As former Falcons defensive line coach Bryan Cox commences a period of NFL unemployment, he has a theory as to why he was let go.
“You go from your unit playing really well in the Super Bowl and sacking the quarterback five times and having [nine] quarterback hits . . . and [three] days later you get fired,” Cox told Joseph Person of the Charlotte Observer. “I wasn’t given an answer to why I was fired. I was left to go back and kind of play stuff over. And the only thing I can come up with is the Combine incident that kind of led to it.”
The “Combine incident” means Cox shoving a Cardinals scout during the 2016 Scouting Combine over access to an incoming rookie. Cox acknowledged the incident in a statement issued at the time by the team.
“I intend to apologize to the young man for the incident that happened last night during the interview process,” Cox said. “It shouldn’t have happened.”
And so one February later, days after a strong defensive performance (followed by a defensive collapse), Cox received the news that he’d no longer be coaching the Falcons. Officially, the team didn’t link the decision to the shove.
“I don’t know why I was fired,” Cox said. “Wasn’t given an answer. It doesn’t even much matter anymore. You move on. I ain’t got no hard feelings. I’ve got people in that building I love. I’ve got people in that building I love a little less.”
Chances are that the shove was simply a symptom of a broader pattern of interpersonal difficulties for Cox, who has always had a shortish fuse and an inclination to shove first and ask questions later. Then again, plenty of head coaches and assistant coaches have that kind of personality and demeanor.
Likewise, plenty of head coaches and assistant coaches get fired all the time, without detailed explanations or written memoranda. For many of them, they still get paid because they still have one or more years left on their contracts.