Black Monday isn’t nearly as scary as Black Friday. True, getting fired sucks, and it takes a certain amount of controlled insanity to be an NFL head coach and have very little job security. But I’ll still take that over camping overnight outside of a Target to fight for cheap toasters.
There’s insanity, and there’s passion. Coaches are passionate, driven people, but that doesn’t mean a few won’t be looking for work on Monday, or sometime very early next week.
Yes, Black Monday is just days away, which means that as I type this a handful of coaches could be leading their final practice with their current teams. A few could also be leading their last practice as a head coach for a while, a fate that’s nearly sealed for a certain coach in St. Louis who’s been rumored as a candidate for a certain defensive coordinator gig in Philadelphia.
That’ll be the end of the horribly disguised hints. Almost exactly one month ago we did the first version of this list, ranking the top five head coaches who might not be head coaches for much longer. Jack Del Rio landed at No. 2, and he was canned shortly thereafter, and while we spared Todd Haley because his circumstances were impossible and seemingly insurmountable, the Chiefs disagreed. There was also some fear that Miami’s late-season success could save Tony Sparano, but thankfully that didn’t happen.
So here’s an updated version of that list. There’s some overlap from a month ago with coaches who where doomed then, and still are now. It’s headlined by arguably the most obvious soon-to-be ex-coach, a coach whose demise is partly the result of an injury-plagued season similar to the one that led to Haley’s unemployment.
1. Steve Spagnuolo, St. Louis Rams
Spags will be held accountable for what’s viewed as a massive regression in St. Louis, but unlike Haley’s exit from Kansas City, it doesn’t feel like the rash of injuries sustained by the Rams is widely acknowledged.
Sure, Brandon Lloyd was acquired, but that move was made necessary only because of Danny Amendola’s season-ending elbow injury in Week 1, which was just the beginning of an injury implosion at wide receiver. Promising young wideouts Greg Salas and Danario Alexander missed a combined 14 games, and the defensive backfield was also decimated, led by a scary season-ending neck injury to top cornerback Ron Bartell.
That’s not your typical list of NFL bumps, bruises, and broken bones. Still, the accountability factor applies to Spagnuolo, and even though he still has his supporters in St. Louis, a loss this weekend means he will have won only 10 games over three years. That’s not enough for a high school coach, and it’s definitely not enough in the NFL.
2. Raheem Morris, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When a young coach losses a young team, and his young players take a sizable step backwards, youth is being wasted everywhere. Morris seems like a genuinely good dude, but he’s only 35, and he’s been lost while Josh Freeman’s thrown 19 interceptions after just six last year, and Mike Williams has just three touchdown receptions after scoring 11 times in 2010.
3. Jim Caldwell, Indianapolis Colts
The Colts’ struggles go far beyond the quarterback and Peyton Manning, but so do the injuries. This is a team that’s been playing without two defensive veterans in Melvin Bullitt and Gary Brackett since late September.
Caldwell’s fate is likely tied to Manning’s in Indianapolis, and the same can be said for the futures of free agent wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon. If Bill Polian and Jim Irsay are truly confident they’ll get a healthy Manning to start 2012, that could mean one more championship run with Indy’s old guard, including Caldwell. An unhealthy Manning combined with a promising Andrew Luck–and therefore a loss Sunday to Jacksonville–could lead to management using the dramatic personnel shift at quarterback as an opportunity to do more than just shuffle deck chairs.
Those chairs will be burned and tossed in the canal that Pat McAfee uses during his leisurely swims.
4. Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers
Turner only falls behind Caldwell, Spagnuolo, and Morris because he actually won some games this year, while the other three have combined for eight wins, and they’re all set to enter lame-duck seasons with their contracts expiring at the end of next year. But at best Turner’s Chargers will finish with a .500 record following another season filled with underachieving, facepalm moments, and mind-numbing late-game collapses.
As Kevin Acee reported earlier this week, Turner is gone, and a three-game winning streak–if that’s even a streak–won’t be nearly enough to save his San Diego tenure.
5. Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
This final spot was tough, because the Eagles have improved enough since their horrible start to save Andy Reid, and somehow they were in the playoff discussion until last week. Minnesota will be the best and most promising three or four win team in recent NFL history, so there’s little need to jettison Leslie Frazier after just one year and abruptly change direction. Frazier is confident in his job security.
Shanahan is pretty confident too. He cranked that confidence knob yesterday, a dial he should probably turn down several notches. The odds of a Shanny exit are much slimmer than the four coaches above, because even Dan Snyder should understand that Jesus himself couldn’t turn Rex Grossman and/or John Beck into quality quarterbacks (no, Dan, you can’t hire Tim Tebow, he’s still a player).
But a coach who’s supposedly some kind of running back whisperer capable of transforming a Best Buy employee into a 1,000-yard rusher fielded a rushing offense that’s ranked 26th in the league (98.9 yards per game), and the Redskins lost five games by a touchdown or less, which is very Turner-esque.