As the NFL playoffs begin, 18 teams’ seasons have ended and they embark on their respective offseasons. Per tradition, it is Black Monday, a day populated by head coach firings. Not quite as exciting as Week 18 Monday Night Football however these moves change the landscape of the league. There were 2 in season firings, and 4 Black Monday firings this year. Let us recap the Monday festivities:
Probably one of the worst kept secrets in football, the Bears have axed Matt Nagy. Nagy was brought in as an innovative offensive mind and paired with young QB Mitch Trubisky. I found that often times, new Head Coaches and Drafted Quarterbacks destinies are tied together. Although Trubisky did not pan out, Nagy still lead the Bears to 2 playoff appearances in his first three seasons. The Bears traded up to select highly touted Ohio State Quarterback Justin Fields in the 2021 draft and Nagy had a second chance. However, the Bears offense looked inefficient and stagnant for much of the year and another year of regression meant the end for Nagy.
The Bears still have a promising future, but they must find a replacement that aligns with Justin Fields and his high potential. I would anticipate they opt for another innovative offensive mind and hopefully this will have a better result than Matt Nagy.
Fangio faced some misfortune as the Broncos head coach. A longtime veteran of the NFL, Fangio has been a Defensive Coordinator for 20 seasons dating back to 1995. The Broncos were certainly not a bad team under Fangio, however they appeared to lack an identity. Three slightly less than middling seasons was enough for the Broncos to move on. Fangio could run a solid defense as the Broncos were ranked 12th, 20th and 8th in his three seasons. However, without a suffocating dominant defense, the burden in the offense is greater.
Case Keenum, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater were either stopgaps or quarterbacks with untapped potential (or both) but were not groundbreaking. The offense wasn’t effective enough to string together enough wins. With some pieces on offense such as Javonte Williams, Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton and the remnants of the dominant Super Bowl winning defense, the Broncos are not in horrendous shape. However, it is clear they needed a regime change to advance their team.
In a shocking move, the Dolphins have let go of Brian Flores. I have always been high on Flores, I believe he is a great defensive mind and while young, I believe he got the most out of the Dolphins in his 3 seasons. In his first game in 2019 he lost 59-10 to the Ravens and it looked like they had serious 0-16 potential. After starting 0-7 they finished the year 5-4 with one of the least talented teams in the league and there was hope for the future. Miami was able to select Alabama QB Tua Tagovailoa early in the 2020 draft as their potential franchise QB. Behind a resurgent defense, the Dolphins improved to 10-6 but missed the playoffs in a cutthroat AFC.
In 2021, the Dolphins struggled out of the gate starting off 1-7 but rattled off 7 consecutive wins which put them back into the Wild Card race. However, a 34-3 loss to the Titans ended their hopes.With a solid defense, Tua and breakout rookie Jaylen Waddle, it is certainly a strange decision. A move this drastic suggests a significant upheaval is in store. This could mean the end of the Tua era as the Dolphins could have their sights on a QB such as DeShaun Watson.
Perhaps ownership was unhappy with Tua’s development as he spent year 1 platooning with Ryan Fitzpatrick. Flores is only 40 years old, and I believe he still has a bright future. It was evident that he was well respected by his players given how they performed particularly in 2019. He will find a Defensive Coordinator job very quickly and I believe another team will hire him as an NFL coach within the next few seasons. And if you’re a Dolphins fan you better hope the succession plan is in place because this move could haunt them for years to come.
The last firing was the longest tenured coach out of the four. Mike Zimmer coached the Vikings for eight seasons compiling a record of 72-56-1. This move is kind of similar to Vic Fangio. The Vikings have been mediocre the last 4 seasons hovering around the .500 mark. While they haven’t looked bad, they also have not looked like a Super Bowl contender.
Zimmer is now 65 years old, and the league isn’t getting any younger. The Vikings clearly want to hire a young, up and coming coach to revolutionize their team. These moves are risky because if the new coach isn’t successful, it will set the organization back and require a rebuild. You can have hires like Sean McVay that pan out or you could have someone like Matt Patricia that is a successful coordinator but not equipped to be an NFL coach. With pieces such as Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook, the new coach will have some building blocks. The new coach will have to figure out what to do with Kirk Cousins.