Two coaches down, five more could go

ON THE NFL

December 28, 2003|By KEN MURRAY

It took Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome two drafts to replenish a Super Bowl roster gutted by salary cap reality and make it playoff-caliber. In places like Miami, Chicago and Arizona, no amount of tinkering can elevate teams to Super Bowl readiness.

The Miami Dolphins certainly tried last offseason. They brought in Sammy Knight, Junior Seau, Jeff Zgonina, Terrell Buckley, Derrius Thompson and Brian Griese. The result? The Dolphins missed the playoffs for the second straight year, a drought that probably will cost coach Dave Wannstedt - who has control over personnel decisions - his job this week.

The Chicago Bears invested five years and several suspect draft picks in coach Dick Jauron. After today's game in Kansas City, general manager Jerry Angelo must decide whether Jauron's 13-3 playoff season in 2001 outweighs the debits of his four non-winning seasons. It probably doesn't. Check, please.

This is the week when the buck stops at the coach's desk. If you're fortunate enough to have Newsome or someone like New England's Scott Pioli stocking your roster, you don't have to worry. Here are five coaches who could join Dan Reeves (Atlanta Falcons) and Jim Fassel (New York Giants) on the firing line real soon.

Gregg Williams, Buffalo

Record: 6-9 this year, 17-30 in three years.

What went wrong: Williams pushed the team to 8-8 last season and upgraded the defense to a top 10 unit this year. But the offense collapsed, and the blame goes back to the hiring of coordinator Kevin Gilbride. Players openly complain about a pass-first attack when Drew Bledsoe is in decline and Travis Henry is ascending.

Dave Wannstedt, Miami

Record: 9-6 this year, 41-25 in four years.

What went wrong: The Dolphins have regressed in Wannstedt's four seasons, to the point of being eliminated in Week 16 this year. He stuck with Jay Fiedler at quarterback and brought in Griese as insurance. Neither is a playoff quarterback. On defense, the more stars the Dolphins added, the more average they became.

Bill Callahan, Oakland

Record: 4-11 this year, 17-17 in two years.

What went wrong: Everything since Barret Robbins went to Tijuana last January. The Raiders couldn't protect Rich Gannon in the Super Bowl and their offensive line has been in tatters all season, most of which Gannon has missed. Call it age, complacency or the rest of the league catching on, but the Raiders are in trouble. When Callahan called the Raiders "the dumbest team in America," he lost them for good.

Dick Jauron, Chicago

Record: 7-8 this year, 35-45 in five years.

What went wrong: Having to play in Champaign, Ill., last year was a killer, but it shouldn't have caused a nine-game drop in the standings. The Bears have whiffed on first-round picks for the past decade. Angelo no doubt wants his own coach, but he needs to orchestrate the draft better than this team has in recent years.

Dave McGinnis, Arizona

Record: 3-12 this year, 16-40 in four years.

What went wrong: Now that the Cincinnati Bengals have escaped oblivion, the Cardinals are the NFL's worst franchise. McGinnis is a decent coach, but he can't overcome the shortsightedness of Bill Bidwill's ownership. This team won't have a chance until son Michael Bidwill calls the shots.

AROUND THE LEAGUE

Assembly line runners

When Denver's Quentin Griffin dazzled the Indianapolis Colts with 136 rushing yards last week, he became the eighth Broncos player to rush for 100 in a game since Mike Shanahan became coach in 1995.

Those eight players have combined for 75 100-yard games, including the playoffs, most in the NFL over that period.

The breakdown, with 100-yard games in parentheses: Terrell Davis (41), Clinton Portis (18), Mike Anderson (8), Olandis Gary (4), Aaron Craver (1), Griffin (1), Derek Loville (1), Glyn Milburn (1).

In the first 35 years of the franchise, the Broncos had just 70 100-yard games.

Grass isn't greener

Before you assume a Minnesota victory at Arizona today is a sure thing, consider this: The Vikings, who play in a dome, have won only one of their past 16 games on grass.

And this: Of the team's six losses this season, four have come against teams with losing records. The Vikings lost at home to the New York Giants when they were 2-4, at San Diego when it was 1-7, at Oakland when it was 2-7 and at Chicago when it was 5-8.

The Vikings need to beat the Cardinals to clinch the NFC North and claim a playoff spot.

Shooting for infamy

The San Diego Chargers started the season by cutting their starting secondary - safeties Rodney Harrison and Rogers Beckett and cornerbacks Alex Molden and Ryan McNeil. They were replaced by rookie cornerback Sammy Davis, second-year cornerback Quentin Jammer, free safety Jerry Wilson (a first-year starter) and veteran strong safety Kwamie Lassiter.

Now the Chargers are looking at history. They have allowed 36 touchdown passes this season. If they give up one more today against Oakland, they will tie the NFL's post-merger record for touchdown passes allowed in a season, set by the 1981 Baltimore Colts.

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