Posted by: mdegeorge | December 22, 2010

Tuesday Morning Diagnosis: ‘Tis the season to make changes

The holiday season is upon is. And perhaps because last night’s egg nog has worn off—or because the credit card bills are rolling in—my mind has shifted to NFL coaching moves right about now.

The inspiration may have been the Miracle at the New Meadowlands Sunday, which featured Desean Jackson’s punt returning virtuosity masking the Mega-Mismanagement at the Meadowlands throughout the first 59 minutes, 46 seconds.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 28: New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin looks on against the Jacksonville Jaguars on November 28, 2010 at The New Meadowlands Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

So without further adieu, it should be no surprise who tops my lists of coaches bound for the unemployment line:

Start packing the stationery!

Tom Coughlin

Oh let us count the ways in which the Miracle could have been avoided with basic coaching skills/common sense/consciousness. First, there was the complete oblivion to the possibility of an onside kick. To not have said, even in passing, “hey guys, make sure the kick goes over your head before you turn and run” was ludicrous. If you prep the hands team and they kick it deep, you lose 15 yards. If you aren’t ready for it and they deliver the onside kick, you lose your job.

Then there were two ridiculous play calls. With a third and eight at the Philadelphia 40 with 3:08 to play and the Eagles out of timeouts, Coughlin drew up a pass by Eli Manning that fell incomplete and basically gave the Eagles a fourth timeout. Instead of running the ball, killing clock, and taking a delay of game penalty to back themselves up another five yards on fourth down to bury the Giants inside the 20 with just over two minutes and no timeouts left, the Eagles got the ball back with 3:01 to play.

In the final, fateful drive, you have to wonder why the Giants didn’t try to run the ball once or twice. Momentum was clearly against them and Eli was lucky not to have been picked earlier in the quarter on several occasions. So why not try and put the ball on the ground and catch the Eagles by surprise? Were Ahmad Bradshaw able to break a long one, then they’d have been able to use a timeout and rush to the line to try to set up a field goal attempt.

The bottom line is that Coughlin has lost the plot when it comes to this team. They were walking on eggshells up three touchdowns Sunday when they should have been looking for a death blow. Their coach was waiting for the other shoe to drop, and the players picked up on it. I though Coughlin should’ve gotten the gate last season after his team sleepwalked through a home contest with the lowly Carolina Panthers with the playoffs on the line at home and got shellacked in Week 16.

At this point, Coughlin would need a run to the Super Bowl to keep his job, in my mind. If he manages to lose next week against a Matt Flynn-led Packers team, he should be fired on the spot. Coughlin keeping his job if the Giants don’t make the postseason would require an inquest the likes of which was needed when Isiah Thomas managed to hang on as the Knicks’ coach for so long.

John Fox

It’s just time for a fresh start in Carolina after two straight non-playoff seasons. This team lacks an identity with the departures of Julius Peppers and Jake Delhomme. Jimmy Clausen may be the quarterback of the future. A decision has to be made about the direction of the backfield, with either Jonathan Stewart or DeAngelo Williams headed elsewhere for other assets. Might even Steve Smith have value in a rebuilding process? In any occasion, Fox, someone who has done so much for this team during his nine-year tenure, is just more a part of the team’s past than its future.

Time to go in a different direction

Gary Kubiak

Kubiak has done an excellent job over the last five seasons in Houston, stabilizing a franchise and bringing them to the precipice of competitiveness in what is perennially among the strongest divisions in the league. It looked like they were ready to surmount the playoff hump last season with a 9-7 campaign. It appeared assured they would this season with a season-opening defeat of the franchise’s albatross, Indianapolis. But the Texans have floundered this season with a 5-9 record to this juncture. They finally have an established running attack in Arian Foster and Vontae Leach to go along with Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson. Their window of opportunity isn’t yet closing, but impatience has to be rising and Kubiak is no longer getting the best out of his players. This isn’t a 10-loss team talentwise. Kubiak would quickly land somewhere else because he’s an excellent coach, but both parties can use a change.

Marvin Lewis

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 25: Head Coach Marvin Lewis of the Cincinnati Bengals watches the game against the New York Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium on November 25, 2010 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. The Jets defeated the Bengals 26-10. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)

It may be that I’m confusing the true problem here, but something big has to change in Cincinnati. In August, we were hearing how they had one of the best receiving corps around with Terrell Owens and Chad Johnson in the fold. The season before, the defense took massive steps to becoming one of the league’s most formidable units. But all that has gone out the window this season with a 3-11 campaign. Maybe Lewis is to blame. Perhaps it’s the slow realization that Carson Palmer is no longer a franchise quarterback. Either way, the organization needs a few changes of scenery, and Lewis, who’s done more for the franchise than any other coach in its history, may be one of those filling out a change-of-address form.

We need to talk

Jeff Fisher

The Titans are struggling through their second straight difficult season. And it’s a bumpy one to say the least. Vince Young is persona non grata, yet again. Kenny Britt has been good, when not in police custody. The situation was so dire that Fisher deemed it necessary to bring in Randy Moss, a move that did little to jump start their season. Fisher has been with the organization through two cities and almost two decades. Everything in me says that someone spending an eternity performing at a high level in such a position deserves to dictate his own exit time. But Fisher and the Titans’ brass should have a long conversation at season’s end as to each’s direction for the future. I’m not saying Fisher should or will lose his job. But there are issues with this organization that need to be discussed.

Let them stay!

Leslie Frazier

Frazier’s quarterback options are down to Joe Webb, Patrick Ramsey, and the ghosts of Joe Capp’s past. There’s no way his record can be an accurate determinant of his ability to coach. If he can survive this stretch with his sanity, much less success, he at least deserves a chance as the head man to start a season.

Jason Garrett

Garrett has managed to inspire this team to a 4-2 record since taking over from Wade Phillips. He’s piloted the team to victories over potential playoff teams like Indianapolis and the Giants, and his two losses have come by a combined six points to New Orleans and Philadelphia, both of which are playoff-bound. It’s all been done with Jon Kitna at the helm; imagine what he can do as the head coach of a Tony Romo-led team, especially given all he did as a coordinator to bring the best out of the mercurial quarterback. The biggest thing hampering his installment as the permanent coach may be owner Jerry Jones’ prominent position among the owners in collective bargaining. The announcement that Garrett is his guy may signal that Jones is expecting a 2011 season, weakening his position at the negotiation table. Grandstanding aside, though, Garrett deserves to be the Cowboy’s coach to start the next NFL season.

One more year!

Jim Schwartz

Schwartz inherited a mess of Biblical proportions in Detroit, so a 4-12 record in year two isn’t terrible (and their last two games at Miami and against Detroit aren’t unwinnable, so that might improve, especially as they have two wins against playoff contenderss the last two weeks). Perhaps most important is that Schwartz has presided over two drafts that have yielded four first round picks. All four (Matthew Stafford, Ndamukong Suh, Brandon Pettigrew, and Jahvid Best) are on their way to be serviceable players at the least. Schwartz deserves more time to see this transition out.

Ken Whisenhunt

Ok, so the Derek Anderson experiment didn’t exactly work out. But Whisenhunt still deserves a chance to prove he can win in the desert without Kurt Warner. Besides, is anyone out there really anxious to return to the way things were before Whisenhunt came to town?

Mike Singletary

San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Mike Singletary yells to the defense during play against the Seattle Seahawks at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on December 12, 2010.  UPI/Terry Schmitt Photo via Newscom

Everyone deserves at least 10 straight games with the same starting quarterback, especially when neither of the options was of your choosing originally. They have an All-Pro runner in Frank Gore, decent weapons for a quarterback, and a solid defense that can instantly make them contenders in a horrible division.

Tony Sparano

See note on Singletary, though with the addendum that Sparano and his staff’s proclivity not to run the ball consistency is cause for concern.

Chan Gailey

Hey, the Bills have won four out of six.

Eric Mangini

There’s reason to hope here. The Browns would be doing themselves a disservice not to let Mangini have a crack at a full season with a healthy Colt McCoy and Petyon Hillis, both of whom should be fixtures for years to come.

Jack Del Rio

He saved his job this season and brought the Jaguars back to relevance.

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