- Rick Reilly, Columnist, ESPN.com
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I've been fired more than pottery.
I was fired from my first job at 12. Some people apparently don't want their tulips mowed. I was fired from my babysitting gig at 13. Who knew a diaper wouldn't completely flush? Got fired as a machine/tool rental store assistant at 16. Thought the boss said, "Fifteen parts oil, one part gas in the jackhammers." Turns out, it was the other way around. Pick-ee.
And how did I react whenever I got canned? Not well. Once, my pals and I egged the offending organization's window front.
I sure as hell didn't thank my old boss, like ex-Jets coach Eric Mangini did in December, after nearly making the playoffs with an AARP member at QB. In fact, Mangini said, "The organization has terrific people, and I wish the Jets nothing but success."
Excuse me? Are you bat-guano nuts? The great sportswriter Jim Murray once said, "Nothing is ever so bad that it can't be made worse by firing the coach." And yet a preposterous 38 head coaches have been bagged in the past 12 months alone—including Jon Gruden (above right), Avery Johnson, Reggie Theus, Maurice Cheeks (above center), P.J. Carlesimo, Willie Randolph, Ned Yost, Romeo Crennel, Herm Edwards and Mike Shanahan (above left).
Most of these guys didn't even deserve to lose their jobs, and they're acting like they just got handed a freaking fruit basket. Me? I'd go triple Sean Penn! I'd scream! I'd sue! I'd tear paintings off walls! I'd race into the GM's office and spit on his wife's photo! I'd snatch the owner's toupee and set it on fire!
But listen to Tommy Tuberville. He was forced out of Auburn with an 85–40 record in 10 seasons, including seven wins against Alabama. Afterward, he issued a statement that read: "I'm going to remain in Auburn and help the Auburn family however I can."
If I went 85–40 and got axed, this would be my statement: I'm going to remain in Auburn and watch mailmen deliver the $10,000 of porn I've ordered on your Visas to all of your homes. You're going to regret this until three weeks after you croak. And just try to mess with my pension. I have the Christmas-party video.
Or listen to Edwards. After the season, the Chiefs left Edwards twisting in the wind for a month before letting him go. How did Edwards take it? "I respect the tough decision that was made," he said in a statement. "I wish the organization the very best."
Herm, you FIGHT to KEEP your JOB!
When the certifiably mad Al Davis fired young Lane Kiffin as the Raiders coach this season during a disgraceful and insulting press conference, Kiffin had every right to march over to Davis and rip off his lips. Instead, afterward, Kiffin said, "I'm very appreciative of the opportunity." Then he added, "I felt bad for Al."
That's not the American way, son! The American way is to do what dump truck driver Julian Burnett of Orange County, Fla., did when he was fired last year by his boss, who also happened to be his sister. He drove that dump truck straight up his sister's driveway and through her garage, which just happened to contain her BMW. Ooh, my bad, sis. You won't tell Mom, right?
Of all of them, it's Shanahan's reaction that most flummoxes me. He was fired by a guy who is practically his best friend, Pat Bowlen, after a year in which he lost seven—seven!—running backs to injuries. What's he supposed to do, exhume Red Grange? And get this: Shanahan got pink-slipped while he was in the middle of building a 35,000-square-foot home and a new restaurant. Thanks, buddy!
But does Shanahan nail Bowlen's door shut? Spray paint his polo ponies? Snap all his Pings? No, he gets up at the press conference and calls Bowlen "the best owner in sports," and adds he probably had it coming. "Your job is to win championships, and we have not won a championship in a while."
First thing I'd do? Tie Bowlen's tongue in a knot. Then I'd e-mail every suspicious looking picture I had of him to TMZ. Then I'd threaten to tell the media all the secrets I knew. Actually, who needs the media? Shanahan just bought a piece of The Denver Post's old printing press. You're going to fire a guy with his own printing press?
Or how about this, Mike? Your new house is only a three-minute drive from Bowlen's, right? Get yourself a massive catapult.
And a whole lot of eggs.
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C'mon, guys—you've been canned. Show some fire.