David Culley, who won four games in one season as the Houston Texans’ head coach, was fired Thursday, adding to a growing list of N.F.L. coaches who find themselves out a job now that the regular season has ended.
He joined Joe Judge of the Giants, Brian Flores of the Dolphins, Matt Nagy of the Bears and Mike Zimmer of the Vikings, who all were fired earlier in the week. Vic Fangio of the Broncos was dismissed on Jan. 9.
This year’s round of firings drops the number of Black head coaches in the N.F.L. to one — Mike Tomlin of the Steelers — and should bring extra scrutiny to hiring searches. The league expanded its Rooney Rule in May 2020 to force teams to not block assistant coaches from interviewing for head coach or coordinator roles, and in 2018 began holding an annual summit where nonwhite aspiring coaches and general managers could network and share tips.
This week’s personnel changes leave just one Hispanic head coach, Ron Rivera of the Washington Football Team, and one Muslim Arab American coach, Robert Saleh of the Jets.
The round of coach firings this year encompasses several organizational tear-downs, as the Bears and the Vikings also shed their general managers, and the Giants accepted the retirement of General Manager Dave Gettleman.
David Culley, Houston Texans
Culley was hired in January 2021, mere weeks after the team owner Cal McNair tabbed Nick Caserio as General Manager. It was a fraught time for the organization, which had yet to contend with the trade request of franchise quarterback Deshaun Watson, and was a month away from releasing the star pass rusher J.J. Watt.
The team began the season with the journeyman Tyrod Taylor starting at quarterback, giving way to a battle for efficacy in early December when the rookie Davis Mills was marginally better in relief of Taylor, who had injured his hamstring. Mills started 11 games to Taylor’s six, and the Texans finished with a 4-13 record, nearly matching the 4-12 total compiled under Bill O’Brien (and Romeo Crennel) in the 16-game 2020 season.
2021 N.F.L. Season News and Analysis
- Playoff Predictions: Our picks for the wild-card round.
- The Reason Every Playoff Team Will Lose: All but one remaining team have a fatal flaw.
- The Buccaneers’ Offense Works Because of This Man (and Tom Brady): Byron Leftwich has customized gameplans to a hodgepodge of stars, injury replacements and holdovers.
- The N.F.L Coaches Fired So Far in 2022: The Texans’ firing of David Culley leaves the league with just one head coach who is Black.
Culley, 66, was hired by the Texans after 27 years as an N.F.L. assistant, most recently with the Baltimore Ravens.
Joe Judge, Giants
The Giants waited a day or two longer than other teams, but on Tuesday they fired their coach for the third time in the past six years. Judge’s departure comes a day after Gettleman stepped down.
While the team’s owners have traditionally valued stability, Judge’s 10-23 record in his two seasons was too much to ignore. The Giants lost their last six games this season, all by double-digit margins.
The Giants haven’t made the playoffs since the 2016 season and haven’t won a playoff game in a decade.
Gettleman deserved some of the blame for the Giants’ slide. He used the second overall draft pick in 2018 to select running back Saquon Barkley, who has battled injuries. He offered major contracts that backfired to offensive tackle Nate Solder and the receivers Golden Tate and Kenny Golladay. He signed receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to a huge contract extension, making him the league’s highest-paid receiver, and then traded him to Cleveland for players — Jabrill Peppers, Dexter Lawrence and Oshane Ximines — who haven’t developed into stars.
“It is an understatement to say John and I are disappointed by the lack of success we have had on the field,” Steve Tisch, who co-owns the team with John Mara, said in a statement on Tuesday.
Like other clubs, the Giants may focus first on finding a general manager before hiring Judge’s replacement.
Vic Fangio, Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos fired Coach Vic Fangio after three losing seasons.
Fangio was dismissed a day after the Broncos lost to the Kansas City Chiefs, 28-24, and finished in last place in the A.F.C. West with a 7-10 record. The Broncos were in contention for a playoff spot heading into the last quarter of the season, thanks to one of the league’s top defenses, but then lost their last four games.
Denver has not made the postseason since their Super Bowl victory in the 2015 season. Fangio compiled a 19-30 record over three seasons.
The Broncos’ general manager, George Paton, who took over that job when John Elway moved to director of football operations in January 2021, will start looking for a new coach.
“George will have full authority to select the next head coach of the Broncos,” the team’s president and chief executive, Joe Ellis, said in a statement. “This is his decision and his program.”
There may also be turmoil in the owner’s box, too. The odds that the franchise will be sold this year rose after a judge in Arapahoe County, Colo., dismissed a lawsuit that contested the will of the former owner Pat Bowlen, who died in 2019.
Whoever takes over the team’s front office will inherit several top offensive weapons, including receiver Jerry Jeudy and tight end Noah Fant, and several top defenders, including safety Justin Simmons and linebacker Bradley Chubb. The team also has five picks in the first three rounds of the coming draft.
Brian Flores, Miami Dolphins
In a surprising move, the Dolphins dismissed Brian Flores on Monday despite a 9-8 season, and a seven-game winning streak that nearly vaulted Miami into the playoffs. In his three seasons as head coach, Flores held a 4-2 record against the division-rival New England Patriots and Bill Belichick, his mentor over his decade as an assistant there.
The Dolphins’ winning record in the 2021 season, like last year’s 10-6 finish, was not enough to get them in the playoffs, an absence that has stretched to five years.
“I determined the key dynamics of our football operation weren’t functioning at a level I want it to be and felt that this decision was in the best interest of the Miami Dolphins,” the team owner Stephen Ross said in a statement. “I believe we have a talented young roster in place and have the opportunity to be much better in 2022.”
Flores finished with a combined record of 24-25 after three seasons in his first head coach job. The team announced that it would retain General Manager Chris Grier.
Matt Nagy, Chicago Bears
The Bears dismissed Coach Matt Nagy and General Manager Ryan Pace on Monday.
Nagy had a spectacular debut in 2018, as the Bears finished 12-4 and made the playoffs for the first time in eight years, earning him the Coach of the Year Award. But two 8-8 seasons and a 6-11 season followed. His tenure ends with a 34-31 overall record.
Pace was at the club for seven seasons. He hired John Fox (14-34) and Nagy as head coaches and drafted quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (over Patrick Mahomes) in 2017.
Although Nagy had been the offensive coordinator at Kansas City, the Bears never developed a strong offense behind Trubisky. They turned to Andy Dalton and the rookie Justin Fields this season with mostly poor results.
Mike Zimmer, Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings fired Coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman on Monday.
“It is time for new leadership to elevate our team so we can consistently contend for championships,” the team said in a statement. The Vikings have not made a Super Bowl since the 1976 season and have never won an N.F.L. title.
Zimmer was head coach for eight seasons, including three playoff appearances. The high-water mark was a 13-3 season in 2017 and a trip to the N.F.C. championship. But the team was 7-9 and 8-9 the past two seasons. Zimmer finishes his tenure with a record of 72-56-1.