There is never a good time to fire an NFL head coach, but that very topic is under considerable consideration in owner's boxes and luxury suites throughout the league with Christmas almost here. There are a multitude of owners who already know they will have a new head coach in 2019, and a number more who continue to mull the fate of the men currently in that position.
By Monday morning, there could be more teams officially on the look for their next sideline boss. Conversations with executives, coaches and agents around the league this week revealed a strong sense that the Packers and Browns would not be alone, for long, as NFL teams with interim head coaches in place.
The Cardinals, Broncos, Jets and Bucs have known, internally, for a while now that change is inevitable for 2019. The Jaguars will be making changes as well, it's just a matter of how many. The Bengals, eventually, will have a head coach other than Marvin Lewis, and the Panthers and Dolphins owners have been chatting with confidants for a while now about making potential moves there as well. The Ravens say they want John Harbaugh back for 2019, the final year of his deal, but have yet to actually sort through the litany of factors that must be sorted through before either side truly commits to a long-term extension.
In the end, I would anticipate at least seven head coaching changes and it's not out of the question that the league flirts with double-digits in terms of teams looking for new coaches. With so many teams weighing changes, and with so few truly can't-miss or hot coaching candidates out there, the competition for the best and brightest will be steep, and at this point it will probably behoove an owner or two to actually turn the page on 2019 and commit themselves to finding a new leader for 2019 and beyond.
So I would expect at least a few more Sunday night/Monday morning firings, frankly. Holiday season or not.
Browns should give Williams extension
The Browns tempting fate and entering into these tricky coaching waters makes no sense at all. Give Gregg Williams a three-year extension as a head coach, go ahead and do it this week, before you face the Ravens in the season finale, and empower your coaches and players. This team has a chance to knock Baltimore from the playoffs next week, potentially, and finish 6-1 in their last seven and 4-1-1 in the division. This is a team that did not win a game last season. You don't mess around with this and ignore mojo like this. You finally have a winning product for your fans, Jimmy Haslam finally has a chance not to be a local pariah and there is no reason to risk losing Freddie Kitchens as the offensive coordinator and Williams as the boss of this defense that is running through walls for him. If you aren't willing to reward this effort – with this roster firmly in support of Williams staying on – then when is the culture in Cleveland really going to change? Those players have been making a statement week after week, and their beatdown of the Bengals was another loud proclamation that should no go unheard.
Pats look like they're running out of steam
Everything is a struggle for the Patriots these days. Nothing comes easy, they can't string possessions together as they did in the beginning of the season and they really look like an older group running out of steam. The Bills gave them everything they could handle and this January in Foxboro could be quite different than any around there for a long, long time. They just don't look to have that assassin mentality anymore. Hard to predict a long postseason run.
More new blood in playoffs
In every season since the league instituted the 12-team playoff format in 1990, at least four teams have qualified for the playoffs that did not reach the playoffs the year before. So far, the Bears, Chargers and Cowboys have accomplished the feat and the Ravens, Colts, Texans and Seahawks are all on the cusp as well. With Chicago clinching the NFC North, in 15 of the past 16 seasons at least one team has finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place.
More notes from Week 16
- More should be made of just how far the Lions have regressed in 2018 from where they were a year ago. Rookie head coach Matt Patricia doesn't appear to be in imminent danger of being let go, though one could make the case for it, but that is one franchise that had better make significant strides in 2019 … Sam Darnold is ending 2018 on a high note. He and Robby Anderson have some real chemistry going now, he is throwing guys open and chucking the ball into tight spaces and is learning to use his feet more, too. I really like what I have seen from this rookie QB since he returned from his injury absence. The kid QB looks the part … Lamar Jackson on the road this season: 7.15 yards/attempt, 4 TDs/0 INT, 96.9 rating. Joe Flacco on the road this season: 6.4 yards/attempt, 6 TDs/6 INTs, 76.1 rating. Jackson's getting better by the week – with a ways to go, for sure – and has already done something Flacco had not managed to do since winning the Super Bowl in 2012 – go three straight road games without throwing a pick … The Eagles did a great job on third-down defense Sunday, forcing Deshaun Watson into third-and-long repeatedly … The image of an elementary school boy, passed out asleep with his head on his dad's lap sitting in the lower bowl of the Jags/Dolphins game Sunday should be the only "highlight" of that game ever allowed to air anywhere again. The rest of the broadcast should be burned. What an offense to professional football that was …
- Nick Foles is doing crazy stuff again late in the season for the Eagles, but Darren Sproles has been a huge spark for them, too. His TD catch on a fourth-and-two early set the tone for a big win, and he has been a savior to their depleted backfield … No defense has received less help from its offense than the Cardinals this season. They are on the field over 33 minutes a game – Arizona goes three-and-out 33 percent of the time – yet still rank 15th in DVOA per Football Outsiders, and 17th in weighted defense. Head coach Steve Wilks is on his way out after one season, but the work of defensive coordinator Al Holcomb shouldn't be ignored as these coaches seek employment elsewhere … Have the Texans already peaked? It's been an interesting few weeks for them … Andrew Luck has another memorable drive to overcome the Giants late in regulation. He should be in the top five of any MVP discussion.