NFL morning after: The best day of the NFL year, and then the worst


Is there a better day of the year than the final Sunday of the NFL season?

If you love football, I don’t know if there is. The season’s final Sunday is the only day of the year in which all 32 NFL teams are playing, and it’s a day when so much is happening, all at once. The Bears are holding on to win narrowly at Detroit, briefly keeping their playoff hopes alive, while the Giants are blowing out the Eagles but getting eliminated anyway. The Colts are making a statement that they’re for real in the AFC, while the Texans are reeling and limping into the playoffs. The Vikings are furiously battling the Packers to reach the playoffs, while the Broncos are clinching home-field advantage by beating the Chiefs. The 49ers are clinching the NFC West by beating the Cardinals, while the Seahawks are facing a surprisingly stiff challenge from the Rams.

And to top it off, the night ended up with the Redskins reaching the playoffs by winning the NFC East championship game in Washington.

You might prefer Super Bowl Sunday, but that’s a day when the hype to actual football ratio is about 50:1. Or you might prefer Conference Championship Sunday, but if you’re a fan of one of the 28 teams that have already been eliminated, that day isn’t quite as fun. Or maybe you love NFL draft day, or the first Sunday of the season. If that’s your preference, I won’t tell you you’re wrong. But for my money, it doesn’t get any better than the Sunday of Week 17.

And then comes the Monday after Week 17, which is the worst day of the NFL year. Some people call it Black Monday. The day when a handful of head coaches, dozens of assistant coaches and quite a few team executives find out they’re fired.

Eagles coach Andy Reid, Chargers coach Norv Turner, Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel and Browns coach Pat Shurmur are almost certain to get fired today, and several other head coaches are in danger of losing their jobs. When you’re an assistant on a team whose head coach gets fired you’re almost always fired along with him, and there are plenty of assistants on other teams who get fired as well. General managers get fired, too. And although most of them don’t know it yet, there are hundreds of NFL players who were on active rosters yesterday and will never play in an NFL game again. It’s part of the business, but it’s depressing thinking about all these people going into a year in which they won’t have jobs.

At this time of year I’m always reminded of the end of the 1998 season, when then-Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson addressed the media on Black Monday. Johnson’s job was safe, and he was preparing to coach in a playoff game, but he could hardly contain his fury for the carnage in the coaching profession that took place that year, when five coaches were fired on the morning after the end of the season.

“I think it’s disgusting. Some of the better coaches in the NFL got fired today,” Johnson said on the Monday after the ’98 season ended. “I know we’re highly paid, but it’s a shame when coaches’ jobs are dependent on injuries, skyboxes, people in the stands and officiating calls. It doesn’t give me a good feeling about our profession when I see things like I saw this morning.”

These coaches are human beings, after all. They’re men with wives who relocated for their husbands’ jobs — usually men with wives who have already relocated several times, and know they’ll have to do it several more times. They’re men with kids who will go to school and hear taunts about their dads getting fired — kids who will wonder which city they’ll live in, which school they’ll go to, which taunts they’ll hear next year.

Yes, they all make a lot of money, and they’re living their dreams. I’m not playing a violin, taking up a collection or telling a sob story. But I do think that, as we reflect on how much we’ve enjoyed this 2012 season, we ought to reflect a little bit on how many of the men we watched on Sundays this year are losing their job on Monday. This game we love is a cruel, unforgiving business.

All those people losing their jobs are the ones I’m thinking about today. Here’s what else is on my mind:

Calvin Johnson is great — and so is Charles Tillman. I want to say a bit about what an amazing season Johnson had, but first this about Tillman, the Bears cornerback who deserves some consideration for Defensive Player of the Year: Tillman faced Johnson twice this season, and in those two games Johnson had 34 yards (his season-low, in October) and 72 yards (on Sunday). So in the two games when he was covered by Tillman, Johnson averaged 53 yards a game. In his other 14 games, Johnson averaged 133 yards a game.

Johnson fell short of 2,000 receiving yards this season, but he still finished the season with 1,964 yards, blowing away Jerry Rice’s old single-season record of 1,848. And Johnson outdistanced the rest of the NFL by a margin unseen in more than 60 years: Johnson ended up leading the league by a whopping 366 yards; the No. 2 receiver in the NFL, Houston’s Andre Johnson, had 1,598. The last time a player led the league by more yards than Johnson this year, it was Hall of Famer Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch in 1951, gaining 1,495 receiving yards in a year when the No. 2 spot was held by San Francisco’s Gordie Soltau, who gained 826 receiving yards. Johnson is nothing short of amazing.

The Falcons should have rested their starters. Atlanta had home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs locked up, so they had nothing to play for on Sunday against the Buccaneers. But the Falcons didn’t rest their starters, instead trying to keep the momentum going with a season-ending win over the Buccaneers. That didn’t go as planned. The Falcons lost to the Bucs, looked bad doing it, and can’t feel good about themselves heading into the playoffs. I sure don’t feel good about the Falcons going into the playoffs: The road to the Super Bowl may go through Atlanta, but I’ll be very surprised if this Falcons team gets to the Super Bowl.

Michael Vick was rusty. Vick, the Eagles quarterback who had been sidelined for the last six games, returned to the Eagles’ starting lineup on Sunday for what is presumed to be his final game with the team. He looked lousy. A Vick interception ended the first Eagles drive and set up the first Giants touchdown, and Vick completed just 19 of 35 passes for 197 yards in the Eagles’ 42-7 loss. It’s widely expected that the Eagles will release Vick after the season, and if Vick was hoping to showcase himself for some other team, he didn’t do a very good job of that on Sunday.

The AFC is coming down to Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady, again. Seven of the last nine seasons, the AFC leader in passer rating has been either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Eleven of the last 14 seasons, the AFC leader in passing touchdowns has been either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. Ten of the last 15 seasons, the AFC leader in passing yards has been either Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. And seven of the last 11 seasons, the AFC Super Bowl team has been quarterbacked by either Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. With Manning’s Broncos having the No. 1 seed and Brady’s Patriots having the No. 2 seed, it appears that it’s going to be eight of the last 12 years with either Manning or Brady in the Super Bowl.

I’m ready for the playoffs. Today will be distasteful in the NFL, as we’ll spend most of the day talking about people losing their jobs. But tomorrow comes a New Year and a new NFL postseason. After binging on 16 NFL games yesterday, we only have 11 more games to enjoy until September. Let’s savor the playoffs.

44 responses to “NFL morning after: The best day of the NFL year, and then the worst

  1. Great article. I’ve been without a job to go to on four of the past five Christmases myself (construction is more heartless than football).
    Great perspective on the human factor.

  2. T-Minus 35 days until Lombardi #4 is claimed by God’s team. I don’t care who they put in front of the Redskins, with the combination of God, Sndyer/Allen/Shanahan and Robert Griffin, the Washington Redskins are not going to lose for the rest of this calandar season. Let’s get something straight…if RGIII or Alfred Morris aren’t Rookie of the year, the award is a flat out sham. If Mike Shanahan is not Coach of the year, the award is a flat out sham. People can continue to criticise or give me thumbs down but my football knowledge is validated every passing week. I could not ask for an easier set of opponents to open the playoffs against then Seattle and SF. They don’t play football in the NFC West/Cupcake. Like I stated during the offseason, for as good of a QB Wilson is, he will be the Barkley/Malone to RGIII’s Jordan. Richard Sosa…err Sherman is going to learn firsthand why Pierre Garçon is the best WR left in the playoff pool. Redemption is the word of the day. For those fluke wins in 2005 and 07 when we didn’t have a QB. Now we have the best QB since Elway in RGIII…so long Seattle. God smiles on the Washington Redskins yet again. 7 down, 4 to go. Lombardi #4 awaits.

  3. I disagree about Black Monday. Once you’re a coach, you are pretty much guaranteed to have some job as long as you want one, even if it’s a position coach or coordinator role, or a member of the media – not to mention, you’re a multi-millionaire. It’s a day when fanbases who’ve suffered through an awful year (usually several awful years) get a clean slate, and a fresh hope that their teams will be turned around.

  4. WOW! I’ve never seen this JJ quote or rant before but it and it’s repeat here shows such a lack of touch with the everyday worker and families of many fans it’s pathetic! Yeah 20 years of “common folk” salary in a year and maybe even more is real tough … Good god man! Get in touch with your fans!

  5. “Taunts about their dads getting fired”? Are you shucking me, Mike D? Unless those kids are going to elite private schools, those fired dads were probably making two or three times what the other dads were making, and will do so again. I sure would rather be a fired pro assistant than an employed coach on a high school team.
    Otherwise, a good piece, only I would agree with Pete Prisco of CBS that the two best football weekends are the first two rounds of the play-offs.

  6. Gods team? Where has god been for the past 13 years? Lol! You sound pretty illogical, dude.

    RGIII should be rookie of the year. Thats basically the end of where I agree with your crazy talk.

    Your obvious east coast-biased view on the NFC West makes me laugh. 2 divisions had an 11 win team that wasn’t the division winner. Guess what? The over-glorified NFC East WASN’T one of them!!

  7. I get your point – and Jimmy Johnson’s – about Black Monday, but from each individual team’s perspective, what other choice do they have? Wait until after the Super Bowl to dump their coach and start their search at that point? Why continue having a lame duck on their staff and payroll for 5 weeks? And how terrible would that look when teams are looking for new coaches and probably conducting “unofficial” interviews while they have yet to actually fire the coach they have in place?

    Plus, consider that searches for a new coach can last several weeks before a selection is made. If a team waited until the second week of February to fire their coach, they wouldn’t likely have a new one until the end of February at the earliest. New coaches will likely want to fill their coaching staff with their own personnel, which also adds time. And the combine is the last weekend of February too, so a new head coach will want to be in place with his staff so they can study potential draft choices that weekend.

    I’m not saying Black Monday is all right the way it is, but teams don’t have much other choice.

  8. Getting fired as an NFL coach should not be considered “sickening.” Tony Dungy, Jon Gruden, etc. have all been fired and they either became a coach somewhere else or got a great gig working in the media. and btw, Vick has been “rusty” since 2010, don’t give me that bs

  9. Dear Florio and Company:

    I am a Patriots fan. I am good for a bout 30 visits a day between my work PC and my smart phone. That being said, you may see less of me until this logicalvoice guy is banned. How many more of his awful posts must I read? It may sound trivial, but in the end it’s annoying. I don’t even read his posts. The sheer sight of his name makes me bristle. Please do something about it! I don’t think I am the only one who hates this either….

  10. Another “worst part” that you did not mention is:
    If you are a fan of one of the 20 teams that did not make the playoffs then you have to wait another 36 weeks until your team plays another regular season game again.
    While the NFL is the most popular Sport it also has the longest off season of any Sport as well.

  11. Wrossi81 is correct. If I get fired, there’s no net. I won’t be guranteed a job by one of 31 other companies.

    Having to move should suck, but the have the money to hire movers. Not too worried about them.

    The NFL is a man soap opera with games. I love all of it.

  12. As a Bears Fan. This was a tough season. The Bears have no buisness in the Playoffs. Their offense is one of the most pathetic I can say I have ever seen. Charles Tillman is definetley Team MVP….. Lovie needs to take a hike.. New Blood, new attitude.

  13. Dear fellow Pats fan,
    “McCourty1sland” is a good name…if you are talking about him as a safety only. 🙂

    It may or may not come down to Den-Pats. After watching a pretty good Pats team get destroyed by the NYJ in the 2010 playoffs and two pretty good Pats teams get manhandled by a very up and down team in their past two SBs, I know that all that matters is which team plays better THAT DAY.

  14. @bucrightoff

    Like the rest, y’all had the Falcons with a 5-11 record this season. And Like the rest Y’ALL BEEN WRONG ALL YEAR! Keep betting against them, sure do appreciate it! Meanwhile, toon in and watch while the Scrubs you cheer for are doing the same!


  15. Two things:

    A. Vick wasn’t rusty, Vick sucks.

    B. Whoever this logical assclown is, keep dreaming buddy. Your franchise has been in termoil for over a decade. As someone who lives in the DC area Redskins fans are the worst fans known to man. I’m sure Walmart is sold out of Rdskins gear right now.

  16. Lovie needs to be gone today. Emery needs to move FAST because
    the good coaches will be picking there staff and going to new teams
    and Im hoping for Greg Roman in San Fran for a head coach or pete Carmicheal Jr. in New Orleans

  17. Oh, poor babies. They have to move their families after banking 7-digit salaries for a handful of years.

    Try being in an industry where you get moved from NJ to Chicago to Cincinnati to Detroit to Chicago to Charlotte to Orlando to Atlanta…all since 2001…on a salary that’s about 1/20th that of an NFL coach.

    Cry me a freaking river.

  18. Everyday people lose their jobs every day, and they’re not making nearly what these head coaches make.

    We all make a choice in what career path we choose, and that’s the unfortunate part of their lifestyle.

    I don’t have much empathy for their plights, as I’m sure their families won’t be without should they be out of work for a year, unlike the average schmuck working 9-5.

  19. “Didn’t Charles Tillman get abused by Rames Barden of all people a couple months ago?”

    In a preseason game? Yeah, I’m sure Tillman was going all out. If he can cover Megatraon, I’m sure he can’t cover Barden.

  20. @mccourt-seriously? U need to lighten up-your team and their cheating coach made the playoffs again.

  21. I think you should separate out GMs and head coaches from assistants and staff when you break out the sympathy card.

    GM/HCs have the big money contracts, often taking the job knowing full well they are unqualified. All too often they just want to make the big score.

    No, ALL my sympathy goes out to the assistant coaches who get caught up in the mass firings. Those are the guys who are consistently underpaid and overworked.

  22. Vick wasnt rusty, he was just Vick! Vick is a coach killer. Just ask Andy Reid and Jim Mora Jr. I pity the next coach that has this guy on his team.

  23. I am rooting for the redskins to make a magical run to the Super Bowl… Only for Tom Brady and the pats to embarrass them so bad as they so often do the new media darlings and rip the soul out of logicalvoice or whatever he is now. 49-10 sounds about right. The illogical voice has spoken

  24. I have disagree with this whole sorrowful attitude with coaching. The one thing missing from the pity party view is that these coaches do have job security, they will continue to easily find work with another job in the nfl, something much more difficult than a normal profession.

  25. I know I am not the first person to say this, but I think you need to lighten up, just a little bit, about the human tragedy of NFL head coaches losing their jobs.

    Their is no more insular, and relatively secure, way to make a living than as an NFL coach. Once you’ve ascended to that level, the old boys network will keep you in the loop somewhere.

    Let’s do an experiment- let’s keep track of everyone who loses their job in the NFL today and see what the average amount of time is before they land somewhere else. And let’s keep in mind the ones that will be paid whether they work next year or not.

    I get it, these guys face some level of humiliation at having failed, and to some it may be their last chance at a top job, but they’ll all land on their feet.

  26. “The Bears are holding on to win narrowly at Detroit, briefly keeping their playoff hopes alive, while the Giants are blowing out the Eagles but getting eliminated anyway.
    “The Vikings are furiously battling the Packers to reach the playoffs,…”
    Mr. Smith, you picked the Bears to make it into the playoffs and for the Vikings to lose. It bothers me a little that you wouldn’t write it for what it was that the Vikings furiously fought their way into the playoffs by beating Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Have a little humility in this and admit that the Vikings did more than just battle the Packers. They won and eliminated Chicago from contention.

  27. Coaches get into the business knowing they will most likely be fired one day. It comes with the position. It is no worse for them than it is for the player who gets cut the week before the season begins.

    And I’m sorry but I’m thinking about the thousands of people who have been out of work for months, possibly years. They are the ones I feel sorry for, not a coach who will wind up somewhere else within a month or two. Oh my, they have to move again? Cry me a river.

  28. I don’t know, this is a bit tough to take but I understand where the author is coming from.

    I say it’s difficult to take because, as an Army officer of 12 years, I have moved 7 times with my daughter attending three different High Schools. So basically, if you take the life of an NFL head coach, reduce the pay by some number of zeroes, add the prospect of leaving for 6-12 months at a time (with like, bullets and stuff) and you pretty much have my job.

    I know today is going to suck for many, but man, it’s hard for me to really lose too much sleep over it.

  29. Sure would be nice if we had neither the Diva nor MegaHead in the SuperBowl…sick of them both.

  30. A bit disappointed my team didn’t make the playoffs but, overall, I think good teams are in it. I am seriously anticipating another Brady vs. Manning showdown for the SB. That should be a good game. And the NFC should have some tough playoff games as well, but I can’t help but veer towards favoring GB and SF. Here’s hoping ATL doesn’t do one of their one and done show this post season, again.

  31. Life “is a cruel, unforgiving business.”

    NFL football is a game, for which the financial and social/status rewards are off-the-charts fantastic for those both lucky and good enough to play, coach, or manage in it. By comparison to most ordinary people’s lives, being an NFL coach or executive is a well-paid cakewalk.

    I’d trade places with JJ (then or now) in a heartbeat, as would just about anyone who ever visits this site.

    Notwithstanding that momentary loss of perspective, nice post by MDS.

  32. You can extend your sentiments down the coaching spectrum—High School coaches and assistants are often underpaid hard working people subject to factors they can’t control to keep their jobs. At the College level coaches typically start as unpaid graduate assistants or scarcely paid lower level assistants, who must rely on outside resources to survive, along with the whims or expertise of the head coach just to hang on to a frequently dead end job. Coaching is brutal at every level, and the only thing to recommend it is it makes you tough, if you survive. Add all the NFL wannabe’s who’s only backup plan is to coach, along with retired NFL players, and the competition is constantly watching like Vultures. Appreciated the gist of your article.

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