In a head-spinning blizzard of pink slips, seven NFL head coaches were fired Monday, leaving openings in Philadelphia, San Diego, Buffalo, Chicago, Arizona, Cleveland and Kansas City.
The dismissals included three coaches who led teams to Super Bowls in the last eight years: Andy Reid of Philadelphia, Lovie Smith of Chicago and Ken Whisenhunt of Arizona.
Also shown the door were San Diego’s Norv Turner, Buffalo’s Chan Gailey, Cleveland’s Pat Shurmur and Kansas City’s Romeo Crennel.
Five general managers were fired: San Diego’s A.J. Smith, Cleveland’s Tom Heckert, Arizona’s Rod Graves, Jacksonville’s Gene Smith and the New York Jets’ Mike Tannenbaum.
Most of the moves were long anticipated, but the Bears raised some eyebrows by dumping Lovie Smith after a 10-win season that failed to produce a playoff berth. The Eagles parted ways with Reid, the league’s longest-tenured coach, who had been there for 14 seasons. Philadelphia was 4-12 this season.
“When you have a season like that, it’s embarrassing. It’s personally crushing to me and it’s terrible,” said Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Reid took over a 3-13 team in 1999, drafted Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick and quickly turned the franchise into a title contender.
He is the winningest coach in club history and led them to a run of four straight NFC Championship games, a streak that ended with a Super Bowl trip after the 2004 season — and a 24-21 loss to New England.
The housecleaning by Cardinals president Michael Bidwill followed a season that saw the team start 4-0 but lose 11 of its last 12.
Bidwill wasted no time in identifying possible replacements, saying Monday that the team had reached out to Reid. Bidwill also said he had received permission to interview Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
Although the firings came fast and furious Monday, the turnover has yet to match that of 2010, when there were 10 new coaches put in place, nearly one-third of the league. The day after the season ends has come to be known as Black Monday.
“You hope that those guys that obviously were victims of Black Monday land on their feet,” St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said. “You’ve got guys that have been to Super Bowls and won championship games and all of a sudden they’ve forgot how to coach, I guess.”
With the firings, naturally, comes speculation about who will fill the vacancies. Among the prime candidates are offensive coordinators McCoy, Dirk Koetter (Atlanta), Jim Caldwell (Baltimore), Jay Gruden (Cincinnati), Josh McDaniels (New England), Greg Roman (San Francisco), and Kyle Shanahan (Washington); defensive coordinators Mel Tucker (Jacksonville), Mike Zimmer (Cincinnati) and Ray Horton (Arizona), a Tacoma native who starred at Mount Tahoma High School and the University of Washington; and Green Bay linebackers coach Winston Moss.
Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator in Indianapolis who led the Colts to a playoff berth as interim coach, will be a hot prospect, and possibly college coaches Bill O’Brien of Penn State and Chip Kelly of Oregon.
Teams are required to follow the so-called Rooney Rule, which mandates that they give serious consideration to minority candidates for coaching and front-office jobs.
“The commissioner (Roger Goodell) has talked to all the teams and said that we are going to press this issue very strongly as part of the interview process,” said John Wooten, chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance, a group that has pushed for the hiring of minority coaches by NFL teams.
Among the candidates on Wooten’s list are Horton, Tucker, Caldwell, Moss, New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (although coach Tom Coughlin insists Fewell isn’t leaving), and Cincinnati assistant Hue Jackson, former Oakland head coach.
A total of seven coaches and five general managers were fired on Monday:
Arizona CardinalsCoach Ken Whisenhunt
GM Rod Graves
Buffalo BillsCoach Chan Gailey
Chicago BearsCoach Lovie Smith
Cleveland BrownsCoach Pat Shurmur
GM Tom Heckert
Jacksonville JaguarsGM Gene Smith
Kansas City ChiefsCoach Romeo Crennel
N.Y. JetsGM Mike Tannenbaum
Philadelphia EaglesCoach Andy Reid
San Diego Chargers Coach Norv Turner
GM A.J. Smith