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'Black Monday' Brings Pink Slips For Some NFL Coaches, GMs

Dec 29, 2014
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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The National Football League's regular season is over and so is the tenure of several head coaches and general managers. The day after the end of the regular season has become the day when floundering teams hand floundering employees their pink slips. In fact, they even have a name for it, Black Monday. And this year it has lived up to its name. Here with us on this Black Monday is Emily Kaplan. She's a reporter for Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback. Welcome to the program.

EMILY KAPLAN: Thank you.

SIEGEL: And so far, four head coaches and two general managers are no longer employed with their teams. All of them gone before lunch. Any surprises?

KAPLAN: Yeah, the thing about Black Monday is a lot of it has kind of come to be expected. For example, Rex Ryan, the coach of the Jets who was fired, actually began cleaning out his office before his last game. So out of this list, we're not really surprised by many of them.

SIEGEL: Well, let's get to the one, then, that seems to have generated the most coverage and speculation. Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Here's a coach who had gone to three straight NFC Championship games, and if he didn't quit, which he did, he was about to be fired.

KAPLAN: The way that the 49ers labeled it was a mutual divorce. But anyone who knows about divorce knows that that's not usually the case. There has been a kind of a power struggle between the upper management and the coach, Jim Harbaugh. This is one that a lot of people expected, and it just wasn't going to mesh.

SIEGEL: Why? I mean, what - is it a clash of personalities, style? What is it?

KAPLAN: It's both. But really it's control. And I think Jim Harbaugh wanted more control over, say, personnel decisions, whereas his general manager wanted him to kind of stick to what was on the field.

SIEGEL: So he's headed for the University of Michigan.

KAPLAN: Right, where he will be handsomely paid reports of 48 million over six years, which would make him one of the highest-paid coaches at any level.

SIEGEL: You know, the coach of the team that I root for, he seems like a lovely guy. Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants. And he's taken the team to win two Super Bowls but it's been a couple of very disappointing seasons. Was it clear to you he was going to survive?

KAPLAN: Yeah, this was a bit surprising. But kind of on the philosophy of the Giants as organization, they really value loyalty. And they're a little against the par, I'd say, with the NFL over the last decade. The average head-coaching stint is less than three years, so them keeping on Tom Coughlin and giving him one more try just shows that they have faith that they can kind of make it work. At the same time, they look back at those two Super Bowl rings and that definitely doesn't hurt.

SIEGEL: You know, looking over some of the teams that finished at the bottom of their conferences and aren't going into the playoffs that didn't fire their coaches, the reason is 'cause they just fired the other coach. They have a guy who's just beginning, typically. It's not a secure form of employment.

KAPLAN: Absolutely not. I think Black Monday really points to the transient state of the NFL, which shows that, you know, there is a high premium on winning. At the same time, the down side is that you don't see a lot of player development when there's so much turnover. You really need some guys to stick together, like Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning, who can kind of generate chemistry and then success.

SIEGEL: Typically how much do these guys make for being head coach of a pro football team?

KAPLAN: It really varies, but I'd say between, like, two and five million a year.

SIEGEL: So it hurts to lose your job.

KAPLAN: It does hurt to lose your job. There are some nice severance packages, though.

SIEGEL: Emily Kaplan, thanks for talking with us.

KAPLAN: Thanks for having me on.

SIEGEL: Emily Kaplan, who reports for Sports Illustrated's Monday Morning Quarterback, on the events of this Black Monday. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.