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Hatchet falls on four more NFL coaches


Associated Press

Almost as soon as the St. Louis Rams announced Monday that Mike Martz was out as head coach, they asked the Chicago Bears for permission to talk to Ron Rivera, their defensive coordinator.

Same thing in Houston: the Texans fired Dom Capers and asked Denver for permission to talk to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.

Such is the way of the NFL. If there's a "hot" coaching prospect out there, try to get to him as soon as possible before the competition grabs him.

And there's a lot of competition this year.

Four coaches were let go on "Black Monday," the day after the regular season ends and the traditional day for firing coaches. Martz, Capers, Mike Sherman of Green Bay and Jim Haslett of New Orleans were canned.

They join Mike Tice of Minnesota, fired after the Vikings' final game on Sunday, and Dick Vermeil of Kansas City, who retired Sunday at the age of 69. With the firing of Detroit's Steve Mariucci in November, that brings to seven the number of vacancies, with the prospect of one more - Norv Turner of Oakland, who could learn his fate Tuesday.

That's not an unusual number, especially since there were just three new coaches this season. Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, an average of 5.9 jobs per year opened up.

None of the firings were surprises.

Haslett's job has been in question most of the season as the Saints, who finished 3-13, went through a chaotic period in which the team was driven from its home by Hurricane Katrina; settled in San Antonio; and played "home" games in three different stadiums, including its opener at Giants Stadium, home of its opponent, the New York Giants.

"There were some unexpected challenges, but in any case our record isn't good enough," Haslett, who coached the team for six seasons and was coach of the year in 2000, said in a statement.

The 54-year-old Martz took a medical leave this season after five games with an infection of the heart lining and was not allowed back on the sidelines, in part because of differences with director of football operations Jay Zygmunt. At the time he left the team, his career record was 56-36 and he had led the Rams to the playoffs four times, and to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season.

Thus it was no surprise when New Orleans' offensive players heard of the availability of Martz, known for his innovations, and hinted he be considered for the opening. "I'd like an offensive-minded coach," wide receiver Donte' Stallworth said, nodding when asked if it was a coach who had a recent health problem.

Martz may, indeed, be a candidate for an opening, especially on a team looking for offensive help.

The Saints, who own the No. 2 pick in the draft and a possible shot at Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart, might do worse - Martz's specialty is developing quarterbacks, as he did with Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger in St. Louis.

The list of prospects for the vacancies is long.

Rivera is one of those at the top. Because he is of Hispanic heritage, he also fits the specifications of the "Rooney rule," which requires that all teams with vacancies interview at least one minority candidate.

Another top prospect in that category is Tim Lewis, defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, who was once a cornerback for Green Bay, and who turned down an interview with Detroit when it hired Mariucci. Other potential minority candidates include Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon; Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell; and Mike Singletary, the Hall of Fame linebacker who is San Francisco's assistant head coach.

Singletary, who only began coaching in 2003, is thought to be more a prospect down the road than this season.

The Broncos, Bears and Giants are in the playoffs, so Kubiak, Rivera and Lewis can't accept a job until after their teams are eliminated.

But all can be interviewed at their home headquarters, Kubiak and Rivera this week because Denver and Chicago have a first-round bye, and Lewis next week if the Giants beat Carolina in the first round. If New York loses, he obviously is free to interview and to take a job.

Other likely prospects among assistant coaches include Gregg Williams, assistant head coach for defense of the Redskins; offensive coordinator Brad Childress of Philadelphia; and Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Fassel, who was head coach of the Giants for seven seasons and took them to the Super Bowl after the 2000 season.

College coaches are Pete Carroll of Southern California; Charlie Weis of Notre Dame; Kirk Ferentz of Iowa; Bob Stoops of Oklahoma; and Pat Hill of San Jose State. Carroll was a head coach with the Jets and Patriots, and all but Stoops were NFL assistants.

Kansas City also appears interested in Herman Edwards, head coach of the New York Jets. Under NFL rules, the Chiefs are free to ask permission to talk to Edwards, and could be asked to give up draft picks if a deal is reached.

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