First and foremost, this is not a generally pleasant topic, of needed terminations. Professional sports, however, as a form of entertainment, come with stipulations to scrutinize those employed by their organizations. Within those organizations, coaches and management are always at the edge of dismissal when team performance suffers during prolonged times.
The Chicago Bears organization apparently has a policy to not fire coaches during the season. This, I think, is through empirical observation. It may be simply an unwritten rule of the owners, the McCaskeys. Where did it originate? Philosophy of George Hallas? I have no idea; perhaps football historians know the behind-the-scenes story, but nonetheless, a Bears coach has never been fired for performance during the season. That duty has always waited for the Monday after the season’s final game.
If there was ever a case to fire and move on from the current Bears coach organization before the season ended, it has to be the current Matt Eberflus tenure. In just over a season and a half, the results have been abysmal. Whenever the Eberflus eras ends, a lot of Bears and likely NFL coaching records are going to be owned by this manager and his staff, probably for a long time, and not the stats and records anyone wants to be remembered for. Just look at the Bears NFC North record since last year if you need an example.
I have assumed for weeks that Eberflus and most of his coaching staff will be fired after this season. Putting aside the Bears organization’s apparent rule to not fire coaches during the season, for heritage or honor or civility of whatever the reason, looking beyond towards a broader perspective, is January too late?
Forget the McCaskeys and their hidden motives for a moment. The other 31 NFL teams apparently do not have this unwritten rule. From, I hope, an objective perspective, there are many valid and, dare I say, healthy reasons to terminate coaching structures that are obviously not working and cannot be redeemed. Here are a few to consider.
Acknowledgement from Ownership They Recognize A Problem
When the coach or coaches are let go mid-season, it is a signal to everyone, from media to fans to the whole sports world, that something is wrong and action needed to be taken. Coaches are, usually, the easiest fall guys, as the ones considered ultimately accountable for the team’s on-field performance.
When coaches are not fired in the most egregious of circumstances, it sends a signal that team ownership is either unaware there is a problem, or has other priorities. Maybe, for example, they do not want to pay coaches under contact for not working for them. That seems like a very miserly view to take, especially when you take into account that…
It May Be Exactly What the Team Needs to Jumpstart the Remainder of the Season
There is ample evidence (look at this year’s Las Vegas Raiders) that a management shakeup can have positive effects on the team. Results, both short and long term, are not guaranteed, but “do nothing” mid-season will likely only continue to produce poor results, whereas a coaching shuffle might nudge the team’s performance to better outcomes.
Although it is now too late for the Bears this year, disruptive shakeups in September or October might allow that team to be hunting for a Wild Card spot come December.
Those better outcomes may be possible in part because it would…
Disrupt Opponent Planning
If a losing team is under the same losing management for several seasons, how hard can it be for opponents to scheme against them? I am not implying that any NFL matchup is ever easy, but all factors being equal, if a team’s weakeners and specifically their coaching deficiencies are on continual display, I cannot imagine an easier scenario for teams to plan for.
Promoting lower coaches to interim higher roles not only makes it harder for upcoming opponents to plan ahead, it also…
Allows Others to Show What They Are Capable Of
An assistant coach gifted a prime opportunity to take on interim coordinator or even head coach responsibilities can only be a benefit to him, to show both his team and sport at large what he is capable of.
At worst, the assignment will be a valuable learning opportunity. Hey, maybe he is just not cut out to be an NFL head coach, and if he is truthful with himself, he will get that answer sooner than later.
And it would be not just the interim coaches in a better place, because…
“The Fired” Should Be Able to Move on Quicker
I do not know what goes in the mind of an NFL head coach doomed to not be with his team next season, but I cannot imagine being trapped in organizational purgatory as good. Even if a coach wants to ride out the season, knowing he may never have such a coaching role again, perhaps his well-being would be best served by getting out of the situation, when performance and morale can only get worse for everyone.
And speaking of morale, it is a facet that cannot be ignored, because releasing a coach mid-season…
Acknowledges from Ownership They Care About Morale
What is it like for any athlete to play for a team that has won only six games over two years? You probably want to get out as fast as you can, as apparently cornerback Jaylon Johnson tried to do by requesting a trade this year at the trade deadline. Maybe mega-million NFL player contracts smooth over drama due to a team’s losing record, but they do nothing to better the team, to make free agents want to play and win for that team, both now and looking ahead to next season.
And morale is not just for the players. It is the team’s organization at large and, not insignificantly, for the team’s fans. You want to give me a reason to stay vested for the next 2-3 months? Make a cataclysmic move that jolts this team back to life, or at least lifts up my hopes.
Sadly, it does not appear this will even happen for fans of the Chicago Bears.
Do you think mid-season firings are justified? Or maybe you have rebuttals to my above points? Let me know in comments.
Thank you for reading my article. Donec deinde tempum.