December 30, 2003
by Ward Lowe
NFL owners clearly do not fear change. As of this writing, six head-coaching positions sit vacant in the league, and rumors suggest that one or two more firings are imminent. However, the one coach I predicted would get canned weeks ago, Miami’s Dave Wannstedt, got an extension.
Are you kidding me? Maybe you don’t fire a guy who led the Dolphins to 10 wins, but a two-year extension?
Not only were my picks last week for the final two NFC playoff spots miserably wrong—thank you, Arizona—but Wannstedt will remain in turquoise and orange through 2006. The extension strips him of control over player-personnel decisions, which looks like a slap on the wrist after leading another promising Dolphins team out of the playoffs.
As for the recently unemployed coaches and their former teams …
Arizona Cardinals (4-12)
Dave McGinnis led Arizona to a 17-40 record after taking over the team midway through the 2000 season and became the latest casualty in the sad history of the Arizona franchise. Wide receiver Anquan Boldin was the one bright spot in an otherwise horrible season that included a pathetic season (90 carries for 256 yards) from washed-up running back Emmitt Smith, who lost his job to Marcel Shipp.
Atlanta Falcons (5-11)
Dan Reeves and his lifetime supply of Zocor got fired in Atlanta because he couldn’t make the Falcons win without quarterback Mike Vick. But, really, who could? The Falcons went 2-10 while Vick healed and finished 3-1 after he returned.
Buffalo Bills (6-10)
Buffalo fired Gregg Williams after three seasons (17-31) without a winning record, and this year’s 6-10 team hovered at .500 for the first half before dropping out of contention. Quarterback Drew Bledsoe, who was supposed to save the Bills, looked bad all season. He probably can return to his old self, but needs a mental overhaul.
Chicago Bears (7-9)
The Chicago Bears sacked Dick Jauron after his fourth losing season in five years. He won the 2001 NFL Coach of the Year award for his 13-3 season, but that highlight looks like a happy accident when reviewed against his 22-43 record during the other four years. Of course, someone higher up in the Bears food chain should lose his job, too, for thinking that Kordell Stewart would be a good addition to the club.
New York Giants (4-12)
Like Reeves, Jim Fassel was informed before the end of the season that he would not return with the Giants in 2004. Unlike Reeves, Fassel chose to finish the season as a lame duck. The coach compiled a 58-53-1 mark during seven years with the Giants and did the best he could with a team decimated by injuries and plagued by poor play early in the year.
Washington Redskins (4-12)
The Steve Spurrier experiment in D.C. added a lot of fuel to the argument that college coaches should stay in college (see “Rick Pitino”). Spurrier this week resigned as coach of the Redskins with three years left on his contract, forfeiting $15 million in salary rather than continuing to work for owner Daniel Snyder.
Hmmm. Maybe Wannstedt isn’t such a bad coach after all.
Ward Lowe is a writer and editor in Austin, Texas, who believes that 2004 will be The Year for his beloved Boston Red Sox. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.