NFL warns teams, urges patience to fire coaches, executives

Today, the NFL informed team owners that 32 of the league’s brands combined to spend $800 million according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The message was sent with a purpose and must have been strategically timed. The federation is urging teams to exercise patience “in the hope of trying to cut the big costs of firing people in key, senior positions.” The timing of the announcement comes strategically in the weeks leading up to the end of the regular season, when team ownership and decision-makers begin to shape how they want to attack the season.

Each team is provided with a spreadsheet detailing the employees the group has fired and the costs incurred to the team for each termination. The union wants teams to see the unnecessary costs incurred by instability and the exact costs to employees they paid for services that are no longer provided. These details are provided in the hope that each brand will scrutinize these numbers as they contemplate making significant changes to their staff during the season.

The Giants are a notable example of this. New York is currently paying three different head coaches this season. Pat Shumur was fired almost three years ago just two years on a five-year contract. Two years later, the team fired Joe Judge, who also coached for only two years on a five-year contract. Both are still receiving salaries from the Giants who are currently bragging Brian Daboll as their head coach.

Last year, nine teams parted ways with their head coaches: Bears, Broncos, Texans, Jaguars, Raiders, Dolphins, Vikings, Saints and Giants. Five franchises, four of them listed above, are also looking for new generalists: Bears, Raiders, Vikings, Giants and Steelers. On average, the league has about seven head coach changes per year.

So far this season, two head coaches have lost their jobs. Former head coach of the Panthers Matt Rhule was fired after just three years on a seven-year, $60 million deal. Former head coach Colts Frank Reich was also terminated from his current contract with four years remaining, leaving about $36 million to pay. Also, Titans fired the general manager Jon Robinson with four years left on his deal.

With these gaudy numbers adding up before the season even approaches, it’s easy to see why the league is preaching patience. The real question is: is anyone listening? The fan base doesn’t care how much a team has to spend in order to succeed. If the team’s decision makers are convinced that a leadership change is needed to improve their chances of success, will a costly memo from the league office really stop them?

History and reason predict that the answer to that question is “no”. If this were an average year, we would have about five more head coach layoffs. It is unknown how many teams will also discover the need for change in the main office. The NFL may not want it, but Black Monday is arguably more inevitable than ever.

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