As Bill Barnwell noted, it’s very rare for a coach as successful as Fox to be fired. While Barnwell took a big picture view, I thought it would be interesting to look at coaches who were fired immediately after a successful season: in this case, winning 12 or more games. As it turns out, it’s happened just two times before in NFL history. Marty Schottenheimer was fired by San Diego after going 14-2 in 2006, but losing in the team’s first playoff game to New England. And Jimmy Johnson was allowed to move on despite going 12-4 and winning a second consecutive Super Bowl in 1993.
The table below shows all coaches who won at least 10 games (or had a winning percentage of at least 0.625) in a season from 1970 to 2013, but who were not patrolling the same sidelines a year later:
|1993||DAL||Jimmy Johnson||12-4||0.75||Jerry Jones|
So yeah, Fox is in some pretty exclusive territory. The Johnson situation was its own animal, and I suppose some could argue that George Seifert was fired (he was quasi-pushed out by the 49ers, who were not interested in giving him the job security he coveted). But Denver moving on from Fox, while perhaps not the wrong move, is still quite surprising. Fox has not been immune from criticism — he was certainly not the perfect coach — but teams simply don’t fire coaches who are this good. By doing so, Elway has really opened himself up to a significant amount of criticism if this backfires. Given that, I applaud Elway for at least not being too afraid to make the unpopular decision.
On another note, the 2014 Broncos may soon join be in rare territory for another reason, as Denver may see both of their coordinators be hired as head coaches. Today, Jack Del Rio was hired as the Oakland Raiders head coach, while rumors continue to swirl that former offensive coordinator Adam Gase will be named the new head coach in San Francisco. Since 1990, only four teams have seen both their coordinators in one season be NFL head coaches in the following season.
The 1994 49ers are one such team. That year, the offensive coordinator was Mike Shanahan, while the defensive coordinator was Ray Rhodes. But in 1995, Shanahan was head coach of the Broncos, while Rhodes was the head coach of the Eagles.
In 1998, Dick Jauron was the Jaguars defensive coordinator, while Chris Palmer was the team’s offensive coordinator. After the season, both were hired as head coaches: Jauron with the Bears, and Palmer with the expansion Browns.
The 2006 Chargers also show up on this list, too, making them a stunning parallel for the 2014 Broncos. That year, the offensive coordinator under Schottenheimer was Cam Cameron, while the defensive coordinator was Wade Phillips. After the season, Schottenheimer wound up working for ESPN, while Cameron and Phillips became the head coaches in Miami and Dallas, respectively.
In 2013, Jay Gruden was the Cincinnati offensive coordinator, and Mike Zimmer the team’s defensive coordinator. In the following offseason, Gruden was hired by Washington, and Zimmer went to Minnesota.