Forecasting the NFL Head Coach Guillotine
They call it "Black Monday."
It's the day after the NFL regular season ends, when any still-employed head coach whose name has been remotely associated with the words "hot" and "seat" tiptoes cautiously into his office and hopes that there's not a box on his desk to pack his things and/or a message waiting from the owner to "come see him."
This year's Black Monday has come and gone, and we had a few casualties, with more probably still to come. As usual, I see it as my civic duty to apply some sort of wagering angle to something as mundane as the termination of employment.
Yes, Jack Del Rio was still coaching.
Heading into Week 16 of the NFL season, on my radio show (co-hosted with John Granato weekday mornings on 1560 The Game, in case you don't make it to my plug at the bottom of this post), we set the total for "Number of NFL head coaches terminated as a result of the 2011 season" at 8.5 coaches fired.
Rice University Owls Football vs. Prairie View A&M University Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 22, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. UCF Knights Football
TicketsSat., Oct. 29, 11:00am
Rice University Owls Football vs. Florida Atlantic University Owls Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 5, 2:30pm
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Tulane University Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 12, 11:00am
Let's see how the accuracy of that number is holding up. Keep in mind when we set that number, the following three coaches had been cut loose already:
JACK DEL RIO, Jacksonville: Miraculously, when Del Rio was fired he was the third most tenured coach in the league, which is amazing when you consider he was on the short list to get fired pretty much every season since 2008 and that Jacksonville accomplished nothing of substance during his time there. In fact, I will most remember the Del Rio Era for the time during his first year that he brought an axe and a tree stump to the locker room to fortify the "chopping wood" metaphor and it wound up with his punter horseplaying with the axe and slicing himself open. THOSE are good times.
TODD HALEY, Kansas City: Oftentimes when coaches are fired, players feel awful about it and try to convince the media that the underperformance was not the coach's fault. The Chiefs responded by going out and beating the undefeated Packers. So yeah...pretty sure Todd Haley's players weren't all that fond of him. The only thing missing after the Packers game was the Chiefs' entire team kneeling before Romeo Crennell and chanting, "Hail to Romeo! The wicked Todd is dead!" and Kyle Orton handing Crennell Haley's broomstick.
TONY SPARANO, Miami: I will remember the Tony Sparano Era for two things: first, the long list of snarky radio people making fun of him for wearing sunglasses at night only to find out that he had to wear them because of a horrible accident that burned his corneas. Second, one of the greatest ESPN features of all time....
So there's three.
And Black Monday claimed two more yesterday:
RAHEEM MORRIS, Tampa Bay: After starting out the season 4-2, the Bucs went on to lose their final ten games of the season by an average of 17.5 points per game (including a fabulously quit-licious 21-point margin in the last five games of the season).
STEVE SPAGNUOLO, St. Louis: Unlike the Bucs, I don't think the Rams quit on Spagnuolo. I just think they were a terrible football team showing zero signs of improvement. That falls on the head coach.
(NOTE: If you're an aspiring NFL head coach, and you've ever wanted to live in Florida or Missouri, you better get a job this offseason. All five jobs in those two states are now open. Of course, the next person I meet who willingly wants to live in Missouri will be the first, but you catch my drift.)
That gets us to five. So where are the others coming from to get to that 8 or 9 range? Well, two that you can cross off your list as possibilities are Andy Reid of Philadelphia and Norv Turner of San Diego. Both will be back next year. Reid was not a huge surprise (figuratively huge...literally, Reid is a HUGE everything) as he's been there since 1999 and the fact that the Eagles and all their new pieces fought back to 8-8 was enough to give him one more go with this group. Turner's stay of execution in San Diego shocked everyone, likely including Turner himself.
As for other possibilities still on the board: JIM CALDWELL, Indianapolis: Jim Irsay started the housecleaning yesterday by breaking off the Polians, so it would stand to reason that Caldwell's ouster is not far down the list of the owner's next to-do's. If this is the end of the Caldwell Era, I will always remember him as the only head coach to get to a Super Bowl without changing his facial expression the whole season. I swear I don't think Caldwell blinked once the entire 2009 campaign.
JASON GARRETT, Dallas: Garrett may survive for another season in Dallas, but the fact of the matter is that Jerry Jones would have been completely justified in walking over and pulling the headphones off of Garrett the second he iced his own kicker in the Arizona game this year.
LESLIE FRAZIER, Minnesota: You almost have to give Frazier the "rookie QB" pass since he was strapped with Donovan McNabb for the first month of the season and then had to turn to rookie Christian Ponder after that. Above all else, Minnesota is still paying Brad Childress next season as he was fired one year into a contract extension. So unless Frazier all of a sudden decides to trade for Randy Moss and cut him a couple weeks later, he's probably okay.
MIKE SHANAHAN, Washington: He probably deserves to be fired as much as anyone in this group, but his contract is big enough where even Daniel Snyder doesn't want to eat that nut.
FINAL ESTIMATE: I'm going to add Caldwell and say that one more out of the rest gets the boot, which will give us seven total. So there you have it -- in the fictitious Pendergast casino of random life wagers, go UNDER 8.5 on "Total NFL head coaches fired as a result of the 2011 season."
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.