FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — Titans owner Bud Adams laid down the challenge to his entire organization after Tennessee’s brutal loss to Chicago, creating the latest NFL hot seat for coaches and general managers.
Things aren’t any more comfortable in Kansas City, San Diego, Cleveland, Buffalo, Jacksonville and Dallas halfway through the season. And, of course, in Philadelphia, where there always seems to be a campaign to get rid of Andy Reid, and the shouting has become louder this year.
Although Adams may have gone overboard by saying in his 50 years as a team owner he couldn’t remember a worse home loss, his message rang loud and clear from the Grand Ole Opry to the Smoky Mountains: everyone is on the clock.
Nowhere is the clock ticking louder than in the AFC West, particularly in KC. Romeo Crennel inherited the head coaching spot on an interim basis in 2011 when Todd Haley was fired after 13 games and the Chiefs won two of their last three, handing Green Bay it’s only loss of the season, falling in overtime to Oakland, then beating playoff-bound Denver on the road.
General manager Scott Pioli, reasoning the team was ravaged by injuries to key starters throughout the season, gave Crennel the full-time job. Now, with most of those important players back, the Chiefs are 1-7, ranking at the bottom of the AP Pro32 for good reason. They are last in the league in turnover margin at a ludicrous minus-20, with 29 giveaways, including 15 lost fumbles.
And get this: Kansas City has not led in regulation all season. Not for one tick of the clock.
Crennel, who fired himself as defensive coordinator Monday, has little chance of keeping his coaching position. The same, perhaps, for GM Pioli.
“Well, hey, I grade my performance by the record, and the record’s not very good, so you’d have to say I haven’t been very good,” Crennel said.
San Diego is 4-4 and only one game behind Denver in the division. But does anyone give the Chargers a reasonable shot at beating out the Broncos?
More likely is yet another mediocre record, just bad enough to miss the postseason. With that could be the end for Norv Turner as coach, despite a 56-38 record with the Chargers, and A.J. Smith as GM.
One major problem with the Chargers is their talent base has been eroded in recent years. Once considered on a level with New England, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Indianapolis, the Chargers no longer keep company with the most skilled rosters of the AFC.
Offseason moves seemed to upgrade the talent level in Buffalo, but that hasn’t materialized. The defense, even with Mario Williams, is a sieve under new coordinator Dave Wannstedt — only the Titans’ historically bad numbers are worse, and they’ve played one more game. The offense is sporadic despite a solid running game. That falls on coach Chan Gailey, considered an offensive wizard.
GM Buddy Nix, who gave Gailey a vote of confidence last week, signed Williams to the richest contract in NFL history for a defensive player. Few of his other moves have panned out, either, and the Bills have that embarrassing string of non-playoff years, 12 and counting, longest in the league.
“I hope I can put that to rest,” Nix said of supporting his coach. “It’s the age-old thing, and they’ve done it around here for years. They start over about every three years. What that does is make sure that you don’t make it.”
Nix might not be around to protect Gailey or Wannstedt if the losing continues.
Some progress has occurred in Cleveland, but the Browns have a new owner, new president and, in 2013 likely a new coach. It might be unfair to Pat Shurmur, who in his third season in charge has a roster filled with youngsters, some of them very promising: Trent Richardson, Joe Haden, Brandon Weeden, Josh Gordon. Barring a second-half surge into contention — two matchups with Pittsburgh and one with Denver say it won’t happen — a whole new management team will be hired.
The same thing could happen in Tennessee and Jacksonville, even though Mike Munchak is in only his second season as coach of the Titans, and they went 9-7 in 2011. Mike Mularkey is in his first season at the Jaguars’ helm, but they could be headed for their worst record since entering the NFL in 1995.
Adams has quickly forgotten the work Munchak, one of the franchise’s greatest players and a Hall of Famer, did last year. He’s the same owner who pretty much forced out Jeff Fisher, the most successful coach the team has had since the AFL days.
Mularkey benefited from new ownership in Jacksonville when Shad Khan hired him. Now, with a 1-7 mark and an abysmal offense (117 points, by far the league’s lowest) he was supposed to fix, Mularkey could have a very short tenure.
And Khan might sweep GM Gene Smith out the door, too.
Perhaps the diciest situation is in Dallas, where prevailing opinion is the Cowboys have tons of ability on the field, very little of it away from the field. Owner Jerry Jones comes under fire every year for also acting as general manager, whether it concerns his draft picks or his coaching choices.
The draft selections in recent years don’t look so bad: DeMarco Murray, Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Dez Bryant (if he ever matures). The coaching decisions are getting the most attention and pretty much have since Jimmy Johnson feuded with Jones and left — with the exception of Bill Parcells’ four-year reign.
Now, as Dallas does all the little things — and plenty of big ones — to lose close games, there’s extra attention on Jason Garrett’s sideline decisions, especially clock management and play calling. The owner won’t be going anywhere, which leaves Garrett on shaky ground.
Maybe not as shaky as Reid’s status. Of all the management folks mentioned here, no one has a track record close to Reid during his 13-plus years in Philadelphia. But this season’s struggles have a different feel to them, almost as if Reid himself is befuddled by such a talented group being muddled in mediocrity. Maybe, like Fisher two years ago in Nashville, he senses it’s time to move on.
And don’t think some of the clubs looking for head coaches in January won’t pursue him.