NFL owners and executives took matters into their own hands quite early this year, with the Titans and Dolphins both firing their head coaches before the midway point of the season. Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie also made a splash by getting rid of head coach Chip Kelly just six days before the team's final game. And while some thought that would make the Monday after the regular season ended a dull day -- you were wrong.
Here's our best recap at what happened, what still might happen, and what you will be talking about this week.
1. What surprised us:
One heck of a meeting in Indianapolis on Monday.
Initially, it seemed a decision would need to be slept on when the Colts announced on Monday afternoon that they'd have no updates on the future of head coach Chuck Pagano.
That changed later that night when Pagano inked a four-year extension. The general manager he was apparently going to battle with, Ryan Grigson, also got the green light to stay. This is incredible considering, just a few months ago, how embroiled we all were in what seemed to be an epic battle between front office and head coach. The truth, according to one person familiar with the dynamic, was that the situation was never really that bad. There were a few fundamental disagreements, but the relationship was never to the point of no return.
Perhaps this is why they could find peace and come together for the sake of a team that really is loaded with talent. Think of it this way: The Colts pinballed to 8-8 with Matt Hasselbeck, Charlie Whitehurst, Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley taking snaps at quarterback. Imagine a team next year that has Andrew Luck for 16 games and a moderately high draft pick to help secure some of their infrastructure positions like guard and defensive tackle.
2. What did not surprise us:
This game is full of lifers -- look at how many Bruce Arians is currently employing on his staff. Coughlin is a lifer and because he got his first NFL head coaching job at the age of 49, he always felt like he deserved more time on the sideline.
On Monday, that time came to an end with a gentle nudge from management. That was not unexpected.
What will interest us moving forward, though, is if a market develops around Coughlin. Teams are less wary of older head coaches than they were five years ago. Arians and Pete Carroll are breaking the mold in a significant way. Coughlin also comes with a well-known brand of football and a cadre of fiercely loyal assistants who would probably follow him anywhere.
3. What nobody is talking about:
We're naturally trained to be skeptical when it comes to a Cleveland Browns coaching search, snarky even. But the team has placed themselves in a bizarre situation that could involve a coach coming before a personnel director and a personnel director who is not overly qualified. Because owner Jimmy Haslam gave Sashi Brown control over the team's 53-man roster, general managers can prevent their scouts or assistants from interviewing. One rival executive told Around The NFL on Monday that they expected to hear from the Browns regarding a potential candidate, and planned on turning them down because of the loophole.
So let's take this a step further: Do you want to be a first-time head coach with a wildly inexperienced general manager and a head of football operations who is still relatively new to the football business, all the while navigating a roster that includes a quarterback the team was having trouble locating during the week? Do you want to be a retread head coach trying to save your career in this situation?
There is a chance that we are overreacting. Brown is new to football but he is an incredibly brilliant mind. People just don't grunt their way through Harvard Law School. Until the scope of this plan is revealed, though, it will continue to puzzle those closely following the search.
4. What we'll be talking about all week:
Sean Payton, and that's probably by design. The Saints head coach is a veteran of many hiring cycles and he's at an interesting point in his career. At the moment, he is an "A" candidate, arguably the best Day 1 head coach a team can get right now and, as Rapoport noted, he can be had for a second-round pick. The Saints trading Payton would represent the best of all worlds. They would get compensation for a coach leaving, they could inject new life into their franchise for the first time in a decade and Payton, who has been in the same place for a decade, will get the chance to spread his wings and try his offense with a new quarterback. He can also do so before sinking even further with the Saints, which might ultimately damage his desirability on the open market.
The reason why we'll be talking about this all week is that it's a domino effect situation. If Payton leaves, another intriguing job with a franchise quarterback opens up. The Saints are in some salary-cap trouble, and Brees is coming off an injury, but is this job any less desirable than the 49ers job?
Another reason we'll be talking about it? Payton could be up for some big jobs -- like the biggest. The Giants are considered at the top of the list and Payton has ties to franchise icon Bill Parcells. He was the team's offensive coordinator more than a decade ago and he would likely jump at the chance to work with Eli Manning.