Friday, September 4, 2009
Offensive coordinators out the door
By John Clayton
On Monday, Todd Haley fired Chan Gailey in Kansas City. On Thursday, Raheem Morris canned Jeff Jagodzinski in Tampa Bay. On Friday, Dick Jauron fired Turk Schonert in Buffalo.
Are offensive coordinators on the endangered species list on the cusp of the NFL season? Gailey's firing was predictable. In the cases of Jagodzinski and Schonert, some panic has set in in Tampa and Buffalo.
As Cardinals offensive coordinator last season, Haley enjoyed being the playcaller. Gailey was a carryover from Herm Edwards' staff, and I think Haley accepted Gailey to save Chiefs ownership from having to pay off too many assistants' contracts from the previous staff. Remember, most coaching contracts are guaranteed. Also, Gailey's offensive scheme is more conservative than Haley's, so it's no shock there were issues.
I think Morris' firing of Jagodzinski could be the beginning of a recurring theme for 2009. NFL owners, concerned about rising player payrolls and shrinking profit margins, have gone to hiring younger, cheaper first-time head coaches instead of forking out $7 million-a-year contracts to established coaches such as Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Mike Holmgren, Bill Cowher and others. Morris, 33, hasn't worked long enough in the league to have a broad knowledge of available assistant coaches. Jagodzinski was more of a name than an acquaintance for Morris, and their philosophies obviously didn't mesh.
Schonert's firing is scary because it puts Jauron on the hot seat even more this season. A caring, generous boss, Jauron gave Schonert license to employ one of the more extreme offensive scheme changes of the offseason: a no-huddle attack. The Bills installed it in the offseason and used it the entire preseason. The results were awful as Buffalo scored only 72 points in five preseason games and was shut out by the Steelers.
Alex Van Pelt's promotion to offensive coordinator puts the Bills in position to get off to a slow start, which could lead to Jauron's firing. Buffalo has finished 7-9 the past three seasons under Jauron.
Lost in the shuffle is how many millions of dollars are being tossed down the drain by these last-minute changes. Coordinators generally make about $1 million a season.
John Clayton, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame writers' wing, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.