Mike McCoy’s tenure as head coach of the San Diego Chargers didn’t make it very far into 2017. Chip Kelly is done in San Francisco, too, making it six NFL teams now in search of a new head coach.
“Chip has my gratitude for the job he did this year, navigating the team through some adverse circumstances,” 49ers owner Jed York said in a statement. “I look forward to watching his career continue to unfold, and wish him and Jill great success in life.”
The 49ers are going to be owing $50 million to coaches and, while the 49ers were playing, General Manager Trent Baalke confirmed that he too is goner, saying he’d been fired Sunday in a radio interview.
For McCoy, he was informed shortly after his squad lost its season finale Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs, 37-27. McCoy went 5-11 in his fourth season in San Diego, after posting a 4-12 record last year. He went 9-7 in each of his first two seasons with the Chargers, splitting two games in the 2013 playoffs.
Among the losses this season was the first and only victory for the Cleveland Browns, a Week 16 embarrassment that may have sealed McCoy’s fate. His team played through a number of injuries to significant players this year, but McCoy had the services of veteran quarterback Philip Rivers for every game he coached in San Diego.
“Mike McCoy is a man of high character, and we thank him for his dedication to the Chargers,” the Chargers president, John Spanos, said in a statement. “The decision to dismiss Mike was made in the best interests of our franchise. Our team’s disappointing performance has not matched this team’s potential and has fallen short of the demanding standards that we seek to impose throughout our organization. Our comprehensive search for a new head coach begins immediately.”
In addition to the injuries, which felled the likes of Danny Woodhead, Keenan Allen, Melvin Gordon, Jason Verrett and Brandon Flowers, McCoy had to deal with the difficult dynamic of the Chargers’ likely move to Los Angeles after this season. However, this year’s team developed a habit of losing close games in the fourth quarter, and as San Diego pointed out in its news release, he went 7-17 against AFC West rivals in his four seasons.
“I want to thank Mike for his tireless work and commitment to this organization,” general manager Tom Telesco said. “He instilled a culture of work ethic and togetherness that we can build on for years to come.”
Last week, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick lamented how NFL coaching changes come “earlier and earlier,” but this probably wasn’t what he meant.
Belichick was talking about the quick hook, the fact that coaches are operating under the “win now” mantra. This season, though, that has morphed into three coaching vacancies heading into the regular-season finales Sunday, with the Chargers adding another before the day was over. So much for “Black Monday,” with the Los Angeles Rams, Jacksonville Jaguars and Buffalo Bills already having fired their head coaches.
Here’s a quick rundown of what’s next for some other coaches:
WHO ISN’T SAFE
Chuck Pagano, Indianapolis Colts. This rests in the hands of Colts owner Jim Irsay, the most mercurial and unpredictable of NFL owners. There was speculation a year ago that Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson were on the hot seat — and Grigson remained and Pagano got a four-year contract extension.
The Colts are 7-8 and, once again, it is glaringly apparent that quarterback Andrew Luck is not surrounded by the kind of players (read: offensive lineman) who can help him to prosper. That falls on Grigson. Here’s what we know now: Irsay, whom Tony Kornheiser calls the mad tweeter, is unhappy.
Those around Colts owner Jim Irsay say he has been “very unhappy” with team’s performance for weeks now; coaches there fear change coming.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 1, 2017
Bruce Arians, Arizona Cardinals. The rumors surrounding Arians align more with retirement than dismissal. Arians’s Cardinals have been disappointing and he briefly was checked out at a hospital for chest pains midseason. Arians is 40-22-1 in his four seasons in the desert and went 9-3 as a head coach when he was subbing for the Colts’ Pagano during his treatment for leukemia. There’s no compelling reason to think that Arians will quit or be fired despite a 6-8 season in a dismal NFC West.
Todd Bowles, New York Jets. The Jets, as expected, announced after their fifth victory that Todd Bowles will return in 2017, as will General Manager Mike Maccagnan. However, the New York Daily News reports that changes to Bowles’s staff may be afoot. Offensive coordinator Chan Gailey is not considered likely to return for Bowles’s fourth season with the team.
John Fox, Chicago Bears. A three-win season isn’t likely to bring a coaching change, not for a coach whose starting quarterback for much of the season was Jay Cutler. His team is on its fourth quarterback of the season and, despite having 19 players on injured reserve, has played well against playoff contenders like the New York Giants, Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. Expect him to return for his third season in Chicago.
John Harbaugh, Baltimore Ravens and Marvin Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals. If their teams don’t make the playoffs next season, there may be changes. But not yet. Harbaugh plans to return, likely with a new offensive coordinator, and Lewis has said he has no plans to retire. Nor are the Bengals the kind of team known for firing a coach and paying to sit idle.
Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints. The Rams need a big-name coach with a Super Bowl on his resume in La La Land. Might a trade with the New Orleans Saints be in the offing? CBS Sports reports that a Payton trade, either to the Rams or Chargers, is a possibility and that the Saints are already considering Doug Marrone, who is interviewing with the Jaguars. Trading Payton, who is one of the NFL’s highest-compensated coaches, would save New Orleans roughly $40 million.
As for Payton’s feelings on the matter, a week ago he reportedly was monitoring the L.A. situation, so don’t be surprised if there’s a trade of the kind not seen since 2002. That year, Oakland let Coach Jon Gruden go to Tampa Bay in exchange for first- and second-round picks, a first-rounder in 2003 and a second-rounder in 2004. Of course, Gruden also got a truckload of money out of the transaction in addition to the chance to beat the Raiders, the team he helped rebuild, in Super Bowl XXXVII in 2003.