x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Now the sack race has hit gridiron

I am a sucker for tradition in sport. Lately, the National Football League have had a tradition that happens when the regular season ends - the firing of the coaches.

I am a sucker for tradition in sport such as college American football on New Year's Day or the opening day of the baseball season. Lately, the National Football League have had a tradition that happens when the regular season ends - the firing of the coaches. It is like the running of the bulls in Spain, only with more carnage. Fill in whatever term you like: sacked, canned, I even used the phrase launched recently because so many guys got the boot that I needed to mix it up.

Seven coaches got launched this season. Some were obvious, like Rod Marinelli of the 0-16 Detroit Lions. It is hard to make the case to keep a coach who won the same number of games as you or I did. Then came more firings: Mike Nolan in San Francisco, Lane Kiffin in Oakland, Scott Linehan in St Louis, Rome Crennel in Cleveland and Eric Mangini in New York. One surprise was the two-time Super Bowl winner Mike Shanahan getting... whacked in Denver. I told you I was running low on ways to say it.

Shanahan's Broncos were one win from making the postseason. Think about it, your whole livelihood is boiled down to one contest. One more win and Shanahan is battling for the Super Bowl. Now he is unemployed. Other coaches came a whisker away from getting their walking papers. The Philadelphia Eagles' Andy Reid was possibly saved by making the play-offs. Just a month ago, when the Eagles were struggling, sports radio stations in Philly were calling for Reid to go.

Now Reid and the Eagles have won a play-off game and are just two wins from a Super Bowl appearance. Listen to those station's today and it is all flowers and candy when Reid's name comes up. It is as if the down part of the Eagles' season never happened. The Minnesota Vikings' Brad Childress also saved himself by sneaking into the play-offs. The Vikings were knocked out quickly, but just on Monday the Vikings' ownership announced that Childress would return for 2009.

The difference between employment and unemployment is the perception of a successful season. The other yearly tradition is seeing what happens to the coaching cast-offs. The term for the coaches who get another chance is "re-treads." Mark my words: Mike Shanahan will get another job whenever he wants. He is already rumoured to be a candidate for the Dallas Cowboys head coaching position, which is currently still filled by Wade Phillips.

If the Cowboys sack Phillips to upgrade to a two-time Super Bowl winning coach, it will be Phillips turn to get back on the coaching carousel. The only problem is, will there be enough job openings for the list of fired coaches when the music stops? Mangini, the Jets' coach until his firing last week, is a top candidate for the Cleveland Browns job. If you are a Browns fan, are you excited about this possibility: "Yea, we just hired a guy who couldn't get it done in New York with Brett Favre, yea!"

Throw in the fact that the legendary former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher is on the sidelines doing TV for the near future until the right opening comes along. Cowher flirted with the New York Jets job last week before declaring he would not interview for any of the multiple current coaching positions. This means that all 32 NFL head coaches, many still to be named, had better to keep an eye over their shoulders as the 2009 regular season wraps up.

Your 8-8 schedule may not be awful, but with Cowher now back in the game, it could be your name on the carousel. Stay tuned. ppabst@thenational.ae