It’s easy to forget that even football coaches are human beings sometimes, maybe because so many of them forget it themselves as part of the Darwinian sports experience. Brian Burke once spoke of his firing by the Calgary Flames as “a humiliating experience,” which nobody ever thinks of in those terms. More recently, Bruce Feldman and Max Olson recounted how one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the 2019 Egg Bowl (Elijah Moore pantomiming a dog taking a whizz to celebrate Ole Miss’s apparent but unrealized win over Mississippi State) caused more than 300 people to lose or change their jobs.
On the other hand, a lot of people are committed to the annual bloodbath, and so it is that we at Defector (or, as is actually the case, me at Defector) notice that the Lions have already handed Matt Patricia his commemorative cardboard box, and the imitative nature of the business means that other owners will reach the same conclusions. After all, it’s been a few years (five, to be precise) since there’s been double-digit job turnover in this carnival of psychopaths, and if we’re telling truths here, all 32 coaches should probably be fired for one reason or another.
So, with a lead-lined hat-tip to Comrade Magary and his weekly Fire This Asshole! list in the Jamboroo, here’s why they should all bite it before Christmas, because ’tis the season to be mopey.
32. Adam Gase (7-20): Think of Humphrey Bogart in The Caine Mutiny, only more bug-eyed and less hinged. He can’t even decide who’s calling the offensive plays anymore because he wants to look omnipotent and brilliant while frantically scapegoating. It is a wonder that he hasn’t been anvilled by now, except that the Jets can’t even get firings right.
31. Darrell Bevell (0-0): It’s been two days and the Lions still haven’t won a game. This is not the return Sheila Hamp is asking for from her head coach.
30. Anthony Lynn (29-30): By all accounts an honorable fellow, which in football is a firing offense. So is running the ball in the last minute of a game you’re losing by less than two touchdowns when you have no more time outs. So is claiming the screwup was a “miscommunication.” I mean, ick.
29. Jon Gruden (17-26): His team’s offensive performance Sunday was actually worse than Denver’s with no quarterback, and that’s the analytics crowd saying that. The size of the contract doesn’t matter anymore. Also, he apparently has a bad reaction to tryptophan since his last two Thanksgiving Week games were a 34-3 loss to the Jets and a 43-6 loss to the Falcons.
28. Vic Fangio (11-16): The reason Denver had no quarterback is because their four quarterbacks are nimrods. Also because the Broncos self-reported their quarterbacks to the league. This is admirable, but admirable is frowned upon in this business. So is ratting out the work force.
24-27. The NFC East (14-28-1): Mike McCarthy is 3-8, his team is injury-ravaged, and still Jerry Jones is being shown on screen each week looking like he is eating his own liver. Someone has to pay for that. Joe Judge is 4-7 without having to change his quarterback until Daniel Jones sprained his ankle, but Dave Gettleman remains a wince-worthy judge of talent, and if there’s a new general manager coming (two have been fired in successive days, after all), there’s a new coach coming, and someone has to pay for that. Doug Pederson is 41-32-1 but it looks like there’s a split in the suites over Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts. Ron Rivera is 4-7 while dealing with cancer, but Danny Snyder is fighting off an investor revolt and is in an almost perpetual state of agitation, and someone has to pay for that, too.
23. Doug Marrone (23-38): If you believe the Jaguars are trying to lose, you must extend his contract. But if you believe the Jaguars are trying to lose, why did Shahid Khan fire Dave Caldwell for losing? I think a postseason Zoom retreat is in order while the front office decides whether it stands for W or L.
22. Bill Belichick (242-89): If only this were actually true. He is trending up as His Bradyness trends downward.
21. Bruce Arians (14-14): Speaking of whom, if his tough love approach doesn’t work with the Crud Meter any better than it has, guess who the Dancing Glazers keep.
20. Zac Taylor (4-22-1): Mike Brown is hardly a trendsetter even when it comes to firing coaches, and Joe Burrow getting hurt is a blow that has nothing to do with coaching, but if Ohio State can’t play any more this year, more people in the state are going to notice 4-22-1.
19. Sean McVay (40-19): He said Jared Goff needs to take care of the ball better after a game in which the Rams committed four turnovers. That’s the kind of keen insight Tony Romo on Tramadol smoothies would give.
18. Matt Nagy (25-18): For continuing to talk about the glowing practice performances and playbook scholarship of Mitchell Trubisky, as if the rest of the world has pulled out its eyes.
17. Kevin Stefanski (8-3): Don’t be fooled. Jimmy Haslam has employed seven coaches in eight years, an average of roughly 20 games per pink slip. Stefanski is living on borrowed time.
16. Kyle Shanahan (28-31): Getting mad at Santa Clara County for being skittish about COVID-19 is one of those things coaches know they can’t control. The 49ers are owed no more advance warning for a virus decision than any other business. Besides, Jed York spent a lot of money to change the composition of the city council, so Kyle is just going to have let the political process of rich folks getting their way play itself out.
15. John Harbaugh (124-78): You caused a lot of people a lot of worry because your players are bringing home germs like they were kindergartners, son. Bring your playbook.
14. Matt Rhule (4-8): Having twice as many wins as the school you left is not cause for celebration.
13. Raheem Morris (4-2): If the Falcons make the playoffs, he gets to keep the gig. The original Latin definition of “interim” is “save the owner’s ass, or it’s your ass.”
12. Romeo Crennel (4-3): See Morris, Raheem.
11. Mike Zimmer (62-44-1): Kirk Cousins, in the Vikings’ stadium, with the lead pipe.
10. Frank Reich (24-19): Philip Rivers, in the Colts’ stadium, with the candlestick.
9. Mike Vrabel (24-17): Derrick Henry makes all the choices easy. Besides, offensive coordinator Arthur Smith is the new hot name in coaching business circles, and you know how owners like to hire the next hot thing, especially when he’s in your own building.
8. Brian Flores (12-15): Ryan Fitzpatrick has powers, and he is not to be trifled with. Also, these are the same people who hired Adam Gase, so I wouldn’t trust them to open a soda can that’s already been opened.
7. Matt LaFleur (21-6): He serves at the whim of Aaron Rodgers, so this could change at a moment’s notice.
6. Sean McDermott (33-26): Is it a good sign when someone says, “Who coaches the Buffalo Bills?” and you have to look it up because you’re not sure either?
5. Sean Payton (140-79): He should be safe, but when the Saints have a better defense than offense, the violation of brand standards is simply too much to endure. Keep him, though, until we find out how the officials and the league office are going to roger him in the playoffs this year.
4. Pete Carroll (107-62-1): Still looks like the guy who would visit you in the hospital and sell you the watch off his wrist. Also, what the hell happened to that defense?
3. Kliff Kingsbury (11-15-1): If he screws up this Kyler Murray thing, and the Cardinals have lost three of their last four to reinvigorate the Vikings, Bears, 49ers, Falcons, Eagles and WTFs … well, Mikey Bidwill’s gotta Mikey Bidwill at some point, right? I mean, if Mitchell Trubisky gets a playoff game and Murray doesn’t, hell must be paid.
2. Andy Reid (87-36): He’s been cruising on Patrick Mahomes’s good looks and that V. Stiviano beekeeper’s helmet for too long.
1. Mike Tomlin (143-74): Bill Cowher only got 15 years, this is Tomlin’s 14th, and you know how twitchy those Rooneys can get when they’re on a one-coach-per-generation kick.
Next time: We make the case for Coastal Carolina’s Jamey Chadwell getting all the vacant jobs.