordinator. The Bills allowed 30-plus points five times on the season, all losses.
One element that did click this season was the Bills’ run game, although that required a change at offensive coordinator two weeks into the year. The Bills entered Week 17 atop the NFL in rushing yards, rushing TDs and yards per attempt, paced by LeSean McCoy.
QB Tyrod Taylor approached 600 yards on the ground for the season, but he also may be viewed as part of the Bills’ problems. All indications headed into Week 17 were that Buffalo may bail on Taylor’s contract this off-season and explore other options at QB. Interim coach Anthony Lynn, who will be under consideration for the permanent job, voiced support for Taylor sticking around.
Whether or not he’s the right fit here depends to a great extent on how close the Bills feel they are. If they continue to believe they are built to win now (and there are ample reasons to buy in), trying to take a stride forward without completely tearing things down could be the play. In that case, Lynn would be the guy.
Coughlin would make for an outside hire, but a similar approach. If he returns to coaching, it won’t be for a multi-year rebuilding project—it will be to push a talented team over the top. The Bills have been within striking distance of the playoffs for multiple seasons now, so this job could appeal to him.