Three coaches looking for jobs
Lofty expectations did in the New York Jets' Eric Mangini and the Cleveland Browns' Romeo Crennel, as their teams' seasons crumbled from high hopes to demoralizing finishes.
Little was expected of the Detroit Lions, though nor was the worst season in NFL history. That cost Rod Marinelli his job, too.
"You can't go 0-16 and expect to keep your job," Marinelli said.
Now two interim coaches who breathed some life into downtrodden clubs — the St. Louis Rams' Jim Haslett and the Oakland Raiders' Tom Cable — await word on their fates.
Three NFL clubs fired coaches yesterday, less than 24 hours after the regular season ended. Out were Marinelli, the Jets' Mangini and the Browns' Crennel.
Only Mangini's firing came as a bit of a surprise. The Jets (9-7) harbored Super Bowl aspirations after an 8-3 start that followed an offseason spending spree, including the trade for quarterback Brett Favre. But they didn't even make the playoffs, losing four of their last five games.
"I don't think it was one thing," owner Woody Johnson said. "We had to go in a different direction. There's nothing specific. It's just a call we made. Hopefully, it's correct."
The Browns' search to replace Crennel is already off to a disheartening start: Former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher told owner Randy Lerner on Saturday that he doesn't intend to coach in 2009.
Cleveland was rewarded with five prime-time TV appearances this season after going 10-6 in 2007 and placing six players in the Pro Bowl. But the Browns collapsed to 4-12 amid injuries and didn't score an offensive touchdown while losing their last six games.
"Romeo was a gentleman through and through," Lerner said. "He was gracious to a fault."
The Lions became the first NFL club to go 0-16 with their loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. Marinelli won only one of his last 24 games.
Three coaches were fired during the regular season: Mike Nolan in San Francisco, Scott Linehan in St. Louis and Lane Kiffin in Oakland.
Mike Singletary replaced Nolan and will be retained after the 49ers went 5-4 in their final nine games.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insists Wade Phillips will return as coach after Dallas, a preseason Super Bowl favorite, failed to make the playoffs — and was eliminated in humiliating fashion in Sunday's 44-6 loss to Philadelphia. Phillips vowed yesterday to do things differently.
"We know things must improve. The only way is to change things," he said. "To get to the standard we want, I don't see another way."
Cable went 4-8 after taking over the Raiders and ended the season with two straight victories, knocking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers out of the playoffs Sunday. Haslett went 2-10 with the Rams.
SUPER BOWL ODDS
GIANTS 2-TO-1 FAVORITES TO REPEAT AS CHAMPS
Las Vegas sports books favor the New York Giants over the 11 other teams in the NFL playoffs to win the Super Bowl, giving 2-to-1 odds on the NFC's No. 1 seed to repeat as champions.
The Tennessee Titans are the favorites among AFC teams to win a title at 4-1, closely followed by the Pittsburgh Steelers at 9-2.
The Giants have the easiest road to the Super Bowl on Feb. 1, while the AFC teams are more evenly matched, oddsmaker Mike Seba of Las Vegas Sports Consultants said yesterday.
"You want to be in the NFC," he said. "The AFC is closer bunched — there's not a lot of difference between your top seed and the six seed."
The Arizona Cardinals are the biggest longshots for the title at 40-1; in the AFC, the Miami Dolphins have 30-1 odds.
Before the season, the two teams that opened with the longest odds to win the Super Bowl were the Dolphins (250-1) and the Falcons (200-1). Now they're both in the playoffs.
The two preseason favorites — the New England Patriots (2-1) and Dallas Cowboys (7-1) — failed to reach the playoffs.
Each of the four road teams — Indianapolis, Baltimore, Atlanta and Philadelphia — is favored in this weekend's opening-round matchups. The top two seeds in each conference earned byes.
QB ROETHLISBERGER LIKELY WILL TAKE IT EASY
Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not stay in a hospital overnight after receiving a concussion Sunday against Cleveland, but it was uncertain if he will practice this week.
Roethlisberger lay on the ground for nearly 15 minutes after being leveled by two Browns defenders and was strapped to a stretcher as he was carried off the field. He was taken to a Pittsburgh hospital but left after tests were concluded.
With a week off before they begin practicing for their Jan. 11 divisional playoff game, the Steelers will work out today, tomorrow and Thursday, then take the weekend off. The Steelers expect Roethlisberger to be ready for that game but probably won't rush him back to practice with so much time off before they play again.
When Roethlisberger sustained a concussion against Atlanta on Oct. 22, 2006, he returned a week later against Oakland but had one of the worst games of his career — throwing four interceptions, with two returned for touchdowns — during a 20-13 loss.
A week after that, Roethlisberger threw for 433 yards but was intercepted three more times during a 31-20 loss to Denver.
Roethlisberger has had at least three concussions in the past three years. He also received one during a June 2006 motorcycle accident. He was not wearing a helmet at the time.
'CADILLAC' ENCOURAGED AFTER SUFFERING INJURY
Tampa Bay running back Carnell "Cadillac" Williams got some encouraging news yesterday. The second knee injury he's suffered in the past 15 months is not as severe as the first.
Williams tore the patellar tendon in his left knee when he was tackled at the end of a 28-yard run during Sunday's season-ending loss to the Oakland Raiders. He suffered a career-threatening injury to his right knee in September 2007 and was out until six weeks ago.
But the fourth-year pro said that unlike last season when the patellar tendon in his right knee was ruptured, the tendon pulled away from the bone this time and should be simpler to repair with less recovery time.
"This process should be much easier," Williams said, adding that former Tampa Bay teammate and current Carolina kick returner Mark Jones suffered a similar injury when he was with the Bucs.
"After six, eight weeks he was rolling, so right now I'm just hoping for the best and hoping that's it."
The 2005 Offensive Rookie of the Year when he rushed for 1,178 yards and six touchdowns, Williams' production has been limited the past three seasons because of injuries. He missed the final 12 games of 2007 after undergoing surgery on his right knee and sat out the first 10 games of this year.
Redskins: Washington coach Jim Zorn said rookie quarterback Colt Brennan will need surgery to repair a torn knee meniscus in the offseason, according to the Washington Post. Brennan, a 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist from the University of Hawai'i, was inactive for all of Washington's 16 games this season.