Black Monday in the NFL saw four more franchises fire their head coaches along with two general managers. Clearly there are situations where a head coach may have lost the ability to motivate his team or lost control of how to fix a losing situation and a change is needed. History shows however that stability at the coaching level is a key to success. Since 2000, one franchise has had only one head coach. That franchise is the New England Patriots with Bill Belichik -- and they have been among the few teams to consistently win year after year. One team has had nine coaches in that time frame -- that team is the Oakland Raiders.
Teams that have had seven coaches since 2000 are Washington, Detroit, Miami, Cleveland, Buffalo, Atlanta and San Francisco, and only the Lions are going to the playoffs this year. When a team replaces its' coaching staff it means players will be faced with new coaches, a new philosophy, and a new playbook. It takes time to evaluate talent, time to mesh and create synergy of various elements. Every change is destabilizing.
New York Jets -- Coach Rex Ryan had a long tenure with the team and they did not seem to be getting better. They do not seem to have a franchise quarterback. The GM John Idzik had trouble articulating a dynamic plan for the future. This was a necessary move on the part of owner Woody Johnson. It is likely that Ryan will end up finding another coaching position.
Chicago Bears -- They were faced with a difficult decision regarding quarterback Jay Cutler last off-season. Franchise quarterbacks are difficult to find. The dollars were set by the market, but the structure put the team in an unenviable position and doomed GM Phil Emery. Coach Marc Trestman seemed unable to instill fire into the losing Bears. The leaves a new staff with a dilemma as to how to deal with Cutler.
Atlanta Falcons -- Here is a coach, Mike Smith, with two 13-3 seasons and a Super Bowl on his Falcon resume. Two losing seasons and he is out. He is a quality coach and may well get another chance. This is the new reality of the NFL.
San Francisco 49ers -- Coach Jim Harbaugh revives a franchise which had fallen on hard times and this is his reward? His first three years he won Division Championships and went to a Superbowl. This year, with a series of critical injuries, the team fell to 8-8, good enough to win the NFC South. His winning percentage with the team is .680. Personality and policy differences? It is up to ownership and management to smooth these issues over and win.
It is unclear whether Tony Sparano continues in Oakland, but the team showed life at the end of the season. In Washington, Jay Gruden instituted an offense that did not lend itself well to the skill set of RG III. There is much to be said for stability in both situations, change for the sake of change rarely works in the NFL.