NFL coach firings: Lions, Vikings among those making moves
BY Jarrett Bell, Jim Corbett, Lindsay H. Jones, Tom Pelissero and Brent Sobleski USA TODAY Sports December 30, 2013 10:54PM
FILE-- In this Dec. 22, 2013 file photo, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Schwartz watches against the New York Giants during an NFL football game in Detroit. The Detroit Lions fired Schwartz Monday, Dec. 30, 2013. The Lions made the move one day after they ended their late-season slide with a loss at Minnesota. Detroit flopped to a 7-9 record this year after a 6-3 record start put the franchise in a position to win a NFL football division title for the first time since 1993. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Updated: December 30, 2013 10:54PM
- Fired:(AT) The Browns are starting over -- again. A 4-12 season wasn’t good enough to save Rob Chudzinski’s job, even after one year, as owner Jimmy Haslam and CEO Joe Banner explained Monday.
“There was a feeling that we were not getting better,” Haslam said. “Yes, we had a young team, but as we reflected on it, a young team should get better.”
The Browns finished with seven consecutive losses in which their average margin of defeat was 10.4 points.
“As unpopular and undesirable as it is for us to be sitting here acknowledging we didn’t get it right, the fact we’re making this change makes a statement that we’re not going to accept not being really successful,” Banner said.
- What’s good about the job:(AT) The Browns have more Pro Bowl players than wins. Left tackle Joe Thomas, wide receiver Josh Gordon, tight end Jordan Cameron, center Alex Mack and cornerback Joe Haden are scheduled to be in Hawaii. They also finished with a top-10 defense.
The Browns also have a pair of first-round draft picks, including the fourth overall selection. The team has 10 overall draft picks, seven of which are in the first four rounds.
- What’s bad about the job:(AT) The only constant in Cleveland is change. Chudzinski was the organization’s sixth head coach since it returned to the NFL in 1999. Cleveland has hired and fired three head coaches since 2009.
“I know Joe (Banner), and I sat here a year ago and said numerous times continuity was really important to any organization,” Haslam said. “We still feel that. We understand why there may be some skepticism.”
The biggest hole on the roster is at quarterback, where Brandon Weeden, Brian Hoyer and Jason Campbell split time.
- Fired:(AT) Jim Schwartz inherited the Lions in 2009 coming off a 0-16 season and got them to the playoffs in 2011. But he couldn’t continue the upward move the last two seasons as the Lions became the most undisciplined team in the NFL.
“It’s bigger than X’s and O’s,” general manager Martin Mayhew said. “It’s bigger than scheme. It’s bigger than that.”
Mayhew said late-season slides in each of the last two seasons were a big part of the reason to dismiss Schwartz and that the next coach had to be “somebody that can bring that belief that we’re going to get over the hump.”
- What’s good about the job:(AT) The Lions have the best wide receiver on the planet in Calvin Johnson as the centerpiece of an explosive offense. They have a franchise quarterback in Matthew Stafford, although he seems to lack consistency with mechanics. And running back Reggie Bush, despite turnover issues, is a viable big-play threat.
The Lions made strides this season in revamping the offensive line, which performed better than projected. And the defense is anchored by tackles Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley.
- What’s bad about the job:(AT) There’s a tight salary-cap squeeze. Johnson, Stafford and Suh have huge salary-cap numbers (combining for nearly a $54 million projection in 2014). There’s only so much flexibility with a litany of personnel upgrades needed, especially in the secondary.
The other drawback is the culture. The franchise hasn’t won a playoff game since the 1991 season -- the longest drought in the NFL when excluding the Browns and that franchise’s rebirth.
“It has to be the right fit, and that’s a lot of different things,” Mayhew said. “I also think we have to take into account a coach’s ability to change our culture a little bit.”
- Fired:(AT) Leslie Frazier, out after going 5-10-1 this season and 21-32-1 overall, will be missed in Minnesota.
“He was well-respected in this building. That’s what makes the decision so difficult,” GM Rick Spielman told news reporters.
But the bottom line is that Frazier is a defensive-minded coach whose defense collapsed again and again. Game-management issues also played a role. And Frazier’s personnel knowledge has never been considered a strength. His decision to push for the acquisition of Donovan McNabb after the 2011 lockout set back the Vikings’ rebuilding plan a year and led to Spielman’s promotion to general manager with final say after that season.
- What’s good about the job:(AT) Adrian Peterson was banged up this season but remains one of the game’s top running backs when healthy.
There also is a young core of high draft picks -- left tackle Matt Kalil, safety Harrison Smith, defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd, cornerback Xavier Rhodes and receiver-return man Cordarrelle Patterson, among others -- to build around.
“I feel very optimistic about this young talent that we have on this football team,” Spielman said.
The Vikings are going to have a top-10 draft pick in May, plus an extra third-round pick gained in the Percy Harvin trade. They also have a lot of cap flexibility, with several high-priced veterans coming off the books after this season, and ownership is willing to spend.
- What’s bad about the job:(AT) There is no long-term answer at quarterback. Matt Cassel, 31, has the support of players, but he’s probably best suited to a backup role and can void his contract in February.
Also, the defense needs major upgrades in the front seven, with aging linemen Jared Allen and Kevin Williams headed to free agency and a lack of speed and range at linebacker.
Spielman hasn’t gotten much bang for his biggest free agent spends on tight end John Carlson and wide receiver Greg Jennings, whose production improved once Cassel entered the lineup. Peterson turns 29 in March and might enter decline soon, if he hasn’t already, adding pressure on the new regime to take advantage of his talent now.
The Metrodome will be torn down in February, sending the Vikings away for a two-year stay outdoors at TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus.
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS
- Fired:(AT) Greg Schiano said he thinks he improved the Buccaneers in his two seasons, in which the team went 11-21. “I think we”re leaving behind a football team that is better than when we got here,” Schiano told reporters.
But it wasn’t enough for ownership, which fired Schiano and GM Mark Dominik.
“The results over the past two years have not lived up to our standards, and we believe the time has come to find a new direction,” Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer said in a statement.
Schiano was all but fired this season as he battled with and benched starting quarterback Josh Freeman, and the Bucs were winless until mid-November. But after a stretch in which the Bucs won four of five games, Schiano’s future looked safer.
“In times like that you see a lot of guys crumble, a lot of guys break,” Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy told reporters. “You never saw a different attitude with (Schiano). He’s the most consistent thing in the building, I will give him that.”
- What’s good about the job:(AT) Mike Glennon was a pleasant surprise and finished the season among the best of the crop of rookie quarterbacks.
The new coach will inherit a roster with some other nice pieces to build around -- such as running back Doug Martin (injured reserve with shoulder injury), wide receiver Vincent Jackson, linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Darrelle Revis and McCoy.
The Bucs also will have a top-10 pick in the draft, where they should be able to add a starter to help protect Glennon or improve the pass rush.
- What’s bad about the job:(AT) The Glazer family hasn’t showed much patience lately.
The Bucs have a lot of money tied up in a few players, including Revis, Jackson and Dashon Goldson, so while Tampa Bay might be attractive to big-time free agents, the Glazers might not be able to open up their checkbooks the way they have in the past.
- Fired:(AT) Mike Shanahan went 24-40 in four seasons, lost his one playoff game and seemed to have a broken trust with franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. But he stood by his work Monday.
“We’re better off today than we were four years ago,” Shanahan said.
Last season’s electrifying offensive rookie of the year, Griffin regressed after shredding his knee in a playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks and having reconstructive surgery. Not only was Griffin not as dynamic, but the relationship between the quarterback, coach and offensive coordinator (Shanahan’s son, Kyle) also was never the same.
- What’s good about the job:(AT) When healthy, Griffin has proved a unique talent capable of leading the Redskins to the playoffs. Shanahan was right in the sense that when he sat him down for the season’s final three games, it was with the intent to keep battered RG3 healthy for his first full offseason of development, which now will be his successor’s job.
“There is a nucleus for success,” GM Bruce Allen said. “And we saw it just a year ago.”
After being handcuffed by $36 million in salary-cap penalties the last two years, the Redskins will be flush with money to spend in the free agent market.
- What’s bad about the job:(AT) Though he let Shanahan and Allen call the football shots, owner Daniel Snyder has proved a meddlesome presence who has burned through coaches with seven since buying the team in 1999.
Despite Allen’s title, the Redskins don’t have a true player personnel leader as Shanahan oversaw most of those decisions. What personnel evaluator will want to work under Snyder with Allen serving as a buffer? There is a lot of rebuilding to be done, starting with a No. 2 receiver and a defense that has seven of 11starters eligible for free agency.