Pittsburgh's Capers tops Carolina's coaching list

January 02, 1995|By Knight-Ridder News Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the architect of the NFL's most aggressive defense, appears to be the top choice to become the first head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

According to sources and an ESPN report, Capers is the man the Panthers hope to hire, although contract negotiations are not yet under way and the team has been ordered by the NFL to stop discussions with Capers because of possible violations of the league's anti-tampering policy.

It could not be confirmed whether Capers, 44, has agreed to take the job. Other NFL teams with coaching vacancies, especially the Philadelphia Eagles, are believed to be interested in him, too.

Capers could not be reached, and Panthers president Mike McCormack said, "We're being consistent. We have not talked about our coaching situation all along, except for the process in general."

The Panthers interviewed Capers and former Eagles coach Rich Kotite last week and are believed to have met with Buffalo Bills assistant Elijah Pitts. They have been expected to meet soon with former Buffalo coach Kay Stephenson, now coach of the Canadian Football League's Sacramento Gold Miners.

The Panthers are scheduled to appear at a hearing with the NFL next week in New York to review potential violations of the league's anti-tampering policy because of its discussions with Capers.

Though the Panthers received permission from the Steelers to meet with Capers, the NFL does not permit teams to ask or receive such permission to discuss possible employment with the coach of a team whose season is still in progress.

According to the NFL, the Panthers could be penalized by a fine of $100,000 or more, and may have to forfeit draft choices.

Capers has been the Steelers' defensive coordinator the past three seasons. He was an assistant coach under Jim Mora with the USFL champion Philadelphia/Baltimore Stars in 1984 and '85, and with the New Orleans Saints from 1986 to 1991.

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