$.01--Marvin Lewis had a long and esteemed run in Cincinnati. That run has come to an end after 16 seasons.
It was time. It was past time for most Bengals fans.
While Lewis had a winning record during his extensive tenure in Cincinnati (131-122-3) the team hasn't finished with a winning record since 2015. Despite some very impressive and balanced rosters over the years, Lewis could never quite guide his team to a playoff victory, losing all seven attempts.
It was time.
Hopefully, his long-term running one of the most dysfunctional and frugal teams will be remembered in a positive light by Cincinnatians. He crafted a winning culture from the ashes of a franchise with a dubious history on-and-off the field, between no playoff appearances over a decade and numerous player arrests. Those ended under Lewis, a good man who is one of the most respected individuals around the league.
There are rampant rumors the team will replace him with Hue Jackson, his righthand man during the collapse at the end of 2018 after Jackson scurried back to Lewis' teat following his (long overdue) dismissal as Cleveland's head coach. I'm not sure any team could make a worse decision than the Bengals hiring the duplicitous Jackson. Don't bungle this, Bengals...
$.02--The New York Jets moved on from Todd Bowles after his third season of double-digit losses in four years. The 4-12 finish in 2018 was his low point and made his dismissal an unfortunate inevitability.
Bowles was consistently saddled with one of the weakest overall rosters. There is no denying that. But he also failed to elevate the talent on hand. In each of the last three years, the Jets finished in the bottom third of the league in both offense and defense and both rushing and passing on both sides of the ball. Even -- perhaps especially -- when a team lacks overall talent, there needs to be one thing they do well, something reliable to hang one's hat upon as an identity. Bowles never had that with these Jets.
The New York job is an interesting one. Sam Darnold showed promise in his rookie season, but he's not going to appeal to every type of coach. The skill position cupboard around him is in the bottom five. The two highest-paid players on the team, DE Leonard Williams and CB Trumaine Johnson, both are not easy coaching assignments. However, there is ample salary cap room to augment the roster and make tough decisions on players who don't want to be part of the solution.
Former Packers coach Mike McCarthy is reportedly scheduled to interview, and he's an intriguing candidate. If he can learn from his mistakes in mishandling the Green Bay offense around Aaron Rodgers the last couple of seasons, McCarthy could be the best thing that happens for Darnold.
$.03--In an unusual move, the Oakland Raiders made a hire instead of a fire on Black Monday. And it wasn't a flaming hot take of a hire either.
Oakland has hired NFL Network draft analyst and sometime color commentator Mike Mayock as the team's new GM. He will pair with longtime Monday Night Football color man Jon Gruden to form one of the most interesting power couples in pro sports.
Gruden didn't exactly have the smoothest return to coaching, sinking his Raiders deeper into last place in the AFC West and giving away the team's two best players. Now he recreates the Matt Millen era from Detroit, something this lifelong Lions fan really doesn't want to think about...
Like all draft analysts, Mayock has his big hits and major swings-and-misses. The stakes are radically different when they mean jobs and wins and losses. The draft is but a portion of the duties of an NFL GM, and Mayock is a complete naif in all the other aspects of the job. He's never been more than an outside observer in a coach's meeting. He's never managed a salary cap, or had to make the decision to cut an underperforming player he championed, or gone through the rigamarole of assembling and maintaining a practice squad, a task which involves significant glad-handing of agents.
I like Mayock personally. I've met him a handful of times during Shrine Game practices. He's never been anything but cordial and forthright. He's never been shy about asking those of us who get to watch more college football than he does about players on the field, a far different interactive experience than us lower-level draftniks get from others of his status (not including Daniel Jeremiah, a great guy always willing to chat). I'm rooting for it to work for Mayock. But I'm very skeptical of the move, especially if the homeless and notoriously mercenary Raiders fail to get Mayock an experienced consigliere to help guide him through the non-draft aspects of his job. There's a lot of sizzle here. Let's see if they don’t burn the steak...
$.04--Gregg Williams did a fine job as the interim head coach in Cleveland following Hue Jackson's disastrous reign of ineptitude. The fiery defensive guru guided the team to a 5-3 record in conjunction with interim offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens.
Williams has already interviewed to keep the Browns job, but it seems the odds are stacked against him. Cleveland GM John Dorsey has already indicated he is not in any rush to find the permanent coach and will cast a wide net. Among the fishes expected to wind up in that net is Kitchens, who will certainly get looks elsewhere if the Browns let him leave the building.
Keeping Kitchens, who brought out the best in not just should-be Offensive Rookie of the Year Baker Mayfield but also guys like Greg Robinson at LT, Nick Chubb at RB and Jarvis Landry at WR, should be a requisite for anyone. That includes Dorsey, who must at least interview Kitchens for the head coaching job. Despite his relative inexperience as a coordinator, he has been coaching in the NFL longer than the likes of Sean McVay or Mike Tomlin when they were hired as head coaches.
Williams salvaged his sullied reputation by cleaning up Jackson's mess. When his name gets mentioned now, the reflexive response is no longer "Bountygate" or his deep ties to Jeff Fisher's sunken coaching ship. He instilled accountability and respect in Cleveland and set the table nicely for whoever gets the job, be it Kitchens or an outsider. That needs to be Williams' legacy in Cleveland.
For all his relative success as the head coach, the Browns defense remained heavily predicated on takeaways and still struggled badly against better offenses under Williams. The vulnerabilities to his defense -- covering tight ends, irrationally aggressive blitzes in odd situations -- have remained problems going back to his Titans and Bills days well over a decade ago. Getting his dignity back and leaving a situation better than when he got it needs to be enough for the 60-year-old Williams.
So who would I like to see get the job with my hometown team? My ideal scenario is a defensive-oriented coach who keeps Kitchens as the offensive coordinator and assistant head coach. Brian Flores and Matt Eberflus both fit that bill, though neither has head coaching experience. Tough call. Making Kitchens the head coach and bringing in a former head coach as defensive coordinator -- the way McVay did with the Rams with Wade Philips -- is probably my preferred concept.
$.05--There are currently eight head coaching vacancies. That's 25 percent of the league without a head coach entering the offseason. Keep in mind 12 teams make the playoffs, so almost half the teams who fell short have fired their coach since the start of the season.
Recent history tells us most of these teams will repeat the Sisyphean task in another couple of years. Here's a look at the seven head coach hires leading into the 2016 season, thanks to WIP radio host John Barchard on Twitter:
Mike Mularkey, Titans: out after a pair of 9-7 seasons
Chip Kelly, 49ers: fired after a 2-14 season
Adam Gase, Dolphins: fired Monday, 23-25 record
Dirk Koetter, Buccaneers: fired Sunday, 19-29 record
Ben McAdoo, Giants: fired in 2017 with a 2-10 record, 13-15 overall
Hue Jackson, Browns: fired in October with the 2nd-worst record in NFL history, 3-36-1
Doug Pederson, Eagles: still coaching, 29-19 record with the reigning Super Bowl champs
One of the seven coaches who were heroically lauded when hired three years ago still has a job. That's the cold reality of today's win-now NFL. In Mularkey's case, winning more than he lost wasn't even enough. The same is true of Jim Caldwell in Detroit, who lasted four seasons before getting canned despite posting the best win percentage of any coach in franchise history during the playoff era.
Keep that in mind when these teams make the hire. It's why you won't see many college coaches fleeing relative job security and booster money to take shots at being one of the 15 percent who doesn't fall flat.