Black Monday is only two weeks away. In recent years Black Monday basically has become Black Sunday, because plenty of coaches get fired not the day after the season ends but the day that it’s all over.
So for which coaches will it be over when the season’s over? Two (Jay Gruden and Ron Rivera) already have gotten a pink slip. A list of the candidates to be candidates for jobs elsewhere appears below, along with an assessment of whether they’re truly in danger, grave or another kind.
Pat Shurmur, Giants: He’s 7-22 through 29 games. He’s most likely done. Finito. Out. Farewell. The only question left is whether G.M. Dave Gettleman goes with him, along whether Shurmur finishes the season. Co-owner Steve Tisch has said a decision will be made after the season ends. A loss on Sunday would set a team record with 10 straight losses. Which perhaps could accelerate that timetable.
Freddie Kitchens, Browns: It’s never easy to figure out what the Browns will do, because they’re the Browns. But a reasonable, non-dysfunctional organization would likely be inclined to conclude that Kitchens is over his skis, and that the decision to bump him up a level based on the team’s performance post-Hue was, in hindsight, ill-advised.
Jason Garrett, Cowboys: It’s impossible to know what Jerry Jones ultimately will say or do in any situation, in part because at times it seems even he doesn’t know what he’s going to say or do until he says or does it. But the strong sense throughout the league is that Garrett needs to get to the playoffs and advance at least to the NFC Championship game to have a chance of sticking around.
Doug Marrone, Jaguars: The Super Bowl window from only two seasons ago has slammed shut. And it feels like a housecleaning is coming. Last week’s 45-10 home bloodletting against the Chargers served only to reinforce the notion that big changes are coming.
Dan Quinn, Falcons: Once a foregone conclusion to get fired, at this point who knows? With the Falcons facing a serious cap situation in 2020, one that will make it difficult for a new coach and/or G.M. to do much of anything significant with the roster (which in turn could cause viable candidates to look elsewhere), owner Arthur Blank could decide to give the current regime one more year to turn it around from scratch. An upset of the 49ers later today wouldn’t hurt. The wild-card is the half-empty stadium where the team plays; Quinn may create the better chance of luring fans back than a new coach, since Quinn may be in a better position to win next year than anyone else.
Matt Patricia, Lions: There’s a lingering sense that Patricia could be in danger after only two seasons in Detroit. But that’s not nearly enough time for Patricia, working with G.M. Bob Quinn, to engineer the kind of cultural change that the Lions so desperately need. The Lions were competitive this year until Matthew Stafford‘s back injury derailed his season, and the team’s. Look at where the 49ers were a year ago, in the second season of the Kyle Shanahan/John Lynch partnership. If Lions ownership does, maybe Lions ownership decides to give Quinn and Patricia another year.
Adam Gase, Jets: Christopher Johnson said weeks ago that Gase is safe for 2020. But what happens if he changes his mind? Nothing (other than the Jets get a new coach). Still, another year of working with quarterback Sam Darnold — and with G.M. Joe Douglas beefing up the roster — could be the difference this team needs. The wild-card continues to be Woody Johnson; whenever he returns from his gig as the U.S. ambassador to the U.K., everyone could be told to clear out.
Bill O’Brien, Texans: While O’Brien likely isn’t in much danger in the looming firing-and-hiring cycle, what if they get swept by the team that used to be in Houston and in turn miss the playoffs? At a minimum, such a dramatic fall after finally beating the Patriots would put O’Brien at the top of the hot-seat list entering 2020.
Zac Taylor, Bengals: It’s been a disaster in Cincinnati this year, but the Bengals don’t like to pay people to not work. That alone will save Taylor, probably for as long as he has years left on his contract.
The Wild Card: Every year, there’s a firing or resignation (forced or otherwise) that wasn’t expected. Mentioning that is my way of protecting myself from not having mentioned a coach or two who end up out. Not mentioning potential names is my way of ensuring that those coaches don’t threaten to punch my lights out for suggesting that they could end up out.