Four coaches fired after final day of regular NFL season

High profile coaching casualties followed quick on the heels of the final day of the NFL’s regular season as the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Jets parted ways with their coaches yesterday.

Sunday was low in drama with the Carolina Panthers and the Baltimore Ravens doing enough to secure their play-off spots in the NFC and the AFC respectively while the champions, the Seattle Seahawks, locked up the number one seed in the NFC.

The New England Patriots and the Denver Broncos will await the winners of next weekend’s AFC wild card play-offs while the Seahawks and the Green Bay Packers — who beat the Detroit Lions to win the NFC North — will be keeping tabs on Arizona’s visit to Carolina and the clash between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit.

Three AFC North teams managed to sneak through with bitter rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore clashing Saturday night in Pittsburgh while the Cincinnati Bengals will visit AFC South champions, the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

But the major focus yesterday was on the vacancies which arose at the Jets and the 49ers as well as at the Chicago Bears and the Atlanta Falcons, all of whom suffered through below par seasons.

Rex Ryan was fired by the Jets after completing the worst of his six seasons in charge. The often outspoken coach had managed to qualify for the play-offs during his first two years in charge but this season saw the New York outfit crash to 12 defeats.

“I’m not afraid of what lies ahead, I can tell you that,” Ryan said Sunday after the Jets beat the Miami Dolphins and the club confirmed the sacking early yesterday morning.

Meanwhile, in San Francisco, the plug was pulled on a mediocre season for the 49ers when Jim Harbaugh was permitted to move on and take the high profile and high paying coaching job at the powerhouse University of Michigan, his alma mater.

The Atlanta Falcons fired Mike Smith after seven seasons at the helm during which he took his talented team to the brink of a Super Bowl appearance while the Chicago Bears bailed out on their coach Marc Trestman after just one season, a dismal one by their traditional high standards.

The Seattle Seahawks will now be installed as favourites to be the first team to retain the Super Bowl since the New England Patriots achieved back to back titles in the 2003 and 2004 seasons.

The Patriots will be favoured to take full advantage of home advantage in the AFC meanwhile with what looks like an easier route to the first Sunday in February in Arizona than Seattle’s NFC pathway which could include either Green Bay or Dallas.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the NFL spectrum, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers secured the number one pick in the draft for being the league’s worst performing team. Tennessee, Jacksonville, Oakland, Washington, the Jets, Chicago and Atlanta occupy the following seven positions with Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota expected to be selected number one.

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