This Date In Transactions History

This Date In Transactions History: Titans Hire Mike Vrabel

Four years ago today, the Titans tapped Mike Vrabel as their next head coach. The former Texans defensive coordinator wasn’t thought to be a frontrunner for the job, but he proved to be the “leader of men” that GM Jon Robinson was looking for.

Early on, Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels was said to be at the top of the Titans’ list. A few weeks later, it was clear that they made the right choice. McDaniels, of course, was announced as the next HC of the Colts, only to leave them at the altar that same day.

Robinson, a one-time Patriots scout, immediately clicked with the longtime Pats linebacker, according to Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk.

“You could see their connection right away from the history they have with one another – seeing the game in a similar way and talking the same language,” Strunk said. “Mike has a commanding presence and a deep knowledge for how he will attack this head coaching opportunity.

With that, Vrabel became the 19th head coach in franchise history and the fourth since 2011. They also managed to snag runner-up Matt LaFleur, luring the Rams OC to Nashville for the same role. LaFleur would leave one year later to become the Packers’ HC, but Vrabel continued to deliver results.

Vrabel’s first Titans team went 9-7, even without Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker on the field. Since then, he’s taken the Titans to the playoffs in each of the last three seasons with AFC South titles in each of the last two years. With a win over the Bengals tomorrow, Vrabel can bring his club back to the AFC title game and one step closer to winning its first Super Bowl in over 20 years.

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This Date In Transactions History: Tom Coughlin, Giants Part Ways

Six years ago today, the Tom Coughlin era in New York came to an end. On January 4th, 2016, we learned that the Giants and their Super Bowl-winning head coach were parting ways.

Following a relatively successful stint as the Jaguars head coach, Coughlin joined the Giants in 2004. During his first five season at the helm, the Giants won 47 regular season games, made four postseason appearances, and won a Super Bowl. After dropping to 8-8 in 2009, they rebounded with 10 wins in 2010 before earning another ring in 2011. At that point of time, it seemed inconceivable that the organization would let go of their head coach.

However, after falling to 9-7 in 2012, the Giants failed to finish above .500 between 2013 and 2015, averaging 6.33 wins per season during that three-year span. Following a 6-10 2015 campaign that featured a handful of miserable losses, the writing was clearly on the wall. There were whispers that the Giants were prepared to move on from Coughlin, but naturally, the organization allowed the successful coach to save face. So, on this date six years ago, Coughlin announced that he was stepping down from his position after the two sides decided to part ways.

“I met with John Mara and Steve Tisch this afternoon, and I informed them that it is in the best interest of the organization that I step down as head coach,” Coughlin said in a statement. “I strongly believe the time is right for me and my family, and as I said, the Giants organization.

“It has been an honor and a privilege to serve as head coach of the New York Football Giants. This is a not a sad occasion for me. I have spent 15 years with this organization as an assistant and head coach and was fortunate to be part of three Super Bowl winning teams. A Lombardi Trophy every five years is an achievement in which we all take great pride.”

And like that, the then-third-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL was out in New York. While Coughlin seemed to hint at wanting time away from the game, he was immediately connected to a number of coaching gigs. At different points, Coughlin was connected to HC jobs with the Eagles (a job that he reportedly could have had), 49ers, and the Jaguars. Jacksonville quickly pivoted their focus and pursued Coughlin as a top executive … a position he eventually accepted. In 2017, Coughlin was hired as the Jaguars new Executive Vice President of Football Operations, a role that required him to oversee the front office (including GM Dave Caldwell). While the former coach didn’t technically have any executive experience, he essentially acted as the Jaguars’ general manager during his first stint with the organization.

Things went great during Coughlin’s first season back in Jacksonville, as the Jaguars reached the AFC Championship for the first time since Coughlin was head coach. After Jacksonville won 10 regular season games during that 2017 run, they only managed to win 11 games over the next two seasons. Off the field, matters were worse. Players were fined hundreds of thousands of dollars during offseasons (leading to the NFLPA winning a grievance against the organization), and the old-school leader was the driving force behind Jalen Ramsey‘s decision to request a trade. Further, Coughlin was criticized for his handling of the quarterback position; while he wasn’t with the organization when the Jaguars selected Blake Bortles, he authorized the QB’s three-year, $54MM extension. Further, among Coughlin’s 21 draft picks, only two made Pro Bowls, and he also selected RB Leonard Fournette with his first draft selection (No. 4 in 2017, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, no less).

Coughlin was ultimately canned by the Jaguars at the end of that 2019 campaign. When he was fired, ESPN.com’s Chris Mortensen said “there is plenty of football left in Tom Coughlin.” We haven’t heard much from the 75-year-old since that time, and it remains to be seen whether his name will be tossed around for any HC vacancies this offseason. Speaking of, in the six seasons since Coughlin left New York, the Giants have shuffled through three head coaches, with Joe Judge currently on the hot seat. Interesting…

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This Date In Transactions History: 49ers Fire Jim Tomsula

On this date in 2016, the 49ers bid adieu to head coach Jim Tomsula. Tomsula had spent nearly a decade with the franchise, but couldn’t deliver results in his lone year as HC. 

Jimmy has been a valuable member of the 49ers organization for the last nine years,” CEO Jed York said in a statement. “We all know he is a man of high character, and his contributions on the field and in our community have always been greatly appreciated. This entire organization is proud and grateful to have worked so closely alongside Jimmy. We all wish him and his family great success in the future.”

The Niners casted a wide net to replace Jim Harbaugh, but ultimately kept things in house by promoting Tomsula, their longtime defensive line coach. After signing a four-year, $14MM deal, his squad went just 5-11, giving the 49ers their worst record since 2007. To his credit, the Niners managed to close that season with a win over the rival Rams. Still, it was all a far cry from Harbaugh’s tenure — a 44-19-1 regular-season record and three playoff appearances across four years.

Less than two weeks later, the Niners tapped Chip Kelly as their next leader. The Kelly era was even shorter — the charismatic coach was sacked on January 1st, 2017, along with GM Trent Baalke. Kelly’s fast-paced system was supposed to reignite the offense. Instead, they were 24th in DVOA, 27th in scoring, and 29th in yardage.

Tomsula, meanwhile, left with the full $14MM payout for his one season in the role. A couple years later, he returned to his bread-and-butter, serving as the defensive line coach for Washington (2017-2019) and Dallas (2020). Tomsula spent 2021 outside of the NFL, but it’s possible that the 53-year-old could reemerge sometime this year.

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This Date In Transactions History: Raiders Fire Jack Del Rio

Four years ago today, the Raiders fired head coach Jack Del Rio. The decision came shortly after a lopsided loss to the Chargers in the season finale, capping the Raiders’ season at 6-10.

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[Raiders owner] Mark Davis told me he loved me and appreciated all that I did to get this program going to right direction,” said Del Rio. “But, [he also] that he felt he needed a change.”

Davis hired Del Rio in 2015 and saw the team improve from 3-13 to 7-9. That Raiders team didn’t necessarily set the world on fire, but they were at least in the playoff hunt, up until a Week 15 loss to the Packers. In 2016, it appeared that the Raiders were on the right track. With Del Rio at the helm and Derek Carr under center, the Raiders finished 12-4 to earn their first playoff spot since 2002.

Unfortunately, Carr didn’t make it to the postseason after suffering a broken fibula in Week 16. Then, when Matt McGloin suffered a shoulder injury the following week, rookie Connor Cook was thrust into action. Oakland’s long-awaited playoff appearance ended abruptly with a loss to the Texans. Had Carr been on the field, it’s possible that things could have gone differently for the Raiders and JDR.

So, after a cumulative 25-23 record, the Raiders dismissed Del Rio and immediately set their sights on Jon Gruden. Del Rio, meanwhile, spent the next few years away from football, up until 2020 when he became Washington’s defensive coordinator.

When Del Rio crossed paths with his old team a few weeks back, he had an opportunity to mend fences with Carr. Previously, Del Rio had some unflattering things to say about Carr’s ability to perform in cold weather. Fortunately, with 2021 drawing to a close, they were able to bury the hatchet.

I talked to him afterward,” Carr said. “We had a good talk, obviously I wish it was better for me, but we just expressed our love for one another and how thankful we were for the times that we had.”

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This Date In Transactions History: Jets Fire Todd Bowles

Careful what you wish for. On December 30, 2018, Jets fans were overjoyed when they learned head coach Todd Bowles was canned. Fast forward three years, and fans have endured at least one head coaching failure and may be questioning whether they should have kept Bowles after all.

Bowles made a name for himself as a defensive backs coach, and following a two-year stint as the Cardinals defensive coordinator, he was hired by the Jets to replace Rex Ryan in New York. The organization clearly had high hopes for their hire; they gave Bowles a four-year pact despite his lack of heading coaching experience (he had a brief stint as interim HC with the Dolphins in 2011).

The Jets new on-field leader was inheriting a team that had dropped to 4-12 in 2014 … their worst record in seven years. Thanks to a reinvigorated defense that emerged as one of the best in the NFL (and thanks in part to Geno Smith‘s broken jaw, which thrust veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick into the starting lineup), the Jets improved to 10-6 during Bowles’ first season at the helm. However, the entire squad took a major step back in 2016 when they finished 5-11, and Bowles was firmly on the hot seat heading into the 2017 campaign.

The Jets had an identical record in 2017, but the Josh McCown/Bryce Petty-led offense wasn’t completely incompetent and bought Bowles another year. There was some optimism with first-round QB Sam Darnold taking over under center in 2018, but the Jets finished with only four wins, the worse showing of Bowles’ tenure and the organization’s worst record since, well, Ryan was fired. So, on this date three years ago, the organization fired Bowles and began their search for their 19th coach.

“After carefully evaluating the situation, I have concluded that this is the right direction for the organization to take,” Jets CEO Christopher Johnson said in a statement. “I would like to wish Todd, Taneka and their family only the best.”

We all know how this worked out. The organization initially decided to hang on to general manager Mike Maccagnan, and the organization settled on Adam Gase to replace Bowles. After allowing their GM to hire a new head coach, run the draft, and deal with the early wave of free agency, the organization curiously fired Maccagnan before the offseason concluded. Gase managed to improve the squad to a 7-9 record in 2019, but following a 2020 season that saw the Jets win the second-fewest games in franchise history (two), Gase was fired.

While the Jets are still trying to land on their feet, Bowles has made out pretty well for himself. The coach was hired as Bruce Arians‘ defensive coordinator in Tampa Bay in 2019, and Bowles has helped turned the Buccaneers’ defensive line into one of the best in the NFL. The Bucs ranked first in rushing yards allowed in both 2019 and 2020 (they’re third in 2021), and the defense has been top-10 in points allowed since the beginning of the 2020 season. Of course, Bowles also helped guide a defense that won a Super Bowl championship last season.

Bowles was a hot name on the HC circuit last offseason, as he was connected to gigs with the Lions, Falcons, and Eagles. He ended up getting an extension from Tampa Bay last offseason, but there’s still a chance he moves on; Bowles will interview for the first vacancy that’s opened in the NFL in Jacksonville.

While Bowles has clearly rehabilitated his image following an ugly few years in the New York, it remains to be seen whether he’s actually a viable NFL head coach. Similarly, following a COVID-filled year that saw the Jets turn to a rookie QB and an ancient Joe Flacco at QB (at least Mike White was fun!), it’s difficult to make any determination on Jets head coach Robert Saleh.

Sure, it’s plenty easy to second guess the Jets for how everything unfolded. However, until Bowles emerges as a capable HC (or New York beats him to the punch by returning to the playoffs under Saleh or someone else), it’s hard to be too critical of the Jets.

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This Date In Transactions History: Giants Sign Logan Ryan To Extension

Christmas Day tends to be pretty quiet in the NFL. But, on December 25th of last year, the Giants gave Logan Ryan the biggest gift he could have possibly asked for. That morning, the veteran safety inked a three-year, $30MM extension with $11.5MM fully guaranteed at signing.

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It was a solid step up for Ryan, who encountered an oddly quiet market just a few months prior. Despite several seasons as a high-level starter, Ryan was forced to settle for a one-year, $7.5MM contract with the Giants. It’s not like he had declined either — Ryan graded as one of the league’s top slot defenders in 2019, per Pro Football Focus, and led all NFL corners with 113 tackles. Finally, Ryan had the $10MM/year deal he was seeking all along.

It wasn’t a banner year for the Giants on the whole, but Ryan was playing well on an individual level. At the time of signing, the Rutgers product had 83 stops, one interception, one sack, three forced fumbles, and nine passes defensed through 14 games.

The Giants were happy to reward his performance, but he’ll have to prove himself all over again for a new regime after Dave Gettleman steps down as GM. Ryan, 31 in February, has slumped along with the rest of the G-Men this year. He currently ranks just 71st out of 91 qualified safeties, per PFF, with zero interceptions or sacks on the year. But, thanks to his extension, his spot is more or less secure for 2022. Slated to carry a $12.225MM cap hit, the Giants would save just $775K by releasing him.

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This Date In Transactions History: Reggie Bush Retires From NFL

Four years ago today, Reggie Bush announced that he would hang up his cleats. The veteran running back went unsigned for the 2017 season and he wasn’t about to start his search all over again for 2018.

“I’m done,” Bush said (via Edward Lewis of NFL.com). “Yeah, I’m done. I said it. It’s not breaking news. I’ve been saying it. I said it all season long, I said, ‘Listen, if I don’t play this year, I’m going to retire.’ Because I’m not going to spend a whole year off, come back, 33 years old, trying to get back in the league. Listen, once you get to a certain age as a running back, they just start to slowly weed you out.”

There wasn’t much interest in Bush following a subpar 2016 campaign with the Bills, when he totaled negative yards and one touchdown on 12 carries. Of course, those struggles didn’t negate Bush’s impressive eleven-year career. While the 2006 second-overall pick and (later forfeited) 2005 Heisman Trophy winner didn’t necessarily live up to the hype, he was still one of the most respected pass-catching backs in the league.

Bush compiled at least 30 receptions and 200 receiving yards during each of his first eight years in the league, including four seasons with at least 50 catches. The offensive weapon was also a dynamic returner, as he finished his career with four punt returns for touchdowns. The USC product spent time with the Saints, Dolphins, Lions, 49ers, and Bills. Even though his pro career didn’t go as planned, he’s widely regarded as one of the top NCAA running backs of all time.

Interestingly, even though Bush said he was done with football in 2017, he did leave the door slightly open for one pro team:

“Listen, the Saints know I’m coming home at some point. [If I play again,] I’m going to come home to retire as a Saint. But yeah, man, I’m done. For sure. I’m done.”

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This Date In Transactions History: Eagles Place Carson Wentz On IR

The Eagles couldn’t have asked for much more out of the No. 2 overall pick in 2016 draft. Carson Wentz started all 16 games during his rookie season, played the second-most snaps in the NFL that year, and carried that momentum into the following year. Through 13 weeks, the Eagles were 11-2 as Wentz threw for an eye-popping 33 touchdowns.

Then, in their Week 14 win over the Rams, Wentz tore his ACL. So, on this date in 2017, the Eagles officially placed their young QB on the injured reserve list. We all know what happened next — backup Nick Foles took over under center and helped guide the Eagles to a Super Bowl LII victory over the Patriots. Things would never be the same again for the Birds or their one-time prodigy.

Wentz missed the first two games of 2018 as he recovered from knee surgery, only to suffer a back injury that would sideline him for the rest of the year. He managed to appear in all 16 games during the 2019 campaign, but a helmet-to-helmet hit from Jadeveon Clowney forced an early exit from his postseason debut. In 2020, he looked nothing like his old self. Wentz connected on a career-low 57.4% of his passes while leading the NFL in sacks taken (50) and interceptions (15 vs. just 16 touchdowns). Head coach Doug Pederson benched Wentz for rookie Jalen Hurts, setting the stage for their offseason divorce.

Following their Week 13 romp over the Texans, Wentz’s Colts are 7-6 with a clear path to the playoffs. His snap count also effectively solidified the Eagles’ haul from the blockbuster trade. With Wentz taking 75% of the snaps this year, Indy’s conditional second-rounder turns into a 2022 first-rounder for Philly. If the season ended today, the 6-7 Eagles would own the No. 10 (from the Dolphins), their original No. 11, and No. 21 from the Colts.

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This Date In Transactions History: Rams Fire Jeff Fisher

On this date in 2016, the Rams moved on from Jeff Fisher. The decision came on the heels of a brutal loss to the Falcons, one that tied Fisher for the most losses of any NFL head coach in league history.

[RELATED: Rams Place Henderson On Reserve/COVID-19 List]

Fisher’s 165th L tied Dan Reeves for the all-time record, though Reeves had 190 career wins vs. Fisher’s 173. Across 22 years of coaching, Fisher made the playoffs just six times, and none of those postseason appearances came in St. Louis or Los Angeles.

Making a decision such as this – especially during the season – is one of the most difficult in sports,” Rams owner Stan Kroenke said in a statement. “I have great respect for Jeff as a coach, person, father and friend. He has worked tirelessly despite some challenging circumstances. He played an integral role in helping this team make history in returning the NFL to Los Angeles, and we always will be grateful for his commitment and dedication to our organization. However, this is the right time to make a change as our performance has not lived up to my or our fans’ expectations. We all are focused on improving as an organization and building a team that makes Los Angeles proud. Our mission is to celebrate a Super Bowl title with our fans in Los Angeles. Today is the first step to bringing us closer to that goal.

The Rams installed special teams coordinator John Fassel as their interim head coach before installing Sean McVay — Washington’s young offensive coordinator — as their next HC. McVay’s Rams nearly achieved Kroenke’s mission in 2018, before falling to the Patriots in the championship game.

Despite the ups and downs over the last four years-and-change, the Rams are undeniably in a better place today. The Rams have reached the playoffs in three of the last four years and they’re currently on track to go 4-for-5 with a Wild Card berth.

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This Date In Transactions History: Browns Shake Up Front Office, Replace Sashi Brown With John Dorsey

You don’t usually see teams fire a GM and announce his replacement all in one day. But that’s just what happened with the Browns four years ago today. On the morning of December 9, 2017, the Browns fired executive VP and de facto GM Sashi Brown. Later that night, we learned that the organization was hiring John Dorsey as their new general manager.

The first move wasn’t all that surprising, but it also might not have been all that fair. Brown was hired as the Browns’ executive vice president/general counsel in January of 2013 and was promoted to executive vice president of football operations in January of 2016. During his one-plus season atop the front office, the Browns went a combined 1-27. However, Brown took an unorthodox approach to team building, one that wasn’t intended to bear fruit in one-plus seasons. The executive embraced an NBA-like, bottoming-out rebuild that left the team with lots of cap room and draft capital to work with.

“Wasn’t good enough,” said owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and with a “pivotal” 2018 offseason coming up, the organization decided to move on from Brown.

We have great appreciation and gratitude for Sashi’s commitment and leadership to our organization but believe transitioning to someone with strong experience and success in drafting and building consistently winning football teams is critical to the future of the Cleveland Browns,” the team said in a statement.

By the end of the night, it was pretty clear that the higher-ups had been scheming a front office reshuffling for some time. 12 hours hadn’t passed from the initial news that we learned that former Chiefs GM John Dorsey had been hired to replace Brown in Cleveland. The organization had apparently been getting a read on their impending GM search for weeks at that point, so ownership wasn’t going to waste time when it came to announcing Dorsey’s hiring.

Dorsey didn’t have a losing record during his four seasons in Kansas City, collecting 43 regular season wins. While the Chiefs made the playoffs three times in those four years, they only managed to win one postseason game. In Cleveland, Dorsey was going to be tasked with a quick rebuild, and thanks in part to Brown, the organization was armed with both picks and cap space.

With top-overall pick Baker Mayfield under center, the Browns improved to 7-8-1 during Dorsey’s first full season as GM. However, the team regressed to 6-10 during the 2019 draft, leading to Dorsey’s firing. Similar to Brown, Dorsey never really got to see his plan to fruition. A few years later, we can give the executive credit for building a core that included (and one point) all of Mayfield, cornerback Denzel Ward, receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, and defensive notables Sheldon Richardson and Olivier Vernon.

Dorsey quietly worked with the Eagles as a consultant during the 2020 season, and he was hired as a senior personnel executive for the Lions back in January. Brown was hired as the planning and operations officer for Monumental Sports & Entertainment after getting canned by the Browns.

Dorsey’s replacement, Andrew Berry, became the youngest GM in NFL history when he was hired in 2020, and Cleveland managed to go 11-5 during his first season with the organization…their best record since 1994. While Berry had a natural influence on the roster, it’s hard not to think what could have been if Brown or Dorsey had kept their jobs. Considering the precedent established over the past four years, we wouldn’t blame Berry for being a bit nervous about his future with the organization. The team has struggled a bit in 2021, but that successful 2020 campaign should provide the current GM with a longer leash than his predecessors.

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