NFL Black Monday: Why head coach firings can cost teams for years

Giants, Browns fire head coaches after disappointing 2019 seasons

Each season, the dubious NFL tradition known as “Black Monday” leaves several head coaches without a job and, in some cases, their old employer on the hook to pay the remainder of their contracts.

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As of Monday at 4 p.m. ET, two NFL franchises had opted to fire their head coaches: the New York Giants, who parted ways with Pat Shurmur, and the Cleveland Browns, who cut ties with Freddie Kitchens. The Washington Redskins fired team president Bruce Allen, and a meeting later this week between Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan and head coach Doug Marrone is widely expected to result in his dismissal.

Barring a contract settlement, the Giants front office will likely feel the impact of Shurmur’s dismissal for years to come. While the financial details of his deal were never released, the Giants fired Shurmur just two years into the five-year contract he signed prior to the 2018 NFL season. When the Giants hire Shurmur’s successor, they will still owe Shurmur money for the next several years.

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In most cases, NFL coaches sign contracts that include offset clauses. Franchises that fire head coaches must pay the full salary as stipulated unless another team hires them. In that case, the coach’s original employer must cover some or all of the balance in salary.

A prominent example of offset language in action occurred in 2017, when the San Francisco 49ers still owed former head coach Chip Kelly millions of dollars in salary even after he signed an agreement to coach college football’s UCLA Bruins.

The Giants aren’t the only franchise entering a transitional phase with their former coach still on the books. Marrone is under contract with the Jaguars through the 2021 season.

Former Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera was fired in Week 12 with a year remaining on his contract. Rivera was set to meet with Washington Redskins executives on Monday and is widely expected to sign a contract to coach the team, potentially offsetting the Panthers’ remaining financial obligation.

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The Redskins fired their former head coach Jay Gruden after a 0-5 start to the 2019 season. Washington agreed to pay Gruden the remaining $8 million on his contract, even as it prepared to hire his successor, according to the Washington Post.

A noteworthy exception is Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, who is widely expected to lose his job with the franchise when his contract expires in January. The Cowboys' financial commitment to Garrett ends next month.

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A full breakdown of NFL head coach and front office firings so far can be viewed below.

Cleveland Browns, head coach Freddie Kitchens (Dec. 30)

New York Giants, head coach Pat Shurmur (Dec. 30)

Washington Redskins, team president Bruce Allen (Dec. 30)

Carolina Panthers, head coach Ron Rivera (Dec. 3)

Washington Redskins, head coach Jay Gruden (Oct. 7)