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NFL coaches fired: Sean Payton retires

Matt Johnson

The 2021 regular season is over and that means it’s time for the list of NFL coaches fired will rapidly grow. Vic Fangio, Urban Meyer, Mike Zimmer, Brian Flores, Matt Nagy, Joe Judge, David Culley and Jon Gruden are among those gone. Even more names could join the list.

Change is inevitable in the National Football League as organizations set higher standards for excellence and patience wears thin. While change is expected, no one saw the Jon Gruden story coming. Urban Meyer’s firing was much easier to foresee. After frequently embarrassing himself and others, Meyer had to go. He became the first of the NFL coaches fired, but he won’t be the last.

The NFL’s Black Monday has arrived, meaning the number of NFL coaches fired is growing.

With that in mind, let’s examine the head coaches who could be fired with the 2021 regular season a thing of the past

NFL coaches fired in 2022

Sean Payton, New Orleans Saints – Retired

NFL: New Orleans Saints at Atlanta Falcons
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton is stepping away from football. Following increased speculation that Payton was uncertain about returning for the 2022 season, he has since informed the franchise he is retiring.

  • Sean Payton record: 152-89, 9-8 in postseason, nine playoff appearances

Payton was still under contract for three more reasons and he is expected to take the entire 2022 season off. But there remains a possibility, after a year to regroup, Payton will be the most sought-after coaching candidate in 2023.

David Culley, Houston Texans

David Culley
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

David Culley just wasn’t given a real opportunity to prove his worth as the Houston Texans head coach. As longtime position coach in the NFL dating back to the late 1990’s, Culley was hired ahead of the 2021 season to take over a disastrous Texans’ team.

Culley, 66, did whatever was possible to keep Houston competitive in a season that saw star quarterback Deshaun Watson not play a single snap. Remember, Watson had requested a trade last off-season — only to be accused by north of 20 women of sexual misconduct.

As for the Texans, they now continue on this downward spiral. The team’s owner is about as embattled as anyone in his position in the NFL. The Watson situation remains unsettled. The team lacks talent across the board. It will be an interesting several weeks in Houston.

Joe Judge, New York Giants

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New York Giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Dave Gettleman is gone and that means a new general manager gets to decide who the next head coach will be. What we do know is that the Giants officially announced days after their season finale that Judge has been given his walking papers.

  • Joe Judge record: 10-23, zero playoff appearances

For the Giants, it’s now all about starting anew with a full-scale rebuild following the retirement of the aforementioned Gettleman and Judge’s firing. They boast a struggling young quarterback in Daniel Jones and very few core pieces to begin a rebuild. At the very least, these Giants do have two top-10 picks in the 2022 NFL Draft. That could be a draw.

Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins

NFL: New York Jets at Miami Dolphins
Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Dolphins fired Brian Flores on Monday, parting ways with the head coach after consecutive seasons with a winning record. Things looked bleak for Flores entering November when the Dolphins had a 1-7 record, but he turned things around. After beating the New England Patriots in Week 18, finishing the season 9-8, many thought he would be safe.

Instead, owner Stephen Ross chose general manager Chris Grier and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in a power struggle Multiple reports indicate Flores grew sour on Tagovailoa and no longer believed he was the answer at quarterback for Miami. Because of it, he is now looking for a new job and it likely won’t take him long to find one.

Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Denver Broncos
Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

After three seasons at the helm, Vic Fangio won’t get a chance at a fourth after being fired. A season that started with a 3-0 record then spiraled into a four-game losing streak, wasn’t a good way to begin. Immediately, the head coach who was almost canned after last season was among the favorites to be fired midseason. While the Broncos showed some fight, it wasn’t enough to grab a playoff spot.

The Broncos desperately need a quarterback and new general manager George Paton will likely do everything in his power to land one. A path to making this a more desirable job is bringing in an offensive-minded head coach. Between that incentive and Fangio’s sub-.500 record, he was the first NFL coach in 2022 fired prior to Black Monday.

  • Vic Fangio record: 19-30

Denver gave Fangio a shot to pitch why he should remain the head coach. But three losing seasons in a coaching cycle with excellent candidates has ended with his termination. Now that he’s been fired, Fangio becomes the most coveted defensive coordinator in the NFL.

Jon Gruden, Las Vegas Raiders (resigned)

Jon Gruden resigned as the Las Vegas Raiders head coach on October 11, following the latest release of emails containing offensive language.

Gruden, who signed a 10-year, $100 million contract in 2018, came under fire before Week 5 after the Wall Street Journal reported the iconic coach used racially charged language when referring to NFLPA executive DeMaurice Smith in 2011. He later apologized for the email, which was sent when he worked for ESPN, saying it came at a time of great frustration.

The emails were obtained as part of the NFL’s investigation into the Washington Football Team. On Oct. 11, the New York Times reported there were additional emails from 2011-2018, containing sexist, homophobic, misogynistic and racist language aimed at commission Roger Goodell and others within the league.

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Shortly after the story broke, Gruden resigned from his position. The Raiders have named Rich Bisaccia as their interim coach.

Urban Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Jacksonville Jaguars
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

It was easy to see this coming from a mile away. The Jacksonville Jaguars thought they struck gold with Urban Meyer, basically ignoring the search process because they only wanted one guy. As we’ve already seen, getting locked on to a coach with zero NFL experience can backfire.

Meyer hired his friend Chris Doyle months into the job, despite multiple claims from Iowa of his racism towards student-athletes. While Doyle resigned a day later, following the backlash, it showed Meyer’s naivety for how many things won’t be tolerated in the NFL. Naturally, Meyer followed that up with the failed Tim Tebow experiment, fines for violating the NFL’s practice rules, he treated NFL players like college athletes and created additional concerns.

Keep in mind, Meyer was among our favorites to be one of the first NFL coaches fired before the video came out. He quickly lost what little respect he had left from the locker room. There was radio silence for months, but then NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero released the story about Meyer’s treatment of coaches and issues inside the organization.

Then, the final straw was drawn, by Meyer himself of course. When former Jags kicker Josh Lambo revealed Meyer kicked him during a workout earlier this season, the noise became too loud for Shad Khan to drown out. Almost as quickly as he was hired, Meyer was let go, for good reason. Plenty of them.

Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings

NFL: Minnesota Vikings at San Francisco 49ers
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Vikings have fired Mike Zimmer and general manager Rick Spielman, parting ways after consecutive seasons without a playoff appearance.

  • Mike Zimmer record: 72-56-1, 2-3 in NFL Playoffs

At times, it felt like Zimmer cares too much about his defense. In a press conference after a loss, Zimmer brought up the defense’s sack numbers to boast about success. Being a defensive-minded coach is fine, but not if it gets in the way of primary coaching duties. The Vikings have lost eight one-score games this season and that reflected on the man leading this team.

But the loss to the Detroit Lions sealed Zimmer’s fate. The defensive guru was perfectly happy watching his cornerbacks play way off in coverage, letting Detroit move the length of the field. Dumbfoundingly, the same coverage was deployed and it allowed Amon-Ra St. Brown to catch the game-winning touchdown uncontested as time expired.

Frankly, it’s almost as concerning that Minnesota nearly blew its huge lead over the Steelers. It bough Zimmer more time, but it would be stunning if he returns in 2022. With the Vikings officially eliminated from playoff contention, we’re now fairly confident Zimmer will be among the NFL coaches fired after the season ends.

Fortunately for the Vikings, stable ownership and young talent on the roster will make this an attractive job for coach and general manager candidates.

Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears

NFL: Chicago Bears at Detroit Lions
Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Bears have fired Matt Nagy, a move everyone saw coming a year ago. While the franchise tried to make things work, giving him another year to turn things around, the effort failed. After a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, Chicago posted a 22-27 record over the next three seasons.

  • Matt Nagy record: 34-31

Since that 12-4 season, the Bears have lived in mediocrity. Nagy avoided being fired after the 2020 season because Chicago took advantage of a soft schedule to end the year and snuck into the playoffs, only to suffer a first-round exit.

The Bears stuck to their tradition of not firing a head coach during the season, but the regular season is over. Nagy is officially gone and Chicago can start a coaching search that will attract plenty of attention.

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Pete Carroll, Seattle Seahawks

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Los Angeles Rams
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, it’s time for the Seattle Seahawks to launch a rebuild. While Carroll is just a year removed from signing a contract extension and has no plans to retire, change might be necessary. The Seahawks need to reshape their offense, one that can be successful without Wilson and one that doesn’t have Carroll’s fingerprints all over it.

If Carroll is among the NFL coaches fired this offseason, he won’t be out of work long. A Super Bowl champion with a 118-73-1 record in Seattle, Carrol is still a good head coach. But he isn’t the right leader for a team that needs to wipe the slate clean. If the Seahawks want to make a change, a trade could be possible.

Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers

NFL: Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

It’s never a great sign for a coach when reports surface that the team owner deeply regrets signing you to a huge contract. To make matters worse, former Panthers’ players are now coming forward with direct criticisms of the supposed “culture” Matt Rhule is attempting to build in Carolina.

Being just two years into a seven-year contract would make it seem unlikely Rhule is among the NFL coaches fired this offseason. But franchise owner David Tepper is aggressive and reactionary. Adam Schefter reports that the Panthers plan to retain Rhule for the 2022 season, but things can change. For now, Carolina is conducting a search for a new offensive coordinator. But if Rhule can’t land a top candidate, he could be fired.

NFL general managers fired

Rick Spielman, Minnesota Vikings

NFL: Detroit Lions at Minnesota Vikings
Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Rick Spielman, who joined the Vikings in 2006 as the team’s VP of player personnel and became general manager in 2012, is headed out the door. While the Vikings reached the postseason multiple times with the rosters he built, they could never get over the hump. With Zimmer out the door, Minnesota cleaned house and now there will be questions about a potential rebuild.

Ryan Pace, Chicago Bears

NFL: Denver Broncos at Chicago Bears
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Just like their NFC North foes, the Chicago Bears cleaned house. While there were in-season reports that general manager Ryan Pace might survive with a new role in the front office, Chicago officially fired him on Black Monday. He joined the organization as general manager in 2015, winning Sporting News’ Executive of the Year in 2018. But Pace’s quarterback decisions, signing Mike Glennon to a $45 million contract in 2017 and then drafting Mitchell Trubisky over Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes will define his legacy.

Dave Gettleman, New York Giants

NFL: Washington Football Team at New York Giants
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Officially, Dave Gettleman retired. But there was no way the New York Giants were bringing him back this offseason. So many of the moves Gettleman made in New York failed, including the Kenny Golladay contract and drafting Daniel Jones. Whoever takes on this job will have a big mess to clean up and they might also be stuck with Joe Judge for a year.

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