NFL's Black Monday claims number of victims

Posted Dec. 31, 2012 @ 2:07 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Here is a summary of the firings and personnel moves made on the Monday after the 2012 season ended, also known as Black Monday in the NFL:

Raiders fire OC Knapp, three assistants

The Raiders fired offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, special-teams coordinator Steve Hoffman, offensive line coach Frank Pollack and linebackers coach Johnny Holland, the team announced Monday. 

"Decisions like this are very difficult," head coach Dennis Allen said. "I have a great deal of respect for all of these men and I appreciate their contributions to the Oakland Raiders this season."

The Raiders finished with a 4-12 record in 2012 and the offense ranked 18th in the NFL. Knapp joined Oakland this past offseason after having success with the Texans the previous two seasons, but the run game struggled mightily in his zone-blocking system, finishing 28th in rushing yards per game.


Jets fire Tannenbaum, retain Ryan

Jets owner Woody Johnson announced Monday that GM Mike Tannenbaum will not return in 2013.

Tannenbaum took his post as the team’s GM in 2006 and was at the helm when the Jets went to back-to-back AFC championship games. Tannenbaum joined the team in 1997 as its director of player contract negotiations. 

In the team’s statement, Johnson said a search for a new GM will begin immediately, and that Jed Hughes of Korn/Ferry will lead the process.

The Jets have disappointed the past two seasons though, punctuated by a 6-10 mark in 2012. Johnson said in a statement, though, that head coach Rex Ryan will remain for 2013.

“Rex Ryan will remain the Head Coach of our football team. I believe that he has the passion, the talent, and the drive to successfully lead our team,” Johnson said.

Tannenbaum released the following statement: 

"I want to thank Woody and his entire family for giving me the opportunity of a lifetime -- serving as the General Manager of the New York Jets for seven years.

"I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of rebuilding a winning tradition for Jets fans over the past 15 years. My days with Coach Parcells through my years as General Manager of the team that went to back-to-back AFC Championship games have been the fulfillment of a dream I have had since I was a little kid and I'll always be grateful to Woody, the two head coaches, Rex and Eric, as well as all of the players, staff and the entire organization for this opportunity.

"While of course it is disappointing to not achieve the ultimate goal of winning a championship, I am incredibly proud of our overall winning record and success. I feel very fortunate to have been the general manager who drafted cornerstone players during a period that yielded four playoff victories and 22 Pro Bowl appearances.

"I appreciate that it is rare for someone to stay with one organization with such a wide range of responsibilities for so many years. My time with the Jets will always be special to me and my family and it has prepared me well for whatever comes next.

"There are champions on this team that haven’t been crowned yet. I am confident that the base we've established will allow the New York Jets to continue a winning tradition for years to come and I wish everyone in the organization the best of luck."

The way we see it

A big move had to be made after a disastrous 2012 season, and Tannenbaum is the first to go. While his draft picks have generally been solid, including most recently Quinton Coples and Muhammad Wilkerson, the Jets’ contract problems were too much, and that’s supposed to be Tannenbaum’s specialty. The Jets are stuck with $8.25 million for Mark Sanchez next season and have to figure out what to do with Tim Tebow after a bad trade for him last season. The personnel on this club simply did not match the rest of the league, especially on offense, and that lands on Tannenbaum.

As for Ryan, it's not a surprise that he is staying — as bad as the team has been over the past two seasons, Ryan is widely regarded as a good coach, though he certainly is not absolved of all blame. With a new GM coming in, Ryan will need to have a good showing in 2013.


Chargers fire Turner, Smith

The Chargers announced that head coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith will not return in 2013.

“I thank A.J. and Norv for the determination and integrity they brought to the Chargers each and every day,” team president Dean Spanos said. “Both Norv and A.J. are consummate NFL professionals, and they understand that in this league, the bottom line is winning. My only goal is the Super Bowl, and that is why I have decided to move in a new direction with both our head coach and general manager positions. I am committed to our great fans, and we will do whatever we possibly can to achieve that goal.”

The Chargers had a 7-9 record in 2012, their first losing season since ’03. Turner had been the Chargers’ coach since ’07, leading them to the playoffs in three consecutive seasons. His overall regular-season record in San Diego was 56-40.

Smith first joined the Chargers as an assistant general manager in 2001 and became the GM in ’03. Smith had acquired 15 Pro Bowl players prior to the 2012 season.

The Chargers announced that former Packers GM Ron Wolf was retained to serve as a consultant to advise the Chargers throughout the hiring process. The team confirmed that its goal is to hire a GM first and then a head coach.

The way we see it

Turner and Smith knew heading into this season that they needed to get the Chargers to the playoffs to keep their jobs. The club was aggressive in the spring and summer, adding several veterans, but the newcomers didn’t do enough in another disappointing campaign in San Diego.

Turner shouldn’t be unemployed long, as he will be a top offensive coordinator candidate. It’s his offense, though, that was a huge problem in 2012, as it finished 31st in the NFL in total yards.

Smith’s recent draft history has been shaky and his free-agent haul this past offseason did not have the results he hoped for. The Spanos family wants stability, and they’ve had more of it with the Chargers than most owners, but a change needed to be made.

All indications point to Jimmy Raye III, the team's director of player personnel, being promoted to the GM position, and Raye would work with the Spanos family to find the Chargers’ next head coach.


Cardinals fire Whisenhunt, Graves and several assistant coaches

A 1-11 finish to the 2012 season has cost head coach Ken Whisenhunt, GM Rod Graves and several Cardinals assistant coaches their jobs, the team announced Monday.

In addition to Graves and Whisenhunt, the following assistant coaches also were let go by the team: Russ Grimm(assistant head coach/offensive line), Mike Miller(offensive coordinator), Chad Grimm (offensive quality control), John McNulty (quarterbacks), Frank Reich (wide receivers), and Tommie Robinson (running backs).

The Cardinals got off to a 4-0 start before losing nine in a row, and 11 of their final 12 games. Arizona started four different quarterbacks this season and finished last in the league in total offense.

Whisenhunt took over as Arizona’s coach in 2007 and led the Cards to an NFC championship in 2008. In his six seasons, Whisenhunt had a 45-51 record, bringing the Cardinals to the playoffs twice.

"Coaching the Cardinals has been an incredible and rewarding experience and I will always be grateful to Mr. Bidwill, Michael and Rod for giving me that opportunity back in 2007," Whisenhunt said in a statement released by the team. "I’m very proud of what we as a team and as an organization achieved during that time. Collectively we accomplished some very special and unprecedented things. That’s a testament to the dedication, hard work and talent of so many coaches, players and people throughout the organization. But we all understand this business and when you don’t win enough games changes are made. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but you definitely don’t have to look far to find people that have it much worse. I want to especially thank Cardinals fans who treated my family and me so well and made our time in Arizona so special. While this chapter ends for us, we are hopeful that the ones ahead of us will be as enriching as this one has been."

Graves had been with the Cardinals since 1997 and was promoted to general manager in 2007. He received a contract extension through 2013 in February of 2010.

"I am very grateful to Michael Bidwill, to his family, to the players and to the staff of the Arizona Cardinals for the opportunity to serve the organization," Graves said in a statement released by the team. "Working with talented others to build and enhance our brand over the past 16 years has been an awesome and totally enriching experience. It has been the opportunity that others only dream of. Every day I came to work I viewed it as the ultimate privilege and never once lost sight of that. My time with the Cardinals has ended but the organization and the people in it will always have a special place within me."

Cardinals defensive coordinator Ray Horton and vice president of player personnel Steve Keim are two in-house candidates for the vacant head coach and GM positions.

The way we see it

After making what had to have been a very tough decision, team president Mike Bidwill has two ways he can now go. His most likely course of action will be to maintain some degree of continuity and make Horton, who figures to be a hot head-coaching candidate in other venues, and Keim the Cardinals’ new head coach and GM, respectively.

A tipoff that Bidwill might be leaning in that direction was the fact that the entire defensive coaching staff remains intact, while the offensive staff, to absolutely nobody’s surprise, was totally gutted.

A much bolder alternative for Bidwill would be to bring in a Bill Polian-type GM with a successful track record and in effect give him carte-blanche authority to revamp the entire organization, beginning with the hiring of a hand-picked head coach.

As far as other head-coaching candidates besides Horton that the team might consider, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who worked in the same capacity for two seasons under Whisenhunt (including the team’s 2008 Super Bowl season) and was also the Chiefs’ head coach from 2009-2011, can not be discounted.

If Horton were to be promoted, the hiring of a high-profile offensive coordinator like perhaps Norv Turner, who many believe will quickly return to the role for which he has always been best-suited now that he’s been fired as head coach of the Chargers, would be a smart — and likely very popular — move.

There’s been some buzz that fired Eagles head coach Andy Reid could be considered as a replacement for Whisenhunt. One can’t help but quickly connect Reid with Cardinals QB Kevin Kolb, who previously played under Reid in Philadelphia and actually had his moments this season before rib injuries shut down his injury-prone body.

But the best bet is that none of the team’s current QBs will be back, with the possible exception of Brian Hoyer, and that the team’s new GM will put all his energy into using the seventh overall pick in the 2013 draft on a quarterback who could step right in and make an instant impact a la Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson.

Another interesting move worth considering would be to make a strong push for likely free agent Alex Smith, whose transition into an efficient game manager who keeps mistakes to a minimum could make him appealing to a fan base that has had its fill of mistake-making QBs this season. A Smith-Greg Roman package deal courtesy of the division-rival Niners is perhaps a move worth pondering.

One final thought on Whisenhunt: He will definitely land on his feet. Having been responsible for four of the Cardinals’ six .500 or better seasons in the desert, including the fairytale Super Bowl run in 2008, in addition to putting together a very impressive 4-2 postseason record, should make him a very attractive candidate for a number of openings around the league.  


Bears fire Lovie Smith

The Bears announced that GM Phil Emery informed Lovie Smith Monday morning he will not return as the team’s head coach for the 2013 season.

Smith was hired in 2004 and led the team to an 81-63 record, three division titles, two NFC championship games and a Super Bowl appearance following the 2006 season in his nine-year tenure as the head coach of the Bears.

The Bears beat the Lions on Sunday to get to 10-6 on the year, but lost a tiebreaker with the Vikings for the No. 6 seed in the NFC.

The way we see it

Coming off a 10-6 season might seem like an odd time to fire a head coach, but it’s clear that either team chairman George McCaskey or GM Phil Emery, or both, expected at least a playoff appearance, and probably more, from the 2012 Bears, especially after starting with a 7-1 record. A one-and-done showing in the postseason probably would not have been enough for Smith to save his job.

The Bears finished third in the NFC North in each of the past two seasons, and McCaskey has grown tired of watching the Bears lose to the Packers (back-to-back division championships), who have won their last six and eight of their last nine meetings with Chicago.

In the end, Smith never was able to get the Bears’ offense trending upward, even after hiring four different offensive coordinators, and that cost him. There was no reason to believe he would suddenly figure out how to solve the problems that have long plagued his offense, which has finished ranked 23rd or lower in eight of Smith's nine seasons at the helm, including each of the past six seasons.

There are already reports that the Bears have asked for permission to interview Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and it will be no surprise if the Bears end up hiring an offensive-minded head coach to replace one who lost his job because he never was able to make things work well on that side of the ball.

Smith’s firing will be popular among a large segment of the team’s fan base, but it was not greeted warmly by a veteran corps of players that remain loyal to Smith. Big changes are coming to the Bears, and jobs that seemed fairly safe a day ago are feeling much less so now.


Munchak returning to Titans, Reinfeldt fired

Mike Munchak will be back in 2013 as the Titans’ head coach, owner Bud Adams told PFW correspondent Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Tennessee finished Munchak’s second season with a record of 6-10 after going 9-7 in 2011. The Titans beat the Jaguars 38-20 in the regular-season finale, which followed a 55-7 loss to the Packers.

The Titans lost six games by at least three touchdowns.

Adams did say he plans to relieve senior executive vice president/COO Mike Reinfeldt of his duties. Reinfeldt has worked for 32 NFL seasons and has been with Tennessee since 2007.


Bills fire Gailey

The Bills fired head coach Chan Gailey after three seasons, the team announced on Monday. An emotional Gailey told reporters Monday that the entire coaching staff had been relieved of duties.

Buffalo finished with a 6-10 record for the second season in a row after beating the Jets in the season finale. Gailey had a 16-32 mark in his three seasons with the Bills.

Expectations were high in Buffalo after the team signed DE Mario Williams in March. Gailey promoted Dave Wannstedt to defensive coordinator, and the unit finished 22nd in the NFL. Gailey’s offense finished 19th in the league.

The last Bills head coach to complete four seasons was Marv Levy. 

There has been no announcement regarding the future of GM Buddy Nix.

The way we see it

Aging owner Ralph Wilson emptied the wallet last spring and made it clear he wants this team in win-now mode. Gailey’s decision to promote his friend Wannstedt didn’t pan out, and his loyalty to QB Ryan Fitzpatrick hasn’t resulted in wins.

Known for his offensive prowess, Gailey’s offense struggled at times, especially in the red zone. C.J. Spiller’s lack of touches in several games brought criticism to Gailey.

One thing that was thought to be Gailey’s saving grace was the respect his players have for him, with stars like Stevie Johnson publicly pushing for the club to keep Gailey. This is a young team with some budding talent, starting with Johnson and Spiller on offense, but the quarterback position needs fixing. The fact that Gailey was well liked could have kept him safe if the team got to .500, but a 6-10 record with a few embarrassing losses thrown in forced Wilson's hand.


Chiefs fire Crennel, Pioli safe for now

The Chiefs fired head coach Romeo Crennel on Monday, the team announced.

In his first full season as head coach, Crennel had a 2-14 record. The Chiefs will have the No. 1 pick in April’s draft.

Crennel took over as the team’s interim coach at the end of the 2011 season after Todd Haley was fired and went 2-1, including a win over the then-undefeated Packers.

Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt released the following statement:

"I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Romeo, both personally and professionally. He is an accomplished coach, a man of great character and he helped guide our football team through some extremely challenging circumstances this season.

“However, I am embarrassed by the poor product we gave our fans this season, and I believe we have no choice but to move the franchise in a different direction. I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Chiefs. The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come. No final determination has been made at this point on the future of General Manager Scott Pioli.

“Finally, I want to personally apologize to our fans for our performance this season. We are blessed to play for some of the best and most passionate fans in the National Football League and they deserve better than what we gave them this season. I want our fans to know that I will do everything I can to provide them with a dramatically better team — both next season and in the seasons to come — and our entire organization appreciates their support.”

Crennel released a statement through the team on Monday afternoon: “Obviously I’m very disappointed in the way our season went. At the end of the day, the NFL is a performance-based league, and we weren’t able to win. I want to thank the Hunt family for the opportunity as well as our players, coaches and fans for their support during my time in Kansas City. As for my future, I’m planning to take some time to reflect on this season, evaluate everything, and make a decision based on what’s right for myself and my family.”

The way we see it

Hunt has handled this dismissal in an interesting fashion. It appears he’s holding off firing Pioli – a decision the owner reasonably could have made weeks ago – perhaps to gauge the public sentiment and maybe to see whether Pioli can present a plan to him for how he would rebuild. That would include, most prominently, hiring a new head coach and making a change at quarterback.

That might not play too well with the fans, who have voiced their public displeasure for Pioli, even paying to fly “Fire Pioli” signs over Arrowhead Stadium during games. Hunt could hurt his team’s chances of getting his top choice of a head coach (or a GM) if he waits too long to render a decision.

Pioli struggled to find a head coach to replace Herm Edwards, seeking opinions far and wide. He chose Haley because of his offensive vision, but ultimately there was a huge personality and style clash between the two, with the buttoned-up Pioli never meshing well with the more loose-cannon Haley.

That was never the problem with Crennel and Pioli, who worked together for years in New England, winning three titles. But their inability to forge an effective offense – and handpick a quarterback to run it – was the undoing of the team, even with a roster that in some ways was solid.

The next few days will be critical to the immediate future and direction of the Chiefs. We just don’t know which way those will go yet.


Reid's time in Philadelphia comes to end

The Eagles announced the end of Andy Reid's 14-year tenure of head coach on Monday morning.

"Andy Reid won the most games of any head coach in Eagles history and he is someone I respect greatly and will remain friends with for many years to come,” owner Jeffrey Lurie said. "But, it is time for the Eagles to move in a new direction. Coach Reid leaves us with a winning tradition that we can build upon. And we are very excited about the future.” 

Lurie added that the search for a new coach would begin immediately. The Eagles finished with a 4-12 record in 2012, the worst record in Reid’s 14 seasons. He was the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL.

Reid leaves the Eagles with a record of 140-102-1 and a 10-9 postseason record, which included a trip to the Super Bowl following the 2004 season.

The way we see it

Reid departure is not stunning, as it had been speculated for weeks amid an extended losing streak that reached eight at one point. The reasons why Lurie fired Reid are myriad, but they can be boiled down in a sense to Reid’s handing of the defensive coaching staff and the failure of the Michael Vick experiment.

Reid struggled to handle his defensive coaches following the retirement of longtime defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, first promoting Sean McDermott and then firing him after two seasons at the post. McDermott then was replaced by former OL coach Juan Castillo, a radical move. Castillo never had coached defense on the pro level, and Reid supplemented him with famed DL coach Jim Washburn, who had an excellent reputation for his work in Tennessee. But the coaches clashed and Castillo’s work was undermined. Washburn was reportedly a disruptive force and it caused Reid eventually to get rid of both.

The addition of Vick, like the Castillo hiring, was very controversial in 2009 following Vick’s jail term on dogfighting charges. But Reid appeared to be a genius when Vick rose from third-string QB to starter following the trade of Donovan McNabb and the injury to Kevin Kolb. Vick played at an MVP level the first half of the 2010 season and guided the Eagles into the playoffs, where they lost to the Packers.

Reid’s failure to win in the postseason in recent years also clearly hurt him. His final postseason victory was a 23-20 victory over the Giants following the 2006 season. The Eagles qualified for the playoffs twice after that but lost their initial game. Eagles fans grew tired not only of the one-and-done trend but later the team’s failure to get into the postseason dance at all.

Although Lurie and Reid shared a close bond since he was hired in 1999, the owner believed he had to make a move. It’s expected that GM Howie Roseman, who earned a five-year extension in the offseason, will remain in his post in a modified front-office structure. Lurie and Roseman, along with team president Don Smolenski, will help spearhead the search for Reid’s replacement. Many have said the Eagles' braintrust already has done weeks of preparation on this front.


Browns fire Shurmur, Heckert

The Browns fired head coach Pat Shurmur and GM Tom Heckert, the team announced Monday.

Cleveland finished the season 5-11 after Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, its fifth season in a row with five wins or fewer. Shurmur finishes his two seasons as the Browns’ head coach with a record of 9-23. Heckert was the GM for the past three seasons.

New owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner were expected to clean house, and it was reported Saturday night that the decisions would come down on Monday. Haslam bought the team in August and Banner, the former Eagles executive, took his post in October. The following are statements from Banner, Haslam, Heckert and Shurmur, as released by the club.

“We felt that these moves were in the best interests of the Cleveland Browns and our future,” said Haslam. “I enjoyed getting to know Tom and Pat over the past several months, and want to thank them, not just for their contributions to the Browns, but also the insight they were able to provide. They are both fine men and hope they have the best of success as they move forward with their careers.”

Banner: “This decision was not an easy one because of my relationship with Tom and Pat and the fact that they are both quality people. Ultimately our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do. On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships. I have a great deal of respect for Tom and Pat, and I want to wish them and their families nothing but the best.”

Heckert: “I leave the Browns feeling very good about many of the things we accomplished here and the direction in which I believe this team is headed. Having been around this franchise growing up, I was really excited for the opportunity to come here three years ago, and I want to thank Randy Lerner and Mike Holmgren for making that possible. I also want to acknowledge many of the hard-working people in the Browns organization, especially our player personnel staff, who are outstanding at what they do and supported me immensely in my role. I wish the team nothing but the best as they move forward.”

Shurmur: “I am extremely proud of the players on this team, who I felt made tremendous strides and helped to make the Cleveland Browns relevant again. I want to thank them, as well as my entire coaching staff for making the past two years enjoyable. My coaches are outstanding teachers and even better men. They helped me lead these players through a unique time of transition. This group of players will achieve success soon, and there will be a part of me that will feel very good when that happens.

“I want to thank Randy Lerner, Mike Holmgren and Tom Heckert for bringing me in and having the faith in me to lead this football team. I am disappointed that we did not win more games, but I do know the Browns are on their way to becoming a consistent winner. I appreciated the time spent with Jimmy (Haslam) and Joe (Banner), and wish them all the best as they provide a new vision for the Cleveland Browns.”

The way we see it

When news broke that Randy Lerner would be selling the club, Shurmur and Heckert no longer had the luxury of time. Suddenly, head coach and general manager needed their young team to take a big leap forward. Alas, the Browns weren’t ready to make such progress. A slow start left the Browns at the back of the brutal AFC North, and as the weeks passed, it became clear that neither Shurmur nor Heckert was likely to earn a reprieve from the club’s new management team.

Heckert’s biggest accomplishment was turning over the roster. Today, the Browns are one of the youngest teams in the NFL. The Browns’ revamped front office does not have to start from scratch. However, the Browns still have the division’s weakest offense, and it’s unclear whether the new regime will keep QB Brandon Weeden as the starter. Nevertheless, Heckert methodically improved the talent in Cleveland. Should the evaluators replacing him win big with the core of the current roster in place, Heckert’s tenure will be viewed all the more favorably.

In another era, Shurmur might have gotten a third season as head coach. The Browns are a painfully young team, and Shurmur himself surely had some growing to do as a head coach. Were Lerner and team president Mike Holmgren still in charge, Shurmur might have received another chance. Instead, Shurmur exits with a 9-23 record in two seasons in Cleveland. Shurmur’s teams generally played hard, but the wins were too few, and the offense was too punchless. Shurmur occasionally struggled with game management. Here was a coach who could have used more seasoning. Alas, he will not get that chance in Cleveland, which will hire its sixth full-time head coach since 1999.


Jaguars fire GM Smith

Jaguars owner Shahid Khan announced early Monday that the team is parting ways with general manager Gene Smith. For Arthur Arkush's take on this move, click here.

Khan will immediately begin his search for the new GM, though the team said there is no timetable on naming a replacement and Khan will not have comment on the process until the new GM is introduced. 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble has been rumored to be a potential candidate for the job.

The Jaguars will honor the remaining two years on Smith’s contract.

“I met with Gene Smith this morning to inform him of my decision to go in a new direction and thank him for his dedication to the Jaguars since the inception of the franchise,” Khan said, according to the team. “I am personally appreciative for his efforts during my first season of ownership in the NFL. Gene is a good man with a long career ahead of him in football, and I know this season was as difficult for him as anyone with our organization. I sincerely wish Gene and his family the very best, today and always.

“Now it is time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a new chapter. We’re not looking back. I’ve made it clear from Day One that we pledge nothing less than to deliver the first Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville. Our fans have been remarkably loyal over the years, and they were truly outstanding this past season. We simply must do better for our fans.

“Our organization’s business unit had an extremely impressive year and I anticipate even better days ahead in 2013 and beyond, but we all understand this is a football business above all else. With that, I’m determined to find the right man to lead our football operations, someone who shares my vision, understands the commitment we will demand, and is qualified and ready to seize this opportunity. That search begins today.”