What coaching changes will teams make for 2019?

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How the coaching carousel looks on the dawn of Black Monday:

Cleveland: It’s a more wide-open field now. With the Browns showing so much promise in a 5-3 second half, this is a far more attractive job than it was two months ago. With the success of Freddie Kitchens as offensive coordinator—Baker Mayfield loves him and responds to him—my sense is the Browns feel they don’t have to get the next great offensive brain to work with Mayfield and develop an offensive identity. They might have that guy now. So that could put a defensive presence like Vic Fangio of Chicago in play, or even a special-teams guru like Dave Toub—well known to GM John Dorsey from their days in Kansas City. Gregg Williams will be interviewed for the gig, but it doesn’t look like he’ll be a serious candidate. I still think McDaniels and Lincoln Riley will be vetted by the Browns too.         

Green Bay: The Pack is rounding up some different suspects. Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is an interesting name; he’s done a lot with less at the strong academic school, which could be appealing to GM Brian Gutekunst because so many marginal players need to play roles for NFL teams to win; roster churn in the NFL is a way of life. I’ll be surprised if the Packers don’t interview Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who I believe will be interested only in the best jobs on the market because he knows he has a bright future in New England. If I were McDaniels, those jobs this year would be Cleveland and Green Bay.  

Arizona: No Mike McCarthy? Hmmmm. I said last week McCarthy could be interested in Arizona (for football and family reasons); CBS’ Jason LaCanfora said Sunday that McCarthy would not be a candidate there. This is an interesting job—assuming, today, that Steve Wilks is let go after one season—because Cards have had a talent drain and have not had impact drafts the last couple of years. Even though they have the first pick in the draft, GM Steve Keim could be on thin ice with one more bad season. So a head-coach candidate in Arizona could wonder: Who will my boss be in a year?

Denver: Vance Joseph could never stop the bleeding. Broncos had an eight-game losing streak last year, and Joseph vowed to be better at turning around the bad runs. This year, Denver had a four-game losing streak early, and finished the year losing four in a row. You just never got the feeling he could turn it around. That plus game-management issues (such as kicking the field goal, down four with 4:39 left at the Cleveland 6-yard line, and losing by one to the Browns Dec. 15) doomed Joseph, who will leave with an 11-21 record. The Broncos thought briefly of dumping the offensive coaching staff—John Elway wants to emulate some of the more imaginative offensive schemes in football—and pairing Joseph with a bright young offensive coordinator; I’m told Elway would not have brought Gary Kubiak back to run the offense. But Denver is more likely to blow it up today and start a wide search. Elway is most likely to try to find the best available offensive mind and build a staff around him.

New York Jets: Discipline, or a lack of it, killed Todd Bowles. Three straight seasons of 5-11, 5-11 and 4-12 are the obvious reasons Bowles will get fired. But this one play from Sunday’s desultory end of his reign crystallized how Bowles couldn’t get through to some undisciplined guys. Midway through the second quarter, defensive lineman Henry Anderson of the Jets had the harebrained penalty of the day, shoving Tom Brady after he threw the ball away on third down, giving the Patriots, already up 14-3, a fresh set of downs and, as it turned out, an easy third touchdown of the day. “There’s a reason why the Jets are 4-11,” Ian Eagle said on CBS. Yes there is. Bowles has railed against the lack of discipline, and now someone new will see if they can get through to players committing stupid fouls. I’m told it’s likely GM Mike Maccagnan will get one more coach to hire. If I were him, I’d try to convince Mike McCarthy to be interested. Not sure McCarthy would come—he is widely reported to be considering taking 2019 off—but control over the roster and the specter of coaching Sam Darnold should tempt him.

Atlanta: Beware, coordinators. The bloated Falcons coaching staff will likely be overhauled, with head coach Dan Quinn changing lots at the top. Endangered: offensive coordinagtor Steve Sarkisian, defensive coordinator Marquand Manuel and veteran special-teams coordinator Keith Armstrong. Owner Arthur Blank will give GM Thomas Dimitroff and Quinn 2019, and maybe not much longer, to clean up this 7-9 mess.

Baltimore: Strange days in Maryland. As I wrote last week, I’m not sure John Harbaugh will sign an extension; he might, but it’s no sure thing. If he doesn’t sign, and if the Ravens decide not to proceed with a lame-duck head coach, it’ll be interesting to see where Harbaugh would land, because he’d easily be the hottest commodity on the market. First things first, though. The Ravens will be a tough out in the playoffs, and that’s got to be everyone’s first priority now, of course.

Cincinnati: Marvin Lewis out? Does it matter? Jay Glazer had Lewis out on FOX Sunday, and I don’t doubt it. I know Bengals owner Mike Brown, and I know how much he likes regularity, and I also know this would not be a widely sought job. I remember a few years ago discussing the Bengals job with a league executive, who said, “You mean the 33rd franchise?” The Bengals are not progressive, and they are not an attractive franchise, and I can’t imagine a coach who’d have other options wanting to succeed Marvin Lewis.

Tampa Bay: Dirk Koetter couldn’t fix Jameis Winston, and so he’s gone. With GM Jason Licht staying and lording over the coach search, it’s obvious the Bucs are going to give another coach the chance to save Winston’s Tampa career in 2019, year five of Winston’s time with the Bucs. The Buc job is somewhere far south of Green Bay and Cleveland on the coach-desirability meter and north of Cincinnati. It’ll be interesting to see how much interest Licht can drum up among premier candidates.

Jacksonville: Should Doug Marrone be safe? He is, according to owner Shad Khan, despite another afternoon of player misbehavior that has been shockingly consistent for the most disappointing team in the NFL. “Stability should not be confused with satisfaction,” Khan said after the game in a statement confirming coach Doug Marrone, EVP Tom Coughlin and GM Dave Caldwell would return in 2019. Eleven months after the Jaguars blew a 20-10 lead with 10 minutes left in the AFC title game at New England, they finished 2018 as the NFL’s most disappointing team with a woeful 20-3 loss at Houston. I’m a bit surprised, though clearly Khan is doing this only because he knows disruption to the status quo could do more harm than good. But the leadership trio was also forewarned about 2019 thusly by Khan: “I will not overlook how poorly we accounted for ourselves following a 3-1 start. There were far too many long Sundays over the last three quarters of the season, with today’s loss in Houston being the final example, and that cannot repeat itself in 2019. That’s my message to our football people and players.” Right about the time that statement circulated, Coughlin ripped into de-activated backs Leonard Fournette and T.J. Yeldon for sideline behavior he deemed “disrespectful and selfish.”

Miami: Should Adam Gase be safe? I was surprised, too, to hear the respected Jay Glazer say this about the Miami coach on the FOX pregame show: “If he’s out, he will skyrocket to the top of a lot of lists.” Gase is 23-26 in his three seasons in Miami, with no playoff wins; he was hired to develop Ryan Tannehill into a prime NFL quarterback, and though Tannehill has missed 23 games due to injury during Gase’s tenure, the quarterback play between Tannehill and Jay Cutler has been mediocre at best. In his last 21 starts, Tannehill has not thrown for 300 yards in a game. Not once. The Miami Herald reported that EVP of football operations Mike Tannenbaum is likely to be fired, so that lends credence to Tannenbaum being the sacrificial guy, with Gase and GM Chris Grier staying. But we’ll see. Owner Stephen Ross isn’t happy with consistent irrelevance, so I bet he’ll knock on Jim and John Harbaugh’s doors before Gase can feel secure for 2019.

Carolina: Ron Rivera is safe. Good move, David Tepper.

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Why the New York Jets deserve the controversy, dysfunction surrounding them

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1. I think the Jets architecture job is not the one to take if you want to run a franchise, Peyton Manning. To be charitable, the Jets are not close to contention.

2. I think I won’t be the first to use this rationale for my opinion about what happened when Mike Maccagnan got dismissed the other day as Jets GM, but it’s the first thing that occurred to me: The Jets truly deserve this controversy. A few points:

• I have no sympathy for Maccagnan, who lorded over a 14-35 team since New Year’s Day 2016. Only Cleveland and San Francisco have won fewer games since then. But by my math, Maccagnan just spent $235 million in free agency this offseason, a gargantuan sum. He just had the keys to the draft and, apparently with minimal input from the head coach, made Quinnen Williams the third overall pick in the draft. He was fired 19 days after the draft. What owner in his right mind allows a GM he figures he may well fire run a crucial off-season? Christopher Johnson, that’s who.

• Adam Gase is going to have a major say on who becomes the next GM of the Jets. Gase was 23-26 in his three-year stint coaching the Dolphins, and, though the quarterback position was plagued by injuries while he was there, he’s supposed to be a quarterback guru, and the Dolphins, again, are starting from scratch at the position after firing Gase four-and-a-half months ago. I like Gase well enough. But what exactly has he done, first, to earn a head-coaching job after his three years in Miami … and, second, to play a significant role in picking the architect of the new Jets?

• I assume the reports of Gase not wanting Le’Veon Bell for $13.5 million a year are true. (I don’t blame him.) But the leaks in that building are never-ending, and in this case, the leaks could drive a wedge between a guy who doesn’t seem very happy to be a Jet in the first place, Bell, and the guy who’s going to be calling his number this fall. Gase better figure a way to tamp that down. I don’t know if he can.

• How do you have faith in the Jets to get this GM thing right now? And what smart GM-candidate type (Joe Douglas or Louis Riddick or Daniel Jeremiah) would want to take his one shot—because most GMs get one shot at running a team—working for Christopher Johnson?

• If I were Mike Greenberg, I’d be burying my head in my hands this morning, wondering why oh why did I get stuck loving this franchise? How can season-ticket-holders send in their money this year thinking they’re going to see the turnaround season of a team that’s won 5, 5, and 4 games the past three years?

• Sam Darnold doesn’t coach.

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The lessons Chris Long learned from playing with Patriots, Eagles, Rams

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Chris Long, who retired over the weekend after an 11-year NFL career that ended with two Super Bowl rings (in 2016 with New England and 2017 with Philadelphia), and an NFL Man of the Year Award (in 2018) for his work in U.S. social justice and building fresh-water wells for thousands in Africa, on the lessons he takes with him into retirement:

“I learned to never make a decision based on just one thing. The decision to retire was complicated. It was based on health, which is still very good, and family, we have two small children, and football fit, which includes a chance to win and my role and geography. Philadelphia is where I wanted to play a couple more years. I love Philadelphia. But as a player I learned the most important thing to me is Sunday, and having a chance to be a big part of it. It seemed like player-coach was kind of the role that was going to be carved out for me—maybe playing 10, 12, 15 plays a game. I’m a rhythm player. I need to set people up, I need to be in the flow of the game. If I sit on the bench for three series, I can’t get rhythm, and I’ll get cold and maybe I’ll hurt myself. Some people think that’s great—play less and you won’t get hurt. Man, I want to play ball. In Philadelphia, it didn’t seem there was much of a chance to compete there. But they were honest with me the whole time. I appreciate the honesty. I’ll always love Philadelphia and the Eagles, but I didn’t want Week 4, 5, to come around and people think, Whoa, where’s Chris? Did Chris retire? I’d rather do it this way than just fade out. And I didn’t want to start over again across the country somewhere.

“I learned so much in my career. Getting drafted second overall, and going to St. Louis, and the fact that we were losing, I just thought, I am not gonna fold. I am not a loser. I am gonna be a bright spot. I am gonna give these fans, who I deeply appreciate for their dedication, the respect they deserve . Anyone playing in that era in St. Louis knows how bad it was at times. It was carnage, in so many ways. It was a test of my will. Do I get irritated by the no-Pro Bowl thing, never making a Pro Bowl? Yeah, I do. Fifty sacks in the first six years, with no one watching, on a bad team. I just felt the narrative should be, That kid panned out. But that’s okay—it was a labor of love. I have zero regrets.

“In New England, I learned so much about football. I always thought I was a smart player, even though I never thought about anything but the six inches in front of my face. In New England, I was forced to learn so many schematic concepts. In my career playing football, nobody asked me to do as much as Bill Belichick did. I might be 3-technique, or a linebacker, or a linebacker dropping into coverage more than ever, or playing inside more than ever. I’ll always remember how much I learned watching Bill in practice. He can coach any position as good as any position coach in league. He can walk around the field and stop drills and coach each position—at the highest level. And the quality of the dudes. Solid men. The right kind of people.

“Tom Brady blew me away. Who’s the most famous athlete of our generation: Tom Brady? LeBron? Messi? Ronaldo? Serena Williams? Maybe I haven’t been around enough to know how the biggest stars really act. But Brady is a normal guy. When I got there, here comes Tom. ‘Hey Chris, I’m Tom, nice to meet you.’ Well, yeah, I know you’re Tom. A lot of people want to hate him for all the success, and I understand how you can dislike the Patriots, but I cannot understand how you can dislike Tom.

“That Super Bowl against Atlanta … when we were way behind, I’m thinking, ‘I waited my whole life to be here, and this is a nightmare. This is the worst nightmare I have ever had.’ If we lost that night, I very possibly would have retired a bitter man. But winning it breathed life into me.

“Going to Philadelphia, I felt I found a home. Best sports city in America. But how different my situation was. I went from team captain with the Rams two years before that to winning the Super Bowl in New England to starting on the bottom in Philly. I was an average Joe. I was challenged. I learned how much being a team, being together, really means. We were a case study for whatever you believe. Either we were an anomaly or we proved you could do good things and win in pro sports. We happened to have guys who were good players who cared. I remember winning a Monday Night Football game, falling asleep at 4 or 5 o’clock, and waking up for a train to Harrisburg to work with state legislators on policies. It just showed how much we could make changes in things that matter, and play really good football too. You can be a football player and a citizen. It’s gratifying when young players come up and say they’re inspired to do more because of things that Malcolm Jenkins or Torrey Smith have done, or me.

“I’ve always tried to be me first and a football player second. When I came into football, I didn’t want to be this piece of wreckage who couldn’t move or have a normal life. But I learned you can’t predict the future. I thought I’d play eight years. I thought I’d retire at 30. But I played 11, and now I’m 34.

“NFL Man of the Year … I never felt deserving of it. I am not the best person in the NFL. I never want to get up there promoting myself as some infallible person. I was very honored. But I was also conflicted that people saw me as this community service guy, not a player. Nobody saw me as the player I was in my prime. I don’t want to be known as Community Service Guy; I want to be known as a guy who busted his ass for 11 years at his craft. But I do appreciate the fact that people saw that I played for free for one year, that I was part of a group that built 61 wells for people to get fresh water in Africa, and that we’ve got 220,000 people drinking from our wells. I will not downplay that stuff. But I am not some angel, believe me. I don’t have a brand. My brand is me.

“Retirement is interesting. It is something I feared for a long time. It is an existential crisis. I’ve been doing something since high school, working toward a goal. I fantasize about crossing the threshold, but at the same time it’s something you can be deathly afraid of.

“I am excited about the next phase of life. I’m launching a digital media company. I will have my own pod. I’m just excited about being able to control the narrative. I like to create. Maybe I’ll work at a network. Whatever I do, I’ll be me.”

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