Jauron front, center on coaching hot seat


Nfl Week 7

October 19, 2003|By KEN MURRAY

Dick Jauron's decision to turn over the Chicago Bears' quarterback job today to veteran Chris Chandler - and not first-round draft pick Rex Grossman - was telling on two counts.

First, it says the Bears coach believes Chandler, who's 38 and immobile, gives his team the best chance to beat the Seattle Seahawks, ahead of gimpy Kordell Stewart and the rookie Grossman. Second, it says Jauron can't worry about the Bears' long-term future when his own in Chicago doesn't stretch past December.

Grossman is the Bears' future, Jauron is not. That much has been established in Chicago's 1-4 start this year on the heels of a 4-12 season in 2002. The Bears are 31st in offense and 25th in defense. Barring a fantastic finish, Jauron will have four losing seasons in his five years as coach. The exception was a marvelous 13-3 revival in 2001. But it didn't last.

Now Jauron falls under the heading of "Lost causes," of which there are a surprising number in the NFL. The loss of Michael Vick has sentenced the 1-5 Atlanta Falcons to purgatory, a circumstance that could cost coach Dan Reeves his job. The San Diego Chargers are 0-5, which is not in Marty Schottenheimer's best interests. The Arizona Cardinals are 1-5 and players already are going to bat for coach Dave McGinnis, a sure sign of impending change.

Then there are the Buffalo Bills, who followed up a splendid 2-0 start by losing three of the past four games, including a dreadful 30-3 loss to the then-winless New York Jets. It was after that game that team owner Ralph Wilson put the organization on alert with this observation: "We sleepwalked. We didn't have any emotion. We just haven't shown any enthusiasm, not today, not for the last three weeks."

Coach Gregg Williams is in the third and final year of his contract with the Bills, and unless they turn things around big-time - that means reach the playoffs - he's not expected to be asked back for a fourth.

Mid-season firings don't accomplish very much other than to declare one's intent to find a better coach, so don't expect any of these coaches to be canned anytime soon.

According to The Buffalo News, there have been 53 in-season changes since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger, and just nine of the replacements had winning records, including three who coached three games or fewer.

McGinnis doesn't shy away from the speculation about his job security.

"Whatever comes to pass comes to pass," he said. "I'll accept what it is. My priorities are integrity and dignity, and I owe it to this team, to the players, to the ownership to do everything I can to help this team win. That's what my focus is and will remain to be.

"I'm not a guy who looks for cover."


Back to the future

In case Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill missed the message in the embarrassing crowd of 24,193 for the Ravens game, he could have read it on any of a number of banners that decorated Sun Devil Stadium last week.

"Thank God for the Colangelos," one said, referring to Arizona Diamondbacks and Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo. "Not Our Team - Bidwill's," said another. One facetiously heralded "16 years of Bidwill excellence."

That's what comes with one winning season in 15 years in Arizona. That's the kind of sentiment Bidwill heard as he left St. Louis in 1988, too. Utter frustration.

"I'm a drum instructor, and if my performance [stinks], I'd have no students," said Brett Fredrickson, 40, of Phoenix, a seven-year season-ticket holder. "I can't take it anymore."

Sapp trap

Receiver Keyshawn Johnson and defensive tackle Warren Sapp aren't best buddies on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. But when the NFL slapped Sapp with a $50,000 fine for repeated abusive conduct toward officials - and threatened to suspend him if his behavior didn't improve - Johnson rallied to his defense.

"They're picking on him," Johnson said. " ... Somebody is picking on him because they're tired of him. They're tired of his mouth. ... People get tired of you, they're going to do that sort of stuff to you. But he didn't do anything other than going through the Colts' warmup [line] the first time."

Inadvertent or otherwise, Sapp bumped into an official going out for warmups at FedEx Field last week. Asked if Sapp's love of the spotlight doesn't bring on some of his problems, linebacker Derrick Brooks said, "It could be. He's being himself. Sometimes, you get unfairly judged and sometimes people overlook it. But it's a part of him."

The waiting game

The probable debut of Bills first-round draft pick Willis McGahee is Nov. 9 in Dallas after a Buffalo bye in Week 9. But it's also possible he could play next week at Kansas City. McGahee, the former Miami running back who tore three knee ligaments in the Fiesta Bowl, started practicing last week. "It was a big step," he said. "Everybody was happy to see me and I was happy to be out there having fun."

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