While being a National Football League head coach is a pressure-filled position, perhaps no day is more dreaded to those controlling the X’s and O’s as “Black Monday,” the first day after the end of the regular season, named as such because if a head coach is going to be replaced, he is usually fired on that day.
In the afterglow of New Year’s Day 2014, six NFL head coaching positions are open, with the Washington Redskins, the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings, the Cleveland Browns, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers deciding to part ways with their current coaches, while the Houston Texans, without a doubt one of the most disappointing teams of the season, didn’t even wait until the end of the season to move on from Gary Kubiak.
Perhaps it seems gratuitous, but it should be noted that all of those teams safely and securely missed the playoffs. However, there are some coaches who rang in the New Year with the knowledge that they’d be safe: Rex Ryan of the comically inept New York Jets and Jason Garrett of the tragically mediocre Dallas Cowboys were both retained, with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones saying that he liked where Garrett was as a head coach, despite finishing with an 8-8 record for a third consecutive season.
Because the NFL season is so brief and the league has placed such an emphasis on parity that a team’s fortunes can stagger incredibly from season to season — we see you Texans fans already pretending this season was a bad dream — the arguments for and against a given coach are relatively flexible. There’s an argument to be made that there’s no real reason why a coach like Ryan, the face of a Jets team that seems to sit at the center of a constant vortex of negativity, is safe while the coach of the Browns, Black Monday victim Rob Chudzinski, is not.
As the NFL playoff machine begins to rumble and the offseason for the awful continues to take shape, we’ll take a look back at this year’s Black Monday casualties and analyze exactly what the case against their coaching was, and whether they really deserved to join the ranks of the unemployed.