By lunchtime on Monday, seven NFL coaches were looking for work.
With the regular season ending the day before, the firings came at a furious clip and within a two-and-a-half-hour span, the following were sacked: Andy Reid in Philadelphia, Lovie Smith in Chicago, Norv Turner in San Diego, Ken Whisenhunt in Arizona, Pat Shurmur in Cleveland, Romeo Crennel in Kansas City and Chan Gailey in Buffalo.
Though he also had a losing record, New York Jets coach Rex Ryan held onto his job, while general manager Mike Tannenbaum was let go. Jacksonville fired general manager Gene Smith, and coach Mike Mularkey could go soon, too. The Chargers, Browns and Cardinals made it a clean sweep. San Diego dismissed general manager A.J. Smith along with Turner. Cleveland fired general manager Tom Heckert along with Shurmur. Rod Graves was let go as Arizona’s general manager.
Reid was the longest-tenured of the coaches, removed after 14 seasons and a Super Bowl appearance in 2005 — a loss to New England. Smith spent nine seasons with the Bears, leading them to the Super Bowl in 2006 — a loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Turner went 56-40 with the Chargers, the third team to fire him as head coach. San Diego won the AFC West from 2006-09 — he was 3-3 in the playoffs — but did not make the postseason the last three years.
“Both Norv and A.J. are consummate NFL professionals, and they understand that in this league, the bottom-line is winning,” Chargers president Dean Spanos said in a statement.
Whisenhunt was fired after six seasons, including taking the Cardinals to a Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh after the 2008 season. The 50-year-old Whisenhunt had more wins than any other coach in Cardinals history, going 45-51, 4-2 in the playoffs. He had a year worth about US$5.5 million left on his contract.
Graves had been with the franchise for 16 years and was been general manager since 2007, but a 5-11 record after a 4-0 start cost him and Whisenhunt. Gailey was dumped after three seasons with the Bills; Shurmur after two; and Crennel had one full season with the Chiefs. Reid took over a 3-13 team in 1999, drafted Donovan McNabb with the No. 2 overall pick and quickly turned the franchise into a title contender. He led them to a run of four straight NFC championship games, a streak that ended with a trip to the NFL title game, but the team has not won a playoff game since 2008 and after last season’s 8-8 finish, owner Jeffrey Lurie said he was looking for improvement this year.
Instead, it was even worse: The Eagles finished 4-12.
“Andy Reid won the most games of any head coach in Eagles history and he is someone I respect greatly and will remain friends with for many years to come,” Lurie said. “But, it is time for the Eagles to move in a new direction. Andy leaves us with a winning tradition that we can build upon.”
Shurmur went 9-23 in his two seasons with the Browns, who will embark on yet another off-season of change — the only constant in more than a decade of futility. Cleveland has lost at least 11 games in each of the past five seasons and made the playoffs just once since returning to the NFL as an expansion team in 1999.
“Ultimately, our objective is to put together an organization that will be the best at everything we do,” Browns chief executive Joe Banner said. “On the field, our only goal is trying to win championships.”
Crennel took over with three games left in the 2011 season after general manager Scott Pioli fired Todd Haley.
Kansas City will have the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft as a result of having one of the worst seasons in its 53-year history.
The only other time the Chiefs finished 2-14 was 2008, the year before Pioli was hired.
“I am embarrassed by the poor product we gave our fans this season, and I believe we have no choice but to move the franchise in a different direction,” Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt said in a statement.
Gailey, the former Dallas Cowboys coach, compiled a 16-32 record in his three seasons in Buffalo, never doing better than 6-10.
“This will probably be, and I say probably, but I think it will be the first place that’s ever fired me that I’ll pull for,” Gailey said.
Smith and the Bears went 10-6 this season and just missed a playoff spot, but Chicago started 7-1 this year and has struggled to put together a productive offense throughout Smith’s tenure. His record was 81-63 with the Bears, and he took them to one Super Bowl loss and to one NFC championship game defeat. Receiver and kick return standout Devin Hester was bitter about Smith’s firing.
“The media, the false fans, you all got what you all wanted,” Hester said as he cleared out his locker. “The majority of you all wanted him out. As players, we wanted him in. I guess the fans — the false fans — outruled us. I thought he was a great coach, probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever been around.”