Black Monday in the NFL has come and gone and four head coaches, among a handful of general managers and support staff, have been relieved of their football duties. The Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, New York Jets and San Francisco 49ers all begin the search for their new head coach.
Of the four Black Monday casualties, none was more anticipated than the Bears second year head coach Marc Trestman, who left the CFL to take the position in Chicago a year after the Bears fired long-time coach Lovie Smith after a 10-6 season. In Trestman’s first year with Chicago, the Bears finished with a record of 8-8 and one last minute touchdown at the hands of the Green Bay Packers from going to the playoffs in Week 17 of the 2013 season.
Despite the record, the Bears finally showed signs of life on offense, which had been a weakness under the defensive-minded Lovie Smith. Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery emerged as one of the best receiving duos in the NFL, while both Jay Cutler and Josh McCown were efficient running Trestman’s offense. The 2014 season was a different story, as Cutler’s play drastically declined after signing a seven year $127 million contract and led the team to a 5-11 record that included complete defensive ineptitude and public locker room dysfunction. The team appeared to have quit on Trestman.
The Bears decided to also fire general manager Phil Emery who joined Chicago in the 2012 season and was responsible for the Trestman hire, Jay Cutler’s contract and an overall lack of talent and depth throughout the Bear’s roster.
Very few were surprised that the Jets fired both head coach Rex Ryan and general manager John Idzik for similar reasons as Chicago. Ryan took over the Jets in 2009 and led the team to two consecutive AFC Championship games, putting together a team that looked capable of competing with AFC East rivals New England for years to come. It all fell apart after the 2010 season as the Jets haven’t reached the playoffs in four years, posting records of 8-8, 6-10, 8-8 and 4-12.
During the course of Ryan’s tenure in New York, GM Mike Tannenbaum was fired, similarly to Emery, for failing to develop a roster rich with talent and was replaced by John Idzik in 2012. In Idzik’s short tenure with the Jets, he also failed to address several key positions for the team. Most notably, the Jets have missed the mark on several high profile quarterbacks such as Mark Sanchez (now with the Eagles), Tim Tebow (no longer in the league), Geno Smith (benched, then reinstated as starter) and free agent signing Mike Vick (took over starting job and was again benched in favor of Smith).
The Falcons parted ways with Mike Smith after seven seasons at the helm in Atlanta. Smith’s firing was also expected after a sharp decline in performance. Atlanta was the 2013 Super Bowl favorite after finishing the 2012 season 13-3 but failed to live up to potential. Instead of producing a contender, Smith and the Falcons finished the 2013 at 4-12 and the 2014 season 6-10.
Atlanta’s roster is packed with talent on offense with Matt Ryan, a consistent and accurate quarterback, a hard to contain receiving duo in Roddy White and Julio Jones, and Stephen Jackson who was brought in through free agency to run the ball. Despite the names, the team wasn’t able to keep up with a complete lack of defensive ability and Smith was often criticized for poor in-game management that directly led to at least three of Atlanta’s losses in the 2014 season alone.
The 49ers didn’t fire head coach Jim Harbaugh, so much as both parties agreed to go separate ways. Harbaugh had clashed with general manager Ted Baalke for the duration of the season, which led to months long speculation that Harbaugh wanted out of San Francisco before the 2014 season even began. There was rumor that the Cleveland Browns were in the mix to trade for the head coach, but talks fell through as the season approached.
In Harbaugh’s four seasons with the 49ers, he took the team to three NFC Championships in 2011, 2012 and 2013, going to the Super Bowl and losing to the Ravens in 2012. The 2014 season would be lost as the team took a major step backward, under-performing on offense and failing to maintain the standard of defense that the 49ers had played in previous years and missing the playoffs all together.
For the last several weeks of the 2014 season, rumors that Harbaugh would take the open head coaching position with his Alma mater, the University of Michigan. The day after Harbaugh was released by the 49ers, the rumors were confirmed and Harbaugh signed with Michigan and became the highest paid head coach in college football history.