"Black Monday" arrived with a vengeance, with the ax falling on some deserving head coaches and general managers, while also hitting at least one not-so-deserving head coach.
The Chicago Bears fired one of the more well-respected head coaches in the NFL in Lovie Smith. In nine seasons with the Bears, Smith was 81-63 in the regular season and 3-3 in the playoffs, leading the team to Super Bowl XLI, which they lost to the Indianapolis Colts. The Bears have missed the playoffs in five of their last six seasons and changed general managers (Phil Emery replaced Jerry Angelo) last offseason, which placed Smith on the hot seat in 2012.
In an example of how cold of a business the NFL can be, Kansas City Chiefs head coach Romeo Crennel was dismissed after just one disappointing and tragic season as full-time head coach. The Chiefs won just two games in 2012 and Crennel's firing comes just 30 days after the veteran coach witnessed one of his own players, linebacker Jovan Belcher, commit suicide after killing his 22-year-old girlfriend. The job status of Chiefs GM Scott Pioli, who also witnessed that incident, is safe ... for now.
[More NFL news: Champ Bailey nostalgic after Broncos wrap up No. 1 seed]
After three seasons with the Buffalo Bills, head coach Chan Gailey was fired on Monday. Gailey, who turns 61 on Jan. 5, was 16-32 for the Bills, who have not appeared in the postseason since the Clinton Administration. With a bevy of younger, up-and-coming head coaching candidates on the market, the Bills simply could not afford to continue spinning their wheels and cleaning out their lockers on the day after the regular-season finale.
The Arizona Cardinals cleaned house on Monday, firing both GM Rod Graves and head coach Ken Whisenhunt. Under Whisenhunt, the Cardinals were 45-51 in the regular season and went 4-2 in the playoffs, with one of their two losses coming at the hands of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII. Graves had been with the Cardinals since 1997, but there were signs that he was losing power within the organization. The team's vice president of player personnel Steve Keim has been a hot name linked to multiple GM openings in recent offseasons and the team brought in former New England Patriots exec Jason Licht to be the director of player personnel. Licht brought Matt Caracciolo and Sean Castle with him from New England, two football administration/salary cap guys who replaced Justin Casey, a close aide to Graves who was let go during the summer.
Not all of Monday morning's firings were a surprise.
New York Jets owner Woody Johnson has seen enough of his team becoming a punch line and fired general manager Mike Tannenbaum on Monday morning, which means if there was a power struggle between Tannenbaum and head coach Rex Ryan, it was clearly won by the charismatic coach.
Tannenbaum was not the only general manager who will be cleaning out his office this week. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first to act on "Black Monday," firing Gene Smith after four seasons. On Sunday, two names were linked to a possible Jaguars GM opening: Arizona Cardinals director of player personnel Jason Licht and San Francisco 49ers director of player personnel Tom Gamble. Each are quality candidates, but the Jaguars may have difficulty landing the right executive if owner Shahid Khan clings to the Tim Tebow Ticket Sales plan.
The Philadelphia Eagles officially bid adieu to longtime head coach Andy Reid, who patrolled their sideline for 14 mostly successful seasons until the team went 4-12 and missed the playoffs for the second consecutive season. Under Reid, who plans on continue his coaching career in 2013, the Eagles were 130-93-1 and were 10-9 in the playoffs, reaching Super Bowl XXXIX, which they lost to the New England Patriots.
Cleveland Browns GM Tom Heckert and head coach Pat Shurmur were also fired Monday, expected moves after Randy Lerner sold the franchise to Tennessee businessman Jimmy Haslam. One of Haslam's first moves was to replace Mike Holmgren as team president with former Eagles boss Joe Banner, who will be bringing in his own guys to run the personnel department and coach the team. Heckert and Shurmur are well-respected and are expected to find jobs in their respective fields quickly.
Another move that was made official on Monday was the firing of San Diego Chargers GM A.J. Smith and head coach Norv Turner. When the Chargers were 4-8 and out of playoff contention on Dec. 6, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that both Turner and Smith would be jettisoned after the season. Turner had one year remaining on his contract, while Smith has two left on his deal. The Chargers are expected to replace Smith with an in-house tandem of Jimmy Raye and John Spanos.
Though there were plenty of firings on Monday, more moves could be made in the coming days. On Sunday, Shutdown Corner provided a primer for who could be dismissed.
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