Two coaches who seemed doomed at season's end were served early pink slips, getting Black Monday started a little bit early. Kansas City's Todd Haley and Miami's Tony Sparano were fired and now join Jacksonville's Jack Del Rio as the first three coaches fired under the new collective bargaining agreement.
What's beginning to unfold actually isn't a precursor for what's to come -- and there will be several jobs vacated just after New Year's Day -- but more of a delayed reaction to what almost was.
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The economic uncertainty of the looming lockout kept some teams from changing coaches. Owners didn't necessarily want to be on the hook for any time left on the salaries of coaches fired, plus the millions paid to a new staff.
There were six new coaches entering the season, but Leslie Frazier in Minnesota and Jason Garrett in Dallas took over as interim coaches for Brad Childress and Wade Phillips, respectively. Mike Munchak was promoted in Tennessee after Jeff Fisher unexpectedly resigned. So while there were coaching changes, it wasn't as radical as it's typically been in the What-You-Haven't-Done-For-Me-Lately cycle.
With labor stability for the next decade, changes can be afforded, and they will.
Despite the lockout, the Dolphins wanted to make a coaching change last winter. But the team bungled Sparano's exit so badly by publicly courting then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh while Sparano was still employed that it gave Sparano an extension. So what happened Monday -- Sparano's firing came after he did a morning news conference as if he didn't know he was on the "Green Mile" -- was a delayed reaction.
The handling of the attempted and actual dismissals of Sparano will raise red flags to any non-desperate coaching candidates, like Fisher, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick and Bill Cowher. Those guys can call their shots. They won't walk into a situation where success is dicey, which it could be in Miami (4-9), since it won enough games after an 0-7 start to take it out of position to possibly land a high enough draft pick to re-boot the mess the franchise has been in for decades.
Though Miami is a wonderful place to be, teams like St. Louis, Tampa Bay, San Diego, Indianapolis and Philadelphia have pretty good situations at quarterback. Things are murkier in Jacksonville, where the jury remains out on rookie Blaine Gabbert, leaving the Jaguars' appeal/situation in the same ballpark as Miami's.
Quick side note: With two of three Florida coaches already fired, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Raheem Morris, whose team has lost seven consecutive games, can't be feeling comfortable.
The firing of Haley came as no surprise, save for the timing of it. The Chiefs fell backward after winning the AFC West last season. Haley's relationship with general manager Scott Pioli wasn't going to last for the long haul. Injuries to key players at key positions and spotty talent didn't help Haley, and for that, Pioli has to be accountable.
Then again, Pioli's plan and personnel could fit the ideology of his next hire, which likely will be someone he's familiar with, like Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz and St. Louis Rams offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. McDaniels won't be a popular sell in Kansas City since he flopped with AFC West rival Denver, and he hasn't done much with injury-plagued quarterback Sam Bradford across the state in St. Louis. But McDaniels still is viewed in many circles as a capable head coach and certainly is on the short list of candidates.
This is just an appetizer of what's to come. There is labor and relative economic stability with the league as a whole, which sets the table for instability in coaching circles.