Sports department for the student run radio station 90.3 WRST at UW-Oshkosh
Written By: Alexander Crowe
Station Manager at 90.3 WRST-FM Oshkosh
It’s one of the most anticipated days in the National Football League, and one that perhaps has more impact on the upcoming season than any other day of the year. Yes, Black Monday has become a much talked-about day in the world of professional football, and last season everybody saw why. Coming on the Monday after the regular season ends, teams that have not made it into the playoffs are forced to take a look at their coaching situation and decide whether to keep moving forward with the coach they have in place, or make a change at the head coaching position.
Last year, we saw quite a few changes. Seven different head coaches were fired on Black Monday last season, in one of the craziest days the NFL and all of it’s journalists can remember. Some firings everybody saw coming, like Romeo Crenell being let go by the Chiefs after their disastrous 2-14 season. Others, like the firing of Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season, caught most people by surprise. Whether the firings are seen coming a mile away or come from out of nowhere, Black Monday always proves interesting for fans who are hoping that their team will move in a new direction after a dreadful season of nothing but losses. Midway through the 2013-2014 NFL season, Black Monday was looking to be rather insignificant, with only a few winless teams looking like they were ready to move on from their current coaching situation. Now, after a few winning (and losing) streaks by some NFL teams, Black Monday is looking more and more interesting each and every day. Let’s take a look at some coaches who are currently on the hot seat, and may be looking for a job come the Monday after Week 17 in the NFL is over.
After a 61-64 regular season record compiled over nearly eight seasons, Gary Kubiak’s tenure with the Houston Texans finally came to a close earlier this month. Following a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday Night Football, Kubiak was informed that he was being relieved of his head coaching duties, and that former Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips would be taking over for him to finish the season. Houston had entered this season with high hopes of contending for a Super Bowl, but somehow just couldn’t seem to get anything going on offense or defense. Now that Kubiak is gone, Houston will be burdened with the task of searching for the third head coach in the team’s 13 year history (founded as an expansion team in 2002). Possible candidates right out of the gate to replace Kubiak in Houston include Lovie Smith, who has reportedly already been contacted by Houston officials about the vacancy with the team. It will be interesting to see which direction Houston goes in, however, knowing that they will certainly have a top 5 pick in the NFL draft this year. Widely considered one of the deepest drafts in recent memory, the Texans will have a great chance at drafting their future franchise quarterback. If they go with the defensive minded Smith, that quarterback pick may go to waste unless some outside influence has a say in the offensive coordinator that is hired along with him.
Shanahan is a guy who has been rumored to have been on the hot seat for some time now. It came out earlier this week that Shanahan nearly quit before the team’s playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. Then, it came out that he nearly left the team before Week 12 of this season. Now, Shanahan is facing tough questions from the media, ones that almost certainly never resonate well with the owners of a professional football team. It seems now that the question to be asked is not whether or not Shanahan will lost his job, but whether or not he will hold his job until the end of the season. In a press conference held Monday Shanahan refused to talk about his future with the team, and dodged reports that owner Daniel Snyder and Shanahan have had a falling out that is beyond repair. At his press conference on Monday, Shanahan simply said:
“It’s not the right time or place to talk about my relationship with Dan Snyder, or it’s not the right time and place to talk about something that happened a year ago. I will get a chance to talk to Dan at the end of the season and I will give him some viewpoints from me. And I’m sure he will give me his thoughts.”
I don’t know about you, but that certainly sounds like a head coach who has mentally checked out, and won’t be returning next season.
Munchak had high expectations when he was awarded the head coaching position of the Tennessee Titans prior to the 2011 season. He has been with the team as an offensive assistant since they were the Houston Oilers back in 1982, and had replaced long-time tenured head coach Jeff Fischer. Since he took over, however, it seems the Titan legend has done little to secure his job. a 9-7 and 6-10 record the past two seasons certainly doesn’t boost his resume, and a current 4-7 record doesn’t seem to be too promising. After reports surfaced on Sunday, December 8th that the Titans will be looking to overhaul their entire team (including running back Chris Johnson), Munchak’s seat as the head coach of the Tennessee Titans certainly seems to be warming up. Don’t expect the former player-turned-coach to lose his job now, the organization has too much respect for him and what he’s done for them as a player and coach to cut him before the season ends. Come Black Monday, however, don’t be too surprised to see Mike Munchak to be without his beloved Oilers/Titans for just the second season since he was taken 8th overall in the 1982 NFL Draft.
Philbin is a tough one to call. On the one hand, it is just his second season as head coach of this team, and they seem to be improving. After a 7-9 finish last season, the team has shown explosiveness on offense from time to time throughout this season. Also, with a current record of 7-6, they need to win just one of their final three games to beat last season’s record. On the other hand, the Jonathan Martin situation may be just too much for Philbin’s bosses to overlook, and he very well could find himself out of a job come Black Monday this year. Quarterback Ryan Tannehilll could eclipse the 4,000 yard passing mark this season, but has done little to show the team that he is the way of the future. It all comes down to what Miami is able to do down the stretch, and whether or not they contend for the playoff this year. Even if the team misses the playoffs, don’t expect a 9-7 or 10-6 Philbin to be fired like 10-6 Smith was last year by the Bears.
Schwartz nearly lost his job last season after his Detroit Lions posted a 4012 record. The ownership in Detroit, however, overlooked the terrible season because the prior season he led the Lions to a 10-6 overall record and a playoff birth for the first time since 1999. This year, however, the past may be too much to overlook if his Lions don’t win the NFC North and miss the playoffs for the seconds straight year. With the healthiest roster in the NFC North, the Lions should be dominating the conference and already have a playoff birth locked up. After losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Philadelphia Eagles, however, it seems that Schwartz needs to win the North and make the playoffs for his job to be secure going forward. If they don’t, and the Bears or Packers win it even without many of their starters, the winds of change could make their way to Detroit in just a few weeks.
Things didn’t a;ways used to be this way. There used to be tenures all across the NFL, and coaches stayed with their teams through think and thin until something forced them away. In this day and age, however, it seems that more and more emphasis has been put on winning now and impatience continues to grow in the front offices of professional football teams. That being said, had this column been written five weeks ago, Greg Schiano’s name would have been put at the top of the list. Now, after a nice winning streak and a new-found spirit of comradery on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it seems as though he will be back as head coach next season. It just goes to show you that with three weeks left in the NFL, we can speculate all we want about which coaches will be gone at the season’s end, but we won’t really know until Black Monday arrives once again.