So Mike Shanahan may be in line for a contract extension after this surprising season ends? Given NFL teams’ time-honored alternating traditions of handing out contract extensions or throwing coaches under the bus, this is hardly surprising. Shanahan may even have earned it, although there are two years remaining on his current deal, and two years is a long time.
Then again, Sean Payton was suspended for an entire season because of the Saints’ bounty system and his reward is a contract extension worth $8 million a season, making him the highest-paid coach in the league. By that standard, Shanahan should be made coach for life and get free use of Dan Snyder’s Amex card.
But even if no deal is done and Shanahan walks away after two years, he wouldn’t remain unemployed for long. It’s almost impossible for an NFL coach to draw unemployment — not because of the fiscal cliff, but because it’s almost impossible for an NFL coach to remain unemployed. The league’s coaches are all part of one big game of musical chairs. Occasionally one doesn’t find a spot when the music ends, but most do, sometimes almost immediately.
Seven teams fired their coaches: Arizona, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Kansas City, Philadelphia and San Diego. Several other coaches are rumored to be in jeopardy — or as much jeopardy as an NFL coach can be.
Let’s look at the case of Ken Whisenhunt, who was fired on Black Monday, which will soon be an official day-long televised Roman Coliseum-style event, presented by ESPN. Whisenhunt already has been interviewed by two of the teams who shucked their coaches — the Bills and Browns — and Whisenhunt has said he has interest in the San Diego job. (If you’re used to winter in Arizona, winter in California looks better than winter in Cleveland and Buffalo.)
The Chargers job became available when former Redskins coach Norv Turner was fired. He is not among those rumored to have a head coaching job lined up, but there is already a rumor that he’ll end up in New York as the Jets’ offensive coordinator. When you think of New York, you think of Norv Turner. Admit it.
Former Bears coach Lovie Smith, perhaps the most surprising name among the unseated, will not remain jobless for long. He has interviewed with the Bills and is reportedly interested in that job, and the Cardinals too.
If Smith was the most surprising firing, Andy Reid was the least. The Eagles’ season must have been torture for fans; it was hard enough to watch as an impartial observer. I expected — and hoped — that Reid would take a year off after the debacle of this season. But he’s reportedly the top choice of the Chiefs, who dumped Romeo Crennel. Like Turner, Crennel is probably best suited as a coordinator, and hopefully that’s the reason he’s not getting interviews for top jobs, and not because he’s black. Surely not.
As for Reid, I continue to be surprised that the league didn’t come down more harshly on him after learning that he hired his son who not only was not qualified for the job — strength and conditioning coach — but also had been in prison because of drug problems, who was found with steroids in his room, who was on team property with illegal drugs. I’m sure Reid hoped to keep Garrett Reid close to keep him clean, and his death was a tragedy for the entire Reid family. But should a coach use his NFL team as his personal rehab center for his troubled child? If I’m an Eagles fan, I think not. Garrett Reid needed professional help, and not the kind that is found in an NFL training camp.
Two fired coaches, Pat Shurmur (Browns) and Chan Gailey (Bills), don’t figure too prominently in the rumor mill — at least not yet. That’s because flavor-of-the-offseason Chip Kelly is still coaching his college team, Oregon, which played in the Fiesta Bowl Thursday night. Once that’s over, expect a tarmac full of private jets in Eugene — although maybe the Cardinals will get first crack, because the Fiesta Bowl is played in Arizona. A lot of college coaches have tried and failed in the NFL, but Kelly seems undaunted by the prospect — he’s certainly not shooting down the rumors. Even if he grabs a chair when the music stops, that means most of the fired coaches will land some sort of NFL job for next season. Nice work if you can get it.
For previous columns by Tracee Hamilton, visit washingtonpost.
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