Lawrence: 'Tis The Season For Pink Slips

Equity fades quickly in the NFL, and for Ron Rivera, "Black Monday" came early

Amy Lawrence
December 03, 2019 - 9:54 pm
Ron Rivera Panthers

USA Today Images


Only one month left in the NFL regular season. As some teams gear up for the stretch run and final playoff push, a handful of teams eye sweeping changes to their rosters and coaching staffs.
The day after the season ends is known as "Black Monday" because it's typically dark for coaches who didn't deliver on expectations and subsequently lose their jobs. The term is more symbolic than anything, though. Owners and GMs may take longer to decide OR they may not wait until the season wraps up. Nearly a year to the day after Mike McCarthy was fired by the Packers, Ron Rivera is relieved of his duties by the Panthers. In McCarthy's case, the last straw was an embarrassing home loss to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 13; for Rivera, the end comes after the Redskins scored 29 unanswered points and rallied for the win in Charlotte.
Rivera amassed more victories than any coach in franchise history; his resume features a conference title and trip to Super Bowl 50. He's also a two-time NFL Coach of the Year; but since David Tepper purchased the team, the Panthers have posted a losing record overall. Despite only four playoff appearances in nine seasons, Rivera is widely respected as a coach and defensive mind. He will be a popular prospect this winter as other organizations search for new coaches. The same goes for McCarthy, who offers Super Bowl credibility and years of experience and success.
Once the dust settles, as many as eight head coaching jobs could be available. That number represents the extreme; there may be half as many coaches let go. No doubt several teams are still weighing the options. Certainly, some coaches know this final month could make or break them. We know of two openings already: Washington and Carolina. Additionally, speculation swirls furiously around the Falcons, Jaguars, Cowboys, Giants AND Jets, and the Browns.
In Atlanta, Dan Quinn still holds the respect of his locker room. Earlier this season, in the midst of a six-game skid, Julio Jones and other players vouched for him publicly and privately. When the Falcons knocked off the Saints in New Orleans and then thumped the Panthers in November, it appeared as though the seat wasn't quite as hot under Quinn. Since he took over in 2015, the franchise owns a pair of winning seasons and two postseason runs, including the famous collapse against New England in the Super Bowl. Equity fades quickly in the NFL, and finishing in the basement of the NFC South could erase all of Quinn's equity. Consider that the Falcons rank near the bottom of the league in points allowed per game (26.9) and takeaways (10), and the future seems bleak for a coach whose calling card is defense.
Another frustrating season in Jacksonville may be the end of Doug Marrone's tenure. In the midst of a four-game losing streak, he now flips back to rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew over Nick Foles to try to spark the offense. But it could be too little, too late. According to NFL Network insider Mike Garafolo, the Jaguars' front office is waiting and watching in the hopes the team might run the table in December and finish even. Jacksonville is only two years removed from a surprise trip to the AFC Championship game, but it's been messy ever since. The Jags finally parted ways with Blake Bortles and signed Foles, only to see him hit the shelf with a broken collarbone in his debut. His re-entry lasted just three games, but Minshew is part of the Jags' turnover problem. They are also the most penalized team in the NFL in 2019.
As Dallas dropped six of its last nine, Jerry Jones has publicly expressed his irritation at the team's underachieving; recently, he singled out the coaching staff and declined to commit to Jason Garrett beyond this season. With a decade under his belt, Garrett is one of the NFL's longest-tenured head coaches. Though the Cowboys are 6-6, they're tops in the NFC East and in line for a fourth playoff appearance in the last six years. On his weekly radio appearance, Jones told 105.3 The Fan in Dallas he believes Garrett will be coaching in the NFL next season. How masterfully cryptic! Jones continues to praise Garrett as a qualified and terrific coach. However, ten years with the same franchise is an eternity in this league. It would be no surprise if Jones moved on from Garrett, though the final chapter of the season has yet to be scripted.
At the bottom of the East, the Giants are suffering through an eight-game slide, their longest since 2004. Head coach Pat Shurmur has orchestrated the transition from Eli Manning to rookie QB Daniel Jones, and New York is clearly in the midst of a rebuild. Do the owners really want to fire a third coach in the last five years?? If another experienced coach is available, whether Garrett or Rivera, the leap might be easier to take. The other head coach in New York received a vote of confidence from Jets' ownership mere weeks ago. Despite the LOUD outcry from the fan base and catastrophic missteps against the previously winless Dolphins and Bengals, Adam Gase is likely sticking around for another season at least.
Only a dozen games into his first head coaching gig, Freddie Kitchens claims he's not worried about his status in Cleveland. But it's hard to ignore the glaring problems this season: nearly 1,000 penalty yards; confusing play calls; Myles Garrett's suspension after the brawl with Pittsburgh; discipline issues with Antonio Callaway and Damarious Randall; and most importantly, a losing record. But the Browns knew EXACTLY what they were getting when they promoted Kitchens following a few months as offensive coordinator. GM John Dorsey knew he had zero experience, so there was bound to be a learning curve. Firing Kitchens keeps the Browns in this perpetual state of flux where they've existed the last 20 years with 11 different head coaches! New leadership, new voices, new systems, new styles every few seasons are counterproductive to a winning culture.
One month remains. Let the final march begin.

A well-traveled veteran of sports radio and television, Amy is the passionate host of CBS Sports Radio’s late-night program, After Hours with Amy Lawrence, from 2-6am ET on the nation’s largest 24/7 major-market radio network. Listeners can tune in from Canada and overseas, thanks to SiriusXM, and the CBS Sports app. Amy has also handled basketball play-by-play and color duties for various radio and TV outlets over the past 15 years. Amy graduated from Messiah College with bachelor’s degrees in Communications & Accounting before earning her master’s in TV & Radio from Syracuse University. She is a native of Concord, NH.