NFC Coaching Musical Chairs Entering the Offseason

For NFL head coaches (and those who are about to be tabbed as former head coaches), yesterday was known as Black Monday;  a day when several coaches around the league are told their respective teams’ performance isn’t up to par and he’s given his walking papers.

There could potentially be nine NFL teams that will have a new head coach at the start of the 2011 season (here’s hoping that whole lock out threat never comes to fruition).  Let’s take a look at the coaching vacancies around the leage:  who’s staying put, who’s mulling it over and who’s being shown the door and asked to turn in their keys to the building.

Minnesota Vikings.   The Vikings have removed the interim tag from Leslie Frazier, making him the head coach in Minnesota.  Frazier took over on Nov.22nd when Brad Childress was fired.  He guided Minnesota to a 3-3 record, but it’s been the way he’s handled the mess in Minnesota over the final stretch of the season that has made Frazier the choice for the Vikings.  They had two of their games delayed due to winter snow storms, forcing the team to play a “home” game on Monday night in Detroit because the roof of the Metrodome collapsed under the weight of heavy snow and then thanks to a winter storm in Philadelphia, their game was moved from Sunday night to Tuesday night last week.  Because of the severe conditions in the Metrodome, in Week 15 the Vikings were forced to play outdoors at the University of Minnesota against the Chicago Bears.  Perhaps his greatest attributes are that the players both like playing for and respect Frazier, two critical areas Childress fell short in around the locker room.

Dallas Cowboys.  Nothing is set in stone in Big D, but it appears that interim head coach Jason Garrett is the leading front runner to be the permanent coach of the Cowboys.  Owner Jerry Jones has stated he wants to have a full-time head coach in place as quickly as possible, so it’s likely he’ll begin the process and the grind of interviews and inquiries today.  The quicker Jones starts pounding the pavement and working the phones, the sooner the next head coach can begin with roster moves and putting in place his coaching staff.  It seems highly unlikely it’ll be anyone other than Garrett.  Garrett finished with a 5-3 record that included the Giants, Colts and Eagles.  Dallas has scored the third-most points since Week 10 and he’s instilled a no-nosense work your butt off or else attitude that was badly missing under Wade Philips’ reign.  All signs points to Garrett staying put.

New York Giants.   President and CEO John Mara is backing head coach Tom Coughlin, announcing after Sunday’s win over Washington that Coughlin will remain with the team.  Coughlin has had only one losing season ( finished 6-10 in 2004) since he began the Giants’ head coach in 2004.  Mara has stated that he believes in Coughlin, he believes in stability and he believes that players play hard for Coughlin.  Despite reaching the 10-win mark, the Giants were eliminated from the playoffs with Green Bay’s win over Chicago.  New York has won at least 10 games in three of the past four seasons, however, they’ve now missed the playoffs for the second straight season.  Big blue (coaches and players both) will be under pressure and a microscope to produce results in 2011.

Carolina Panthers.  On Dec.31, the Panthers announced that John Fox would not return to coach the team next season.  Not exactly Earth shattering news, I know.  It was both a terrible and forgettable final season for the marriage between Fox and the Panthers.  Carolina finished 2010 with the NFL’s worst record, going 2-14 and landing the No.1 overall pick in next April’s draft.  Fox spent nine seasons in Carolina beginning in 2002.  A year later, he led Carolina to their second divison title and first ever Super Bowl berth.  However, since 2006 the Panthers have had only one winning season and in each of the last three years they saw their win total take a steep decline from 12 wins in 2008 to 8 wins last year to just 2 wins this season.  Fox is arguably the best coach in Carolina history, but in recent years Fox and owner Jerry Richardson have been on opposite sides of the fence regarding philosphies and personnel.  It’s likely Carolina could go the route of hiring a coordinator.  It is unlikely that they’ll dip into the college ranks for a coach, which takes Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh off the list.

San Francisco 49ers.  The team by the bay needs a head coach and then some.  A couple weeks ago, they didn’t wait until season’s end and pulled the plug on Mike Singletary.  Singletary brought the intensity desired by the 49ers, the results however never materialized.  Admittedly, he’s a defensive guy.  We all know that.  The Niners offense was a mess this season.  Singletary juggled quarterbacks in and out of the lineup.  You know the old saying:  When you have two, even three quarterbacks you have none.  That was and has been the case for the Niners for a long time now.  Singletary might be most remembered for his post game tirade on the immaturity of tight end Vernon Davis and his handful of public, sideline shouting matches with his quarterbacks.  In half their games this season, the 49ers scored points or fewer.  The popular name will be the guy who coaches in state, Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh.  But the biggest question mark surrounding the franchise is who plays quarterback?  Troy Smith, Alex Smith and David Carr aren’t the answer and all three might not even be on the roster in 2011.  Singletary got just one full season to right the ship, and of San Francisco’s last three head coaches only Mike Nolan lasted for three full seasons.  The 49ers are starting from scratch at the most important position in the game.  Will the next head coach be given enough time to develop the 49ers’ next quarterback?

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