The Lofton Files: Notes on Black Monday

01/02/2014

The Lofton FilesBlack Monday has unfortunately become a day that NFL fans, players and coaches know all too well. Like that car crash on the other side of the road that you can’t take your eyes off of, Black Monday is the day after the regular season ends, when head coaches around the league try to keep their door locked to avoid getting that pink slip.

Depending on the NFL calendar each season, the day falls awfully close to Christmas or New Year’s, so distractions are everywhere, whether it’s the excitement of a dramatic finish to make the playoffs (the overtime victory by the San Diego Chargers against the Chiefs’ B team or Aaron Rodgers’ heroics in Chicago) or the soap opera known as the Dallas Cowboys, which is always good for a Week 17 cliffhanger. The endless stream of college bowl games can also help to keep you numb and maybe turn your attention away from the changing of the guard in the NFL, but for the guys shown the door, no amount of distraction is enough.

Three seasons used to be the standard time teams allowed to measure the growth or direction of their franchises. Rob Chudzinski landed his dream job to coach his hometown team the Cleveland Browns just 12 months ago. On Black Monday, the Browns released Chud back out into the Dawg Pound after only one season – a season during which the Browns used three different quarterbacks because of injuries and traded away their #1 pick running back, Trent Richardson, to build for the future. In the AFC North, where you have to compete against Big Ben, Joe Flacco and Andy Dalton, there should be some leeway given if you don’t have the QB to hang with the big guys.

Leslie Frazier was let go a year after the Vikings landed in the playoffs. Speaking of three QBs – a year with Christian Ponder, Matt Cassel and Josh Freeman under center also marked the beginning of the end for Frazier and his staff.

Mike Shanahan waved the white flag when he benched RGIII. Just like in Minnesota, Mike (along with his son Kyle) are just a year removed from having the District buzzing over the Redskins. But like a lot of other health care issues, they lost the battle in DC.

Detroit decided to go back to the drawing board after five seasons of Jim Schwartz. The Lions have a lot of the moving parts to get it rolling in the right direction next year, so this will be a big hire.

It’s always easy to say a college coach was ill-fitted for the pro game. So why hire him in the first place? Greg Schiano at least did things his way.

Now, don’t shed too many tears for the head coaches that got axed. As Jerry Glanville said years ago, the NFL stands for “Not For Long.” Oh yeah, and a guy like Shanahan is walking away with $7 million and Chud will have to make due with $10.5 million. Not that the assistant coaches are in the soup line, but they need to man the phones, get to college all-star games, coaching clinics and the combine. Most will land a job with their networking and connections. Getting hooked up to the right head coach and holding onto those coattails is important. Andy Reid left Philly and most of his staff headed to KC and got hitched the the barbecue wagon. Chip Kelly took over in Philly and a lot of his staff has Oregon or Pac-12 connections. Most times guys land on their feet.

While Black Monday is a thing of the past, coaches beware. Sometimes it can extend for a couple days or even weeks and it’s hard to stay locked in your office that long if you’re the head coach in hiding.

– James Lofton

James Lofton is the analyst for WestwoodOne’s coverage of Sunday Night Football. This week James will be in Indianapolis for the playoff opener as the Kansas City Chiefs visit the Colts. Coverage begins at 4 PM Eastern on Saturday. As a reminder, WestwoodOne Sports is once again your home for every NFL postseason game. Find a station near you, using the station finder!

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