Black Monday is coming. When the regular season comes to a close, most teams will be clearing out the locker rooms as they look forward to next year. However, for some of these teams, next year will come with a new face at the helm.
The end of the season is a time of speculation in itself. What’s the playoff field going to look like? What will teams need for next season? Who will claim the number 1 pick? For coaches, however, there is another question that floats over for them: are these last games of the season my last ones here?
Two teams have put an early end to the mystery, as the Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers have already pulled the trigger and will be looking for a new coach next season. For other teams across the league, however, there are varying levels of intrigue. Some seats have gotten so hot that the firing feels more like a formality at this point. Others come as more theoretical options and require a decent amount of thought before coming to a decision. Regardless, for the next few weeks, while some teams are battling for playoff positioning, other coaches are fighting for their jobs.
Who are the lucky candidates on the carousel this year?
Atlanta Falcons: Dan Quinn
The skinny: 28-3 somehow feels like ages ago, but that should tell you how quick time goes by in the sports world. Ever since then, Quinn and the Falcons have trended in the wrong direction, despite all of the talent the team boasts on offense. While the Falcons are making a mad dash towards respectability in order to save Quinn’s job, it’s fair to wonder if the coach is a day late and a dollar short.
Who’s in charge: Eric Bieniemy, offensive coordinator, Kansas City Chiefs. Bieniemy was on the short list of coaching candidates from last season after Patrick Mahomes’s MVP campaign in 2018. He didn’t get a job last time, something that’s sure to change this year. After years of going after defensive-minded coaches, Bieniemy would represent a change of pace that the Falcons could use. Getting to play with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, and others should also be a nice incentive.
Carolina Panthers: Vacant
The skinny: It felt like Ron Rivera was on shaky footing for quite a while now. Despite the success Riverboat Ron has had in his tenure in Charlotte, recent history had not been too kind to him. With the search already on, the Panthers will likely search for a candidate who can build an offense around Christian McCaffrey and whichever quarterback is under center in 2020.
Who’s in charge: Kevin Stefanski, offensive coordinator, Minnesota Vikings. There are plenty of options the Panthers can circle for their next coach. Bieniemy, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman, and even two college coaches in Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) and David Shaw (Stanford) deserve at least a look. With Bieniemy out of the running, though, Stefanski takes his spot as the next “rising star” coordinator hire. What he’s done with this Vikings offense this year, and Case Keenum before that, has been nothing short of incredible.
Cleveland Browns: Freddie Kitchens
The skinny: The Browns have been, quite frankly, this season’s biggest disappointment. What was expected to be a playoff contender has looked like largely the same team that slogged through last season. Kitchens has not been the only factor in this failure, but he’s played a significant role in it. Let’s just say that the whole “Pittsburgh Started It” shirt debacle has been the least of his concerns.
Who’s in charge: Kitchens. Regardless of Cleveland’s troubles, they still have a chance to make the playoffs, and they have won four of their last five as of this writing. A strong finish to 2019, even if it does not result in a playoff berth, should be enough to give Kitchens a second year. Pencil him in as a hot seat option for 2020.
Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett
The skinny: How many times has Garrett been in this position now? Sure, they’re tied for the division lead, but that’s been more on how bad the NFC East as a whole is rather than how good the Cowboys are. With how the Cowboys have been content to throw the division away, Garrett is one successful sabotage away from being shown the door. The nine lives may finally be up.
Who’s in charge: Lincoln Riley, head coach, Oklahoma Sooners: Let the record show that I vehemently disagree with this move. I think the Cowboys would be wiser to look at internal options like Kris Richard or even Kellen Moore. There are coordinators like Josh McDaniels from New England who pose less risk. Even college coaches like Jim Harbaugh (Michigan) and Urban Meyer (formerly Ohio State) are more sure things than the hotshot offensive wizard Riley. That said, the Cowboys instantly become the highest-profile job opening in the league if Garrett goes, and Jerry Jones will likely waste no expense in trying to land Riley. This may be the only opportunity Riley has to get into the NFL this season, but does he take it?
Detroit Lions: Matt Patricia
The skinny: Patricia is dangerously close to adding his name to the list of former New England coordinators who turned out to be bad NFL head coaches. With the Lions in freefall, last place in the NFC North for the second straight year feels like a given. With GM and fellow New England transplant Bob Quinn also on the hot seat, it makes sense that moving on from one will mean the other is out as well. It feels like being the NFC Patriots has failed to work out.
Who’s in charge: Robert Saleh, defensive coordinator, San Francisco 49ers: There’s a real chance Patricia does survive for another season, but it appears doubtful at the moment. While an offensive coordinator might make sense, Saleh has come up as a hot coaching name for the last couple of months now. A native of Dearborn, Saleh has overseen the rebuild of the San Francisco defense over the last few years. Some of that probably has to do with the influx of talent, but Saleh has some merit. While Atlanta could be in play, the Lions seem to have the best chance to land Saleh.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Doug Marrone
The skinny: You would be forgiven for thinking the Jaguars’ 2017 season was a fluke. Marrone’s goodwill from that year looks to have run out, and with the embarrassing blowouts that have become routine this year, the fire looks to be strong to put out. Of all the coaches yet to be fired, Marrone is one of the safer bets to be out on Black Monday. The only real controversy is if Tom Coughlin ends up joining him.
Who’s in charge: Ron Rivera, former head coach, Carolina Panthers. There’s little doubt in my mind that Rivera will bounce back on his feet somewhere. Another head coaching job this early might be a bit odd, but Jacksonville probably doesn’t have the pull to land an attractive coordinator hire. With Rivera working to restore Jacksonville’s greatness on defense and getting Nick Foles or Gardner Minshew going, he’s probably one of the safer hires in the cycle. Jaguars offensive coordinator John DeFilippo is also an option, and if Coughlin does stick around, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule is a name to watch.
Los Angeles Chargers: Anthony Lynn
The skinny: Lynn’s had an overall alright tenure as the Chargers head coach, leaps and bounds ahead of his predecessor Mike McCoy. However, this season has been one of trials and tribulations for the Chargers, and the seat is starting to heat up. Ken Whisenhunt’s firing might have smoothed things over, and the Chargers look like they’re trying to make up for lost time. If things take a turn for the worst, however, there’s reason to think that Lynn and quarterback Philip Rivers could be in for a power struggle, with the loser leaving town.
Who’s in charge: Lynn. Sure, Rivers has some clout, but the Chargers will probably end up staying the course and keep both around next year, although there’s a real chance the Chargers are in for another draft shock and have Joe Burrow fall in their laps. If Lynn does leave, though, the Chargers have options. Ron Rivera would fit in well here, as would former quarterbacks coach and current Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.
New York Giants: Pat Shurmur
The skinny: As sure a firing as it gets. With the Giants needing to see progress and failing to get it, Shurmur will need a miracle to stay with Big Blue. Daniel Jones has shown signs of life in the NFL, but even that looks like it won’t be enough. Expect the next coach to be more willing to develop young players, as well as getting the added bonus to work with a hopefully healthier Saquon Barkley.
Who’s in charge: Matt Rhule, head coach, Baylor Bears. Basically take the main candidates mentioned for Jacksonville, add Jason Garrett (for some reason), and there’s the shortlist. After two straight offensive-minded blunders in Shurmur and Ben McAdoo, a more well-rounded option looks like it should be the play. Enter Rhule, a former Giants assistant who has done exemplary work at Baylor and previously Temple. With coaching experience on both sides of the ball, he’d fit the bill for what the Giants should be looking for. College coaches are always gambles, but Rhule looks like one of the better chances to stick.
New York Jets: Adam Gase
The skinny: One-and-dones usually signify serious internal turmoil, but Gase hasn’t exactly done himself any favors. Giving the Dolphins and Bengals their first wins of the season has turned the fanbase against him. The trade rumors of Le’Veon Bell and Jamal Adams haven’t helped matters either. CEO Christopher Johnson has publicly stated Gase is sticking around for 2020, but a string of losses to end the year could put that plan in jeopardy.
Who’s in charge: Gase. While fans may question what the Jets are doing by keeping Gase, there are more questions about what happens if they fire him. Showing Gase the door just a year after hiring him gives off a damning statement about the Jets: they have absolutely zero plan. It just feels less controversial to give Gase another year to right any wrongs he’s made. If he fails, at least an attempt was made?
Washington Redskins: Vacant
The skinny: At this point, it would just be better for Dan Snyder to sell the team, Bruce Allen to get kicked to the curb, and start directly from the ground up. While Snyder won’t happen anytime soon, Allen leaving would at least be a step in the right direction. Needless to say, the next coach of the Redskins will have to be willing to put up with at least a fair amount of controversy in their tenure. The idea of molding Dwayne Haskins into a franchise quarterback can help ease that red flag a bit.
Who’s in charge: Kris Richard, passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach, Dallas Cowboys. Richard’s been closely attached to head coaching jobs for a while now, and this feels like the year he finally breaks through. Richard has been responsible for the development of the likes of Byron Jones, Chidobe Awuzie, and Xavier Woods. He has also become the passing game coordinator just this past season, where he has enjoyed moderate success. That kind of experience is something the Redskins should not pass up on, especially given the fact that it would hurt a division rival in the process.