At roughly the midpoint of the 2016 NFL season, exactly zero head coaches have been fired despite the existence of many truly wretched teams. Yet there have been four offensive coordinator changes so far this season. To recap:
** The Bills fired Greg Roman on Sept. 16. Buffalo fired Roman after getting out to an 0-2 start, a day after scoring 31 points in a loss to the Jets. That doesn’t seem to indicate the offense is the problem, but with defensive-minded head coach Rex Ryan at the helm and his brother Rob as an assistant head coach, someone coaching the offense had to handle the blame. This seemed like a good temporary fix as Buffalo won four in a row, scoring more than 30 in three of those wins, before dropping the last two.
** The Ravens fired Marc Trestman on Oct. 10. It’s been a story of months for Baltimore. They went 3-0 in September and 0-4 in October. Midway through this past month, the team decided it was done with Trestman after losing 16-10 to Washington to fall to 3-2. Marty Mornhinweg assumed playcalling duties.
Obviously, the team wasn’t going to can John Harbaugh, at least not during the season. But that’s why it’s handy to have a veteran offensive coordinator available at quarterbacks coach. Easy plug-and-play type for when you need to make a big change just to instill urgency. Not that it worked all that well. Baltimore lost their next two, scoring just under 20 points over the two games.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 29, 2016
** The Jaguars fired Greg Olson on Oct. 29. It would have made perfect sense to jettison head coach Gus Bradley, he of the 14-41 record with the team, especially after an even-more-one-sided-than-it-looked 36-22 loss to the also-lowly Titans. Apparently,the Jags think the issue is just the playcalling, or a doubling down on whatever they’re doing with Blake Bortles, because they fired Olson and promoted quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett to the OC position.
Since the Jags are in the AFC South, a 2-5 start probably still doesn’t disqualify them from making a run at the division title, given how mediocre the rest of the division is, So perhaps the team’s thinking is they don’t want to rock the boat unless they somehow stumble into a winning streak and steal the division. Seems like a weird strategy, though for the time being, it’s not like there’s exactly a good option in Jacksonville.
** The Vikings were surprised this week by the abrupt resignation of Norv Turner. By all indications, this was entirely Norv’s call, though he did tell Ed Werder, referring to head coach Mike Zimmer, “I think it’s just we have different views on where the offense was going.”
That suggests there was at least some difference in opinion there. Either way, everyone can agree at least with the Vikings, the offense is in fact the problem, though a new coordinator has quite the challenge on his hands considering the awful line play, the lack of a reliable running back, and a middling quarterback under center. But Pat Shurmur does have the best relationship with Sam Bradford of any potential replacements. And who knows, maybe he’s able to call just the right sequence of quick slants and various three-step drops to lead the team to glory.
So why is it only offensive coordinators getting the boot? If teams are hesitant to fire someone other than the head coach, surely there are other fall guys available. After all, there are plenty of wretched defenses out there. You’re telling me the Saints couldn’t fire Dennis Allen? Of course they can. Firing Dennis Allen is a blast, and incredibly easy. If you’re really desperate, I’m sure there are plenty of inept special teams coordinators.
Unfortunately for them, offensive coordinators have one big thing working against them: fans. Your average casual fan thinks they have a much greater grasp on, or even an interest in, how the offense works than defensive play. You could blame video games, though I believe this would be just as true without them. If you asked an NFL duffer how to improve defensive play, they’d say something like “we need to get more pressure on the quarterback!” or “tackle better” without offering any specifics, while the same fan would likely at least have a faint idea about the types of plays to call on offense to counter a vague defensive strategy.
By this time last year, Joe Philbin had already been fired by the Miami Dolphins after a 1-3 start. While interim coaches usually mean a sign the team has given up, Dan Campbell did a halfway decent job, finishing 5-7 the rest of the way. The year before, Dennis Allen was canned by the Raiders after an 0-4 start. You can’t tell me anyone currently on the Jaguars staff would fare much worse than Bradley.
One of the giddy thrills of the middle part of the schedule is midseason head coach firings and so far in 2016, we’ve been cheated out of them. Just another disappointment in an NFL season full of them. Hopefully, one savvy NFL team gets it together and stops picking on the poor offensive coordinators and gives us the head coach firing we crave. I’m looking at you, Chuck Pagano.