NFL’s coaching carousel gains speed

  • FILE - In a March 29, 2017 file photo, Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell answers a question from a reporter during the NFC Head Coaches Breakfast at the NFL football annual meetings, in Phoenix. Detroit on Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, fired Caldwell, dismissing a coach who received a multiyear contract extension before the season. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File) Ross D. Franklin

  • Chicago Bears head coach John Fox speaks during a news conference after an NFL football game against the Minnesota Vikings, Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Bruce Kluckhohn) Bruce Kluckhohn

  • Denver Broncos coach Vance Joseph walks off the field after the team's 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs during an NFL football game Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney ) Joe Mahoney

  • Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians is hugged by quarterback Drew Stanton (5) after Seattle Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh missed a field goal at the end of Sunday’s game in Seattle. AP

Washington Post
Monday, January 01, 2018

John Fox and Jim Caldwell were the latest head coaches to go as the firing-and-hiring season for NFL head coaches began in earnest with the close of the regular season. And, by mid-day Monday, Bruce Arians was stepping down as coach of the Cardinals.

The Chicago Bears parted with Fox after a 5-11 season and the Lions dropped Caldwell after a 9-7 finish, marking two changes in the NFC North’s four teams. Those firings came early on New Year’s Day and followed the dismissals of Jack Del Rio by the Raiders and Chuck Pagano by the Colts on New Year’s Eve.

Arians, 65, told members of the Cardinals organization that he would retire as coach, according to a person familiar with the situation, after his fifth season. He previously was the interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts while Chuck Pagano battled cancer. The Cardinals went 8-8 this season and were 15-16-1 over the past two seasons after three straight seasons with 10 or more victories.

One NFL coach – Ben McAdoo of the New York Giants – had already been fired before Sunday’s regular season finales and another, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, remains in limbo despite meeting with owner Mike Brown on Monday.

Here is a look at all the moves, the likely moves and the top candidates to fill the vacancies.


John Fox: The record will show that Fox leaves with only 14 victories in 48 games over three seasons. Although Fox had success elsewhere, he could never duplicate that in with the Bears, who now may seek an offensive-minded coach rather than someone focused on defense, as Fox, who has one year left on a four-year contract, was. With Mitchell Trubisky at quarterback, a change in philosophy most likely is in order.

“Thank you to all the players, coaches, the city of Chicago and Bears fans everywhere,” Fox said in a midmorning statement. “Your passion for the game and this team is unmatched in the NFL. Today is the tough part of our results-oriented business, but I wish the Bears organization the best for years to come.”

Jim Caldwell: A 9-7 finish nonetheless brought the end of Caldwell’s time in Detroit. Like Fox, Caldwell could never duplicate his previous success in four seasons with the Lions, despite the presence of a quarterback like Matthew Stafford. Caldwell, unlike Fox, has had winning seasons in three of his four years with the teams, although the Lions (36-28 under Caldwell) have missed the playoffs twice in the past three years.

“Have you ever heard me defend or anything,” Caldwell said Sunday after the Lions swept the Packers for the first time since 1991. “Not to anybody. It’s not just to you. It’s not to anybody. I don’t make any excuses. It’s just not the way I live my life. We go out and we do what we do and let everybody make an assessment from there.

“What’s the real assessment is wins, wins and losses. That’s the key.”

Jim Caldwell leaves Detroit with the highest win percentage by a Lions head coach in the Super Bowl era.

The Lions reportedly have requested permission to speak to Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks, Vikings offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur and Texans defensive coordinator Mike Vrabel. They’re also expected to interview Caldwell’s defensive coordinator, Teryl Austin.

Jack Del Rio: Shortly after the Raiders’ 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, Del Rio stepped to the podium and did something coaches rarely do: he announced that Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis had told him he was fired. Del Rio, who received a four-year contract extension earlier this year, finished with an 25-23 record as head coach in Oakland – with the lion’s share of the losses (10) coming in 2017.

“He told me he loved me and appreciated all I did to get this program going in the right direction, but that he felt the need to change,” an emotional Del Rio said (via ESPN). “I told him how much I appreciated the opportunity he gave me; very grateful, my childhood team.

“But it’s a results business. I understand that.”

The Raiders are expected to quickly move to sign Jon Gruden, who won Super Bowl XXXVII while head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Gruden has not coached in the NFL since 2009 when he was fired by the Bucs and has been an analyst with ESPN since then.

Chuck Pagano: The first firing of a coach this offseason was unsurprising. The announcement officially came soon after Indianapolis’s 22-13 win Sunday over the Texans, which gave the team a 4-12 record.

In six seasons with the Colts, Pagano compiled a 53-43 record, plus a 3-3 mark in the playoffs, including a loss to the Patriots in the 2015 AFC championship game whence Deflategate emerged. After starting with three straight 11-5 campaigns though, Pagano’s Colts went 8-8 in both 2015 and 2016, while Andrew Luck was hampered with injuries, including a shoulder problem that required surgery and kept him out of this season altogether.

Expected to be gone

Marvin Lewis, Bengals: There has been speculation that Lewis and the Bengals will agree to part ways. If that happens, Lewis could end up in a front office somewhere, maybe even in Cincinnati. The Bengals could try to land one of Lewis’s former offensive coordinators who left to become head coaches, the Redskins’ Jay Gruden or the Browns’ Hue Jackson, or they could promote defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. Lewis and owner Mike Brown met Monday morning, but there was no word on whether there had been a resolution of Lewis’s status.

Could go either way

Bill O’Brien, Texans: O’Brien, who had three straight 9-7 seasons before this season’s unraveling with injuries to J.J. Watt, Whitney Mercilus and Deshaun Watson, reportedly will be retained. But don’t forget that O’Brien chose Tom Savage, not Watson, to be the Texans’ season-opening starter at quarterback.

Hue Jackson, Browns: Owner Jimmy Haslam has said that Jackson will be retained for next season. But the Browns are 1-31 since the start of last season. What if John Dorsey, the new GM hired by Haslam, lobbies for a new coach? The possibility that Cincinnati could be a landing spot for Jackson further complicates any internal politics that might be at work in Cleveland.

Jason Garrett, Cowboys: Owner Jerry Jones said this week that he’s not considering a coaching change. A season that began with seemingly legitimate Super Bowl aspirations ends with the Cowboys missing the playoffs. Jones seems to be directing most of his ire at the league and at NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for the six-game suspension of Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott under the personal conduct policy. But does Garrett deserve some of that blame?

A vote of confidence

Vance Joseph, Broncos: It won’t be one-and-done for Joseph, even though it wasn’t a promising sign when front office executive John Elway called the team soft. It has been a swift descent for the Broncos in the two seasons since they won the Super Bowl in Peyton Manning’s farewell, and Elway clearly deserves his share of the blame for failing to put a quarterback in place to succeed Manning. But Elway wasn’t going to fire himself and, on Monday morning, he said he isn’t going to fire Joseph, either.

“Vance and I had a great talk this morning about our plan to attack this offseason and get better as a team,” Elway tweeted. “We believe in Vance as our head coach. Together, we’ll put in the work to improve in all areas and win in 2018.”

Washington Post writers Mark Maske, Cindy Boren, Des Bieler and Bryan Flaherty all contributed to this report.