2013 Black Monday: 5 NFL Coaches fired

jim-schwartz-lionsEvery year, the Monday following Week 17 of the NFL regular season is a testy time for losing coaches. This year’s Black Monday was especially brutal as five coaches got the ax. Here’s a look at the unlucky coaches who were fired, along with a few that are still awaiting word on their futures.

Firings

Rob Chudzinski, Cleveland Browns – The Browns didn’t give Chudzinski much time to turn things around in Cleveland. They fired their rookie head coach immediately after his first season ended with a 4-12 record. What was particularly disheartening is that the Browns lost 10 out of their last 11 games. Cleveland ownership voiced disappointment over a “lack of accountability and effort” from Chud’s players. New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels’ name has come up in the rumors involving the coaching search.

Leslie Frazier, Minnesota Vikings – The writing has been on the wall for Frazier for quite some time after the team’s slow start and a disastrous quarterback carousel. Minnesota ownership was hoping that the Vikings would take another step forward after making the playoffs last year; instead, they finished just 5-10-1. Team officials have been working on potential replacements for weeks, and they’ve asked about Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Adam Gase.

greg-schiano-hot-seatGreg Schiano, Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Tampa Bay is a team that was built to win this season. Instead, they suffered through a 4-12 season under second-year coach Greg Schiano. Management was concerned that players were no longer responding to Schiano’s hard-driving style, and the Josh Freeman quarterback controversy didn’t help matters. General manager Mark Dominik was also a casualty on Black Monday.

Jim Schwartz, Detroit Lions – No team collapsed as badly as the Lions did down the stretch. After climbing to the top of the NFC North with a 6-3 record, they lost 6 out of their last 7 contests and missed the postseason. Management had already made the decision on Schwartz’s job when the team was eliminated from postseason contention last week.

mike-shanahan-hot-seatMike Shanahan, Washington Redskins – The drama regarding Mike Shanahan has finally come to an end with his Monday morning firing. He was fired after a 3-13 record, which was the second worst in the league. It was no secret that Shanahan clashed with management over what he perceived as their babying of quarterback Robert Griffin III. The matter came to a conclusion when RG III was benched for the final three games to “prevent any injuries.”

Gary Kubiak, Houston Texans – Kubiak wasn’t a Black Monday firing, but rather axed on December 12th after the team had lost 11 straight games. Team management also didn’t like the way that Kubiak handled the quarterback situation between Matt Schaub and Case Keenum. Add in the fact that many expected Houston to contend for a Super Bowl and it’s pretty clear why Kubiak was fired. Several candidates have already been interviewed, including former Bears coach Lovie Smith, Penn State coach Bill O’Brien and Texans interim coach Wade Phillips.

Still Uncertain

dennis-allen-oaklandDennis Allen, Oakland Raiders – Before Oakland played the Denver Broncos, it was generally thought that both coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie would be safe. However, there are no guarantees following a 4-12 season, which ended with an embarrassing 34-14 loss to Denver, where the Broncos were leading 31-0 at halftime.

Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys – For the second year in a row, Garrett’s team lost the NFC East on the final game of the season. Owner Jerry Jones appears likely to keep Garrett, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s job could be in serious jeopardy.

Joe Philbin, Miami Dolphins – Miami was in the driver’s seat of their playoff destiny, but finished with losses to two subpar teams (Buffalo, NY Jets) to close out the season. Owner Stephen Ross didn’t exactly give any vote of confidence after saying that he has “a lot to think about” with regard to Philbin and GM Jeff Ireland’s jobs.

mike-munchak-tennesseeMike Munchak, Tennessee Titans – It was another up-and-down season for the Titans, with them finishing 7-9 and missing the playoffs. And the hard-running, clock-management style that Tennessee is trying to push faltered in the middle of the season. Star running back Chris Johnson won’t be back. Is the same true of Munchack?

Job Security

Tom Coughlin, New York Giants – Two years removed from a Super Bowl, nobody expected Tom Coughlin to be coaching for his job. However, a dismal 0-6 start got the press talking about Coughlin’s future with the organization. But early word is that, following a 7-3 finish to the season, it’s up to Coughlin to decide if he wants to stay with the team.

Rex Ryan, New York Jets – Many believe that Ryan did a commendable job with the Jets since this season was projected to be a rebuilding effort. However, Ryan coached them to a .500 record and ended the year on a positive note with two straight wins.

What Impact will Josh Freeman have on the Minnesota Vikings?

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikingsEver since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released him last week, Josh Freeman had been a hot commodity among teams seeking a reliable quarterback. Maybe “reliable” isn’t the word here, given how tumultuous Freeman’s last days in Tampa Bay ended. But several desperate NFL clubs were willing to take a chance on him if it means salvaging their season.

The Minnesota Vikings proved to be the most attractive destination since Freeman signed with them today. The deal is a one-year, $3 million contract, with the 25-year-old reportedly wanting to only sign for one season instead of two. He picked Minnesota over the Buffalo Bills, Cleveland Browns, Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers.

The obvious thought that comes to mind here is how the Vikings quarterback situation will play out. Coming off of a rib injury, Christian Ponder is the incumbent starter and the supposed QB of the future. But since being taken with the 12th overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, the Florida State product has never been truly impressive. 2013 has been especially bad since he’s thrown for 691 yards, 2 TD’s, 5 INT”s, and fumbled twice in three starts.

Matt Cassel is the other option, and he led the Vikings to their first win of the year just before Minnesota’s bye week. He racked up 248 yards and 2 touchdowns after completing 16-of-25 passes. Most importantly, he didn’t have any turnovers, which is something that’s plagued Ponder.

josh-freeman-tampa-bayEnter Freeman, who compiled very good numbers with the Buccaneers in the first four years of his career. He had 12,090 yards, 76 TD’s, 54 INT’s and a 59.1 completion percentage. But as mentioned before, things fell apart since he missed important team functions and didn’t get along with second-year head coach Greg Schiano. One week after losing his starting job to rookie Mike Glennon, Freeman was cut loose by the Bucs.

Now in Minnesota, Freeman doesn’t figure to start right away. Head coach Leslie Frazier has already said that either Ponder or Cassel will start against the Carolina Panthers. But the Vikings certainly aren’t paying Freeman $3 million for three-quarters of a season to be a bench warmer. He’s been brought in to compete for the starting job and take over if Ponder continues to falter.

Frazier even hinted at this by saying, “That’s part of the equation. That’s definitely on the table. We’ll see how well he progresses and how well he picks up our offense.”

However, he also alluded to the fact that Ponder still has an opportunity to retain the job. “I think Christian still has a bright future here with our football team,” he said. “It may not look like that on the surface, but Christian is a professional. He’s going to work as hard as he can every day to prepare and get back on the field and help our team win.”

As mentioned before, Ponder is/was supposed to be the future of this franchise. But with a talent like Adrian Peterson, Minnesota isn’t content to wait another year or two for him to catch on. The team is in a win-now mode since they arguably have the league’s most talented running back.

josh-freeman-minnesota-vikings-1Seeing as how Peterson is 28 years old, he doesn’t have a lot of prime years left. So this essentially becomes a question of whether or not the Vikings are willing to risk Peterson’s golden years on a chance that Ponder might turn things around. With Freeman now in town, odds are that Minnesota is, instead, betting on the guy who rushed for over 2,000 yards last season.

So now we come to the question of what Freeman can do for the Vikings. With a 1-3 record, this team is already in the hole. And things won’t get any easier since they’re in an extremely tough division which includes Detroit, Green Bay and Chicago.

But Freeman at least provides a slightly better opportunity to win now than Ponder does. Sure the Vikings aren’t getting Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees here; but they are getting a five-year veteran who has good arm strength and can put up decent numbers.

Now the big question will be if he can take advantage of having a threat like Peterson in the offense. Opponents constantly have to be aware of number 28 at all times. So this will take some of the pressure off Freeman, perhaps even more so than what Doug Martin did in Tampa Bay.

It’s still early enough in the year for Minnesota to make a turnaround. They are 1.5 games out of the NFC North lead and still have plenty of contests left against their division foes. But Freeman is going to have to play better than ever before to help the Vikings make a playoff run.

Lacy, Jackson headline NFL Week 2 Injuries, Freeman out in Tampa Bay?

NFL: Green Bay Packers-OTAIt’s been a dangerous day to be an NFL running back. Two prominent starting backs were forced out of action in Week 2, as both Green Bay’s Eddie Lacy and Atlanta’s Stephen Jackson headed to the locker room early.

Lacy was the fist to go out after he got drilled by Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather. Lacy suffered a concussion on his only carry of the game – a 10-yard run – when he jumped over a defender and was hit by Meriweather on the way down.

The rookie was taken back to the locker room and wouldn’t return, giving way to backups John Starks and Jonathan Franklin. This is no doubt a rough start to the season for the University of Alabama product, who was projected as Green Bay’s feature back. Lacy gained just 41 yards on 14 carries last week and had a fumble. And this week saw him knocked out on his first carry.

stephen-jackson-falconsJackson is off to a much better start than Lacy since he gained 122 yards from scrimmage last week. Unfortunately, his momentum will take a big hit since he suffered a thigh injury earlier today. The veteran was hurt on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Falcons QB Matt Ryan in the first half. Jackson left for the locker room immediately after scoring his first TD with Atlanta.

Moving away from injuries, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman may be seeking a trade. Trouble has been brewing in Tampa after teammates essentially stripped Freeman of his captain status through a vote. Things got worse when he missed the team photo shoot, later admitting that he overslept.

It doesn’t help Freeman’s case that he’s been pretty inconsistent since being drafted in the first round of the 2009 NFL Draft. In his four years with Tampa, the K-State product has compiled 13,173 yards, 79 TD’s and 64 INT’s. These are certainly good numbers, but they haven’t translated into a lot of victories for the Bucs. And Freeman has never really been regarded as a clutch player.

josh-freeman-tampa-bayTaking all of this into account, Tampa Bay took quarterback Mike Glennon in the third round of last year’s draft. Insiders claim that Glennon is head coach Greg Schiano’s guy, while Freeman is merely finishing out the last year of his contract.

All of this makes the five-year veteran seem expendable on a team that’s looking for a leader under center. If Tampa Bay’s season starts off badly, it’s very possible that Freeman could be shipped out before the October 29th trade deadline. Potential suitors could include the Oakland Raiders, Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans, who all have question marks at the quarterback position.

Minnesota Vikings could solve Percy Harvin Dilemma with Mike Wallace

percy-harvinThere’s no question that the Minnesota Vikings are a better overall football team when Percy Harvin is on the field. After all, he’s one of the league’s most dynamic kickoff returners and slot receivers – plus he even plays some running back. But is Harvin worth the $16.5 million annually that he’s hoping to earn in free agency?

The Vikings can’t really seem to come up with an answer, and it appears as if they could be making preparations for life without Harvin. The 24-year-old has one more year left on his contract and wants to be re-signed before training camp opens later in 2013. Assuming he doesn’t get re-signed this offseason, it’s very possible that he will hold out and skip some regular season games.

Cincinnati Bengals v Pittsburgh SteelersAs this headache inches closer and closer, the Vikings are out shopping for other wide receivers. And the biggest name to surface so far is Mike Wallace, who’s hoping for a fresh start following a down year with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

After serving as a legitimate number one wideout for the Steelers in 2010 (1,257 receiving YDS, 10 TD) and 2011 (1,193 receiving YDS, 8 TD), Wallace regressed with 836 receiving yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. Of course, most people still see the talent as being there, which is why Minnesota is willing to enter a bidding war with the Miami Dolphins.

The way that some Vikings fans see it now, they could have two top receiving threats by signing Wallace. And this would certainly be a welcome thought for starting quarterback Christian Ponder, who was relegated to a receiving quartet of Michael Jenkins, Kyle Rudolph, Jerome Simpson and Jarius Wright at the end of the year.

percy-harvin-1However, the reality is that it could just be Wallace boosting the receiving corps., with Percy Harvin playing the minimum to qualify for free agency next offseason. It’s ultimately up to the Vikings to decide if they want to pay Harvin the same kind of money that Calvin Johnson earns. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons that Minnesota will be weighing.

Pros

A Big Threat – Percy Harvin is a dangerous player who’s more valuable than his numbers indicate. His speed and mobility make Harvin somebody that commands extra attention any time he’s on the field. This in turn frees other players up for more production like Adrian Peterson, Jenkins and Rudolph.

Solid Numbers – In just nine games last year, Harvin managed to catch 62 balls for 677 yards, rushed for 96 yards, had a 105-yard kickoff return, and scored five total touchdowns.

Proven Winner – The Vikings had a pretty successful year after going 10-6 and making the playoffs. In the eight full games that Harvin played last season, the Vikings went 5-3 and looked good while doing so.

percy-harvin-2Christian Ponder needs Him – One of the biggest aids to Adrian Peterson’s 2,000-plus-yard rushing campaign was how badly Ponder performed in Harvin’s absence; in other words, Minnesota was forced to run Peterson over and over again. With his favorite target in the lineup, Ponder threw for over 200 yards five times in nine games; without Harvin, Ponder was only able to go over 200 yards twice passing in seven games.

Cons

Injury-Prone – In his first three seasons, Percy Harvin rarely missed any games. However, he did sit out plenty of snaps due to migraines and other nagging injury problems. But last year, things really bottomed-out when the Florida product was placed on the injured reserve mid-season with an ailing hip and ankle. Percy only managed to play in nine contests in 2012 because of this.

Bad Temperament – $16.5 million is a lot of money to pay annually for a guy who’s had run-ins with coaches dating back to his college days. He was seen yelling at coach Leslie Frazier last year during the Seattle game – most likely over wanting the ball more. He also threw a weight at former Vikings coach Brad Childress when Randy Moss was cut from the team.

Sulkiness/Immaturity – Nobody questions Percy Harvin’s desire to win. But when things don’t go his way, Harvin has the tendency to sulk and be immature. The screaming matches with coaches are a good example of this. He also demanded a trade when he was unhappy with the Vikings prospects last summer. This being said, it won’t be surprising if his heart isn’t into the team when/if a giant contract doesn’t come.

It certainly won’t be easy for Minnesota to hand Harvin anywhere in the neighborhood of $16.5 million per year based on the cons we discussed. However, they can’t exactly afford to let him walk without getting Wallace based on the pros we talked about. All we can say is that the Vikings’ front office is a tough place to be right now.

Adrian Peterson eyes Rushing Record in Unfathomable Season

Almost one year ago today, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson tore several ligaments in his knee during a Week 16 game. The injury was so bad that many people questioned how effective he’d be coming into this season. The answer: he’s been the best running back in 2012…..and perhaps history, depending upon what happens over the next two weeks.

Earlier today, the man they call “All Day” obliterated the St. Louis Rams while dashing their playoff hopes in the process. He rushed for 212 yards on just 24 caries (8.8 YPC) and scored on an 82-yard touchdown run. Following this game, he’s now rushed for over 100 yards in the past eight games with six of these contests seeing AP go over 150 yards.

Thanks to his improbable streak against some of the league’s best defenses, Peterson is now eyeing one of the most coveted records in NFL history.

294 Yards to History

As of now, Adrian Peterson has powered his way to 1,812 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns on 289 carries. If the season stopped today, he’d have 433 yards more than the next closest running back in 2012, Marshawn Lynch. He’d also have the 19th best rushing season in NFL history. However, the season’s not over yet; in fact, there are still two games remaining.

Based on the pace that Peterson has been going at, he’s got a very realistic chance to beat Eric Dickerson’s single season rushing record of 2,105 yards. This total, which happened in 1984, has stood for 28 years. So can Peterson break it based on his remaining schedule?

Favorable Schedule

The past two weeks will see Minnesota play on the road against the Houston Texans and at home against the Green Bay Packers. On paper, the Texans aren’t exactly the most favorable team to play since they’re fifth in the league against the run and allow only 93.2 RYPG.

However, they’ve been lit up over the past two games after allowing 127 rushing yards to the New England Patriots and 124 rushing yards to the run-challenged Indianapolis Colts.

As for the Packers, they are a more favorable defense having allowed 114.3 RYPG this year. They’re fresh off giving up 212 yards to Peterson in Week 13, so we can reasonably expect some pretty outstanding results from All Day in the regular season’s final week.

What if the Record doesn’t fall?

While it’s no slam dunk for Adrian Peterson to reach 2,106 rushing yards this year, we think that he has a very good shot. But even if the 27-year-old doesn’t grab the single season record, he may have already completed the most impressive season among running backs in history.

As alluded to in the beginning, he’s coming off of reconstructive knee surgery, which should have made 2012 even tougher. Instead, Peterson is enjoying a career season and proving that he’s truly a freak of nature.

One more thing that we should mention involves what else is surrounding AP…..or at least the lack of what’s surrounding him. Second-year quarterback Christian Ponder showed flashes of brilliance early on in the season, but has thrown for 200 yards just once in the past six games.

WR Percy Harvin was definitely a nice weapon for the Vikings early on after racking up 677 receiving yards on 62 catches midway through the season. However, he was forced out of action (ankle) in Week 10 and won’t play the rest of the year.

Taking all of this into account, opposing defenses know what’s coming when they face Minnesota – Adrian Peterson and a whole lot more Adrian Peterson. But they still haven’t been able to slow down him down. So with defenses throwing everything at him, and AP being less than a year removed from knee surgery, he’s already proven his place in history. The single season rushing record would just cementer this place even further.