We haven't yet played the conference championship round of the NFL's playoffs - in fact, we're just three weeks removed from the close of the 2008 regular season - and already, this has been one of the strangest off-seasons in recent memory. I thought it'd be fun on a Saturday morning to have a little poll of this community ranking the NFL's weirdest off-season decisions to date; sadly, our Buffalo Bills rank among six contestants. Let the games begin!
Candidate One: Bills retain HC Dick Jauron
- In Jauron's first two seasons in Buffalo, the Bills finished 7-9. In his third season, the team roared out to a 5-1 start, and with the AFC East looking weaker than ever, Bills fans and experts everywhere had tagged the Bills as favorites in the division. The team was on the cusp of the playoffs for the first time in nearly a decade. Then, immediately after being handed a three-year contract extension, the Bills lost 8 of their final 10 games to finish - you guessed it - 7-9. Despite the epic collapse, Jauron was retained for a fourth season in Buffalo. Unprecedented amounts of consternation from the fan base ensued.
Candidate Two: Browns hire HC Eric Mangini before hiring GM
- Browns fans had it made a few weeks ago - their GM and head coach had just been fired after a miserable season, and Bill Cowher was on the radar. Once Cowher removed himself from the radar, things went downhill pretty quickly for Cleveland faithful. Owner Randy Lerner decided that hiring a head coach was more important than hiring a GM, so he handed the keys of his franchise to Eric Mangini, he of just-fired-by-the-Jets fame. Now he's trying to fit a GM into the front office that won't row with Mangini on a consistent basis. You're doing things bass ackwards, Mr. Lerner.
Candidate Three: Broncos fire HC Mike Shanahan
- A strong argument can be made - and obviously has been made to Broncos owner Pat Bowlen - that a time for change was ripe in Denver. Still, it's not every day that you hear about a two-time Super Bowl winning head coach getting the axe, especially considering that coach had been carefully molding QB Jay Cutler into a superstar for three years. Shanahan was more than a coach in Denver; he was an institution for a decade and a half.
Candidate Four: Lions promote Mayhew, Lewand in front office
- I'm going to go ahead and say that if I were a fan of the Detroit Lions, my stomach would have vaulted out of my mouth and onto the floor if I'd heard that anyone from the staff of Matt Millen - the single worst GM in NFL history - had been promoted to take over in his stead. That's exactly what happened when the duo of Martin Mayhew and Tom Lewand took over in Detroit. Their first move - hiring Titans defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz as head coach - was a good one. But these guys will be on the hot seat from the get-go by the mere fact of who their former boss is.
Candidate Five: Raiders conducting "conversations", not "interviews"
- The Raiders finished the '08 season 4-8 under interim head coach Tom Cable. Since the season ended, the Raiders have had a "conversation" with Giants offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, and they've reportedly talked to Cable a few times as well. As far as we can tell publicly, the Raiders have not actually interviewed anyone other than Cable for the head coaching position. It's one thing to remove the interim tag from Cable's title - for the record, he actually did a pretty good job in his twelve games coached - but it's another thing entirely to leave the man hanging while you have "conversations" with one other candidate.
Candidate Six: Bucs fire Allen/Gruden, hire Dominik/Morris hours later
- When Jon Gruden didn't get fired in the first week after the regular season ended, it was assumed that he would get at least one more season at the helm despite the Buccaneers' slide from contending for a first-round bye to out of the playoffs over the final four weeks of the season. Then, two weeks later, both Gruden and GM Bruce Allen are fired - only to be replaced by two in-house promotions, GM Mark Dominik and HC Raheem Morris, seemingly moments later.
So let's hear it. Rank the moves by "weird factor", vote in the poll, and discuss all of this strangeness in the comments section.