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saint5221 06-27-2003 10:05 AM

Haz on the hot seat
Five coaches whose teams must win to salvage their jobs

By Mike HolbrookÂÂÂ*ÂÂÂ*(
June 26, 2003
High expectations are a double-edged sword for head coaches in today’s NFL. On the one hand, they mean that a team possesses the quality personnel needed to challenge for a division title and more. On the other hand, they crank up the heat on the coaching staff and the players to turn potential into reality.

Coaches accept the fact that high expectations are a part of their job. They know they’re being well paid for one purpose — win or else. So, if losing teams like St. Louis, Baltimore and New England can rapidly turn into champions, why can’t everyone else? That’s the thinking pervading the NFL nowadays, and there is some validity to it.

With free agency, the salary cap and profit sharing helping to level the playing field throughout the league, most teams at this time of year rightfully believe they have a shot to win it all if things fall into place.

However, with that line of thinking comes pressure. And with pressure comes the potential for failure. Scanning the league, one can’t help but notice the tremendous turnover of new coaches in the last couple of years — in fact, half of the league’s coaches are entering their third season or less with their current team.

Therefore, it’s realistic to expect that a handful of coaches will be ousted following this season. Here, then, are five coaches I won’t be surprised to see searching for work in January 2004:

1) Dave Wannstedt, Dolphins — Talk about high expectations! After knocking on the door the last couple ofÂÂÂ*years, Wannstedt now must prove that he can guide the talented Dolphins to postseason glory. And he must do it this year. He seemingly has all the pieces in place — a corps of Pro Bowl-caliber veterans, the leading rusher in the NFL (RB Ricky Williams), a top-notch defense featuring the league’s top pass rusher (DE Jason Taylor), an innovative offensive coordinator (Norv Turner) and solid special teams are among the positives. However, the Dolphins have been woeful late in the season in recent years, dating back to Jimmy Johnson, and Wannstedt must break that spell. The key is establishing a consistent signalcaller (either Jay Fiedler or Brian Griese) who is not turnover-prone.

2) Mike Martz, Rams — Make no mistake, the injury woes of QB Kurt Warner and RB Marshall Faulk were tremendous blows to the Rams last season. However, there were cracks in the pavement beginning to show before the two Rams stars went down, due to Martz’s dictatorial style and overstuffed playbook. Martz is unquestionably an innovative offensive mind. And he’s an aggressive, hardworking guy who treats his players well. However, he has reportedly chafed at sharing personnel decisions with talented GM Charley Armey and desires more power. That could be setting up a showdown in the Rams’ organization. The draft appears to have shored up some areas of need, so Martz most likely will be expected to return the Rams to their winning ways. If he does that, he may win the power struggle. Anything short of that, however, and he’s likely gone.

3) Mike Holmgren, Seahawks — The best move Holmgren made during the offseason was relinquishing his GM duties. There’s no argument that Holmgren is a gifted head coach; however, his GM skills clearly were in question. Holmgren also made a great move by bringing in proven defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes to revamp a porous stop unit. The way the Seahawks’ offense played down the stretch last season (when they posted a 4-2 record and scored 29 points per game) has got people expecting big things from rishing stars QB Matt Hasselbeck, RB Shaun Alexander and WR Koren Robinson. If the defense can live up to its end of the bargain, the Hawks could win the NFC West. And they might have to do that to keep Holmgren employed
4) Jim Haslett, Saints — After producing a division title and leading the Saints to a playoff win in his first season as head coach, Haslett’s teams have collapsed in December each of the last two years. Last year’s slide was unacceptable as the Saints went from 6-1 to 9-7, losing home games to Minnesota and Carolina in the final three weeks of the season. Haslett & Company has made some questionable personnel moves in the past, but there’s no question the Saints have assembled a talented, speedy team. In a brutally tough division featuring the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers and the up-and-coming Falcons, the Saints must find their way into the postseason or else Haslett will be feeling more heat than a piece of blackened Cajun catfish in a sauté pan.

5) Dick Jauron, Bears — As the leader of a team that made a precipitous drop from 13 victories in 2001 to four last season, Jauron clearly needs a bounce-back performance from his team. Unfortunately, his hopes appear to be hinged on erratic QB Kordell Stewart and aging DTs Ted Washington and Keith Traylor. That can’t be comforting to the easygoing but intense Jauron. It’s highly unlikely that the Bears will be hit by the injury bug as hard as they were in 2002. But the 29th-ranked offense and 25th-ranked defense both must measurably improve to get the Bears back to the ranks of winning teams. My gut feeling is that the Bears weren’t quite as good as their 13 wins in ’01 showed, but by the same token, I don’t think they’re as bad as the team that managed only four wins in ’02. Anything short of the .500 mark will most likely lead GM Jerry Angelo to pull the trigger and dispose of a coach he inherited, finally allowing him to bring in his own coach.

Others who I think will be feeling extra pressure in 2003 include:

Bill Cowher, Steelers — Possesses a subpar 7-8 record in the postseason, including just 1-3 in AFC title games. More failure in the postseason could finally put the Steelers’ ownership over the edge.

Jim Fassel, Giants — If the Giants stumble and don’t catch the Eagles this season, the Mara family may finally decide it’s time to stop the roller-coaster ride Fassel has had them on.

Bill Callahan, Raiders — If the Raiders’ aging veterans get old fast, Callahan could be a casualty of the franchise’s rebuilding plans.

Dan Reeves, Falcons — If Atlanta doesn’t take the next step by advancing deeper in the playoffs, owner Arthur Blank may be motivated to bring in his own coach.

Mike Shanahan, Broncos — Has a 34-32 record since John Elway retired. If Jake Plummer’s not the savior, Shanahan could be looking for work.

Gregg Williams, Bills — Big offseason moves put pressure on Williams to take the Bills to the postseason. Some questionable assistant-coaching hires may have him on thin ice.

Mike Tice, Vikings — A solid finish covered up a number of rookie mistakes last season. But if Tice continues to act as if he’s in over his head, look for him to be sent on his way.

tweeky 06-27-2003 10:53 AM

Haz on the hot seat
Has is DEFINATELY on the hot seat.
This team is slam loaded with talent.
Can you imagine what a Bill Parcells or a Jon Gruden or a [insert your choice of great coach here] could do with this team?

I think Jim Mora could take this team deep,
OK maybe not.

DATMAN 06-28-2003 06:09 AM

Haz on the hot seat

Has is DEFINATELY on the hot seat.
This team is slam loaded with talent.
Can you imagine what a Bill Parcells or a Jon Gruden or a [insert your choice of great coach here] could do with this team?

I think Jim Mora could take this team deep,
OK maybe not.


subguy 06-28-2003 03:40 PM

Haz on the hot seat
I have said this is a must season for Haz and Brooks....

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