The price of losing at home to the Arizona Cardinals was Dave Wannstedt's job as coach of the Miami Dolphins, served on a plate of retribution last week for a season gone awry.
Wannstedt officially stepped down as coach on Tuesday, two days after the Dolphins blew a pair of leads against Arizona, one day after he was told by team owner Wayne Huizenga that he would not be back next season. Call it what you want.
In effect, Wannstedt got off easy. He leaves behind an organization in shambles. Well, that's not entirely true. In one of the many bizarre postscripts, Wannstedt actually won't give up his office at the team's complex in Davie until after the Super Bowl in early February. So he'll be around for a while.
But make no mistake, the Dolphins are a chaotic mess, and not just because of their 1-8 record.
Despite a front-office shake-up, they intend to keep the general manager who traded what is now a very high second-round draft choice in 2005 to Philadelphia for the Eagles' third-string quarterback, A.J. Feeley.
Rick Spielman, who was promoted to general manager last offseason, apparently will stick around at least another year. Unless, that is, the new team president who replaces retiring Eddie Jones wants a different general manager.
In the meantime, Spielman is directing the coaching search. And in all likelihood, the Dolphins will hire their new coach before their new president. Good idea? Probably not.
That new coach almost certainly will not be Jim Bates, the defensive coordinator who will serve as caretaker for the second half of the year. At best, the Dolphins might have a chance to win two of their last eight games. If they can't beat San Francisco on the road, they might not win again.
What they must do, however, is resolve the quarterback controversy that nagged them all season. Wannstedt gave Feeley a brief 10-quarter trial early in the season before going back to veteran Jay Fiedler. Feeley was an abysmal failure.
But Bates is expected to start Feeley at Seattle next week after today's bye. Spielman's fate ultimately could depend on how Feeley does in his audition.
A season that unraveled quickly after Ricky Williams' shocking retirement has come down to this: It's every man for himself as Huizenga tries to sort out the good guys from the bad guys.
From all indications, including testimony from the players, the Dolphins already have lost one of the good guys. Except that he will still be in his office down the hall.
GAMES OF THE WEEK
Vikings (5-3) at Packers (4-4)
Line: Packers by 4
Lowdown: Vikings may be on verge of collapse for a second straight year. Packers have won three in a row, and their revived defense won't have to face injured WR Randy Moss. Plus, they are 3-1 after the bye under Mike Sherman. QB Brett Favre will play in his 200th consecutive game. He has thrown a touchdown pass in the past 33.
The pick: Packers
Seahawks (5-3) at Rams (4-4)
Line: Seahawks by 1
Lowdown: Seahawks have another chance to put the Rams away in the NFC West. They failed the first time, when Marc Bulger capped a 17-point comeback with a game-winning touchdown pass in overtime. Rams were embarrassed last week by New England.
The pick: Seahawks
Steelers (7-1) at Browns (3-5)
Line: Steelers by 3 1/2
Lowdown: Browns are desperate, but Steelers have been dominant, winning 13 of past 16 meetings. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger grew up in Findlay, Ohio, 124 miles west of Cleveland. Browns are 3-1 at home.
The pick: Steelers
Bucs (3-5) at Falcons (6-2)
Line: Falcons by 3 1/2
Lowdown: Bucs have gone 3-1 since starting 0-4, and QB Brian Griese was responsible for all three wins. They need this game to keep playoff hopes alive. Falcons gave up 84 points the past two games, when they surrendered eight rushing touchdowns and 499 pass yards back-to-back.
The pick: Bucs
Texans (4-4) at Colts (5-3)
Line: Colts by 9 1/2
Lowdown: Texans could hang with Colts for a while in a shootout because of QB David Carr, but Colts, even in short week, should survive because of QB Peyton Manning. Texans have to scheme for Colts DE Dwight Freeney.
The pick: Colts
Bills (3-5) at Patriots (7-1)
Line: Patriots by 7
Lowdown: RB Willis McGahee has three 100-yard rushing games in four weeks for the Bills. Patriots' Bill Belichick was interested in McGahee in the 2003 draft. Now he's got RB Corey Dillon, though, and a balanced offense.
The pick: Patriots
Lions (4-4) at Jaguars (5-3)
Line: Jaguars by 3 1/2
Lowdown: QB David Garrard makes his second career start and the Jaguars' playoff prospects may depend on him if Byron Leftwich is out for long. Lions have won three of four on the road and will try to take advantage of Jaguars' secondary.
The pick: Lions
Bears (3-5) at Titans (3-5)
Line: Titans by 5 1/2
Lowdown: Bears have had trouble stopping the run, but Titans RB Chris Brown is hobbling (toe). Bears QB Craig Krenzel is 2-0 as a starter, although he's completing 46.2 percent of his throws.
The pick: Titans
HIT SNOOZE ALARM
Chiefs (3-5) at Saints (3-5)