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GOLDBERG: Mariucci First of Many Firings By DAVE GOLDBERG, AP Football Writer

Sat Dec 3, 1:18 PM ET


Steve Mariucci is gone. A half-dozen or more NFL coaches will follow as soon as their seasons end.

The law of averages makes that almost inevitable.

That's because there were only three new coaches this season, fewest since 1988, when there were two. The average number of changes per year since the NFL-AFL merger in 1970 is 5.9, so nine would have to go just to get to that average over the 2004 and 2005 seasons.

That probably won't happen, but it's possible because coaches are the first to go in all sports, even when the blame lies with higher-ups. Is Mariucci, for example, most responsible for the Lions' 15-28 record during his tenure? Or is it the Ford family that owns the Lions? Or team president Matt Millen, under whom the Lions are 20-55?

The biggest percentage change was in 1971, when 11 of the 26 teams then in the league had new coaches. There also were 11 in 1997, when the league had 30 teams.

In fact, the only safe place for an NFL coach seems to be Pittsburgh, which has had just two since 1969, when Chuck Noll was hired. He retired after the 1991 season, Bill Cowher was hired and survived 7-9 and 6-10 seasons in 1998 and 1999 and a 6-10 year again in 2003.

So patience can work.

That's one reason Tennessee's Jeff Fisher, who got his job 10 games into the 1994 season when the Titans were the Houston Oilers, seems safe despite a 3-8 record. General manager Floyd Reese and owner Bud Adams know their team is losing because they had to cut a slew of veterans for salary cap reasons.

They also remember Fisher helped build the Titans into a Super Bowl team (1999) and kept them in contention for the next four years. And if Fisher gets on the market, he will be snapped up immediately by someone — maybe even Millen.

Here's a rundown:


GONE (besides Mariucci)

_Dom Capers, Houston. At 1-10, he's the obvious fall guy, even though the front office (GM Charley Casserly) has to take blame for a building program gone awry. "I put the blinders on and try to do everything that I can that's going to give this football team the best chance of moving forward," Capers says. "If I get caught up in all of that, it isn't going to help us, and so I don't."

_Mike Sherman, Green Bay. He was stripped of personnel duties after last season and he's 2-9. Brett Favre has said he's considering retirement if Sherman goes. Now he's hinted he'd like Mariucci, who was the Packers' QB coach when Favre arrived in 1992.


_Brian Billick, Baltimore. It's been five years since his Super Bowl win and the Ravens are regressing. Everyone is hurt, Jamal Lewis is underperforming and Kyle Boller is a bust. Green Bay, Detroit or Minnesota might be interested in Billick, who also can get a television job, a traditional spot for coaches waiting to get another opportunity in the league.

_Norv Turner, Oakland. Al Davis tends to bring in guys who are better as coordinators. Then he gets impatient when they don't win. There are more problems here than Turner — such as no real GM between Davis and the coach.

_Mike Martz, St. Louis. He's on medical leave and is suggesting he may want to come back. It's hard to see that as long as Jay Zygmunt is the team's director of football operations. Like Turner, Martz might be best as a coordinator, which is what he was when the Rams won a Super Bowl with his offense.


_Mike Tice, Minnesota. He was gone until the Vikings won four straight and might be kept if he makes the playoffs. But remember that Zygi Wilf, the new owner, has promised to fix the team's image problem and Tice is part of that. He presumably had nothing to do with the hijinks on the Lake Minnetonka boat ride, but he was fined $100,000 by the NFL for scalping Super Bowl tickets.


_Dick Vermeil, Kansas City. His choice. He's 69 and has talked about retiring. Best guess it that he'd do it after a successful season, which means the playoffs.

_Joe Gibbs, Washington. Another possible retirement. Things haven't gone anywhere near as well as expected during his second tenure (he's 11-16). He says he'll stick it out, but it's hard to win when Dan "The Fan" Snyder lets go of the likes of Champ Bailey, Antonio Pierce and Fred Smoot.

_Herman Edwards, New York Jets. He can stay if he wants, but there are persistent rumors that he could go to the Chiefs if Vermeil leaves. He began his post-playing career there, and is close to team president Carl Peterson. When Edwards is asked about the Chiefs, he doesn't completely deny it.

_Jim Haslett, New Orleans. Probably gets another year because he's had so much to contend with and the front office is in turmoil. But he needs a good 2006; the only consistent thing about the Saints during his tenure is inconsistency.


The first name on everyone's list is Charlie Weis, his 10-year extension with Notre Dame notwithstanding. Unless it's Pete Carroll, who was 34-33 in stints with the Jets and Patriots. If Gibbs leaves, Snyder would jump all over either (and get turned down).

Weis' name even comes up as Tom Coughlin's eventual successor with the Giants, even though Coughlin is very secure. Still, teamed with New England personnel guru Scott Pioli, Jersey guy Weis might be attracted to the Meadowlands in a few years, especially with Eli Manning there.

Mariucci could land in Green Bay, and Martz and Billick might get other jobs. Even though the Baltimore offense stinks, Wilf, a lifelong Giants fan, is said to be interested in Jim Fassel, their former coach, who is now the Ravens' offensive coordinator.

Hot coordinators: Ron Rivera, defense, Bears; Brad Childress, offense, Eagles; Tim Lewis, defense, Giants; Gregg Williams, defense, Redskins. Lukewarm coordinators: Sean Payton, offense, Cowboys; Donnie Henderson, Jets, defense (down from hot).

Williams was 17-31 as coach in Buffalo, but might get another job (see Belichick, Bill), perhaps with the Redskins if Gibbs re-retires. Lewis was one of the minority candidates who turned down Millen's request to interview when the Lions hired Mariucci. He also played for Green Bay.


The top six and bottom six teams based on current level of play:

1. Indianapolis (11-0). Dungy might be relieved by a loss.

2. Denver (9-2). Nowhere near Indy's level.

3. Chicago (8-3). Defense. See Ron Rivera, above.

4. Seattle (9-2). Even Holmgren concedes he's getting breaks this season he never got before.

5. Kansas City (7-4). Seem to be jelling.

6. New York Giants (7-4). If Seahawks are fourth, the Giants deserve no worse than sixth for outplaying them.

27. Arizona (3-8). Neil Rackers actually missed a field-goal attempt last week.

28. New York Jets (2-9). Defense is crumbling under weight of bad offense.

29. Detroit (4-7). What a pitiful Thanksgiving.

30. Green Bay (2-9). Alas, poor Brett.

31. San Francisco (2-9). Alex Smith tries to restart his career.

32. Houston (1-10). Sigh ...

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Sorry Mr. Goldberg but Joe Gibbs signed a 5 year deal. The only way he leaves before that contract is up is if something "out of the blue" happens to his health and forces him to retire.

Now, do like the rest of your brethern and file your little "Gibbs might leave" blurb away so that you can use it next year and the year after.:rolleyes:

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