Two Minute Warning: The Black Plague of NFL Black Monday 

With NFL Black Monday already in the swing of things, we take a look at some of the moves that have already happened. We also do a quick mock draft looking at the top-10 picks!

During the 14th century, a disease swept across Europe, taking the lives of millions on a yearly basis. For over seven years, the Black Plague would devise its way through every country, destroying crops, lives and all well-being in the area. The NFL Black Monday is somewhat similar, but obviously much less intense.

Every year after Thanksgiving, stores will have discounts for Christmas for those lucky to fight their way through the traffic and mayhem of other. Black Friday is one of the few days where everything expensive becomes affordable and your measly income can afford to outlast your sanity. 

In the NFL, Black Monday is a mix of both. Franchises will part ways with their head coaches, killing their time with the organization, but saving money and effort from potential mediocrity. Throw in the likes of just bad coaching jobs and usually, at least five teams will be in the market for a new leader each season. 

NFL Black Monday

The Washington Redskins and Carolina Panthers had clearance sales early. Washington parted ways with Jay Gruden following an 0-5 start to begin the season and named Bill Callahan their interim coach. Carolina was 5-3 at the midway point before losing their final eight games. Rivera, who found success with the team, including a Super Bowl 50 appearance in 2015, was let go in early December. 

The Cleveland Browns are the latest to freshen up their wanted ads with their announcement of the kitchen closing for good. Freddie Kitchens was expected to change the culture as the new offensive coordinator in 2018. Following a 7-8-1 season, Cleveland elected him as the man in charge over then-coach Gregg Williams. One year into the project and things went up in flames. 

Kitchens could never real in the success from the prior season, even with the new talent in place. Baker Mayfield took a step back while the addition of Odell Beckham Jr. couldn’t elevate the passing attack. The defense digressed and no one stood out as a game-changer following the suspension of Myles Garrett. A Week 17 loss to the one-win Bengals sealed the doors shut on Kitchens — leaving a mess even the inspector couldn’t pass. 

The New York Giants entered the trend with the firing of Pat Shurmur. Shurmur found little success as the head coach of the aforementioned Browns, before turning Case Keenum into a competent quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings. What seemed destined to fall crumbled in 2019.

Daniel Jones improved towards the end of his rookie season, showing growth under center and looking to be the future of the position. Saquon Barkley took a step back from his impressive rookie campaign, rushing for just over 1,000 yards and scoring six touchdowns. But the defense collapsed and the offense looked like a game of Russian Roulette a majority of the season, leading to Shurmur’s demise up in the Big Apple with a 9-23 record.

For now, four coaches will be out of work. That number could rise in the coming hours depending on how the meetings with the front office end. Dallas needs to fire Jason Garrett, but according to 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, he will meet with the Jones family later Monday afternoon to find out his future. 

The same could go with Doug Marrone and the Jacksonville Jaguars. With the departure of Tom Coughlin in the front offense, Shad Khan will need to make a tough decision. Since Coughlin’s firing, the Jaguars went 2-1 and looked like the team that many expected to contend this season. Without a rift of power controlling the reins, maybe Jacksonville will allow Marrone to call the shots on his terms and build the roster properly. 

Then there are coaches who should be fired, but will be retain. Even with the late surge down south, the Atlanta Falcons should have moved on from Dan Quinn. Injuries aside, the Falcons are a better roster than 7-9 and their defense shouldn’t be allowing teams to waltz in the end zone. But hey, as if blowing a 28-3 lead wasn’t bad enough, back to back sub .500 seasons with that roster deserves a second chance. 

Crickets listening in the background laughing…

Same goes for the Detroit Lions and Matt Patricia. At one point, the Lions looked like one of the toughest teams in the NFL. That lasted for let’s say two weeks before it all went to hell. Granted, an injury to Matthew Stafford wasn’t going to help, but the team lost their final nine games and will be picking in the top three. That’s not worth looking at a problem?    

Several coaches could be on the lukewarm seat but should be back for next year. Although Adam Gase looked like a disaster of a hire, the Jets improved with the return of lover boy Sam Darnold, winning six of their final eight games. The Denver Broncos will likely give Vic Fangio another season to build around his roster, specifically finding weapons for potential franchise quarterback Drew Lock. 

But four coaches are out of work. Rivera and Garrett likely will receive interviews for other positions and one could be hired by Washington in the coming days. Both did enough worthy of a second opportunity in a new city, despite the latter’s demise out in Jerry World. The rest will likely be pinning for coordinator gigs where they best fit. 

Black Monday is never a fun time in the NFL. Men lose their jobs, even if it’s not their fault (i.e Marrone in Jacksonville) and are forced to pick up their lives and find a new path. They are just one of many members affected by the team’s decision to move on. 

That’s the reality and it’s a tradition like any other. Out with the old and in with the new is always going to be around. 

Guys, not only is this the final regular-season Two Minute Warning of the year, it’s the last of the decade. This time in 2009, I was some nerdy sophomore in high school singing in the choir during the day and watching film for football in the evening. Basically, I was Troy Bolton and I’m not ashamed to say I know that reference. It just goes to show how much time can really change someone. 

Now, I’m just a nerd of pop culture who writes about sports for a living. Yeah, good decade for me! Some teams, however, could be looking for better days heading into 2020 while others will begin it with postseason play. Let’s take one last look at the 2019 season before we prep our coverage at PFN for the postseason. 

For the final time of 2019, let’s dive on in. 

Washington wins the early NFL Black Monday hiring

It didn’t take long for Washington to find their next head coach and for Ron Rivera to land back on his feet. According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Redskins should be announcing the hire of Rivera later Monday afternoon after the dismissal of team president Bruce Allen. 

Rivera is no ‘run-of-the-mill’ firing for Carolina. During his nine seasons with the organization, the defensive-minded coach made strides and brought the Panthers into relevance throughout the decade. Since his hiring in 2011, Carolina would win 76 games, three NFC South titles, go to four playoffs and win the NFC in 2015. That same season, the team finished 15-1 while Cam Newton was named the league MVP. 

The Redskins have pieces to build off of on both sides of the ball. The massive contract of Landon Collins is bleak, but his skills still rank among one of the league’s better safeties. His former teammates, Da’Ron Payne and Johnathan Allen have been the core to what little success has come from there. First-round pick Montez Sweat collected seven sacks during his rookie campaign and was a quality replacement for Preston Smith. 

A healthy Derrius Guice will pair nicely with Dwanye Haskins in the future. Both flashed potential as a solid duo in their first seasons of action, with one rushing for nearly 300 yards in three games and the other one completing almost 60% of his passes on a depleted roster. Throw in the success of a near-1,000 yard receiver in Terry McLaurin and Washington has something cooking on offense. 

Rivera transformed a struggling Carolina team into a contender throughout the 2010s. The 2020s could see similar results for a program that hasn’t won a playoff game in 14 years. 

Playoff set for 2019 

Yes, the decade will be over before the start of the playoff season, but the 2019 champion will come from one of the 11 teams fighting for a chance at glory. Yes, I said 11 because let’s be real, does anyone think Philadelphia is actually a contender at this point? 

The other 11 teams could be making some noise once the whistle blows on Saturday afternoon. The Tennessee Titans picked up a statement win behind the legs of the league’s rushing title winner in Derrick Henry. The third-year pro surpassed the likes of Christian McCaffery and Nick Chubb with his 211, three-touchdown performance against the Houston Texans. 

Meanwhile in Foxborough, even without resting their starters, New England continued to show their demise of future success against the …no, c’mon, the Dolphins? 

Checks phone stats and drops head on his computer. 

Yes, the Dolphins. 

New England’s struggles on offense were prevalent Sunday as Tom Brady would throw a 35-yard interception to Eric Rowe on the way to a 27-24 loss at home. It wasn’t even the Patriots game, but rather Miami never being able to put the nail in the coffin. Ryan Fitzpatrick threw for another plus-300 yards while the run game and offensive line just couldn’t punch in the crushing blow. 

Philadelphia was able to kick the Cowboys while they were down one final time this season with their Sunday win against the Giants. A late touchdown run from Barkley tied the game at 17 apiece heading into the final quarter of the season. Then Boston Scott got tired and was ready to prep for Seattle with his two red-zone touchdowns to seal the NFC East for Philly. 

With the return of Marshawn Lynch, Seattle closed out the decade with memories of old from their former top running back. In his return to Seattle, the veteran running back actually looked competent behind the line of scrimmage, rushing for 34 yards and scoring a  (yes I cannot make this up if I wanted to) 1-yard touchdown. A delay of game call near the goal line caused by a George Fant injury likely was the end of the magic for Seattle, sealing the journey to Miami to head through San Francisco in the NFC. 

Overall, it’s hard to argue that 11 of the top 12 teams in the league made the postseason. Houston has struggles, but Deshaun Watson makes them at least a contender in the wild card round against Josh Allen’s Buffalo Bills. Speaking of which, thanks to strong defensive play, could both the Bills and Titans cause upsets early for New England in Houston. On the flip side, will Minnesota have another miracle or will New Orleans be pissed about missing out on a first-round bye? 

No matter how you look at it, three of the four games should be impressive to watch next weekend for all fans of the game.

But again, I’m not mentioning Philadelphia. Much like Lynch, they’re just here so the league won’t get fined. 

What if I told you…. 

“Cue Music” 

What if I told you that one could be brave and bold? That you could be the hero and the villain in your own story? What if I told you that “eating a W” would be a tough pill to swallow. That even wideouts couldn’t go that wideout? What if I told you he was the greatest and the worst quarterback in the NFL? That the memes and storylines would be played out long after he was considered done. 

What if I told you his record-setting season, ended in the only way fans deserved to see it happen. 

Pro Football Network presents 30 for 30: The Jameis Winston story. Coming to your team hopefully never, but also you’d want him? 

Jacksonville jinxed 

As mentioned above, Jacksonville has many questions to be answered this offseason. One that should be an easy choice is extending defensive end Yannick Ngakoue to a long-term team that would keep him opposite of Calais Campbell on the line. 

That’s looking less and less like a possibility if his tweet Monday morning speaks any volume at all. 

Since entering league, Ngakoue has emerged as one of the game’s premier pass rushers for Jacksonville. Through four seasons, the former third-round pick tallied 37.5 sacks, collecting a minimum of eight per year. A consistent force for Todd Wash’s defense, Ngakoue exceeds expectations and has been one of the faces in Duval County for the team. 

Following Sunday’s victory against the Indianapolis Colts, the impending free agent pulled a Lynch and remained neutral on the situation heading into the new year. 

Jacksonville would be foolish to let a player with his skill sets leave for another roster, but then again, look at the damage that has been done this season. Expected to be one of the first to receive an extension, Ngakoue still is looking for a serviceable payday and perhaps the team could feel better off rebuilding without him. 

Seriously guys, what are you doing? Pay Ngakoue before you become a bigger joke than what you already are. You spent $88 million on a quarterback who played in a total of 2 ½ games. You can afford to keep him around.       

Parting shots 

Since we know the top 20 draft slots for the 2020 NFL Draft and I’ve yet to give my thoughts on the area since I used to cover it for a brief time, I’m going to play the roles of 10 GMs are draft my future for each team. Let’s start at No.10 and work our way all the way down to the Bengals who we know are picking a quarterback. 

  1. Cleveland Browns: Tristian Wirfs, OT Iowa 

Even if Baker was horrendous in his sophomore season, the offensive line didn’t help him find OBJ, Davis Njoku or Jarvis Landry. The line allowed 37 sacks and struggles ensured on the outside. Wirfs is a balanced player who can play on either side with ease. This is your Joe Thomas replacement moving forward. 

  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: WR Jerry Jeudy, Alabama 

Gardner Minshew? Nick Foles? None of that matters if the team can’t add a weapon outside of DJ Chark to their offense. All Jeudy has done for the Crimson Tide is catch literally everything in his path. He’s a top-notch route runner who will pair nicely with the former LSU stars speed. Stop making things hard and just take the dude here Dave Caldwell. 

  1. Arizona Cardinals: WR CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma 

Larry Fitzgerald is going to retire right? Outside of Christian Kirk, did any receiver impress in the desert? Steve Kiem was right to draft Kyler Murray a year ago as the future quarterback. How about you get his favorite speedy target from college in April. During his Heisman campaign, Murray found Lamb for 1,158 yards and 11 touchdowns. You’re welcome Arizona. 

  1. Carolina Panthers: DL Javon Kinlaw, South Carolina 

Let’s see who is hired as the head coach before we jump ship on Cam Newton in the Queen City. Quarterback would be tempting, but there’s no way the team brings back basket case Vernon Butler after this season. Kinlaw impressed in the trenches and was the one bright spot for South Carolina. It’s a good pick for the defense as Newton is still considered the guy for now. 

  1. Los Angeles Chargers: QB Justin Herbert, Oregon

So, Philip Rivers has one season, at best, left, right? The 38-year-old digressed immensely for the team that showed so much promise a season ago. He likely is the reason that they’re not in the playoffs and could be turning into a mentor role. Herbert is a west coast kid with the ability to win all over the field with excellent pass catchers. Have fun with this guy Tom Telesco. 

  1. Miami Dolphins: QB Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama 

Ryan Fitzpatrick has one more season under his contract and Tua isn’t going to fix the issues for the Dolphins in one season. He sits, rehabs and comes back in 2021 while the team has their true franchise quarterback. This is going to happen so stop arguing for someone else.  

  1. New York Giants: OT Andrew Thomas, Georgia 

Jones is looking like the future and Barkley had a down year. What does that say about the offensive line? Thomas is the complete package at the position who can pass protect and help move the chains on the ground. Somehow I feel like Gettleman will still be the one making this pick. 

  1. Detroit Lions – DL Derrick Brown, Auburn 

With the news of Damon Harrison contemplating retirement, this should be an easy pick for Matt Patrica. Brown is perhaps the second-best player in the draft and fits the need on the defensive line. He should be an easy pick here and a vital piece for the future of the defense. 

  1. Washington Redskins – EDGE Chase Young, Ohio State 

Montez Sweat and Chase Young off the edge? Have fun on defense Washington. 

  1. Cincinnati Bengals – QB Joe Burrow, LSU 

Burrow threw for over 400 yards and seven touchdowns in the first half of the Peach Bowl. Zac Taylor should have just named him the starting quarterback next season during the team’s press conference Sunday afternoon. 

Happy New Year everyone!

Cole Thompson is the Lead NFL writer for Pro Football Network. Follow him on Twitter at @MrColeThompson.

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