Christmas always comes three weeks late for the NFL. This is their holiday season. They are the only game in town. College football has just had their national championship game, it’s too early in the season for the NBA or college seasons to have any consequential games aside for the occasional marquis matchup which the NBA is known to save until after the NFL conference championships. This is the only time of the year when they will own both Saturday and Sunday ratings with then hours of programming each day if you count the pre and post-game shows. It is also the time when the NFL is totally under the microscope and it becomes poignantly clear just how much of a business it really is. Of course we have the NFL version of the “elite eight” this weekend, but also franchise moves, coaching changes, and injuries keep the NFL on the front page of the sport pages around the country every day.
The biggest news this week was the former St. Louis Rams moving back to Los Angeles. Moreover the heartbreak and overt anger of the mayor of St. Louis, Frances G. Slay, taking the offensive however late, against the NFL. “The NFL ignored the facts, the loyalty of St. Louis fans, who supported the team through far more downs than ups, and the NFL ignored a strong market and viable plan for a new stadium”, and he didn’t stop there basically saying that he and the city of St. Louis aren’t going to pursue a new NFL team any time soon. The fans mind you were even more vociferous that and it was hard to find a post reply that we could print here. Now rest assured, I understand the anger and agree with it, but what I don’t understand is the hypocrisy. Firstly, this is the same exact thing St. Louis did to LA two decades ago only much more underhanded. The owner of the Rams at the time Georgia Frontiere (whom inherited the team when husband Carol Rosenbloom suddenly died) was bitterly negotiating stadium renovations with the city of Anaheim and when it was clear it was going to be a debate she was going to lose she self-induced a “poison pill” to make the team as bad as she could, not resigning future hall of famer Jerome Bettis or any free agents, and simply making the team so bad there would be little or no opposition to moving the club. It’s Hollywood folklore that this was the real inspiration behind the film “Major League” only changed the sport/city to make it less expensive to shoot. So as much as many in the Arch city believe they were doomed from the beginning, at least you were in the ring and in a fight, the first move was more crooked than a Digstown boxing match. The takeaway is that we can never forget the NFL is a business, a big one, and fans build personal affinities to a franchise at their own risk. No one is safe as the Rams are just fish in the school that the shark happened to eat, other prospects in the last few years included the Raiders, Chargers, Jaguars, Patriots (yes prior to Gillette Stadium LA was used as leverage), to name a few. You will put a winning product on the field and your city will support that product or we will make you wish that you had. Ok, so if the eye-for-an-eye argument still isn’t sitting well with you, let me appeal to the fiscal side. According to Business Insider the “Rams franchise value would increase from about 900M (last in the league) to between 2.5-3.5 billion just for the move, not accounting for the stadium. that would move them from 32nt in the league to 3rd or 2nd. more than the giants. building the stadium would likely increase it further.” And that’s quite a bit further when you read about some of the events currently being negotiated to be held at the new facility. The entertainment capital of the world will soon have a centerpiece and it will be a sight to behold and the NFL will have the keys to the door. No self-respecting business person can fault them for that.
Also part of the business creed of the NFL is “what have you done for me lately?” as the end of year always means many coaches will be losing their jobs. The length of the leash is getting shorter as time goes on, as we previously mentioned, you need to win and win now. Even coaches that showed positive returns may not have had the desired yield or met some lofty expectations and that proved to their undoing. For a business that craves such long-term results it seems to have an abundance of short-term thinking. I’m old enough to remember when Bill Belichick was the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and was fired after four seasons. After six coaches in just over 10 years and 0 division titles, 0 AFC Championship games, and 0 Super Bowls, how many times do you think they’ve regretted their decision? Particularly since Bill has won more Super Bowls than they have playoff appearances over that span. Jimmy Johnson insisted on doing things his way and went 1-15 his first year, 7-9 his second with no playoffs. Could you imagine if Jerry Jones decided his ideas were too rogue and he had too much of a college mentality to be successful in the NFL. Obviously one can draw some correlations between Johnson and Chip Kelly whose full story has yet to be written, and true Johnson never lead the league in 3-n-outs each of his first three seasons, but Kelly is an innovator and sometimes they need time to implement change, the Eagles just thought two years was enough. Only the 49’ers and time will tell. Are they’re any Bellichicks, Johnsons, or even Landrys in the recent crop of soft terminations? Here is a list of the recent coaching firing/hirings.
New York Giants
In: Coach Ben McAdoo (Giants OC)
Still In: GM Jerry Reese
Out: Coach Tom Coughlin
What we think: The Giants opted to stay in-house to fill their head-coaching vacancy, promoting offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to the main role on Thursday as expected. McAdoo ran the Giants offense for the past two seasons and has a familiarity with quarterback Eli Manning, which should help the continuity on that side of the ball. McAdoo and the Giants could opt to keep Steve Spagnuolo on to continue running the defense, CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reports. With many of the same pieces running the team on the coaching side of things, the pressure is squarely on general manager Jerry Reese to upgrade the talent available to McAdoo and his staff.
Out: Coach Chip Kelly
In: Doug Pederson (Chiefs OC)
What we think: The Eagles got a jump start on their head-coaching search by releasing Chip Kelly from his contract with a week remaining in the regular season. On the same day Kelly landed in San Francisco, the Eagles reportedly have found their guy as well in the form of Doug Pederson.
Les Bowen of the Philadelphia Daily News reports Pederson, currently the offensive coordinator for the Chiefs and a guy who worked under Andy Reid in Philadelphia, is the guy. Pederson can’t be officially hired until the Chiefs are eliminated from the playoffs.
San Francisco 49ers
In: Coach Chip Kelly (Eagles HC)
Out: Coach Jim Tomsula
What we think: Tomsula never had a chance. He replaced Jim Harbaugh, one of the most successful coaches in recent history, and was tasked with making the 49ers competitive with a roster decimated by defections and retirments.
Kelly arrives in San Francisco after a tumultous three seasons in Philadelphia, where he was fired last month, five days before the season finale. Kelly went 10-6 in his first two seasons with the Eagles, but things went sideways in 2015 after he also took over personnel duties last offseason.
The hope is that Kelly can learn from his mistakes and that includes grooming a legit franchise quarterback, whether that’s Colin Kaepernick or someone else.
In: GM Jon Robinson (Buccaneers director of player personnel)
Out: Coach Ken Whisenhunt, GM Ruston Webster
Possibly Out: Interim coach Mike Mularkey
What we think: The Titans let Whisenhunt draft Marcus Mariota and then inexplicably fired Whisenhunt after four games with his new quarterback. Regardless of his record, it was a questionable decision. Mike Mularkey took over as interim coach, and despite leading the team to the worst record in football and the No. 1 overall pick, he is a candidate for the permanent role. Jason La Canfora’s reported multiple times about the rumblings involving Peyton Manning in a front-office role, which would probably mean bringing on someone with Manning/Polian connections. With a studly young quarterback in the fold, there’s no reason for the Titans not to land the candidate of their choice.
Potential Candidates: Mike Mularkey, Josh McDaniels, Dirk Koetter, Doug Marrone, Teryl Austin
In: Hue Jackson (Bengals OC)
Out: GM Ray Farmer, Coach Mike Pettine
What we think: Strong hire for the Browns, landing Jackson, one of the more coveted candidates on the open market. He was being pursued by the 49ers and Giants as well.
Jackson had success with the Raiders in his most recent stint as a head coach before a high-priced trade for Carson Palmer backfired and he was sent packing (it was weird — he was in charge of the franchise after Al Davis died).
The Bengals, under Jackson as OC, have been an innovative offense with multiple quarterbacks.
In: Head coach Adam Gase (Bears OC), Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph (Bengals DB coach)
Out: Coach Joe Philbin, Interim coach Dan Campbell, GM Dennis Hickey
What we think: Adam Gase, at 37 years old, is now the NFL’s youngest head coach. Gase spent last season as the offensive coordinator of the Chicago Bears, where he helped Jay Cutler post the best passing rating of his career. Gase was the offensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos for the previous two seasons, working with Peyton Manning to post some of the best offensive numbers in NFL history. As such, he has been lauded for his work with quarterbacks and the Dolphins tabbed him in part to work with Ryan Tannehill, who regressed last season after getting a big-money deal. Gase is reportedly bringing Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph with him to be his defensive coordinator once Cincy’s season ends. The Bengals have been one of the top defenses in the league for a while and the play of their secondary has been a huge contributing factor. Miami will likely bring in some new blood in their secondary after its subpar performance this season, but Joseph will probably keep the same 4-3, one-gap principles that Ndamukong Suh, Cameron Wake, Olivier Vernon and the rest of the defensive front have used to great success.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
In: Coach Dirk Koetter (Buccaneers OC)
Out: Coach Lovie Smith
What we think: Koetter was the favorite to get this gig basically from the moment it surprisingly came open. There were even reports in the wake of Smith’s firing that the Buucs made the move with the intention of promoting Koetter because they thought they were going to lose him to another team. He now steps up a rung after doing a good job working with No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston last season. He had previously been praised for his work with Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, as he’d been the offensive coordinator in Atlanta for three years before coming to Tampa Bay. Armed with a bunch of weapons, Koetter should be able to get the Bucs offense going, but the team will have to improve its defense to make a leap in the NFC South.
Now there is a group that’s still in, as of now, and we’ll see if they last the Summer and moreover how they’ll function under the pressure of knowing it’s a do or die season.
In: General manager Bob Quinn
Staying: Coach Jim Caldwell
Out: General manager Martin Mayhew, president Tom Lewand
What we think: New GM Bob Quinn announced Friday that he decided to retain Jim Caldwell as head coach, saying that he and Caldwell’s “football philosophies are very similar” and Caldwell is the “right man” to lead the Lions going forward. The Lions’ strong finish — going 6-2 over their final eight games — certainly helped Caldwell’s cause. Caldwell’s decision to fire offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi on Oct. 26 and replace him with Jim Bob Cooter also helped as quarterback Matthew Stafford played much better in the second half of the season and looked like the QB who led Detroit to 11 wins and a playoff berth in 2014.
New Orleans Saints
Still In: Coach Sean Payton
What we think: Turns out Sean Payton isn’t going anywhere and wants to stay in New Orleans for, as Payton said in his press conference, “as long as they’ll have me.” Rumors had been swirling that Payton would leave New Orleans throughout much of the season, and they had picked up steam as teams like the Giants and 49ers parted with their coaches. There was also a report that the Colts had considered Payton before re-upping with Chuck Pagano. With Payton staying with the Saints, the question now becomes what the franchise does with one of the NFL’s worst defenses. Payton said that there’s a “good chance” Dennis Allen will be back as a coordinator as the organization begins a necessary rebuild of personnel. It’s also worth noting Payton confirmed that Drew Brees will continue to be his quarterback.
Still In: Coach Chuck Pagano, GM Ryan Grigson
What we think: Despite a previous report, which indicated Chuck Pagano was on his way out, the Colts announced Monday night they’ve reached a contract extension with their head coach. To be clear: Chuck Pagano isn’t going anywhere. He’ll remain the Colts head coach. As CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported, the length of the extension is four years.
General Manager Ryan Grigson is staying too, with Jim Irsay confirming he received an extension that will “tie him contractually” to Pagano. Irsay also said Grigson has “outdone” Bill Polian so that’s cool too!
San Diego Chargers
In: Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt
Still In: Coach Mike McCoy
Out: Offensive coordinator Frank Reich, five assistant coaches
What we think: Weird situation for the Chargers here, with GM Tom Telesco quietly getting an extension during the season and the team potentially moving to Los Angeles. Rumors started swirling this weekend about Mike McCoy getting the boot, but CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora reported that the Chargers would announce his return. The Chargers did make wholesale changes on the offensive side in the ball, cutting ties with Frank Reich and rehiring Ken Whisenhunt to the offensive coordinator position, which he held in 2013 before delivering a 3-20 record over the past two years as head coach of the Titans.