The term “Black Friday” has morphed from a negative term coined by retail employees into a marketing gimmick that gets post-Thanksgiving customers (and their pepper spray) charged up for some power shopping. In the NFL, the term “Black Monday” has not — and will not — develop a positive connotation.
This season, Black Monday lands on January 2. Though there’s no requirement that coaching firings be announced on Black Monday, teams that hope to launch immediately the search for a new coach must first send the old one packing.
With three coaches already canned during the season (Jack Del Rio of the Jaguars, Todd Haley of the Chiefs, and Tony Sparano of the Dolphins), more surely will come next week — as soon as Monday, and possibly even Sunday night. (Six years ago, for example, the Vikings distributed in the locker room a one-sheet announcement that Mike Tice wouldn’t be back.)
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up with the weekly “hot seat” segments on PFT Live, here’s a look at the current hot spots.
1. Most Likely to Be Fired.
Coaches whose contracts expire after the 2012 season present ownership with a significant dilemma upon the conclusion of the 2011 season. (Or, more technically, a trilemma.) Extend the coach’s contract, allow him to work as a lame duck, or fire the coach.
Three coaches of very bad teams fall into this category: Steve Spagnuolo of the Rams, Raheem Morris of the Buccaneers, and Jim Caldwell of the Colts.
On Thursday, former Bucs quarterback Shaun King made a pretty good case for giving Morris another chance. But with deafening silence coming from One Buc Place as the team loses nine straight games and counting, it could be time for a change in Tampa.
Chargers coach Norv Turner has two years left on his contract, but he seems to be the most likely to go, of the men deemed likely to go. The fans in San Diego have revolted, and a competitive team has seen multiple blackouts of its home games.
2. Possibly Fired.
The loser of Sunday night’s NFC East playoff play-in game could be in trouble. Giants coach Tom Coughlin has one year left on his deal. The team could decide to give him another one-year Band-Aid extension, like Coughlin received in 2011. Or the Giants could decide to make a change, which could cause Bill Cowher’s plans for 2012 to change as well. Lame-duck status for Coughlin is highly unlikely in the New York market, given the intense coverage and speculation that his status would trigger through the next 12 months.
For Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, the availability of Jeff Fisher coupled with hard-to-forget failures against the Lions and Cardinals could prompt owner Jerry Jones to part from his proclamation that Garrett will be back.
Others whose departures would be surprising but not shocking include Bills coach Chan Gailey, Eagles coach Andy Reid (primarily if he wants to go), Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, and Bears coach Lovie Smith.
3. Potential Stunners.
We’ve seen from time to time shocking developments after a season ends. In early 2009, the Bucs dumped Jon Gruden and the Broncos fired Mike Shanahan. In February 2007, the Chargers fired Marty Schottenheimer, weeks after the completion of a 14-2 regular season. The Jets jettisoned Eric Mangini after the 2008 season, not long after owner Woody Johnson declared him to be safe.
Nearly a decade ago, not long after a memorable 39-38 come-from-way-behind win over the Giants in the wild-card round, the 49ers fired Steve Mariucci, which in turn got Marty Mornhinwheg fired in Detroit — and Matt Millen fined for violating the Rooney Rule by hiring Mariucci without interviewing any minority candidates.
And so it’s impossible to rule out a similar out-of-left-field move this year. If the Texans are blown out in the wild-card round at home, Bob McNair could perhaps decide to give Gary Kubiak his walking papers, and possibly promote Wade Phillips. And if the Raiders don’t make it to the playoffs, would it truly shock anyone if the Raiders decide to bid adieu to Hue Jackson?
It’s impossible to predict the team that will supply a shocking development, which is why it’s a shock when a team unexpectedly changes coaches. Regardless of who does and doesn’t make a move, we know that the process could get rolling (or, more accurately, keep rolling) as soon as the Week 17 games begin to end.