Could Winning Out Save Coaches On The Hot Seat?
Andy Reid got such a hearty hug on the sideline from Howard Mudd that the 70-year-old assistant with the artificial hip actually lifted the burly head coach off his feet.
Norv Turner received a game ball from the team president.
Reid and Turner were just two of four coaches on the hot seat who celebrated wins on Sunday, joining Ron Rivera and Pat Shurmur.
Reid’s Philadelphia Eagles (4-9) snapped an eight-game losing streak when rookie Nick Foles threw a touchdown pass with no time left to beat Tampa Bay 23-21.
Turner led the San Diego Chargers (5-8) to their first regular-season victory in Pittsburgh in 15 tries. A 34-24 win over Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers kept the Chargers mathematically alive for a wild-card playoff berth.
Rivera watched his Carolina Panthers (4-9) build a 23-0 lead against NFC South champion Atlanta and hold on for a 30-20 upset.
Shurmur is actually getting used to winning in Cleveland. The Browns (5-8) beat Kansas City 30-7 for their third straight victory to also keep slim playoff hopes alive.
But, is it too late for any of the four coaches to save their job?
“Listen, I’m not worried about any of that,” Shurmur said Monday. “I’m not worried about saving, I’m worried about doing my job and that’s it. I just want to do my job.”
He could’ve been speaking on behalf of the other coaches, too.
“That’s not the thing that’s on my mind,” Turner said about his job status. “We’re trying to get ready for Carolina and trying to build on what we did. That’s where I’m at.”
Reid and Rivera have expressed similar thoughts whenever asked.
Of the four, Reid may have the least security, even though he’s been the most successful among the group and is the longest-tenured coach in the NFL at 14 years.
Reid is assured his third losing season and second in a row. The Eagles entered each of the last two seasons as Super Bowl contenders and failed miserably. Team owner Jeffrey Lurie already gave Reid a directive before the season, saying the Eagles had to make “substantial improvement” on their 8-8 finish from last year.
It’s a foregone conclusion in what-have-you-done-for-me-lately Philadelphia that Reid won’t be back. Local comedian Joe Conklin and his daughter, Casey, put together a video parody of Taylor Swift’s song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” mocking Reid. It’s called: “We Are Never Ever Gonna Win With Andy.” The video already has nearly 400,000 views on YouTube.
Fans and media have speculated about Reid’s potential replacement and the nature of his departure for months. The only question here is whether Reid steps down or is fired.
But Lurie and Reid are closer than a typical owner-coach relationship. Reid also is due to make about $6 million in 2013. So, it’s not entirely unreasonable to think Lurie could let him finish his contract, especially if the Eagles win the final three games.
Lurie could cite several reasons, including turmoil and injuries. Reid fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo in October and defensive-line coach Jim Washburn last week. Michael Vick, LeSean McCoy and DeSean Jackson — the team’s top three offensive players — have missed a total of eight games. The offensive line was decimated by injuries.
There’s also the rookie quarterback factor. Foles has shown signs of being a long-term answer. Reid was hired by the Eagles largely due to the role he played in developing Brett Favre when he was an assistant in Green Bay. Donovan McNabb had an outstanding career under Reid in Philadelphia. Perhaps Lurie would want to keep Foles in proven hands.
All that said, the city might riot if Lurie doesn’t part ways with Reid.
There wouldn’t be upheaval in San Diego if Turner stays. But that’s unlikely. The Chargers are headed toward a third straight year out of the playoffs, and are one loss away from their first losing season since 2003.
Chargers president Dean Spanos is expected to fire Turner and general manager A.J. Smith shortly after this dismal season ends. Reid, by the way, has been mentioned as a potential successor.
In Carolina, Rivera is coaching like a guy who expects to return. He’s playing younger guys and preparing them for the future whether he’s part of it or not.
The Panthers fired GM Marty Hurney after a 1-5 start. At that time, Rivera said he was told by owner Jerry Richardson the team needs to be “trending upward” the rest of the season. The Panthers are 3-4 since, including the impressive win over the Falcons.
Richardson hasn’t talked about his plans. He does have to hire a new GM, who likely would want to bring in his own coach.
“The disappointing thing is that’s what we can be,” Rivera said after the win over the Falcons. “We know that. Based on what we did, how we did it and who we did it with, that’s the disappointing thing. … We’ve found balance, we have. Unfortunately, we didn’t do it sooner.”
Shurmur could make the best argument to keep his job. The Browns are 5-3 after an 0-5 start and they have a roster filled with young players. Cleveland’s rookies have combined to make 72 starts — a league high.
“That’s good for the future because we’re finally starting to find how to win football games with these young players,” Shurmur said.
Whether that future includes Shurmur remains to be seen.
New owner Jimmy Haslam and new CEO Joe Banner may want to hand-pick their own coach to run the franchise. But if the Browns win out and finish the season on a six-game winning streak, firing Shurmur would be hard to justify.
Other coaches who could be looking for employment include Tennessee’s Mike Munchak. The Titans (4-9) have lost five of their last six, and owner Bud Adams put the entire franchise on notice following a 51-20 loss to Chicago on Nov. 4.
Munchak, who has a year left on his contract, fired offensive coordinator Chris Palmer two weeks ago and may have to make other staff changes to keep his own job when this season ends.
In Buffalo, Chan Gailey appears safe despite the Bills (5-8) being headed toward their 13th straight season out of the playoffs. Gailey is just 15-30 with the Bills, but general manager Buddy Nix has insisted he has no intention of firing him.
Reid, Turner, Rivera, Shurmur and Munchak haven’t received similar votes of confidence.
AP Sports Writers Tom Withers, Steve Reed, Teresa Walker, John Wawrow and Bernie Wilson contributed to this report.
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RobMaaddi
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.