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Extra Points: 'Black Monday' remains unforgiving
By John McMullen, NFL Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There was some thought in NFL circles that "Black Monday" would be a little less cruel this time around.
The end-game was still expected to be far worse than usual with as many as 11 coaches eventually looking for work and a host of general mangers joining them in the unemployment line.
But, with "Black Monday" falling on New Year's Eve in 2012, some thought owners would prefer to wait until after the holiday to meet with coaches and executives.
Some will surely take that tact but plenty of lame ducks learned their fate on Sunday night and into Monday morning.
The first official domino fell in Jacksonville when owner Shahid Khan fired his general manager, Gene Smith.
Smith joined the Jaguars' organization in 1994 as a scout and became the team's first general manager in 2008. Jacksonville did not finish a season better than 8-8 in his tenure, however, and had a dismal 27-53 overall during Smith's reign.
"Now it is time for the Jacksonville Jaguars to begin a new chapter. We're not looking back," Khan said. "I've made it clear from day one that we pledge nothing less than to deliver the first Super Bowl championship to Jacksonville."
The Eagles' Andy Reid actually knew his fate last Friday, according to reports coming out of Philadelphia, and the organization made it official on Monday morning.
"Andy Reid won the most games of any head coach in Eagles' history and he is someone I respect greatly and will remain friends with for many years to come," Eagles owner Jeffery Lurie said in a statement. "But, it is time for the Eagles to move in a new direction. Andy leaves us with a winning tradition that we can build upon. And we are very excited about the future."
Reid joined the Eagles in 1999 and turned the fortunes of the franchise around by attracting a strong coaching staff. His first defensive hires included legendary coordinator Jim Johnson and future head coaches Leslie Frazier, Ron Rivera and Steve Spagnuolo.
The Eagles reached the playoffs in 2000, the first of nine postseason trips in Reid's 14 seasons leading the football operations in Philly but the NFL is a vicious cycle.
Most coaches take over bad teams and then leave bad ones in their wake when they're eventually escorted to the city limits. Reid was the very definition of shelf life in City of Brotherly Love, a mentor whose message got stale.
Norv Turner was one of the lucky ones in San Diego, inheriting what was perhaps the most talented team in football when he arrived in "America's Finest City" back in 2007.
Let's just say the next coach in Ron Burgundy's town won't be quite as fortunate.
The 2006 Chargers finished an NFL-best 14-2 under Marty Schottenheimer but the patented Schottenheimer close-to-the-vest playoff coaching style resulted in a 24-21 loss to the Patriots in the divisional round, costing Marty his gig.
Norv took over LaDainian Tomlinson, Philip Rivers and Co. and promptly turned them into an 11-5 club, although they did make the AFC Championship Game in '07 before losing to the Pats again. It's been a steady decline since, with the exception of '09 when San Diego finished 13-3 but lost in the Divisional round of the playoffs.
Perhaps it was apropos in a city which enjoys virtually perfect weather year round Turner's final game as head coach was played in muddy conditions.
After all, if Mother Nature is a football fan, she almost has to be a devotee of the Bolts. And perhaps she was saying "Enough is enough."
Turner's team did send him out a winner, albeit in uninspiring fashion by topping a dismal Raiders team without its starting quarterback, 24-21.
Rivers, once regarded as one of the NFL's top signal-callers but a player who has regressed under Turner's stewardship in recent years, tossed a pair of touchdown passes as San Diego concluded its 2012 campaign by winning three of four and finishing at 7-9, far too little, too late for Turner, who was very honest about his future.
"Obviously, we're going to meet with the team and I'm sure they'll start looking for a new coach," said Turner, who has one year left on his contract valued at $3 million.
San Diego general manager A.J. Smith, the man who mistakenly hired Turner, is also is expected to be fired Monday.
The Jets already jettisoned GM Mike Tannenbaum, the man responsible for bringing the Tim Tebow circus to north Jersey.
"This morning, I informed Mike Tannenbaum that he will not return for the 2013 season," Jets CEO Woody Johnson said.
Tannenbaum started his Jets career as the director of player contract negotiations and served in a variety of administrative football management positions before being named as the GM in 2006. Under his tenure, New York amassed a 57-55 record and advanced to those back-to-back conference championships in 2009 and 2010.
But the team has failed to finish the season with a winning record over the past two seasons, falling to 8-8 in 2011 and finishing this past season with a 6-10 mark to fall into last place in the AFC East.
"Mike devoted 15 years of service to the Jets, and I want to thank him for his hard work and dedication," Johnson said. "Although he helped guide us to two consecutive AFC Championship games, we are not where we want to be, and a new general manager will be critical to getting this team back on the right track."
Johnson also announced on Monday that head coach Rex Ryan will keep his job.
"I believe that he has the passion, the talent, and the drive to successfully lead our team," Johnson said when talking about Ryan.
Reports out of Cleveland had head coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert both out, little surprise since new Browns CEO Joe Banner had made it abundantly clear he was going to revamp the organization.
Buffalo announced that Chan Gailey has been relieved of his duties after the franchise's fourth straight season with at least 10 losses, and in Kansas City, the Chiefs said goodbye to Romeo Crennel following their second 2-14 finish in five seasons.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Romeo, both personally and professionally," Chiefs chairman and CEO Clark Hunt said. "He is an accomplished coach, a man of great character and he helped guide our football team through some extremely challenging circumstances this season."
Crennel, of course, was forced to lead in the most difficult of circumstances after former linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend before driving to the team's training facility at Arrowhead Stadium and killing himself on Dec. 1. Belcher spoke to both Crennel and GM Scott Pioli, before taking his own life in front of them.
In the end Crennel's ability to navigate through those troubled waters was not enough.
"I am embarrassed by the poor product we gave our fans this season, and I believe we have no choice but to move the franchise in a different direction." Hunt continued. "I will immediately begin the search for the next head coach of the Chiefs. The entire football operation will remain under review, and there may be additional changes to come."
No matter where it falls on the calendar "Black Monday" remains unforgiving.
THE SPORTS NETWORK 2012 NFL AWARDS:
Offensive Rookie of the Year: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis
You really can't argue with anyone choosing Washington's Robert Griffin III. After all RG3 finished third in the NFL in passer rating -- behind only former MVPs Aaron Rodgers and Peyton Manning -- added in over 800 yards rushing, and led the Redskins to their first division title since 1999.
The tipping point, however, is that Luck was asked to do far more as a quarterback, throwing the ball 627 times compared to just 393 for both Griffin and the other strong candidate, Seattle's Russell Wilson. And oh yeah, Luck also turned a moribund 2-14 club into an 11-5 playoff team.
In the running: Griffin; Wilson; Alfred Morris, Washington; Doug Martin, Tampa Bay; Matt Kalil, Minnesota
Defensive Rookie of the Year: Luke Kuechly, Carolina
Kuechly led the NFL with 164 tackles and had 10 different games of 10-or-more stops. The Boston College product's consistency from week-to-week earned him the honor over the Rams' Janoris Jenkins and Minnesota's Harrison Smith.
Jenkins returned three interceptions for touchdowns in 2012, matching the most by a rookie in NFL history. The other two rookies to accomplish the feat are both enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Lem Barney (1967) and Ronnie Lott (1981). Smith, meanwhile, returned two pick-sixes for the Vikings and has the length and athleticism to battle big receivers down the field.
In the running: Jenkins; Smith; Bobby Wagner, Seattle; Casey Heyward, Green Bay.
Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Indianapolis
The Colts were 1-2 when Chuck Pagano was diagnosed with leukemia. When Pagano returned on Sunday, Indianapolis was 10-5 and a wild card team.
Under Arians' watch, the Colts went 9-3 and secured a spot in the postseason after their win over the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 16, an unlikely run punctuated by seven comeback wins.
In the running: Leslie Frazier, Minnesota; Mike Shanahan, Washington; Pete Carroll, Seattle; John Fox, Denver
Comeback Player of the Year: Peyton Manning, Denver
If life was like professional wrestling Adrian Peterson's entrance music might be LL Cool J's "Mama Said Knock You Out."
"Don't call it a comeback, A,P.'s been here for years -- Rockin' his peers and puttin' suckas in fear. Makin' the tears rain down like a MON-soon. Listen to the bass go BOOM ... Explosion, overpowerin' over the competition, he's towerin'."
People forget Peterson was hurt on Christmas Eve in 2011 and he had a damn good year in 2011. So A.P. might be a medical miracle but this was no comeback. He ended up missing one game.
In the running: None
Offensive player of the year: Peterson
Forget the amazing comeback from major knee surgery in eight months. What Peterson has accomplished with a quarterback who often struggles to throw for 100 yards and against eight- and nine-man fronts designed to stop him on a weekly basis is unprecedented.
A cross between Earl Campbell, Walter Payton and Bo Jackson, Peterson forces opposing defenses to bring their lunch pails week in and week out.
Honorable mention: Manning; Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay; Calvin Johnson, Detroit
Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans.
Watt is like "Where's Waldo" on the Texans' defensive line, playing all three positions in Houston's base 3-4 scheme. The Wisconsin product led the NFL with 20 1/2 sacks, swatted 16 passes, amassed an eye-popping 23 stuffs behind the line of scrimmage and was closing in on 40 total quarterback hits.
Honorable mention: Von Miller, Denver; Aldon Smith, San Francisco.
No disrespect to Manning but Denver won a playoff game with Tim Tebow running things last season. The Vikings might have trouble beating Alabama without Peterson.
Isn't that the very definition of Most Valuable Player?
In the running: Manning; Rodgers; Matt Ryan, Atlanta
12/31 12:02:10 ET