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First four NFL coaches get axed to start 2018

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“Black Monday” came a day early for some coaches in the NFL.

The Indianapolis Colts and Oakland Raiders fired their coaches shortly after their regular season finales on Sunday. The Lions and Bears made their decision to fire their coaches before Monday but each team will make it official during the day.

The Colts fired coach Chuck Pagano after six seasons. The Colts were 4-12 this year and missed the playoffs for a third straight season.

Pagano’s firing was not a surprise, considering how much the team had regressed in the past two seasons. Indianapolis lost quarterback Andrew Luck to injury late last season and he missed all of this year with a shoulder injury. The team fired general manager Ryan Grigson after last season, so Pagano was not believed to be a long-term fixture with the Colts.

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“We fell short, and I fell short,” Pagano said. “We didn’t meet our goals, and I’m sorry that we didn’t hoist that (Lombardi) trophy.”

Detroit parted ways with coach Jim Caldwell despite the fact the team had winning seasons in three of his four years as head coach. Caldwell posted a .563 winning percentage, the best of any full-time Lions coach in the Super Bowl era.

But the Lions went 0-2 in the playoffs and missed the postseason this year despite the fact division rivals Minnesota and Green Bay both lost their starting quarterbacks for big chunks of the season.

The Raiders were the pick of many so-called experts to challenge New England for the AFC crown this season, but the team regressed to a 6-10 record after making the playoffs a year ago. That cost coach Jack Del Rio his job after his third season with the team.

Del Rio told reporters after the team lost in Los Angeles to the Chargers he had been dismissed by owner Mark Davis.

“Mark let me know that he’s not going to be bringing me back,” Del Rio said. “He told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to kind of get this program going in the right direction. But he felt like he needed a change.

“I told him how much I appreciated the opportunity he gave me, and I mean that. Very grateful. My childhood team. But it’s a results business. I understand.”

Chicago did not officially announce John Fox’s firing — the team is expected to have a press conference Monday morning — but multiple sources reported Sunday evening that he would be fired, and nobody connected to the Bears denied reports Monday the team had decided to make a change.

The Bears went 14-34 under Fox, including three straight last-place finishes in the NFC North. Chicago was 3-15 in games against teams within its division during Fox’s tenure.

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Of the four teams making coaching changes, the Raiders appear to be the one team that has decided on who its next coach will be. Multiple reports from ESPN over the weekend said the team is pursuing Jon Gruden for the job and would be willing to offer the former Raiders coach an ownership stake in the team if he would return to team.

The Raiders have not commented on the reports. Gruden wouldn’t confirm or deny the reports.

“I don’t want to sit here and speculate. … There is no news to report,” Gruden said. “I can’t say I haven’t taken any phone calls. I take a lot every year from coaches, some others. … Yeah, sometimes owners. Guys want to bounce ideas off me. I’m here to help people.”

The New York Giants are also looking for a full-time coach after firing Ben McAdoo in early December, and Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis reportedly told his assistants Dec. 17 he would not be returning next year to coach the team.

Question marks still surround coaching positions in Denver and Arizona. Meanwhile, Cleveland, Washington and Tampa Bay have all announced their head coaches are returning next year despite disappointing seasons.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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