Handful of coaching positions come open
NEW YORK — OK, it is done.
Rex Ryan and John Idzik are out with the Jets. The Bears canned Marc Trestman and Phil Emery. Mike Smith was fired in Atlanta.
It wasn't as bloody as some past Black Mondays, but the ax swung swiftly on them. Throw in the two coaching openings in the Bay Area, and there's plenty of searching ahead for team owners in New York, Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and Oakland.
What should they look for and who might fit the bill? Let's look.
NEW YORK JETS: A wise former football writer always stressed that the most important position in pro football is owner. A case in point, he'd say, was this team, which has fallen short in competing with the local rival Giants, whose ownership is considered among the most stable, patient and insightful.
Two years after hiring Idzik, owner Woody Johnson fired him, in great part because the talent level has fallen so precipitously in the GM's short regime. It was Idzik's work in free agency and the draft — of course, Ryan had a hand in those moves, too — that doomed him when the Jets went 4-12 and missed the playoffs for a fourth consecutive year.
New York needs to solve its quarterback woes first, particularly because there is some talent elsewhere on offense. It should seek a head coach or offensive coordinator who has a history of success grooming QBs.
And it should get a GM with experience in the job who can deal with a flighty owner.
ATLANTA FALCONS: Smith's tenure hardly was a flop. His 66 wins in seven seasons are the most for any Falcons coach, including five straight winning seasons; the Falcons never had even two successive winning records before he arrived.
But Arthur Blank, considered one of the better owners in the league, not only saw a 10-22 record in 2013-2014, but the no-show against Carolina on Sunday with the division title on the line.
Living in a weak division gives the Falcons a quicker chance to turn it around, but they need a running game to complement the passing offense, and they need drastic improvement on defense, supposedly Smith's strength.
Blank indicated there could be other changes, and GM Thomas Dimitroff could be in trouble. For now, look for Atlanta to grab someone a bit more fiery who can mend the defense.
CHICAGO BEARS: This one is a total mess, in some ways similar to the Jets' situation. The biggest issue is leadership, and that permeates the entire organization.
Emery committing to quarterback Jay Cutler for seven years and putting the team on the hook for $54 million guaranteed ($36 million remaining) has become an albatross for the organization. The new GM must seek a trading partner — highly unlikely — interested in a volatile player with a huge cap number and a history of underachievement.
Or that general manager, who likely will need to work some salary cap magic, might have to swallow hard and keep Cutler.
So the new coach, same as the old coach, had better be a QB guru, and one who rules with more of an iron fist than did Trestman.
OAKLAND RAIDERS: Dennis Allen was fired early in the season, and Tony Sparano managed to win three games with an undertalented team. So many of the free agency moves by GM Reggie McKenzie backfired; that same wise former football writer said McKenzie's signing built a powerhouse for 2009, not for 2014.
Raiders owner Mark Davis would like to make a big splash, and was enamored of the idea of persuading Jim Harbaugh to cross the Bay. Barring that, and with the coordinator promotion route not working since Jon Gruden left, look for Davis to go after a well-known coach who also could get personnel control.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS: The jewel of the open jobs, although some might wonder why if a coach such as Harbaugh couldn't stick it out there with so much success during his tenure. Given the discord that helped ruin a talented team's season — as did injuries — GM Trent Baalke and CEO Jed York might be in the market for someone less independent.
For continuity, the Niners could opt for promoting popular line coach Jim Tomsula, a loyal soldier.