Black Monday: Which Coaches Deserved to Keep Their Jobs?
No one especially likes Black Monday. Football aside, these are coaches, supported by staff members, who lose their jobs. Celebrating a firing, regardless of how you felt about that particular coach, is pretty depressing.
NFL organizations are often times impatient, and that always comes through on the dreaded Black Monday. Can a coach really turn around a franchise in just one season? Is it fair to can a guy who simply didn’t meet ownerships’ unrealistic, lofty expectations using players he didn’t even draft?
This is the NFL’s culture. And, at times, this way forces teams to make the wrong decisions. Was that the case today? Let’s take a look at how Mike Shanahan, Leslie Frazier, Rob Chudzinski, Greg Schiano and Jim Schwartz changed their teams and franchises – from a metrics perspective – to find out.
Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
Shanahan’s record with Washington during his four seasons was a poor 24-40, and after a miserable 3-13 campaign this year, this firing seems obvious.
He took over the Redskins as head coach in 2010, turning a 4-12 team into a 6-10 one. The 2009 season saw the Redskins finish the season with the 19th-best offense according to numberFire’s Adjusted Net Expected Points metric (for more on Net Expected Points (NEP), click here), as well as a defense that finished 13th. Perhaps the team wasn’t as bad as their 4-12 record indicated, but Shanahan, nonetheless, was there to right the ship.
But instead of making things better, Shanahan continued to drive the franchise into below average ranks. Take a look at the chart below showing the team’s Adjusted Net Expected Points and Adjusted Defensive Net Expected Points rankings with Shanahan through the years:
|Year||Offensive Rank||Defensive Rank||Wins|
While in Washington, Shanahan never coached a defense that was a top-half unit in the league. And aside from last year’s phenomenal offensive season, led by a rushing attack that was better than any other in the NFL, Shanahan’s offenses have been even more pathetic.
The alleged turmoil surrounding quarterback Robert Griffin III, owner Dan Snyder and Shanahan didn’t help the cause here, either. This was the easiest, most obvious firing of the day, and one that made sense to be made, regardless of how dysfunctional the Washington Redskins franchise is.
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings ended head coach Leslie Frazier’s time in Minnesota on Monday after a 5-10-1 record this season, but this one wasn’t as clear-cut as Shanahan’s situation.
Frazier coached three full seasons in Minnesota (came in for a fired Brad Childress back in 2010), and was able to take the Vikings to the playoffs in one of them. And that came after a 3-13 season, showing the Vikings were once committed.
Minnesota’s problems this season, surprisingly, didn’t come on the offensive side of the ball. They ranked 19th on offense according to our metrics, and with a quarterback rotation of Matt Cassel, Christian Ponder and (gulp)Josh Freeman, the team was able to sustain a passing offense that was better than eight other teams, including Baltimore, Washington and Tampa Bay. And that includes numbers from Josh Freeman’s horrific debut.
Defensively, the Vikings crashed, ending the season with an Adjusted Defensive NEP of 118.90, more than double their score from a season ago. The defensive line aged, and the secondary was depleted throughout the season. Both the rush and pass defense declined from 2012 to 2013.
Perhaps this was a fair firing overall, but I would’ve liked to see Frazier get one more shot with a team that, quite honestly, doesn’t have the personnel and wasn’t healthy enough to truly succeed in 2013. The Vikings, too, ended the season strong, going 4-3-1 and beating the Bears and Eagles.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Earlier in the season, Schiano’s firing seemed like a lock. You had a coach that was consistently throwing his quarterback under the bus, and one that was creating a horrible culture within the organization.
But after successfully getting rid of said quarterback and putting in a rookie under center, things started to turn around for the Bucs. They started 0-8, but then rattled off three straight wins, eventually finishing the season 4-12. It wasn’t impressive, but at least they began to trend upwards.
Schiano spent two years with the Bucs, winning 11 of his 32 games. In 2012, Tampa Bay finished with the 18th-best offense and the 23rd-ranked defense, while that moved to 29th and 15th in 2013 respectively.
Injuries to Mike Williams and Doug Martin, along with starting a rookie quarterback, helped move the offensive ranking down, and the defensive one certainly increased with the presence of Darrelle Revis. However, the Bucs' record still declined from one season to the next, and Schiano certainly brought a fair amount of drama to the team this year. It was a firing that made long-term sense.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
It’s fairly obvious why Jim Schwartz was fired – the Lions started the season 6-3, had a two-game lead in the NFC North, and ended up losing six of their final seven games to go 7-9.
Schwartz was in a unique situation from the beginning in Detroit. He took over a winless Lions team in 2009, moving them to a 2-14 record. In 2010, the team was able to sustain a four-game winning streak at the end of the season, finishing 6-10. He then took the Lions to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 in 2011, solidifying his job for at least another year. And in 2012, after a 4-4 start, the Lions lost their final eight games, resulting in a 4-12 record.
It seemed as though he got “one more shot” after last season’s debacle, and unfortunately, the same lack of discipline and concentration down the stretch forced him out this season.
Interestingly enough, it was the offensive side of the ball – usually the better side for Detroit under Schwartz – that struggled down the stretch. In fact, through the first 10 weeks of the 2013 season, Detroit ranked sixth offensively (Adjusted NEP) and 17th defensively (Adjusted DNEP). In just seven weeks, the offensive ranked dropped all the way to 18th, while the defensive one rose three spots.
Really, the offense played a lot like the way he’s coached over the last five seasons in Detroit: carelessly. It makes perfect sense to see him go after just one playoff appearance in five years.
The Lions are one of the most talented teams in the league personnel-wise, and will be one of the most attractive openings in the NFL.
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns
In typical Cleveland fashion, the Browns fired their head coach after just one season. They’ve now gone through seven coaches since 1999 – the year they re-entered the league – and have seen just two coaches lead the team for more than two seasons.
I don’t get it. I really, really don’t get it. The Browns were bad (again) this year, sure, but they also played with two miserable quarterbacks and traded away their first-round running back selection from a season ago. Not that I think the Trent Richardson trade was a bad one for them, because it wasn’t, but offensively, the Browns had absolutely nothing outside of a couple of solid O-Line pieces and Josh Gordon. Absolutely nothing.
Take a look at what coach Chudzinski did for the team this season, comparing his offensive and defensive passing and rushing rankings from 2012 to 2013:
|Year||Adj. PNEP Rank||Adj. RNEP Rank||Adj. DPNEP Rank||Adj. DRNEP Rank|
The only drop occurred in the rush defense department, but part of this may have to do with the loss of Desmond Bryant. He missed the final four games of the season, and prior to leaving, Cleveland ranked 16th against the rush, just four spots lower than 2012.
It seems as though the way the Browns ended the season is the main reason for Chud’s dismissal. But after one year of fairly competitive football with a pretty mediocre team, I’d say the Browns may have been a little too impatient.