NFL Black Monday Fallout: Did the Tennessee Titans, Chicago Bears, and New England Patriots Make the Right Moves Moving Forward?

The NFL's Black Monday returned with several firings days into 2024. Did the teams that fired coaches and general managers choose correctly?

Monday always stinks, but NFL Black Monday is a special kind of stinky. We spend all year clamoring for professional NFL coaches and personnel people to lose their jobs, only to say, “Remember, there are human beings behind these titles” on this day. The reality is the NFL is a cutthroat business, and results are all that matter.

Which teams made the right moves, and which should have kept their current situation for another year?

NFL Black Monday Fallout

The league has a quick trigger. The Las Vegas Raiders, Carolina Panthers, and Los Angeles Chargers all fired their head coaches before the season ended.

The Washington Commanders let Ron Rivera coach the team through the end of his birthday but relieved him immediately afterward. The news was leaked of Arthur Smith’s demise with the Falcons just after midnight.

Additionally, the Chargers and Panthers have already relieved their general managers. There were also coordinator changes and lower-level firings elsewhere.

Hiring a coach and general manager is taxing.

Teams often cast an incredibly wide net, and the playoffs complicate these hirings because, crazy enough, playoff teams tend to hog the good coaching candidates.

Commanders Fire Ron Rivera

Right move? Yes.

“Riverboat” Ron might be the worst nickname in sports. Rivera has never been a particularly aggressive head coach. However, he has been a complete class act from start to finish, even in the wake of organizational controversy — whether it be the team’s owner or his defensive coordinator.

Unfortunately, it was time for a fresh start in Washington, and no move was more predictable. The Josh Harris ownership group undoubtedly wanted to get their guy in the building. It would have taken a monumental effort from Rivera and Co. to keep his job for 2023 when the season started.

MORE: NFL Black Monday Tracker

But when things fell apart defensively, and the team traded Chase Young and Montez Sweat, this story was pre-written.

Additionally, Washington should be a top-tier destination this offseason. No team has more salary cap space heading into the offseason, and the Commanders hold the second pick in the NFL Draft, meaning they can throw a dart at a new franchise quarterback.

Falcons Fire Arthur Smith

Right move? Yes.

Nobody is happier right now than every Drake London, Kyle Pitts, and Bijan Robinson dynasty fantasy football owner. Smith consistently shrugged off questions about their usage, but getting the ball to your greatest offensive weapons — who you drafted inside of the top 10 of the previous three drafts — is likely a significant key to offensive success.

Sometimes hiring the hotshot offensive coordinator works, and sometimes it busts. What Smith accomplished in Tennessee with Ryan Tannehill rightfully got him the job in Atlanta. However, the transition to being a head coach is not 1:1, and the jump in responsibility blew up in his face.

Smith should land on his feet with a coordinator position before too long, but it will likely be at a non-traditional stop, considering Smith’s unique style in contrast to the modern game.

Panthers Fire General Manager Scott Fitterer

Right Move? Yes.

It doesn’t take much more than a glance at Fitterer’s draft classes with the Panthers to understand why David Tepper decided to move on. Although Tepper’s influence on the day-to-day appears significant, he’s almost certainly not the one making draft picks outside of the first round.

It’s difficult to find a single solid hit on his résumé. Jaycee Horn is undoubtedly a good player, but injuries have kept him off the field more than he’s been on it. Ikem Ekwonu hasn’t rounded into a franchise-level blindside blocker, which is part of the reason why Bryce Young was a disaster as a rookie.

But past Round 1 has been as underwhelming, particularly after the 2021 NFL Draft. While Young may eventually become a franchise QB, trading up from No. 9 to draft a complete outlier was quite the decision.

Bears Keep Matt Eberflus

Right Move? Yes.

NFL teams aren’t always known for competent decision-making. However, it appears teams might be learning.

While retaining Matt Eberflus isn’t the perfect move, it’s hard to deny that he’s earned another season with how he led the Bears’ defensive turnaround midway through the season.

Eberflus took over before the halfway point, but it’s interesting to look at the differences between Weeks 1-9 and 10-18. Chicago ranked 30th in defensive EPA in the first half of the season, yet they were third in the back half of the year.

MORE: 2024 Head Coaching Candidates

It will be fascinating to see if the decision to keep Eberflus means there is a more significant chance that the Bears retain Justin Fields. It’s much simpler for a new coaching staff to move on from players from a previous regime.

Is there a world where Luke Getsy and Fields combine for a legitimate top-10 offense? Because if there is, it would take significant growth from each along with the addition of a Marvin Harrison Jr. type in the 2024 NFL Draft.

Patriots Part Ways With Bill Belichick

Right Move? TBD.

Editor’s Note: Bill Belichick and the Patriots are expected to “part ways” on Thursday, Jan. 11.

There’s absolutely no denying that Bill Belichick is the most accomplished head coach in NFL history. It’s also incredibly difficult to argue there are five more competent defensive minds in the NFL, even though he’s been doing this since millennials weren’t even a thought in their parents’ eyes.

But Belichick has failed miserably as a general manager recently, and as a decision-maker regarding the moves he makes on his coaching staff. It feels like New England has taken 1,000 swings on wide receivers in the draft recently, but each has disappointed and disappeared.

While Belichick reportedly wants to continue coaching, he is in the twilight of his career, and New England must eventually move forward. The questions were always whether he would be willing to delegate some control over the roster to keep his job and whether Robert Kraft wanted to have Belichick still be around as the team gears up to draft one of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, or Jayden Daniels with the third pick.

Somewhere along the lines, one of these questions became a sticking point for Belichick, Kraft, or both.

Titans Fire Mike Vrabel

Right Move? No

Firing Mike Vrabel feels a bit like a significant other who’s going through hard times personally and lashes out at their partner. Vrabel is a good football coach. As a leader of men, he might be in the A tier.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it was a horrific move. Sometimes it’s best for two sides to part, and that’s what this felt like. However, the move feels hasty, especially considering how highly regarded Vrabel is amongst his peers.

If that’s truly the case, then the Titans organization is in for some dark days. Team building is a marathon and not a sprint. Leaving draft capital on the table is a bit like saying, “No, I don’t want golf lessons, I’ll just get fitted for clubs and turn into Tiger Woods.”

Vrabel won’t be unemployed long. He might even be Belichick’s replacement in New England. He’ll be a hot commodity in this cycle and every cycle moving forward. It wasn’t long ago he led the Titans, with an absolutely abhorrent roster, to the top seed in the AFC.

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