NFL Coaching Musical Chairs: Who Gets Left Standing?

By Michael Collins
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports


After a Black Monday that saw seven different NFL coaches get pink-slipped (some of them taking the long walk along with their general manager), and one more shortly afterward, the game of coaching musical chairs is nearly over. So who’s going to be left standing when the music ends?

The Arizona Cardinals fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt after a disappointing 5-11 season, but Ken grabbed a chair today as the new offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, so he can wipe his brow in relief.

The 7-9 Chargers fired (at long last) Norv Turner from their head coach position, and much like Whisenhunt, Turner was more than happy to take whatever job was thrown his way. Welcome to Cleveland, Norv. Hope you enjoy your stay. Turner will be calling the plays as the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns.

The perennially disappointing Browns waved bye-bye to their head coach Pat Shurmer, which came as no big surprise given the team’s 5-11 record and new ownership. So far Shurmer has interviewed for the vacant offensive coordinator position with the Carolina Panthers, but hasn’t been able to land a job yet.

The Philadelphia Eagles closed a long chapter, letting go of Andy Reid after 14 years in Philly. Reid, who some thought would and should take a year off, surprised many by jumping on board as the new head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs. Reid was basically given carte blanche to assemble his own organization, all the way up to the GM position.

Meanwhile, the Eagles decided against going with a coach that held an NFL pedigree, and tapped Oregon head coach Chip Kelly as their man. Seeing Kelly’s innovative and speed-based offense with some of the burners on that Philadelphia squad could be an interesting combination.

Reid’s new home, Kansas City, had just fired Romeo Crennel, and were looking to find some stability at the head coach position after going through three different coaches in just six seasons. If nothing else, Reid does seem to offer stability.

Heading up north to the land of waterfalls, the Buffalo Bills finally decided to part ways with Chan Gailey and reached out to the college ranks to grab Doug Marrone from Syracuse University. Although Marrone has no NFL head coaching experience, he did serve as offensive coordinator for the New Orleans Saints for a few years, and as offensive line coach for the New York Jets prior to that. So yeah, I guess that makes him imminently qualified to take over a train wreck like the 6-10 Bills.

In what was probably one of the most curious firings this off-season, the Chicago Bears bid a fond farewell to Lovie Smith, who was the only coach with a winning record in 2012 that was given the heave-ho. Chicago didn’t go with one of the fired NFL coaches, and didn’t go with one of the sought-after college coaches. Nope, in true Chicago style they gave the job to a head coach from the CANADIAN Foootball League. Marc Trestman is leaving his cozy little gig with the Montreal Alouettes (where he won two consecutive Grey Cups) to settle down in Chi-town.

The Jacksonville Jaguars didn’t pull the trigger on head coach Mike Mularkey right away, he got a 10-day reprieve until he was informed of his firing. After 364 days, and two years remaining on his contract, the honeymoon in Jacksonville was short-lived for Mularkey. Jacksonville just swiped the Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and named him as new head coach.

That leaves us with five fired coaches who are still circling the chairs waiting to jump – Romeo Crennel, Chan Gailey, Pat Shurmer, Mike Mularkey and Lovie Smith. But there is only one head coaching position left open – Arizona.

Although none of this group will probably be offered (or even want) the job in Arizona, Crennel, Gailey, Shurmer and Mularkey will more than likely catch on as coordinators somewhere in the league, or even in college football.

So where does that leave defensive genius Lovie Smith? Most likely, out in the cold. With the NFL moving away from coaches that focus on defense, and putting a lot of stock in developing new offensive schemes, Smith would seem to be the odd man out. That’s not to say that there aren’t teams looking for defensive coordinators, but it wouldn’t seem that Smith wants a job like that.

Lovie has an 81-63 record as a head coach, and led the Bears to three division championships and one Super Bowl. He’s also stated that he is “prepared to sit out the 2013 season”, which probably means he’ll just wait for next Black Monday, and get scooped up by a team that couldn’t figure out how to stop the opposition from scoring.


Michael Collins is a Rant Sports NFL Network Manager, and Atlanta sports columnist. Follow him @GaSportsCraze on Twitter and here on Facebook



You May Also Like