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A listing of 2018 NFL Coaching changes, retirement or coaches being safe as the day after the NFL Regular Season ends, known as NFL Black Monday, we will update this post during the offseason with those updates being in the beginning of each season 1st. Thanks again to AP Sports/ Pro 32 for photos & articles.
Colts fire coach Chuck Pagano after 4-12 season
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — First, Chuck Pagano lost Andrew Luck.
Then the Indianapolis Colts started losing games.
Six years after convincing Jim Irsay he could lead the Colts to a Super Bowl, and two years after convincing the team owner to give him a surprise contract extension, Pagano was fired Sunday less than two hours after the Colts’ beat Houston 22-13 in their season finale.
The win ended a six-game losing streak but couldn’t cloak the fact Indy missed the playoffs three consecutive years, the first time that’s happened since a seven-year drought from 1988-94, or finished with its first losing record in six years.
“Chuck Pagano provided Colts fans with many exciting wins and memories as head coach of the Colts,” team owner Jim Irsay said in the statement. “Throughout his tenure in Indianapolis, he impacted the lives of the players he coached, those who he worked with in the organization and Colts fans across the globe. Chuck’s first season was one of the more inspirational stories in NFL history as he courageously battled and overcame leukemia. As a result, his CHUCKSTRONG Foundation has raised millions for cancer research. We are thankful for Chuck’s contributions to our franchise and community and we wish him, Tina and the entire Pagano family nothing but the best moving forward.”
It was the worst kept secret in town.
Almost from the moment the Colts (4-12) were eliminated from playoff contention, speculation ramped up about Pagano’s ouster being only a matter of time.
Even Pagano hinted at the move Wednesday when he referred to Sunday’s game as the “last rodeo.”
And before his postgame meeting with Irsay, Pagano sounded more resigned to his fate than he did either of the last two years when his job status also was tenuous.
“Call me crazy, but I’m a believer to the core. You know, I don’t know what tomorrow brings. I don’t know what the next hour brings,” Pagano said. “But I do know I’m very grateful to Jim Irsay and to the Irsay family. His unwavering commitment is second to none in football, and he’s given us everything we needed to be successful. And I’m very grateful for the opportunity he gave me.”
Pagano wasn’t entirely at fault for this season’s results.
The early successes and steady decline during Pagano’s tenure coincided perfectly tandem with Luck’s health.
When Luck started every game during his first three seasons, the Colts won 11 games each year, reached the playoffs three times and advanced one step deeper in the postseason each year.
When the injuries struck, Indy crashed. The three-time Pro Bowl quarterback missed 26 of 48 games since 2015, and the result was consecutive 8-8 finishes before this season’s (4-12) debacle during which Luck never took a snap.
But to an owner who has grown accustomed to playing games deep into January, Luck’s absence wasn’t enough of a reason to give Pagano yet another chance — especially after essentially putting Pagano on notice last January that he expected a playoff appearance after firing general manager Ryan Grigson.
“He (Irsay) is like all of us. He wants to win,” Pagano said in October after the Colts were shut out for the first time since 1993.
It wasn’t just the playoff absences.
Fans became increasingly disgruntled with a long-promised defensive turnaround that never happened, a series of questionable play calls, and persistent penalties.
As the 2017 season wore on, the shrinking home crowds became a gauge of fan sentiment.
But there were plenty of good moments, too.
The 57-year-old Colorado native presided over one of the greatest single-season turnarounds in league history in 2012, turning a 2-14 team that was supposed to be the NFL’s worst into an instant playoff contender while waging a courageous public battle against leukemia. When Pagano missed 12 games to undergo chemotherapy, the tag-team coaching tandem of Pagano and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians delivered a nine-game improvement before losing to eventual world champion Baltimore in the wild-card round.
Arians was voted AP Coach of the Year.
Pagano went on to win AFC South titles in 2013 and 2014 and led Indy to the AFC title game following the 2014 season.
He finished with a solid record of 56-46, 3-3 in the postseason.
For the most part, Indy dominated inside the division, going 25-11 while setting an NFL record with 16 straight wins over division foes.
But the rest of the league exposed Indy’s flaws and Pagano’s teams lost 22 times by at least two touchdowns.
The unraveling began in 2015 when many thought the Colts could make a Super Bowl run and Luck first got hurt.
Forty-year-old backup quarterback Matt Hasselbeck filled in admirably for Luck, who missed nine games with injuries. Hasselbeck went 5-3 as the starter and somehow the Colts managed to finish 8-8.
After the season, Irsay gave Pagano a second chance and a four-year contract extension. But with Luck starting 15 of 16 games, the Colts posted another 8-8 mark.
A third bad season was just too much to keep the player’s coach around.
Many talked about their reverence for Pagano and how he did important things, like showing up to weddings other coaches did not. At times, it made a difference on the field.
The first game Pagano missed after being diagnosed with leukemia, receiver Reggie Wayne risked an NFL fine by wearing orange gloves, the color associated with leukemia awareness, and almost single-handedly willing the Colts to a come-from-behind win over Green Bay.
When Pagano returned for the regular-season finale, Houston running back Arian Foster honored the Colts coach by tapping the “Chuckstrong” sign after scoring a touchdown.
“He always fights for you, he’s a player’s coach. You dream of playing for a coach like that,” receiver T.Y. Hilton said. “He’s a very emotional guy, that’s what we love about him. He almost made everybody cry.”
Eventually, though, it came down to business and Irsay made the call.
Raiders fire coach Jack Del Rio after 6-10 season
Oakland Raiders coach Jack Del Rio was fired Sunday after his third year when the impressive turnaround job he engineered for his hometown team collapsed with a disappointing six-win season.
Del Rio said owner Mark Davis told him after the team’s season-ending 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers that he would not be retained as coach in Oakland.
“He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did, but felt like we weren’t going in the right direction,” Del Rio said.
“He felt he needed a change, and I told him how much I appreciated the opportunity he gave me. I mean that. Very grateful. My childhood team, but it’s a results business. I understand that.
“I appreciate the players and coaches and all the hard work, all the effort and energy. I do believe we have established a solid nucleus. Whoever comes in here has a chance to take that nucleus and go to special places, and I’ll be pulling for them.”
The Raiders followed up the successful 2016 by becoming one of the league’s disappointing teams. Oakland went 6-10 for the second biggest one-season drop in wins in franchise history, leading to Del Rio’s firing.
Davis said in a statement that he appreciated Del Rio’s effort in building the foundation for the future and thanked his family for contributing to the community.
Davis said he will not have any other statement until after a new coach has hired, but speculation is already rampant that Jon Gruden will be back for a second stint.
Gruden was traded by the Raiders to Tampa Bay following the 2001 season and beat Oakland for the Super Bowl title the following season. He was fired by the Buccaneers following the 2008 season and has been in the broadcast booth since then. ESPN reported Saturday that the Raiders were interested in bringing Gruden back.
Davis has always been intrigued about a second stint with Gruden, but it seemed unlikely the franchise would be in for another change heading into this season. Del Rio had been the ninth coach in Oakland since Gruden left but the only the second to get the team to the playoffs.
That wasn’t enough to save his job.
“I honor the owner’s decision,” Del Rio said. “It was a great honor for me to lead this organization and get this opportunity, and I understand it’s a results business. We had a great first two years and this year was a big disappointment. Can’t disagree with that.”
Del Rio, who grew up in the East Bay city of Hayward cheering for the Raiders, took over a three-win team in 2015 and immediately changed the culture and helped Oakland win seven games that season.
The Raiders had a breakthrough season in 2016 with 12 wins, but it ended in disappointment when a broken leg for quarterback Derek Carr in Week 16 cost the Raiders a chance at a division title and led to a first-round playoff loss.
Expectations were high coming into this season with Carr and most of the key offensive pieces back, along with the addition of running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Jared Cook.
But Del Rio’s decision to fire coordinator Bill Musgrave after last season despite a dynamic offense and replace him with quarterbacks coach Todd Downing backfired.
The offense regressed significantly this season as Carr struggled under Downing’s tutelage and the defense showed no signs of improvement before firing coordinator Ken Norton Jr. after 10 games.
The Raiders had major drops in scoring (26 to 18.8), yards per game (373.3 to 324.1) and committed twice as many turnovers (14 to 28) this season as Carr took a major step back in his development after signing a $125 million, five-year extension in the offseason.
“We have to take our ownership as players,” Carr said. “That’s where we’re at right now. We’re kind of angry we let it get to that. We’re upset at ourselves. We understand the business part of it. As players our job is to come back better and hungry.”
The defense became the first in NFL history to fail to record on interception in the first 10 games of the season and generated only 14 takeaways all season compared to 30 in 2016.
That all led to the decision to fire Del Rio, whose 187 games as a head coach are the most for anyone without a division title in his career.
Del Rio finished his stint in Oakland with 25-23 regular-season record. The Raiders won just 13 games in the three seasons before he arrived.
“It’s tough,” cornerback Sean Smith said. “He was a coach that played the game and he was a player’s coach, you know what I mean, so you always like those kind of coaches because they relate to you easily.
“Came to work with a smile every day, and definitely enjoyed playing for him, but it just sucks because he’s the coach. As a player, we didn’t play up to our expectations, and he had to pay the price.”
Bears fire coach John Fox after a 5-11 season
LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears fired John Fox on Monday after a 5-11 season, ending one of the least successful coaching stints in team history.
The Bears announced the dismissal one day after a loss at NFC North champion Minnesota.
Fox was 14-34 in his three years with Chicago, a .292 winning percentage that ranks as the second lowest for the Bears. Only Abe Gibron was worse — 11-30-1 (.274) from 1972-74.
Fox likes to say that this is a “results-based business,” and the Bears clearly did not have much to show on that count. Fox’s conservative approach and some questionable decisions during games were also sore spots.
He is 133-123 in 16 seasons as a head coach and is one of six coaches to lead two teams to Super Bowl appearances, joining Don Shula, Bill Parcells, Dan Reeves, Dick Vermeil and Mike Holmgren.
Fox helped orchestrate quick turnarounds while leading Carolina and Denver to a combined six division titles and seven playoff appearances in 13 years before he took over Chicago in January 2015. But his time with the Bears was forgettable.
Hired shortly after the Bears brought in general manager Ryan Pace, Fox helped restore some of the professionalism in the locker room that was missing under former GM Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman.
The Bears went from six wins in 2015 to three in 2016 to five. They were 3-15 against the NFC North and dropped all six division games this year.
Injuries exposing a lack of depth have been a major issue since the regime change.
The Bears have had some big hits in the draft such as star running back Jordan Howard (2016, fifth round) and notable misses such as oft-injured receiver Kevin White (2015, first round). They have had a shaky record in free agency and struggled to replace some key players no longer with the team such as receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, tight end Martellus Bennett and kicker Robbie Gould.
Mike Glennon — signed to take over for Jay Cutler as the starting quarterback — was benched after struggling through the first four games this season. That forced Chicago to go with No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky and abandon the plan to use this as sort of a redshirt season for a player with just 13 college starts at North Carolina.
The Bears beat AFC North champion Pittsburgh in September and posted consecutive wins against Baltimore and Carolina in October. But it was a rough season overall. While Trubisky showed some promise, he also struggled at times. It didn’t help that he had no reliable receivers and was playing behind a banged-up line.
A loss to Green Bay following a bye really turned up the heat. Not only were the Packers missing the injured Aaron Rodgers, Fox had an ill-advised replay challenge near the goal line backfire into a turnover by the Bears.
Fox also left himself open to second-guessing in a 15-14 loss at home to San Francisco. Fox could have given his team a chance to win with a late touchdown drive by letting the 49ers score with 1 1/2 minutes remaining. It would have put San Francisco up by five and left Chicago with time.
Instead, Gould made a 24-yard field goal in the final seconds to give the 49ers their second win.
Lions fire coach Jim Caldwell after missing playoffs
ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Jim Caldwell may have been the Detroit Lions’ most successful coach in the Super Bowl era.
That was not enough to save his job.
A person familiar with the team’s coaching search says Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin will interview for the job Tuesday. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team had not identified any candidates. Austin has interviewed with many NFL teams in recent years.
Caldwell was 36-28 in four seasons and 0-2 in two postseasons with the Lions.
Before Black Monday
Giants fire coach McAdoo, GM Reese
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Believing the team was spiraling out of control, the New York Giants went out of character by making two major in-season moves, firing coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese.
With the team reeling at 2-10 in a season where most felt it was capable of challenging for a Super Bowl, co-owners John Mara and Steve Tisch reached the decision Monday morning. It came less than a day after the Giants lost in Oakland, with quarterback Eli Manning benched and the offensively inept team performing poorly again.
“We agreed that wholesale changes to this organization needed to be made to get us back to the team we expect it to be,” Mara said at a hastily called news conference. “We also agreed it was pointless to wait any longer to make these changes.”
Defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo will take over as interim coach for the final four games. He coached the St. Louis Rams from 2009-11.
Mara did not know whether Manning will return as the starter this weekend against Dallas, saying the decision will be made by Spagnuolo.
In a radio interview on WFAN, Manning said he told Spagnuolo that he wants to start the last four games.
“I want to be out there and help us go win these four games,” Manning said. “I hope I’m out there on Sunday playing against the Cowboys.”
Mara said neither McAdoo nor Reese was surprised by the decision, saying they were both professionals. He said his meeting with Reese was more emotional because the two had worked together since 1994.
“I don’t think there was any one final straw,” Mara said. “I just think that where we are as a franchise right now, you know, we’re 2-10. We’ve kind of been spiraling out of control. I just felt like we needed a complete overhaul. I don’t think there was any one event or one final act to precipitate that.”
Many felt the benching earlier last week of the well-liked Manning, the face of the franchise and a two-time Super Bowl MVP, was the deciding factor.
McAdoo also would have been subjected to howls from fans with three of the final four games at home, starting this weekend.
The moves come less than a year after the 40-year-old McAdoo ended a four-year Giants playoff drought in his first season, going 11-6. That record was aided in large part by Reese’s outstanding work in the free agent market that rebuilt the defense.
While the 2016 season ended in a loss to Green Bay in the wild-card game, this year was supposed to be better. Much better.
The offense was bolstered by signing free agent wide receiver Brandon Marshall and drafting tight end Evan Engram in the first round. The defense was back with the major exception of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins.
A fifth Super Bowl was in everyone’s sights if the offensive line could improve.
It fizzled from the start. The Giants lost their first five games. The line was inept. The defense underperformed, then the injury bug decimated the roster.
“This has been the perfect storm this season,” Mara said. “Everything that could have gone wrong this season has gone wrong.”
Assistant general manager Kevin Abrams will take over on an interim basis for Reese, who became GM in 2007 and had two Super Bowl wins on his resume. But the Giants missed the playoffs four times in the past five years, and his failure to address those offensive line problems this past offseason played a major role in a horrible season.
Mara said Abrams and Spagnuolo will be offered the chance to continue in their interim jobs. Former general manager Ernie Accorsi will be a consultant in hiring a new GM, whom Mara wants in place before a coach.
Mara has candidates in mind for general manager and said it’s possible a new GM could be in place before the season ends.
The moves came less than a week after McAdoo made one of the biggest mistakes of his short tenure, mishandling the decision to bench Manning. Mara was forced to address the matter the following day and said he wished the decision had been handled better.
McAdoo had a 13-16 record, and his firing is the first midseason head coaching move by the Giants since Bill Arnsparger was replaced seven games into the 1976 season by John McVay. The 2-10 mark is the Giants’ worst since they were 2-10 in 1976, and their worst since the advent of the 16-game schedule in 1978.
With the losses, word started to emerge that McAdoo was losing the team. His one-game suspensions of popular cornerbacks Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Janoris Jenkins heightened the problem.
Mara and Tisch came to McAdoo’s defense after an embarrassing loss to the then-winless 49ers on Nov. 12, saying his job was safe until the end of the season.
“To be honest with you, it became more and more apparent that we were going to have to do something at the end of the season, so we talked after the game and again this morning about why prolong it any longer?” Mara said Monday. “Why not just get it done now?”
The Giants hired McAdoo away from Green Bay in 2014 to serve as Tom Coughlin’s offensive coordinator. He was elevated to head coach on Jan. 14, 2016, less than two weeks after Coughlin was forced out after missing the playoffs for the fourth straight season.
McAdoo’s first season was exceptional. His second was a fiasco.
“Our team is not good enough,” Mara said.
Bruce Arians announces retirement after 5 seasons in Arizona
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Bruce Arians is retiring from coaching after five mostly successful and usually entertaining seasons as head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
The 65-year-old two-time NFL Coach of the Year, known for his Kangol-style hats, colorful vocabulary and love of a wide-open offense, announced the decision on Monday after meeting with his players.
Counting his stint as interim coach of the Indianapolis Colts, he went 59-35-1 as a head coach, counting the playoffs.
Before that, he won two Super Bowl rings as an assistant coach in Pittsburgh, the second one as offensive coordinator of the Steelers team that beat Arizona in the 2009 Super Bowl.
Arians has had health issues in recent years, including treatment for diverticulitis a successful fight against kidney cancer last offseason.
Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees retires
OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Dean Pees is retiring following a successful NFL career that began with the New England Patriots.
The 68-year-Pees told players of his decision Monday, less than 24 hours after the Ravens were eliminated from playoff contention with a 31-27 loss to Cincinnati.
Pees served as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator for six years, spending the 2010 and 2011 seasons as linebackers coach. Before that, he had a six-year run as an assistant with New England.
He is one of eight men in NFL history to serve as defensive coordinator in a Super Bowl with two different teams. Baltimore won the 2012 Super Bowl with Pees guiding the defense.
The Ravens had 34 takeaways this season and ranked 12th in total defense.
Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley said of Pees: “I love him as a coach and as a man. The things that he did for this organization and the NFL, you’ve got to give credit to him and thank him.”
Current Ravens linebackers coach Don Martindale is a possible candidate to replace Pees. Martindale has been with the Ravens since 2012.
Browns coach Hue Jackson & returns apologizes after dismal 0-16 season
BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Hue Jackson apologized. There was nothing else to do after making unwelcome history.
One day after an inconceivable season ended without a win, Cleveland’s coach was grateful to still have his job and Jackson took steps to sooth an angry fan base and players who may have doubts about him.
“This is going to be next to my name for the rest of my life,” he said Monday. “This is part of my legacy now, some of the players that are here, the coaches that are here, everybody.”
For weeks, Jackson, who has managed to stay in the good graces of owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam despite a 1-31 record over two seasons, and the Browns did all they could to reject the possibility of football infamy. But with Sunday’s 28-24 loss in Pittsburgh , they joined the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only teams in NFL history to lose all 16 games.
It happened. It hurts.
“Hopefully they forget my name as the years go by,” Browns cornerback Jason McCourty said. “A terrible thing to be a part of, wish you weren’t a part of. We could have won the last game — 1-15 gets you out of the history book, but 1-15 is awful, just as bad. It’s tough.”
And sadly, the Browns aren’t done taking hits. They’re an easy target, a punchline, the team to pile on. While their dismal season has mercifully ended, they’re going to continue to take blows — until they win.
“It is awful,” Jackson said. “We all have to wear it. I don’t think anybody wants to be associated with that. No one started the season thinking that this is how it would turn out. I’m sorry and I apologize if people think that we are not distraught about it, but I don’t think us talking about it over and over and over again (helps) because I think everybody else will.”
Jackson’s right. The 2017 Browns have joined the unofficial club of notorious losers, lumped in with the worst of the worst from other sports genres.
Cleveland fans are beyond frustrated. Worn down by years of losing, one group planned a parade around the team’s downtown stadium on Saturday to “celebrate” the imperfect season.
Many are enraged that Jackson has returned, and he knows there’s only one way to satisfy them.
“Get to winning,” he said. “It is not going to be anything I can really say. It is not going to be words; it is going to be actions.”
As Jackson met with reporters for his year-end news conference, Detroit fired Jim Caldwell after a 9-7 season and Chicago dismissed John Fox following a 5-11 season. Fox had five more wins in 2017 than Jackson, who understood he was lucky to still be employed.
“I get it,” he said. “There are a lot of guys who have better records and all of that who are being let go. I am very fortunate and blessed. I thank Dee and Jimmy for that because there very easily could be somebody else sitting up here. Obviously, they see something — I am very fortunate that they do — that I can lead this organization and this football team to where it needs to go. I thank them for that.”
One of Jackson’s first moves in the offseason could be hiring an offensive coordinator. He has held dual roles the past two seasons, and Jackson acknowledged that he may be trying to do too much.
“There is a possibility,” he said. “I have said before that at some point in time I would like to do differently because I think it is important to coach the team. Now that I truly understand the situation and have been through it and have looked at it, I did not want to put that pressure on somebody else early in this situation. Now knowing, now seeing and now truly believing in that the team is going to take a step forward, everything is on the table.”
As difficult as this season was for Jackson and the Browns, better days could be ahead.
They’ll have the No. 1 and No. 4 overall picks in this year’s draft and three selections in the second round, invaluable assets to replenish the league’s youngest roster. New general manager John Dorsey could have as much as $100 million to spend in free agency.
“There is a tomorrow,” guard Joel Bitonio said. “It has been tough, but I know my goal is one day, next year, two years, three years down the road, when we get rookies coming in and we are winning games, they are going to appreciate what we did this year and what we have done the past couple of years that we fought through to make this a winning franchise.”
John Elway decides to keep Vance Joseph after 5-11 season
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — The Denver Broncos are retaining rookie coach Vance Joseph, who went 5-11 in his first season.
General manager John Elway tweeted: “Vance and I had a great talk this morning about our plan to attack this offseason and get better as a team. We believe in Vance as our head coach. Together, we’ll put in the work to improve in all areas and win in 2018.”
There was speculation that Elway would be on the lookout for his fourth head coach in five years with Joseph losing 10 of his last 12 games, including eight straight at one point. Eight of the team’s losses were by double digits.
Of the six head coaching vacancies last season, Joseph was widely believed to have inherited the best situation, taking over a team coming off a 9-7 season and just one year removed from a Super Bowl victory.
But Joseph had the worst record of the six new head coaches as the Broncos, who own the No. 5 pick in the draft and are still searching for their franchise quarterback two years after Peyton Manning’s retirement.
Plenty members of his staff, though, are looking for new jobs.
Among those who won’t be back in 2018 with the Broncos are special teams coach Brock Olivo, running backs coach Eric Studesville, wide receivers coach Tyke Tolbert and O-line coach Jeff Davidson.
Also, outside linebackers coach Fred Pagac’s contract isn’t being renewed.
Dolphins owner says Adam Gase, top personnel execs will be back
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins’ disappointing season had owner Stephen Ross cursing Sunday.
“I hate losing,” said Ross, who included an expletive in the sentence and quickly apologized for his language. Despite his frustration, he said coach Adam Gase and the team’s top two personnel executives will be retained.
Gase will be back for a third season in 2018. Executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum and general manager Chris Grier will also return, but Ross said he’s eager to turn the page following a 6-10 season.
“It’s a new year. We need it,” Ross said after Miami closed out the season with a 22-16 loss to Buffalo. “I’m terribly disappointed. … You put as much as I put into a team and trying to do all the right things to win, how can you not be disappointed?”
Ross said quarterback Ryan Tannehill’s season-ending knee injury in August was too much to overcome.
“The season didn’t start out right with the injuries. You can’t replace a good quarterback. I’m looking forward to next season.”
The Dolphins haven’t won a playoff game since Ross bought an ownership stake in 2008, but he still thinks he has found the right coach in Gase.
“I have a lot of confidence in Adam … the way Adam, Chris and Mike work together,” Ross said. “Adam is really I think a good football guy. I believe in him. He’s as disappointed as I am. I think he recognizes we have to make adjustments, and I think we will.”
Ross’ expression of support for the trio wasn’t a surprise. Last year they helped Miami win 10 games and end an eight-year playoff drought.
Jets give GM Maccagnan, coach Todd Bowles 2-year extensions
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — The New York Jets are choosing stability over a shake-up.
The team announced Friday it extended the contracts of general manager Mike Maccagnan and coach Todd Bowles, keeping the pair for at least the next three seasons through 2020.
The extensions are for two years each, according to a person with direct knowledge of the contracts. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce terms.
“During their time here, they have worked together to help the organization build a foundation on which to grow,” acting owner and CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “They are identifying, developing and getting productivity out of our players.
“I believe we are headed in the right direction.”
The announcement came two days before the Jets complete their season at New England. New York is 5-10 and will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight year and the third under Maccagnan and Bowles.
“This provides us continuity and stability as we continue to move this team toward sustained success,” Johnson said. “We still have a lot of work to do and I am excited to work closely with both of them as we move forward.”
The decision is not a huge surprise, although there was growing speculation on Bowles’ future as he completed the third year of his original four-year deal. He is 20-27 during his tenure with the Jets, and could be looking at his second straight 5-11 season.
But Bowles is credited with instilling a culture change among his players, who were in mostly every game this year. Seven of the Jets’ 10 losses have been by 10 points or fewer.
“We have a plan that we’re going forward with and everybody’s on the same page,” Bowles said.
Maccagnan oversaw a roster purge in the offseason that cleared big names and high salaries from the locker room, replaced by mostly younger — and less-expensive — talents.
Because of the heavy roster turnover, little was expected of the Jets going into the season. Some fans and media predicted New York would have a tough time winning just a couple of games, so a 3-2 start was one of the NFL’s early surprises.
Bowles stressed a team-first approach, adopting a “One Team, One Goal” slogan, which he had painted all around the facility as well as other motivational words on the doors and hallways. Throughout the season, players highlighted the team’s unity and the positive vibe despite rough stretches — and many credited Bowles.
“He understands how to coach players and understands how to get guys to buy into a program and really commit to it,” linebacker Jordan Jenkins said.
Several players expressed their pleasure at the news on social media, supportive in the locker room of Bowles and Maccagnan coming back.
“I like stability and I like to be able to play for one coach and I like to be able to play in the same system for a while,” said defensive end Leonard Williams, who along with many teammates learned of the news from reporters. “It makes me comfortable and it makes me know who I’m playing for and who I’m playing with. I feel like a team is only going to progress when you have stability.”
Left tackle Kelvin Beachum pointed to the fact that Bowles has the overall respect of the players in the locker room.
“When you’ve got a coach that keeps it black and white, is not BSing, is not shooting smoke up your behind, that’s great as a player because you know exactly what you’re going to get,” he said. “Coach Bowles is consistent.”
Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, scheduled to be a free agent this winter, believes the Jets are heading in the right direction.
“With Mike putting the roster together and Todd coaching the way he’s coached with all the great coaches we have here, it’s a testament to them,” Seferian-Jenkins said. “When we keep adding pieces, we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with, and I’m very, very excited for them and very happy for them.”
Bowles downplayed the decision, saying he’s focused on the season finale against the rival Patriots.
“It’s just business as usual,” he said. “We’re trying to win a game on Sunday and we’ll get ready for next year.”
Bowles and Maccagnan will have plenty to chat about in the upcoming weeks with 16 players scheduled to be free agents, including Seferian-Jenkins, quarterback Josh McCown, linebacker Demario Davis, cornerback Morris Claiborne and center Wesley Johnson. New York will have around $80 million in salary cap room this offseason, so they can be expected to be active in free agency.
The Jets will be in the market for a quarterback via free agency or the draft, where they currently hold the No. 7 overall pick.
New York will have to decide about defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson, the team’s highest-paid player, who fell out of favor after repeated issues with tardiness.
There will be raised expectations, especially with fans decidedly mixed on Bowles staying. Some pointed to the competitiveness with which the team played, while detractors think the coach’s in-game decisions have left something to be desired.
“Obviously, I’m hard on myself, but I’m supposed to be,” Bowles said. “I’m always hard on myself. So I’ll take a long, hard look at myself next year and I’ll come back fighting.”
More of the same: Bengals stick with Marvin Lewis
CINCINNATI (AP) — The assistant head coach is gone, but the head coach is coming back for a 16th try at a playoff victory. And so it goes in Cincinnati.
In a what-have-you-done lately league, the Bengals remain the outlier. Marvin Lewis met with the media on Wednesday, a day after getting a two-year extension, and talked in general terms about how his team needs to change.
He said the things he’s said many times during the second-longest active coaching tenure in the NFL, behind only Bill Belichick. Unlike the New England coach, Lewis has yet to win a playoff game.
One change: Lewis wanted more control over the coaching staff. Paul Alexander, the assistant head coach and offensive line coach for 23 seasons, was fired.
Bill O’Brien retains job with Texans; is vague about future
HOUSTON (AP) — Coach Bill O’Brien kept his job despite Houston’s 4-12 finish and looks to be returning for next season.
His status beyond that is far less certain.
“These are things that are being discussed,” he said when asked if he’ll coach the team next season. “I feel like I will be here in 2018, but again, these are ongoing discussions that maybe we can clarify with you guys, maybe, at a later date. I’m sure we will, but this is where it’s at right now.”
When asked if he’d like to sign an extension, he again refused to give a direct answer, instead talking broadly about his relationship with owner Bob McNair and his son Cal McNair.
“We’re having great discussions, very productive,” O’Brien said. “They’re very easy to talk to. They really do a great job of working with us, with me, of listening, back and forth, a lot of great ideas … these are really good discussions that we’re having and we’ll move from there.”
O’Brien has a 31-33 record in four seasons in Houston and this was his first losing season after he led the team to 9-7 records in each of his first three years.
The Texans won the AFC South the past two seasons before failing to make the postseason in 2017 as they dealt with injuries to quarterback Deshaun Watson and superstar defensive end J.J. Watt.
Along with firming up O’Brien’s future with the team, the Texans also must find someone to fill in at general manager after Rick Smith announced that he’s taking a leave of absence of at least a year to care for his wife as she fights breast cancer.
O’Brien said he isn’t looking to have more personnel power in Smith’s absence, but that he has been involved in discussions with the McNairs about his replacement and that he hopes they hire someone who shares his thoughts on the team’s needs.
“The big thing for me and I think the big thing for the McNairs, and I don’t want to speak for them, but I would just say is alignment, being aligned philosophically on what type of team we want,” O’Brien said.