It’s a day that has become so profound that it has a name – Black Monday – as the vicious part of the NFL takes hold and NFL coaches and front office personnel are fired. Black Monday came and went and, along with it, came a slew of firings that will likely impact a pair of former Vikings head coaches.
Prior to the hiring of Leslie Frazier, the last two head coaches of the Vikings were Mike Tice and Brad Childress. Both of them found employment as offensive coordinators – Tice eventually with the Bears and Childress with the Browns – but both of them were part of the Black Monday layoffs.
Chicago announced Monday that, despite a 10-6 record, Lovie Smith was getting the axe. After a second straight late-season collapse following a strong start to both seasons, the Bears made the move and got rid of Smith. As offensive coordinator, Tice isn’t likely to survive, even though he inherited an offense that was molded by Mike Martz and totally against the multi-tight end philosophy of Tice.
In Cleveland, both head coach Pat Shurmer and general manager Tom Heckert were shown the door. With the Browns looking at a complete overhaul of the organizational structure, it’s unlikely many, if any, of the assistant coaches will survive, which means Childress will follow Shurmer out the door.
While those firings had an impact on coaches with Vikings ties, they were far from alone. Arizona fired head coach Ken Whisenhunt and GM Rod Graves, Buffalo fired head coach Chan Gailey, Kansas City cut loose head coach Romeo Crennel, the Eagles fired 14-year head coach Andy Reid and San Diego fired embattled head coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith. The Jets retained head coach Rex Ryan, but fired GM Mike Tannenbaum.
The Black Monday purge may not be the end of the firings that are coming. There is talk that there may be significant changes coming in Carolina, Detroit and Jacksonville. No firings were announced, but none of those three owners has given the proverbial vote of confidence to their head coaches.
In the span of less than 24 hours from the completion of the 2012 regular season, 25 percent of the NFL’s 32 teams fired either their head coach, their general manager or both. The longest tenured coach in the league (Reid) couldn’t survive the axe. The longest tenured head coach in the NFC North division didn’t make it through. Kansas City fired their head coach for the second straight year.
Coming off a 3-13 season, few coaches entered the 2012 season more under the microscope than Leslie Frazier. Another double-digit loss season and the Vikings may well have looked in another direction following the season. However, a great December rally not only saved Frazier’s job, but may well end up earning him and his staff contract extensions.
In the NFL, you’re only as good as your last season. Players see their contracts terminated all the time if they don’t perform up to the level expected. The same is true with head coaches. When teams suffer, someone has to pay the price and Black Monday has become a regular staple of the season, where 20-25 percent of teams typically move on without the coaches and general managers they were certain would lead them to the Super Bowl.
The only question facing the Vikings now is whether other teams may try to raid their roster of coaching talent. Mike Tomlin got the Pittsburgh head coaching job after proving himself with the Vikings. On Monday, Frazier said the organization hasn’t received requests to have any of his coaches interviewed, but that could change. Even if they aren’t candidates for head coaching spots, some of the position coaches could be considered for coordinator positions when some of the new head coaches are put in place. With success comes raids from the outside and the Vikings have gone from a team that was on the short list of coaches on the hot seat to now having other teams potentially looking to cure their problems with Minnesota assistant coaches.
It’s all part of the business. Succeed and you keep your job. Fail and face the consequences.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.