The day after the NFL regular season ends is known as Black Monday. This is the day head coaches get fired. In some cases the decisions to send them walking were probably made weeks ago, but the owners and general managers held off, thinking it would create too much chaos to axe them earlier.
The two head coaches most likely to lose their jobs are Rex Ryan of the New York Jets and Marc Trestman of the Chicago Bears.
The last straw for Trestman may have come this week, with kicker Robbie Gould speaking on WSCR-AM and unfavorably comparing the current coach to his predecessor, Lovie Smith, a victim of a previous Black Monday. Gould faulted Trestman for benching veteran quarterback Jay Cutler, replacing him with waiver-wire pickup Jimmy Clausen.
“I feel really bad for Jay,” Gould said. “Jay is not the problem. Jay is not the issue. It’s just unfortunate. This, honestly, is not the Bear way. . . . It’s tough, because we weren’t taught this way under Lovie.
“We weren’t taught to do these sorts of things and we always stayed together as close-knit as we possibly could.”
While Trestman has lost the support of his players, Ryan remains well liked by his team. But you can’t keep losing games, and the Jets are 3-12 after being 8-8 last season.
Ryan is faulted for not developing any sort of passing game, though he’s been poorly served by his general manager, John Idzik, who’s also likely to be cut loose by owner Woody Johnson.
The fate of Atlanta Falcons coach Mike Smith probably depends on the outcome of their game against Carolina this Sunday.
Atlanta is 6-9, and owner Art Blank has expressed displeasure with the team’s performance. But a win at home against the Panthers will put the Falcons into the playoffs and will keep Smith safe, at least for now.
In Washington, Jay Gruden’s job remains imperiled. He may have been hurt more than helped by the winning performance of embattled quarterback Robert Griffin III against Philadelphia. Griffin completed 16 of 23 for 220 yards, one interception and two sacks. He looked more comfortable as a pocket passer than he has at any time this season.
Gruden, in his first season as a head coach, has repeatedly badmouthed Griffin, apparently trying to force the team to commit to a new quarterback for 2015. Griffin may have played well enough Sunday to earn a return next fall. Volatile owner Dan Snyder, who has a close relationship with Griffin – too close – may want to sack his coach if he cannot mend fences with the quarterback.
Odds are that Gruden survives, since he has a guaranteed $15 million left for the four remaining years of his contract. Still, no coach with a 4-11 record can feel very confident going into Black Monday.