Patience runs out this time of year in the NFL
The demise in less than a week of Jeff Fisher and Gus Bradley as coaches of their respective teams provided examples. Rams owner Stan Kroenke and Jaguars boss Shad Khan grew tired of waiting for the onfield product to match their successes away from football.
Those two firings, even though Fisher led the Rams through a difficult transition from St. Louis to Los Angeles and Bradley was wellliked by Khan and his organization, might be just the beginning. Consider some of these men in charge to be either in the endangered species class or approaching it: Marvin Lewis, Mike McCoy, Rex Ryan, Todd Bowles, John Fox and Chuck Pagano. It’s not inconceivable that Chip Kelly and Hue Jackson could wind up on the cutting room floor, despite what their backers, uh, owners have said in recent weeks.
It might hardly seem fair for some of those men and, frankly, in many cases it isn’t. Fox, Bowles and Ryan deserve more than two years at the helms of their current teams. Lewis and Pagano have brought consistent winning to their franchises at various times in their regimes and probably could do so again.
As a wise scribe once wrote, the most important position on any NFL team is owner. When that owner has the last name of Rooney, Mara, Allen, Kraft or Bisciotti, panic doesn’t set in. They tend to choose the correct coach for their team and then let him coach.
The rewards have been Super Bowl trophies for all of them under coaches given the opportunity to build a team and help it grow into a champion.
Khan tried that approach with Bradley, who helped put together some great Seattle defenses under Pete Carroll. The arrangement flopped and the ugly end came Sunday when the Jaguars blew a 21-20 lead at Houston and fell to 2-12, with nine straight defeats. Bradley’s 14-48 record was the worst winning percentage (.225) of any NFL coach with at least 60 games.
“I thanked Gus Bradley today for his commitment to the Jacksonville Jaguars over the past four seasons,” Khan said in a statement. “As anyone close to our team knows, Gus gave his staff and players literally everything he had. Our players competed for Gus and I know they have great respect for him, as do I.
“Gus also represented the Jaguars, the Jacksonville community and the NFL in nothing less than a first-class manner as our head coach. That counts for a lot. It is unfortunately evident that we must make a change. I thought it would be best to do it immediately after today’s result so Gus can step away, relax and regroup with his family during the Christmas and holiday season.”
Thanks for the thinking of me so kindly, boss. In truth, though, Khan showed remarkable patience this season with Bradley, whom he considered firing in October. The Jags spent big money in free agency and thought they could contend for the weak AFC South’s crown. Instead, they’re ahead of only Kelly’s lowly 49ers and Jackson’s winless Browns in the entire league.
Khan’s approach over the past four-plus years should be commended. He looked around at Mike Tomlin in Pittsburgh, Tom Coughlin in New York until the end of the 2015 season, and John Harbaugh in Baltimore and recognized the need for continuity.
But when that continuity manifests itself in so many losses, with hefty signs of regression, it’s time to move on. That’s why Jackson, a very popular coach in Cleveland, might not be back if the Browns match the 2008 Lions at 0-16. It’s why Kelly, despite his massive contract and only minor rumblings about change even as his 49ers have lost 13 in a row, could go.
It must be remembered, though, that canning both of them after they were saddled with such undertalented rosters - and then hit hard by injuries - means starting over with a new coach. And still with a low number of high-level players in those two cities.
Owners contemplating coaching changes also should look at the standings first. The division leaders in half of the eight divisions have long-tenured coaches. Of the other teams in strong contention to get to the postseason, four more of those have guys who have been in place a while.
And just because their clubs are struggling this season doesn’t mean Ron Rivera, Bruce Arians and Sean Payton don’t know what they’re doing. — AP