Monday Bloody Monday

Former NFL Coaches: Crennel (Chiefs), Reid (Eagles), Shurmur (Browns)

Former NFL Coaches: Crennel (Chiefs), Reid (Eagles), Shurmur (Browns)

We knew it was coming. We knew heads would roll. But who knew Black Monday would be this bloody?

By New Year’s Eve day, seven NFL head coaches and five general managers were unemployed. Dozens of coordinators and assistants followed. A post-regular-season house cleaning like we’ve never seen. More head coaches lost their jobs Monday than in the previous three seasons combined.

Some teams chose to start over completely, removing both the general manager and head coach. The Arizona Cardinals did so with Coach Ken Whisenhunt and General Manager Rod Graves. The Cleveland Browns with Coach Pat Shurmur and Manager Tom Heckert. And the Chargers followed suit with Coach Norv Turner and Manager A.J. Smith.

New Jacksonville Jaguars Owner Shad Khan chose to fire General Manager Gene Smith. And the New York Jets turned General Manager Mike Tannenbaum loose after a season that proved to be interesting, yet disappointing. No word yet on Jets Head Coach Rex Ryan’s future. In fact, we’re still waiting for his end of the season press conference.

Four other teams chose to part ways with their coaches: The Buffalo Bills with Chan Gailey, the Kansas City Chiefs with Romeo Crennel, the Eagles with Andy Reid, and the only real surprise…the Chicago Bears with Lovie Smith.

Smith’s firing created a backlash in the Bears locker room as well as the national sports media. Because…well, everybody loves Lovie. Both Tony Dungy (a close friend of Smith’s) and former Bears Coach Mike Ditka referred to the decision as “ridiculous.” Bears star Wide Receiver Devin Hester is reportedly so distraught by the news that he is pondering retirement.

One person who won’t be retiring…Lovie Smith. He is a hot commodity in the now busy market for NFL head coach shopping season.

So, what happens now? Does a game of musical coaches ensue…cut your guy and pick up the one to your right? It’s already started, with Andy Reid reportedly interviewing with the Chiefs today and Cardinals tomorrow.

And the bloodshed may not be over.

In the meantime, we’re still waiting…




Players Behaving Badly

Saturday, June 2, 2012.  Eden Prairie, Minnesota.  Right around 3:00 AM.  Police are called to a report of an intoxicated driver in the drive thru lane at McDonald’s.  He is questioned by police, refuses a breathalyzer, is arrested and charged with second degree driving while intoxicated and a third degree charge with an aggravating factor of one previous DWI in the last ten years.  He is Jerome Felton, signed in March to a one year $700,000 contract by the Minnesota Vikings.  Felton is the favored starting fullback going into training camp.  He has played previously with the Lions, Panthers, and Colts.  According to the NFL Arrest Database, the Vikings have nine arrests since the start of 2011 (three on impaired driving).  The team offers a car service to players to avoid such incidents.

Sunday, June 3, 2012.  Just after 3:00 AM.  Stillwater, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma State star wide receiver, Justin Blackmon is pulled over for driving 60 MPH in a 35 MPH zone and veering into oncoming traffic.  A breathalyzer test measures his blood alcohol at three times the legal limit.  He is arrested and charged with aggravated driving under the influence.  He was also charged with DUI in 2010.  Blackmon was the fifth pick in the April 26, 2012 NFL draft and the number one pick for the Jacksonville Jaguars, a team desperately trying to rebuild and recover from a streak of off the field player incidents themselves.  The Jaguars traded up to get Blackmon, giving up their fourth round pick to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s hard to believe incidents like this continue, especially multiple incidents in a weekend.  And aside from the fact that they are role models (though sometimes reluctant), these are professional athletes.  They are paid millions of dollars to take care of themselves, perform, and compete at a high level.  The NFL and its 32 teams have stressed zero tolerance, educated, and penalized against this type of behavior.  And yet, it continues.

Unsigned rookie Justin Blackmon appeared at a press conference with his Jacksonville Jaguars Coach Mike Mularkey on Wednesday, three days after his arrest.  Blackmon apologized for the incident, calling it bad judgement.  He claims he is done drinking “for right now,” but can’t promise that won’t change ten years down the road.  (Huge red flag by the way and wreaks of denial!)  He will likely lose some of his signing bonus, and more may be deferred.  Blackmon has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The Vikings’ Felton has yet to comment on his arrest.  The team has only responded that they are “aware” of the situation and gathering more information.  The Minnesota legislature just passed a new stadium bill that will invest up to a billion dollars into a new home for the team, half of it publicly funded.  Polls showed most Minnesota residents were against funding the new stadium.

One weekend, two players, two incidents.  In the NFL, as in life, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to help himself.  While it’s concerning that both have prior issues, it is possible that one or both of these men will learn from their mistake and help others to do the same.  And let’s hope they do…before they squander the opportunity of a lifetime, or cost someone else theirs.  Because unlike the NFL, sometimes in life there are no second chances.