Happy New Year! You're fired.
It's that time again, and National Football League coaches who were worried about their futures didn't have to wait long to hear the bad news.
One day after the NFL's season ended, seven head coaches were fired. More dismissals may be on the way, setting up another spin of the head coaching merry-go-round.
This new round of NFL hirings will set up more job-hopping in college football if top college coaches are lured by the money and prestige of professional football. Two top college coaches — Alabama's Nick Saban and Oregon's Chip Kelly — are among those mentioned as targets of NFL owners. But better to focus now on who's out, not in.
After nine years, Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith is out. He took the Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006 but missed the playoffs in five of the past six years. This year, Smith's 10-6 Bears were nosed out of the playoffs in the last week of the season by Minnesota's upset over Green Bay. Yes, football is a game of inches, and Smith's near-miss proved fatal.
Other former Super Bowl coaches dismissed include the Philadelphia Eagles' Andy Reid and the Arizona Cardinals' Ken Whisenhunt. Norv Turner, the brother of former Fighting Illini head coach Ron Turner, was dismissed in San Diego. He was joined in the unemployment line by Cleveland's Pat Shurmur, Kansas City's Romeo Crennel and Buffalo's Chan Gailey.
It's a tough business, and business is the operative word — produce playoff or championship teams or you're fired.
Professional sports is one of the few true meritocracies — players who lose a step or cost too much are released and replaced with younger, less expensive models. Coaches who don't win now fare no better.
Fans demand that brutal standard, although they would not be happy if the same employment rules were applied to them.
That hyper-competition is the major reason that coaches and players maximize their earning power, earning as much as they can as fast as they can. They're all just a few losses away from being cast on the ash heap of sports history.