Coaches reassert authority

Nfl Week


Mike Nolan has trust issues in San Francisco. Tom Coughlin has his team rules in New York. Dom Capers has a frazzled quarterback in Houston.

They are three distressed head coaches who recently took drastic measures to reinforce their authority and send a clear message to their teams.

For Nolan, that meant kicking popular linebacker Jamie Winborn off the team three days after the 49ers blew a 12-point lead last Sunday.

Coughlin held Plaxico Burress out of the first quarter last week in San Diego after the Giants' top receiver was late for a team meeting. Some Giants, among them tight end Jeremy Shockey, complained the team was penalized along with Burress for the transgression.

Capers went so far as to fire Chris Palmer, the Texans' offensive coordinator, after watching quarterback David Carr regress into a puddle of indecision in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The upshot of all this turmoil is that today's games figure to reveal which coaches got their point across.

Nolan's 49ers have the easier task, if you call leaving the country to play the sorry Arizona Cardinals easy. The 49ers led the Dallas Cowboys, 31-19, until their defense gave up two fourth-quarter touchdowns and the game.

Afterward, Nolan seethed about the collapse and threatened players who refuse to go with the flow. "[It's] things as far as trust," Nolan said. "Who believes in the things we're doing, and who seems to think they have a better idea; we'll find a place for those people who think they have a better idea."

By Wednesday, Winborn, a fifth-year veteran, was gone. Nolan said he was going to demote Winborn at first, then decided to seek a trade after Winborn said he wanted to start. So far, there has been no deal.

Nolan, in his first year as coach of the league's worst team in 2004, has come under fire from some media for the ouster.

The Giants, meanwhile, are used to controversy about Coughlin's "late" rule, which really implies a player must show up for meetings early. Coughlin fined a number of players last year for that violation.

Burress seemed unrepentant in the aftermath. "If it happens again, it happens," he said. "It's not like I'm trying to be late on purpose."

Neither was Coughlin backing down. Responding to Shockey's complaint, he said: "If I have to sit there and put the dots together between preparation and production, I'll do it."

The Giants, with a depleted secondary, play the St. Louis Rams today.

Of the three coaches, Capers has the most to lose. If Carr doesn't respond to new coordinator Joe Pendry's coaching, Capers could easily be out of a job by January.

Palmer became a scapegoat when the Texans managed one touchdown in each of their first two games and Carr was sacked 13 times, often for holding the ball too long.

Carr welcomes Pendry's intensity. "I don't think we need to be coddled anymore," he said. "I don't think we need to worry about our feelings. It's time to win games."

The Texans play the Cincinnati Bengals, who lead the NFL with 16 take-aways, today.

Last Word

"It's going to be like sucking on a tailpipe for about four hours, with the smog conditions and the altitude."

STEVE BUSH 49ers fullback, on San Francisco's game against the Cardinals in Mexico City tonight.

Games of the week

Eagles (2-1) @Chiefs (2-1)

TIME, TV -- 4:15 p.m., Ch. 5

LINE -- Chiefs by 1 1/2

SKINNY -- Donovan McNabb has a sports hernia, bruised chest and sore shin, but his right shoulder is still fine and that may be enough for the Eagles. McNabb threw 52 passes last week, so it's unlikely the Eagles will decide to exploit the Chiefs' problems on run defense.

PICK -- Eagles

Chargers (1-2) @Patriots (2-1)

TIME -- 1 p.m.

LINE -- Patriots by 4 1/2

SKINNY -- This is another test of the Patriots' resourcefulness. Losing SS Rodney Harrison with Chargers TE Antonio Gates on deck is bad timing. But don't the Patriots always ace these tests?

PICK -- Patriots

Worth seeing

Rams (2-1) @Giants (2-1)

TIME -- 1 p.m.

LINE -- Giants by 3

SKINNY -- The Giants lead the league in scoring with 92 points, and QB Eli Manning hasn't had an interception in his last 75 passes. Their offense is fine. It's their defense that is in disrepair.

PICK -- Rams

Broncos (2-1) @Jaguars (2-1)

TIME -- 1 p.m.

LINE -- Jaguars by 4

SKINNY -- Three weeks after the Broncos played deplorably in Miami's heat, they make a return trip to Florida. Worse for Jake Plummer than the heat will be the Jaguars' defense.

PICK -- Jaguars

Colts (3-0) @Titans (1-2)

TIME -- 1 p.m.

LINE -- Colts by 7

SKINNY -- Everyone is waiting for Peyton Manning to break out. If it doesn't happen against the Titans, there are going to be lots of questions about why.

PICK -- Colts

Lions (1-1) @Bucs (3-0)

TIME -- 1 p.m.

LINE -- Bucs by 6 1/2

SKINNY -- Lions QB Joey Harrington looks likes he's on the precipice of losing his job. The Bucs' gritty defense likely pushes him over the edge. Bucs RB Carnell Williams will try for his fourth straight 100-yard rush game.

PICK -- Bucs

Vikings (1-2) @Falcons (2-1)

TIME -- 4:15 p.m.

LINE -- Falcons by 6

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