Both Sides Of The Table: What It’s Like To Fire and Be Fired In The NFL

Letting Someone Go and Getting Fired in the NFL

Letting Someone Go

During my experience working for four teams over 20 years in the NFL, by far the hardest decision that I was part of was letting a coach or staff member go.

The discussion typically starts with ownership several weeks before the decision is made. This discussion is based on the direction of the franchise and the alternatives. First, the current situation must be known, including where the gaps are within your organization, coaching staff and on the field. An honest and candid assessment of the state of the team will lead to the best result possible.

The state of your team is then compared to what the alternatives are in the marketplace. What changes do we want to see, and who would we want to see them from? If significant improvement can be made with the current staff in place, then exhaust all remedies to see if that’s plausible. Ultimately, looking at the strengths and weaknesses of your staff and comparing that to your viable and realistic alternatives will typically guide a club to its decision.

The typical conversations between the GM and Ownership happen organically over several weeks if not months. In your internal evaluation, the question of what the change needs to yield that you currently don’t have is discussed. This could be an amalgamation of problems from: personnel driven discussions – specific divisional matchups, clock management, play calling and most importantly managing their staff. Fundamentally, the question of, “Why are we falling short of our expectations?” is what needs to be answered. Additional factors of in-house candidates and desirability of our job compared to the openings will be secondary factors in the discussion.  Typically the decision may be discussed for several weeks but isn’t finalized until the last days of the season.

Being Let Go

Despite the way it can be discussed from those who sit on the outskirts, you are human, so you hear the rumbling. Rumors can be heard and felt within and outside of the building. This means you often can feel that a change is going to be made involving you. Being human, your mind instantly goes to the others in the building on your staff and your family. You think of the feelings of others inside the building who have been a part of the process with you, and just as importantly, how this affects your family.

It is truly devastating news when the firing takes place because it impacts your entire organization either directly or indirectly. Additionally, you have a personal impact that the news has on your family. Frequently (as was the case with me), a job change can lead to a move, which is never easy on any family.

For all of the joys and privileges of being in and associated with the NFL, the conversations that have been occurring within buildings over the past two days are never easy, but are an unfortunate part of the landscape of professional sports.

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