With the regular NFL season wraps up each year, team owners look for scapegoats to blame when their team has failed to make the playoffs. They can’t fire themselves, and they can’t get rid of the entire team, but the head coach is always an easy target—sometimes deserved and sometimes not. There are the five NFL head coaches who have received pink slips so far today (a sixth NFL head coach, Gary Kubiak of the Houston Texans, was already fired earlier this month).
Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns
The first and most surprising casualty of Black Monday was Cleveland head coach Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after only one year at the helm of the Browns. While Cleveland had a poor second half, losing their last seven games to end the season with a 4-12 record, they did so in the midst of what was supposed to be a rebuilding year. They cycled through a series of quarterbacks, (their only effective signal caller, Brian Hoyer, tore his ACL after two games) and traded Trent Richardson, their starting running back, to Indianapolis only two games into the season.
Browns players were outraged about Chudzinski’s firing. One told NFL.com’s Mike Silver, “This organization is a joke.” Another said, “This is ridiculous.” The move means the Browns, perennial cellar dwellers who haven’t won a playoff game in two decades and whose owner is under federal investigation, must start their rebuilding process all over again.
Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings
After more than three seasons, the Vikings let go Leslie Frazier on Monday. Frazier had long been considered on the chopping block. Although he had guided Minnesota to the playoffs in 2012, it was on the shoulders of running back Adrian Peterson’s MVP season, in which he rushed for more than 2,000 yards. This year, with Peterson playing like a mere mortal (albeit one of Pro Bowl caliber), the team regressed to being 5-10-1. The Vikings played well towards the end of the season, though, when they finally gave up on failed first round pick Christian Ponder at quarterback and started Matt Cassel behind center—but that was not enough to save Frazier’s job. The Vikings are now left at a crossroads, searching for a new coach and about to spend the next two years temporarily playing outdoors at the University of Minnesota’s stadium until a replacement for the Metrodome is built.
Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions
The Lions are the NFL’s answer to Charlie Brown. Despite all experience to the contrary, it always seems they’re about to finally kick the football before Lucy pulls it away and they end up falling face flat. The Lions haven’t won a championship since 1957, and since then have been perennial underachievers. In his five years as head coach, Jim Schwartz guided Detroit to the team’s only playoff appearance of this millennium. He finished with an overall record of 29-51 over his tenure, despite having some of the best players in the NFL including all-pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson and the undisciplined defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The team suffered an epic collapse this year, finishing with a losing record despite starting 6-3 and in the driver’s seat in the NFC North when both the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears suffered injuries to their starting quarterbacks.
Greg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
After two seasons and one MRSA outbreak in the locker room, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fired Greg Schiano Monday. Schiano, the former coach at Rutgers, brought a reputation with him as a harsh disciplinarian and a martinet. He sparked controversy early in his tenure by having his team play aggressively when the opposing team was taking a knee and then had his relationship with starting quarterback Josh Freeman become so toxic that the team had to release their 2009 first round draft pick earlier this year amid accusations of rigged team captain elections and leaked drug test results. Although the Bucs did turn things around in the second half of the season, finishing 4-12 after an 0-8 start, it wasn’t enough to save Schiano’s job; the coach, along with GM Mark Dominik, receiving his walking papers on Monday.
Mike Shanahan, Washington Redskins
At this point, the least controversial aspect of the Washington Redskins may be their name. The franchise has been mired in dysfunction since it was acquired by owner Dan Snyder 15 years ago. Since then, the team has been conducted like a bizarre lab experiment to prove just how hard it is to alienate a dedicated fan base. The latest chapter in the drama has been the bizarre triangle between Snyder, the team’s coach Mike Shanahan, and franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. For much of the last few weeks of the season, Shanahan seemed to be openly campaigning to be fired, benching Griffin, who never seemed to fully recover from a knee injury last year, as the team cratered to a 3-13 finish.