Silverman: Seven Head Coaches Get Gate; Most For Good Reason
By Steve Silverman-
(CBS) Perhaps it was Jerry Glanville who put it best on a classic NFL Films clip.
Glanville had been mic’d up for a game while he was coaching the Atlanta Falcons and he was unhappy with the call of an inexperienced referee.
As he expressed his displeasure, he told the official what the “NFL” stood for. “It’s ‘Not For Long,’ as in you won’t be here long if you keep making calls like that,” Glanville quipped.
Life is certainly like that for NFL head coaches. Seven of them were dismissed on Monday for failing to deliver their teams suitable seasons. Lovie Smith was included in that group after nine years on the job.
While it basically comes down to winning and losing, there are specific reasons each of the seven coaches were dismissed.
Norv Turner, San Diego Chargers – It was Ground Hog’s Day in San Diego. The story had grown much too familiar for team president Dean Spanos. Every year, the Chargers appeared to have the most talented roster in the AFC West and should have been legitimate Super Bowl contenders. Every year something went wrong for the Chargers and Turner did not have the ability to help his team recover.
Turner is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game, but when it comes to leadership and earning respect from his players, Turner does not have gravitas. He was too easy on too many of his players. Discipline is not a word you associated with the Chargers and the team decided enough wasenough after six years with Turner at the helm.
Andy Reid, Philadelphia Eagles – Reid’s message had grown stale in Philadelphia. His team was supposed to be the best in the league in 2011, but the Eagles fell on their collective faces. The 2012 season was even worse.
The Eagles were never the same defensively after defensive coordinator Jim Johnson retired. Reid had awful personal problems to contend with, including the death of his son. His ability to lead this team after holding his position since 1999 had been compromised.
Pat Shurmur, Cleveland Browns – The Browns were sold during the season and new ownership wants to clean house. The Browns had some decent moments in the 2012 with unheralded rookie quarterback Brandon Weeden and flashy rookie running back Trent Richardson, but they still only won five games. New owner Jimmy Haslam wants his own new coach and general manager, and it wasn’t Shurmur’s failings that led to his firing. Haslam just wants his own man in there.
Romeo Crennel, Kansas City – This was a no-brainer from the end of the first month of the season. The Chiefs were inefficient and brutal most of the season. Crennel had no answers after the team responded to him as an interim coach in 2011. Crennel understands defense, but communication, game planning and motivation were all lacking.
Ken Whisenhunt, Arizona – The Bidwill family has been making bad decisions with their football team for decades. Firing Whisenhunt is one of them. The Cardinals had the worst offensive line in football and their quarterback play was atrocious. That was on general manager Rod Graves, who was also fired. Whisenhunt is an outstanding offensive strategist who took the Cardinals to the Super Bowl following the 2008 season.
While Whisenhunt may have struggled to stop the bleeding after the team’s 4-0 start turned into a nine-game losing streak, the Cardinals will rue this mistake.
Chan Gailey, Buffalo – The Bills have not been to the playoffs since 1999, the longest drought of any NFL team. As a result, owner Ralph Wilson was not patient. Gailey had been hired in 2010 and he was unable to solidify the team’s defense. The Bills should have been the No. 2 team in the AFC East behind the New England Patriots, but they lacked the ability to stop opponents in clutch situations. The Bills were 22nd on defense and 30th against the run. That meant they got pushed around on a regular basis and that’s why Gailey was fired.
Lovie Smith, Chicago Bears – A coach cannot stay on the job for nine years and not become an expert on what it takes to be successful on both sides of the ball. Smith is one of the best defensive coaches in football, he has the respect of his lockerroom and his players compete hard for him. However, he has no understanding of what it takes to put together a competent offensive team.
That’s not acceptable. Bill Belichick was also a defensive coordinator prior to becoming a head coach, and he is one of the best offensive innovators in the game. What he didn’t know as a defensive coordinator, he learned as a head coach.
Smith did not appear to learn a thing about competent offensive play in nine years. The Bears were 28th on offense this year and 29th in the passing game. They were not a playoff team after a 7-1 start. The offense has many problems, but general manager Phil Emery concluded that Smith did not have the ability to make this unit better.
That’s why he is gone.
Steve Silverman is an award-winning writer, covering sports since 1980. Silverman was with Pro Football Weekly for 10 years and his byline has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, NFL.com and The Sporting News. He is the author of four books, including Who’s Better, Who’s Best in Football — The Top 60 Players of All-Time. Follow him on Twitter (@profootballboy) and read more of his CBS Chicago columns here.