First coaches to go
Published: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 2, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.
Dennis Green couldn't get the Arizona Cardinals into contention. Jim Mora couldn't keep the Atlanta Falcons in contention.
Both are now unemployed.
The first two coaching dismissals after the NFL season came quickly. Less than 24 hours after their teams concluded losing campaigns, the Cardinals canned Green and the Falcons fired Mora. Both were in their third years on the job.
No one expects the flood of movement that occurred a year ago, when 10 head coaching spots changed hands, but Monday indicates this could be a painful January in the precarious profession.
Also in danger of being fired is Oakland's Art Shell, whose Raiders went 2-14, the worst record in the league. Just lose, baby.
Romeo Crennel has done so much losing in Cleveland that his tenure could end after two years. Tom Coughlin is under fire because his Giants have underachieved in a stunningly dysfunctional manner — despite making the NFC playoffs as a wild card.
Jon Gruden's grip in Tampa Bay is slipping. Bill Cowher is contemplating leaving the Steelers after 15 seasons. It's impossible to predict what Bill Parcells will do in Dallas in his fourth head coaching stop.
Miami's Nick Saban has been targeted by the University of Alabama for its vacant coaching position and the school is expected to wave a Crimson Tide of money at him.
For now, Green and Mora are finished.
"In the final analysis, when you look at the three years of wins and losses, we didn't win enough games," said Cardinals vice president and general counsel Michael Bidwill, son of owner Bill Bidwill.
No, Green was a mere 16-32 as the latest failed coach for the Cardinals, who have had one winning season in 22 years.
Bidwill believes it won't be difficult to find a replacement, and he identified six, including former Packers coach Mike Sherman, now the assistant head coach of the Houston Texans. Sherman will be in Tempe, Ariz., to interview on Thursday, vice president for football operations Rod Graves said.
Interviews have yet to be scheduled for Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow, Colts assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, and two Steelers assistants: Russ Grimm, assistant head coach/offensive line coach, and Ken Whisenhut, offensive coordinator.
"I think he's done a very good job as far as building the talent on this team," Bidwill said of Graves. "We've got a lot of young players that are under contract for a long, long time. I think that's part of what makes the Cardinals very attractive to many of the coaches we've talked to."
Green was out of coaching after a rather successful decade with the Minnesota Vikings that concluded in 2001. The Cardinals will pay him the $2.5 million remaining on his four-year contract. Arizona went 6-10, 5-11 and 5-11, the 2006 season the most disappointing because the Cardinals moved into a showcase new stadium with high expectations.
Mora, whose father Jim was a longtime NFL coach, was a 49ers assistant when he was hired by Atlanta in 2004. The Falcons went to the conference title game that season, losing at Philadelphia, but then were 8-8 and 7-9. In the last two seasons, they collapsed in the second half of the schedule, going 4-13 combined.
"I'm proud of the many things we accomplished here over the last three years ... although our main goal was to bring a Super Bowl back home to the great fans of Atlanta, and we fell short in that area," Mora said. "If anything, I think this experience has made me a better coach, although I don't think circumstances always allow that to be seen."
Mora hurt himself by not fully developing Michael Vick at quarterback, having few reliable receivers, and not winning with the league's best rushing game. His clubs also were ravaged by injuries, particularly on defense.
But Mora didn't help his situation by saying on a radio show that his "dream job" was to coach his alma mater, the University of Washington — even though the school has a coach, Tyrone Willingham.
Mora said he was kidding, but Falcons owner Arthur Blank was not amused.
"I obviously was very disappointed in those comments," Blank said. "I spoke to him about it, and he took responsibility for it. He felt badly about it and he apologized to Atlanta. He has a real fondness for the community."
But Mora will have to find a new community now.
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