December 31, 2013 in Sports

5 NFL teams sack coaches

Only Chudzinski firing considered surprising
Barry Wilner Associated Press
 

Schiano
(Full-size photo)

Refs hurt Steelers

 When fans and media are talking more about the officiating than what Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb do to get their teams in the playoffs, there’s a problem the NFL would rather not be confronted with.

 The regular season closed with some wild playoff chases, and even more uproar over officiating. It has not been a great year for the zebras, with fans in Pittsburgh now screaming about being robbed.

 On Monday, the NFL acknowledged that referees should have penalized the Chargers for an illegal formation on a missed 41-yard field goal by Kansas City’s Ryan Succop with 4 seconds left Sunday. Had the proper call been made, Succop would have had another chance. If he hit the next kick – well within his range – San Diego would have been eliminated and the Steelers would own the final wild-card spot.

It didn’t take long.

Barely 12 hours after the NFL’s regular season ended, five head coaches were unemployed. Fired on Monday were Washington’s Mike Shanahan, Detroit’s Jim Schwartz, Minnesota’s Leslie Frazier and Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano.

The Cleveland Browns didn’t even wait that long, dismissing Rob Chudzinski on Sunday night after just one season.

Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls in Denver in the 1990s, spent four seasons with the Redskins and was 24-40. Frazier had a little more than three seasons with the Vikings to compile an 18-33-1 mark, and Schwartz coached the Lions for five seasons, finishing 29-52.

Schiano only got two years with the Buccaneers, going 11-21. He had three years and $9 million left on his contract.

Tampa Bay also fired general manager Mark Dominik.

“It’s tough for the players to see your coaches go. You never want to see anybody get fired,” Tampa Bay Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “Me, personally, I haven’t had any, consistently, in my career. Third head coach, going on my fifth year and three head coaches. Add up everybody, it’ll be six D-line coaches.”

The Buccaneers, who also have fired the likes of Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden, hired Schiano out of Rutgers in 2012 and went 6-4 before losing five of their last six games. They dropped their first eight games this season and finished 4-12.

One coach allegedly on the hot seat was retained: Rex Ryan, who has one more year on his contract, is staying with the New York Jets after a surprising 8-8 record in his fifth season at the helm.

While some of the fired coaches might have seen it coming, Chudzinski certainly didn’t despite going 4-12 and losing his final seven games and 10 of 11.

“I was shocked and disappointed to hear the news that I was fired,” said Chudzinski, who grew up a Browns fan. “I am a Cleveland Brown to the core, and always will be. It was an honor to lead our players and coaches, and I appreciate their dedication and sacrifice. I was more excited than ever for this team, as I know we were building a great foundation for future success.”

As the coaching searches begin, agents will float the names of their clients – Penn State’s Bill O’Brien seems to be the hottest candidate and has interviewed for Houston’s vacancy. The Texans (2-14), who own the top choice in May’s draft after losing their final 14 games, released coach Gary Kubiak late in the season.

Whoever gets hired in each place will face mammoth rebuilding projects. Overall, the six teams seeking new coaches went 24-71-1.

Shanahan had one season remaining on a five-year contract worth about $7 million a season. He blamed salary cap restraints for part of the Redskins’ collapse from NFC East champion in 2012 to 3-13 and eight consecutive losses.

Schwartz had two years and almost $12 million remaining on his deal, signed after the Lions hired him to fix a team that went 0-16 in 2008.

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