With Del Rio gone, hot seat gets warmer for other coaches
Don't weep for Jack Del Rio. The
Del Rio got almost nine full seasons of head coaching employment in Jacksonville, and yet made just two playoff trips, winning one lone postseason game, a first-round upset of Pittsburgh in 2007. He's the only coach in history to spend nine seasons with a team without winning a division title. Del Rio went 69-73 overall with the Jaguars, and that means he got the absolute most tenure out of his very average results.
With the first shoe dropping Tuesday in the NFL's firing season, who else is facing the prospect of being asked to give up their parking spot and turn in their keycard as the final month of the regular season dawns? Glad you asked. With five games remaining, here are the six most likely names on the endangered list:
If NFL seasons were only eight games long, Coughlin would be in the Hall of Fame by now. New York is 47-17 in the first half of the season from 2004 on, and Coughlin's Giants have never finished worse than 5-3 in their opening eight games. But Monday night's brutal 49-24 loss at New Orleans was New York's third straight defeat, dropping the Giants to 6-5 and one game behind both NFC East leading Dallas and wild-card contenders Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit (all 7-4).
Coughlin's Giants are 24-35 in the season's second half, and with games still remaining against Green Bay, Dallas (two) and the Jets, a 7-9 or 8-8 finish is very possible in New York. That should result in Coughlin, 65, not being asked back for 2012, the final season of his current contract. New York memorably went on that Super Bowl run in 2007 under Coughlin, but they haven't won a playoff game since upsetting those 18-0 Patriots, and this would be the Giants' third consecutive non-playoff season.
Turner's five-year tenure with the Chargers has been an example of the law of diminishing returns, given that San Diego won two playoff games and made the AFC title game in his first season of 2007, then won just one postseason game in 2008, none in 2009 and didn't even make the 12-team playoff field in 2010. With a career NFL head coaching record of 103-112-1, including his previous stops in Washington and Oakland, Turner is now in "three strikes and you're out" territory.
In recent weeks, while Turner's team has sunk ever lower, he has tried sounding something of an optimistic tone, saying there were some positive signs amid the wreckage. That only served to make him appear deeply in denial, and powerless in terms of how to stop the Chargers' season-killing slide. And what of Philip Rivers's puzzling poor season? Isn't Turner's background in offense and coaching quarterbacks to excel? Where did that expertise disappear to when needed most?
But in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately category, Reid isn't playing with a great hand of cards. His Eagles haven't won a playoff game since 2008, going one-and-done in the NFC field in each of the past two seasons. That makes his overall playoff record a mediocre 10-9, with just the one Super Bowl trip, in 2004, that three-point loss to New England in Jacksonville. Six division titles are a great feather in Reid's cap, but a 1-4 mark in conference title games means the Eagles have been very good, but seldom great.
And then there's this year's train wreck. Philadelphia went all in this offseason and preseason, snapping up high-profile free agents and declaring it as something of a Super Bowl or bust season. Well, they've busted. The Eagles are 4-7, have won just one of their past nine games at home, including last year's first-round loss to Green Bay, and look almost assured of the franchise's first losing record since 2005, the infamous Terrell Owens insubordination season.
Reid doesn't deserve all the blame for the Eagles' fate this season, but he certainly should get the lion's share. He helped craft this roster filled with glitz and hype, going against his tradition of building his teams from the offensive and defensive lines out, and eschewing style over substance. At some point, even for the most established and successive coaches, there just comes a time when the message grows stale and the track record doesn't carry the day. If it can happen to Tom Landry in Dallas, it can happen to anyone.
That "Fire Andy'' chant that broke out last Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field during the blowout loss to New England may or may not be heeded by Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie. But if it is, Reid won't be able to claim he got a raw deal. He's had 13 years and plenty of talent in Philadelphia, and he's still searching for the franchise's first Super Bowl title in a division in which the Giants, Redskins and Cowboys own multiple rings.
As well-liked and well-respected as Spagnuolo is by his team and most everyone around the league, the bottom line is the most damning statement of all in the NFL. St. Louis is 10-33 in his 43-game tenure, and even if the Rams rally to a season-ending five-game winning streak (which doesn't appear likely), Spagnuolo would still have won less than one-third of his games after taking over from the Scott Linehan-Jim Haslett regime in St. Louis.
In the Rams' case, the high hopes were not only raised by last year's improvement, but the hiring of offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who was expected to take franchise quarterback Sam Bradford's game to the next level after a strong rookie showing in 2010. But that has hardly been the reality, and the franchise might consider a coaching change if for no other reason than to improve the chances of a rebound for Bradford in 2012.
But since then, nothing. Like the Wildcat offense that those 2008 Dolphins made famous, Miami flashed and then largely flamed out after that early success. The Dolphins (3-8) are headed for their third consecutive losing season, still haven't been able to get their quarterback issues fixed, and have lost home games at an alarming rate the past two seasons.
Like Spagnuolo, Sparano is thought of as a good coach and a good man, and he won't have any problem getting his next assistant coaching job in the NFL. But his tenure as the boss in Miami has not gone well at all, and it would probably have been better for him if Dolphins owner Stephen Ross had been able to land his successor last offseason, when Ross embarrassed himself and the organization by going across the country in the failed pursuit of Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Yes, Colts president Bill Polian expressed confidence in Caldwell's leadership a few losses back, but that's what votes of confidence are all about. They sound nice, but they don't guarantee further employment. Caldwell on Tuesday
Colts owner Jim Irsay is a patient man, and he might give Caldwell a mulligan for this lost season. But he might also decide that Caldwell and his staff showed very little skill in making the best of a bad situation this year, and that a change must be made to at least assign some accountability for the Colts' epic failure.