CARY, North Carolina (Reuters) - There were no surprises when three National Football League head coaches were axed on what has become known as Black Monday, following the league’s regular season finale.
Marc Trestman (Chicago Bears), Rex Ryan (New York Jets) and Mike Smith (Atlanta Falcons) were fired after suffering dismal losing seasons, and all three departures had been widely expected.
With Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco 49ers) also leaving the previous day in a widely expected move to take the head coaching job at the University of Michigan, at least four NFL teams will have new head coaches next season.
Trestman lasted only two seasons in Chicago and his position had become increasingly tenuous as the 5-11 Bears toiled to their worst season in a decade amid reports of ineffectual leadership.
One of Trestman’s underlings, offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer, acknowledged this month being the source of a media report claiming the team had “buyer’s remorse” over the signing of quarterback Jay Cutler to a new seven-year $126 million deal.
Kromer was also ditched on Monday along with general manager Phil Emery, who lasted three seasons and eventually paid the price for a series of questionable decisions, most notably the lucrative contract extension for Cutler.
One Bears player, however, believes things can be turned around quickly in Chicago.
“We got all the weapons, we got all the tools,” cornerback Tim Jennings told reporters.
Ryan’s departure from the Jets was also just about inevitable after a 4-12 season. Ryan, who was dumped along with general manager John Idzik, had been in charge for six years but the team failed to make the playoffs for the last four seasons.
“We’re in the win business, and we’re not winning, so I thought this was something I had to do,” Jets owner Woody Johnson said.
An outspoken coach with a lively personality, Ryan made a good start to his reign by reaching two successive AFC Championship games but the Jets were beaten on both occasions.
With a lack of stability in the quarterback position, the Jets failed to post a winning record in the past four seasons.
Idzik was general manager for two years but received criticism for his draft choices.
Jets quarterback Geno Smith said he was “hurt” by Ryan’s departure but understood that the NFL was a business.
“We understand these things happen,” Smith said. “You’ve got to continue to buy in ... whoever the coach is and continue to develop as players. I think we’ll be fine as long as we do the right things.”
Smith’s axing in Atlanta came just a day after the Falcons missed a chance to win the weak NFC South when they were humiliated 34-3 by the Carolina Panthers to finish the season 6-10.
He was 66-46 in seven seasons in Atlanta. No Falcons coach has won more games and he took the team to the NFC Championship game just two seasons ago, but they have struggled since, going 10-22.
Smith came under increasing criticism from fans this season and reports surfaced recently that owner Arthur Blank had hired a search firm to assist in the hunt for a new coach.
“This is a business about winning football games and that is how you are judged,” Smith said on Sunday before he was dumped.
Additional reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes