Sam Wyche says the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can become winners soon and wants the opportunity to prove it.
Wyche, a former Cincinnati Bengals coach, interviewed for the vacant Bucs job yesterday. He said he emerged from a 3 1/2 -hour meeting with owner Hugh Culverhouse confident that the organization is ready to do everything it takes to shed its image as a perennial NFL doormat.
"I had a great talk with Mr. C," said Wyche, who left the Bengals on Christmas Eve with the team saying he had resigned and the coach insisting he had been fired. "I wouldn't be here if I wasn't very much interested in this job.
"I'm certainly excited about staying in coaching, if somebody will have me. There are a lot of openings, but there are few that are really on the threshold of winning. This is one of them."
The Bucs, whose last winning record was in 1982, fired Richard Williamson after a 3-13 season. Former New York Giants coach Bill Parcells rejected a five-year, $6.5 million offer to replace him.
Wyche is the second candidate to interview for the job since Parcells turned it down last weekend. Floyd Peters, Tampa Bay's defensive coordinator, spoke with Culverhouse on Dec. 31, and former Philadelphia Eagles coach Buddy Ryan will be interviewed Monday.
The Bucs also have received permission from the 49ers to discuss the position with San Francisco offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren. University of Miami coach Dennis Erickson, considered a possible candidate for the job, said Thursday that he has no interest in moving to the NFL.
* COLTS: Hours before Chuck Knox was scheduled to interview for the coaching job yesterday, he called to say he wouldn't come unless he was first offered the job.
He didn't make it.
"He wanted us to make him an offer before he came in, then he'd come in to iron out the details," Colts general manager Jim Irsay said.
Irsay said he believed Knox already had an offer from either the Rams or Packers.
Knox was to have been the third candidate interviewed for the job. Rick Venturi is in the running for the position he held for 11 games after Ron Meyer was fired, and Michigan State coach George Perles interviewed last week.
* VIKINGS: Louisville's Howard Schnellenberger, a former Baltimore Colts coach, is on the team's short list of coaching candidates, it was reported.
Schnellenberger, along with New York Jets defensive coordinator Pete Carroll, might be a finalist to replace the retiring Jerry Burns, the Star Tribune reported.
Vikings president Roger Headrick declined to comment on the report. Headrick has said he wants to decide on a coach within the next two weeks.
Schnellenberger, 57, won a national championship at the University of Miami in 1983 and moved to Louisville in 1985, where he revived a dormant program. But Louisville finished 2-9 this season.
* CHARGERS: New coach Bobby Ross hired two assistants from his Georgia Tech staff and might hire two more.
Ross said Chuck Priefer, who coached Georgia Tech's defensive backfield the past four seasons, will coach the special teams. John Misciagna, who served as Georgia Tech's director of recruiting, will coordinate the Chargers' computerized game analysis.
Ross also has offered jobs to his Georgia Tech offensive and defensive coordinators, Ralph Friedgen and George O'Leary. Both coaches are among the candidates seeking to replace Ross at Georgia Tech.
Ross said neither Friedgen (a Maryland graduate and former assistant there under Ross) nor O'Leary would be a coordinator if they sign on with the Chargers. Friedgen likely would coach the offensive backs and O'Leary the defensive line.
* STEELERS: 49ers offensive coordinator Mike Holmgren met with Tom Donahoe, Pittsburgh's director of football operations. It was Holmgren's third interview in six days, and he is scheduled to talk with the Buccaneers, Colts and Vikings by Thursday.
Reports out of Green Bay indicate the Packers will hear from Bill Parcells this weekend as to whether he will be their new coach. If Parcells does not take the job, it would be offered to Holmgren, a Packers source said Thursday.
* SAINTS: Veterans Stan Brock and Hoby Brenner volunteered to be left exposed in Plan B free agency so the Saints could protect two younger players.
* American Indian leaders said they'll demonstrate during the Super Bowl to protest what they say is racist use of Indian mascots, nicknames and symbols by professional sports teams and fans.
Members of the newly formed National Coalition on Racism in Sports and the Media declined to release details of the protest.