Coaching vacancies leave field wide-open Reeves, Jones dismissed

others expected to follow

December 24, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Dan Reeves of the New York Giants and June Jones of the Atlanta Falcons, two coaches who were victims of personality conflicts, were fired yesterday.

Reeves' downfall was his inability to adapt to the Giants' system, in which the general manager, not the coach, runs the organization. Jones never recovered from a sideline blowup with quarterback Jeff George during the third game of the season, when he yanked George after an interception. Jones suspended and then released George and went 3-13 without him.

Reeves and Jones were the second and third coaches to be fired in the past two days. Rich Brooks got the pink slip in St. Louis on Sunday.

That brings to six the number of head coaches who have departed this season. Dave Shula of the Cincinnati Bengals was fired in October on the same day that Jim Mora resigned as coach of the New Orleans Saints. Rich Kotite of the New York Jets resigned Friday.

Several other coaches, including Wayne Fontes of the Detroit Lions and Rick Venturi, who replaced Mora as interim coach of the Saints, are expected to be fired.

Venturi was lobbying yesterday to remain despite his 1-7 record with the Saints and 2-17 record as an NFL interim head coach. He noted that Jimmy Johnson had the same record in his first 19 games as a head coach and that Chuck Noll (3-16) and Tom Landry (4-14-1) weren't much better.

"I think I could do a good job," said Venturi, who's not likely to get the chance.

Only one new coach, Bruce Coslet, who replaced Shula in Cincinnati, has been hired.

Reeves is likely to be a candidate for one of the openings. There's no doubt he can coach, but he has problems when he's not the boss.

Reeves was fired by Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen after the 1992 season and applied for the Giants job, saying he could work within the Giants' structure.

It turned out he couldn't, and he spent much of his four years complaining publicly about the personnel moves made by general manager George Young.

Reeves complained yesterday about the psychological tests the Giants give potential draft choices, saying, "When a psychologist has more to do with the draft than you as a head coach, then I have a problem with that."

Co-owner Wellington Mara, who has backed Young, said, "If I thought a psychologist had more input in the draft than the coach, then I would get rid of both of them."

Firing Reeves was the easy part for Young. Finding a replacement will be the tough part. He's 0-for-2 since Bill Parcells left in 1991 -- Ray Handley and Reeves. There's been speculation that Jim Fassel, the offensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals, is a leading candidate, but Young hasn't tipped his hand.

The Falcons need a high-profile coach who can sell tickets, and they're expected to pursue Steve Spurrier, but it's unlikely he'll leave the good situation he has at the University of Florida.

Falcons president Taylor Smith wouldn't discuss candidates, but indicated he would call Joe Gibbs in case the former coach is interested in a return to the game.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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