It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. NFL coaches are getting canned.
Jacksonville and Los Angeles have already elected to get a jump on their job searches.
The Jaguars parted ways with Gus Bradley on Sunday, general manager Dave Caldwell deciding not to wait until the end of the season. The Rams fired head coach Jeff Fisher last week after a 42-14 plastering by the Atlanta Falcons.
They are just the first two of what should be the usual six to seven annual NFL head coach firings. There could be openings in Buffalo, San Diego, Chicago, Cleveland and San Francisco. There could also be a surprise or two, like last season when Tampa Bay let Lovie Smith go.
“I think it was time to make a move from Jeff Fisher. … I think the message (was) they’re going stale,” CBS analyst Bart Scott said. “When you lose your players and lose the locker room, it’s time to make a change.”
The Rams (4-10) were pathetic this season and the Jaguars were 2-12. Bradley, a former defensive coordinator in Seattle, was granted four seasons to get the Jaguars turned around. He posted a 14-48 record.
“I take full responsibility for it,” Bradley said to reporters in Jacksonville on Monday. “I have no excuses. I have no misgivings. There is nothing I look back on and say, ‘Would have, could have.’ I understand the NFL is a business and it is results oriented. We didn’t get it done.”
Doug Marrone, a former head coach with Buffalo, was named the interim coach. He was the team’s assistant head coach/offensive line for the past two seasons. He was head coach in Buffalo from 2013-2014 before opting out of his contract.
Jacksonville and Los Angeles now find themselves competing for the same coaching talent. Quarterback development would be a marketable asset.
The Jags have quarterback Blake Bortles, who’s posted a 10-38 record as a starter and has obvious mechanical issues. The Rams have embattled Jared Goff, a disappointment after being taken No. 1 in the last draft. L.A. does have a top-rated defense.
There are five factors that prospective coaching candidates must consider when looking to fill one of the most coveted 32 jobs in the game.
- The team’s ownership group is important, as is its willingness to be financially competitive.
- The administration of the team and how the team is managed must be considered.
- Does a team have players or the ability to acquire players, particularly at quarterback? Kansas City’s hiring of Andy Reid in 2013 has been studied league-wide. The Chiefs already had a strong defense and some offensive weapons but were able to land quarterback Alex Smith in a trade that sent them to the top of the AFC.
- How quickly can a new coach put together a talented staff?
- Intangibles. Other outside forces may be needed in the mix for all of the personalities involved to coalesce.
The teams looking for head coaches will certainly reach out to broadcaster Jon Gruden to inquire if he wants to return to the sidelines. He’s the biggest name available.
Tom Coughlin’s name has already been mentioned in Jacksonville. Also, Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the former Falcons head coach, had a stint in Jacksonville as the defensive coordinator under Jack Del Rio.
Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, who has league’s top-scoring offense, will certainly draw interest. Teams have not asked the Falcons for permission yet to contact him.
Other candidates include Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Buffalo offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, Detroit offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter and Washington offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
Shanahan will likely be on the Rams’ short list if they can’t land a tested commodity like Gruden.
“I don’t think it has to be an offensive head coach,” CBS analyst Bill Cowher said. “I think it needs to be a head coach with a vision and has his hands, more importantly, in the personnel department and bring in the players that he wants to develop. But an offensive coordinator has to be (a) Number One priority.”
There has been speculation that New Orleans coach Sean Payton may end up in Los Angeles.
“Well, that Rams job would have strong appeal to Jon Gruden, according to several of his former coaching colleagues,” CBS Insider Jason La Canfora said. “It’s something he would explore if approached. Gruden has quickly rebuffed pro and college teams in the past, but the Rams can bend his ear, based on what I hear.
“He’s high on Jared Goff and owner Stan Kroenke has to spend big now to win in that fickle football market. It wouldn’t shock me if Sean Payton ended up in California or somewhere besides New Orleans in 2017.”
Shanahan has been groomed to be head coach dating back to 2004, when he was hired by Gruden as a quality control coach in Tampa. He’s coached in Houston, Washington and Cleveland as a coordinator. His father, Mike Shanahan, won a couple of Super Bowls.
“I’ve kind of learned over the years, whether it’s good or bad, I do a pretty good job of blocking (speculation) out,” Shanahan said. “It doesn’t help you either way. I appreciate people saying that stuff, but I know good things don’t happen in this league unless you take care of your business. And we’ve got a lot of ways to go in this season.
“I think we’re in a great position. Love where we’re at right now and I want to make sure we end this the right way.”
Shanahan didn’t try to dodge the notion that he has head coaching aspirations.
“I think there’s not a coach in this league, or in any profession you go into, you want to climb to the top,” Shanahan said. “That’s a goal for everybody, to me, in whatever their profession is. That’s why it’s flattering to be asked that question. But it’s definitely not something that consumes your thought process.”
Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, for one, believes Shanahan would make a great head coach.
“I hope it’s not for a while, because we’ve got a good thing going on,” Ryan said. “But certainly, whenever he gets his opportunity, he’ll do a great job. I think he’s a good leader. I think he’s got a good feel for talent evaluation (and) getting the guys in that he wants to make it work for him.”