Ranking the 6 Most Likely NFL Coaches to be Fired After Week 18 on Black Monday
Since 2000, between one and three NFL coaches get fired in-season. This year was no exception, with the Jacksonville Jaguars’ Urban Meyer and the Las Vegas Raiders’ Jon Gruden losing their jobs before Week 18 (although Gruden technically resigned).
After the curtain closes on the regular season, several more NFL coaches will surely be fired on what is now known as Black Monday in the NFL. Here are the (possibly) soon-to-be fired NFL coaches who could be looking for a job come Tuesday, ranked in order of likelihood (and not counting interim head coaches Rich Bisaccia or Darrell Bevell).
Off the Hot Seat
When the 2021 NFL season started, the top candidate for first NFL coach fired was Dallas Cowboys second-year head man Mike McCarthy. He had 7/1 odds to be the first coach let go this season, but after leading Big D to the top of the NFC East and an 11-5 record heading into Week 18, the longtime Green Bay Packers coach is now safe with the Cowboys.
While some coaches started the year on this list and also appear below, others, in addition to McCarthy, worked their way off the hot seat in 2021.
The Arizona Cardinals’ Kliff Kingsbury and Cincinnati Bengals’ Zac Taylor not only got off their warm seats, but they are both in the mix for NFL Coach of the Year. That’s how quickly things can turn around in the NFL.
That’s good news for the coaches below. If they manage to survive Black Monday 2021, you never know what 2022 could bring.
6. David Culley, Houston Texans – one season (4-11 record)
Should the Houston Texans fire David Culley after just one season? No.
Will he be one of the NFL coaches fired on Black Monday? Who the heck knows.
Culley, a then-65-year-old wide receivers coach, was a shocking choice to take over the Texans in the 2021 offseason. However, who else would agree to take over a squad with a controversial family owning the team, a former team chaplain running the front office, and a franchise quarterback with serious legal issues?
All these problems still exist at the end of 2021, so the question remains: If not Culley, then who?
Additionally, Culley has done an excellent job considering the circumstances. The team played hard all year, did a decent job developing third-round rookie QB Davis Mills, and won a few games, including huge upsets over the Tennessee Titans and Los Angeles Chargers.
Culley deserves another season, if for no other reason than the fact that no great coach would take the job at this point. That said, it’s still the Houston Texans, so who knows.
5. Matt Rhule, Carolina Panthers – two seasons (10-22)
You can’t read or listen to anything about the Carolina Panthers ownership/front office/coaching staff without learning two things. Owner David Tepper is an analytics-based hedge fund guy, and he’s very, very rich.
Neither of these things bodes well for Panthers second-year head coach Matt Rhule. Carolina is 30th in weighted DVOA (defense-adjusted value over average) this season, per Football Outsiders. And Rhule is in just year two of a seven-year, $62 million deal.
The offensive numbers are bad, and the contract is worse, but for the richest owner in the NFL, that first fact might outweigh the second.
After backing up the Brink’s truck to get Rhule two seasons ago (outbidding the New York Giants), Tepper’s ego might save the head coach. So might the fact that the former Baylor Bears head man unceremoniously dumped offensive coordinator Joe Brady in December.
Right now, it seems like it’s 50/50 in pick ’em whether Rhule gets the boot on Black Monday.
4. Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos – three seasons (19-29)
Under normal circumstances, Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio would be at or near the top of this list. However, the 2022 offseason will not be normal in Denver, so it is hard to predict Fangio’s future right now.
The Broncos are up for sale, and the NFL wants to fast-track a new owner/ownership group. The new boss/bosses could be in place as early as March, per CBS Sports.
The longtime defensive coordinator has proven he’s better as an assistant than as the person in charge. However, keeping him in place until the team’s sale is complete gives Peyton Manning and his fami — I mean, whoever the new Broncos owner is — maximum flexibility when they take over.
Fangio should be among the NFL coaches fired on Black Monday, but his team’s uncertain ownership status may save his job, if only for a few months.
3. Joe Judge, New York Giants – two seasons (10-22)
The New York Giants’ consolation prize after not getting Baylor’s Matt Rhule in 2020 was Bill Belichick and Nick Saban disciple Joe Judge.
That hasn’t worked out very well either.
The Giants are such a mess as a franchise that they’ve fallen below the New York Jets in the NYC tire fire sports franchise pecking order. The Daniel Jones experiment has failed. Saquon Barkley is now officially too injury-prone to be a superstar NFL back, and the roster might not have a single top-10 player at any position.
Couple all this with Judge’s 31.1% winning percentage and his unhinged rant after the G Men’s latest loss, and year three of the Joe Judge Era isn’t looking good.
The standard narrative about the Giants owners — the Tisch and Mara families — is that they don’t overreact and fire coaches, instead giving them a chance to succeed. However, after having just five coaches in 33 years (1983-2015), the franchise has gone through three in the last six seasons.
Look for that number to jump to four in seven years on Monday as Judge should become one of the NFL coaches fired.
2. Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings – eight seasons (71-56-1)
Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer is, by far, the most competent and successful head coach on this list. He has a 55.9% winning mark in his eight seasons and has made the playoffs three times, reaching the NFC Championship Game in 2017.
Sometimes, though, organizations just plateau even with a good coach, and that’s where the Vikings are at the end of the 2021 season.
Zimmer’s club has produced a 14-18 record over the last two seasons and has been uncompetitive in an NFC North that isn’t exactly the old NFC East of the 1990s.
QB Kirk Cousins has one more year (and a $45 million cap hit) left on his contract. Owner Zygi Wilf needs to see if another coach can come in and get more out of Cousins, Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook, and a solid defense before blowing the whole thing up and starting from scratch.
No coach on this list deserves to be fired less than Zimmer, but no team needs to fire its coach more than the Vikings in a last-gasp move to get something from a talent-laden roster. That’s why Zimmer will almost assuredly be among the NFL coaches fired this season.
1. Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears — four seasons (34-30)
If Chicago Bears head coach Matt Nagy isn’t among the NFL coaches fired on Black Monday, the citizens of the Windy City will burn down the town (again).
No coach on this list elicits the passionate dislike of a hometown fan base like Nagy. The former Andy Reid disciple gets a bad rap, though. In four seasons, he has a winning record (34-30) and two playoff appearances, all with Mitchell Trubisky and now a rookie in Justin Fields at quarterback.
By comparison, “offensive genius” Kyle Shanahan has a (significantly) worse winning percentage over his five seasons in San Francisco (47.5% to 53.1%) and may have struck out trading up for a rookie QB as well. But no one is calling for his head.
Nagy is the victim of a bad general manager in Ryan Pace, who traded up twice for QBs in the last five seasons, and the unrealistic expectations of a big city fan base.
The only silver linings for Nagy — who is definitely getting fired on Monday — are that Pace will be out the door with him and the Bears will now be someone else’s problem.
All stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac