You know what I loved about Josh McDaniels getting fired? That it was so sudden. Sure, the Broncos were 3-9 and there was an outside shot that McDaniels would get canned at the end of the year. But then the Broncos were like NO, WE’RE CANNING HIM RIGHT NOW.
I love shocking moves like that. Everyone knew Brad Childress was gonna get fired earlier this year, but I’m much more excited by the coaching moves you never see coming. Like when Steve Spurrier resigned at Florida in 2002. No one saw that coming. Spurrier had spurned the NFL so many times that you thought he’d never leave Florida. But then he did! That was awesome.
And so, since I enjoy hastily throwing together arbitrary lists, and in celebration of Urban Meyer’s second and almost certainly short-lived retirement, I thought I’d compile a list of the 10 most shocking coaching moves of the past 10 years or so. Take a stroll with me down memory lane as we remember these precious hirings and firings:
1. Belichick spurns the Jets (2000). In the span of roughly two days, Belichick was hired as the Jets head coach, then resigned as the head coach via Post-it note, then was named head coach of the Patriots. It was like five seasons of hirings and firings all wrapped into one tidy episode.
2. Joe Gibbs returns to the Redskins (2004). I never saw this coming. I thought Gibbs just wanted to hang out around racetracks for the rest of his life. And it turns out, that was true. Unfortunately, he still decided to coach the team again while pining for long days of eatin’ corndogs and fixin’ transmissions.
3. Dennis Erickson hired by the 49ers (2003). This was the hiring that helped establish the Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for coaching jobs. That’s right. Even the NFL was shocked that the 49ers would be stupid enough to hand over full control of their organization to this man. It was one of the first signs of this team’s fall from NFL standard-bearer to flaming trainwreck. It remains one of the absolute worst hirings in NFL history. Not as bad as Kotite to the Jets, but still.
4. Bobby Petrino ditches the Falcons (2007). And he didn’t even leave a note! I almost admire his brazen sleazebaggery.
5. Norv Turner hired by the Chargers (2007). After finally ridding themselves of Marty Schottenheimer’s playoff chokery, Chargers fans were justly rewarded with… NORV? A twice-failed head coach who was hired only so GM AJ Smith had someone who wouldn’t question him? If Dennis Erickson hadn’t inspired the Rooney Rule, Norv would have. Even now, you can tell Chargers fans are still trying to come to grips with it all.
6. Butch Davis takes over the Browns (2001). Davis had been a hot name in NFL circles for a long time after serving as Jimmy Johnson’s defensive coordinator and bringing Miami back to national prominence. Then the Browns suddenly landed him and it seemed like things were finally going to come together for Cleveland. The Browns would start winning. The Cavs would land a superstar player who would NEVER leave. Jobs would be added by the thousands. What could go wrong?
7. That whole Lane Kiffin thing (2008). From being hired by Al Davis out of nowhere in 2007 to being canned after only four games in 2008, the Kiffin saga in Oakland was a masterwork of NFL human resources idiocy. We knew it was only a matter of time before Davis fired Kiffin, but who expected the overhead projector presentation? Or the fact that Kiffin really DID turn out to be a dirtbag? That was amazing!
8. Chan Gailey hired by the Bills (2010). Really? That guy? WHY?!
9. Jon Gruden fired by the Bucs (2009). THIS GUY! You talk about a guy who went 9-7 the previous year and never saw regime change coming!
10. Mike Shanahan fired by the Broncos (2008). And we come full circle to the Shanny/McDaniels fiasco. You see, NFL fans? While the action on the field is always spectacular, you should always remain appreciative of just how hard the league works every holiday season to turn itself over for your amusement.