- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 9, 2004

Dave Wannstedt was battered and beaten before the NFL season even began.

Wannstedt’s Miami Dolphins missed the playoffs last season for the second straight year, leaving many surprised he was not fired. In July, he lost running back Ricky Williams, the team’s offensive star, to unexpected retirement. He lost top receiver David Boston to injury in August. He was forced to trade disgruntled pass-rusher Adewale Ogunleye, a star on defense, for a receiver to replace Boston.

The tumult left Wannstedt in an uncomfortable position: atop the list of coaches most likely to get fired during or after this season. Others in danger:

• Jim Haslett, New Orleans Saints. The only playoff victory in franchise history came in 2000, Haslett’s first season. However, his team collapsed miserably at crunch time the next two seasons. Haslett knows he might be fired unless his team reaches the postseason or at least makes a serious playoff push.

“There’s myself, my family and probably another 200 people affected by a coaching change,” Haslett said. “Do I want to win for myself? Yeah. But I want to win for everybody that’s involved. I feel pressure because I’ve got a lot of families looking at me.”

• Mike Tice, Minnesota Vikings. The Vikings turned a 6-0 start into a 9-7 finish last season and didn’t qualify for the playoffs. Unlike Wannstedt and Haslett, the former Maryland quarterback is in the last year of his contract and likely needs to make the playoffs to remain employed.

• Butch Davis, Cleveland Browns. A coach knows he’s in trouble when his team plummets from the playoffs to the division cellar in one season, as the Browns did last year. Davis’ problems are compounded because the owner who hired him, Al Lerner, died and the front-office boss who was his big booster, Carmen Policy, was forced out.

If the Browns aren’t competitive in the weak AFC North, Davis is a goner.

• Marty Schottenheimer, San Diego Chargers. When Schottenheimer took over the Chargers in 2001, owner Alex Spanos said, “In Marty, we hired a winner.” Indeed, Schottenheimer had produced 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1986 to 1997. However, in the five seasons since, Schottenheimer is 10 games under .500. If the Chargers finish with a record similar to last year’s 4-12, Schotttenheimer figures to be looking for work again.

Of course, who knows which coaches really will be on the hot seat come December? The Oakland Raiders’ Bill Callahan was canned less than a year after taking his team to the Super Bowl. Dan Reeves resigned under pressure 11 months after coaching the Atlanta Falcons to the only playoff victory by a visitor at Green Bay’s hallowed Lambeau Field.

Manning’s mission — Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning wants to join Washington’s Sammy Baugh (1945), Cincinnati’s Ken Anderson (1982) and San Francisco’s Joe Montana (1989) and Steve Young (1994) as the only quarterbacks to complete 70 percent of their passes in a season.

Anderson holds the record at 70.55 percent, but he was the only one of the four whose team didn’t play for the title. That’s obviously a bigger goal for Manning, whose Colts lost last year’s AFC championship game to eventual Super Bowl champion New England. Manning’s 62.9 career completion percentage is fifth all time behind the New York Giants’ Kurt Warner, Young, Montana and Minnesota’s Daunte Culpepper.

Go, sis, go! — Houston cornerback Jason Bell’s half-sister, Joanna Hayes, won the gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles at the Athens Games in an Olympic record time of 12.38.

Bengals Super Bowl-bound? — The 2-2 Bengals didn’t have a winning preseason for the first time since 1988, the last season they went to the Super Bowl. But only two of the last 10 Super Bowl champions didn’t have winning preseasons. So maybe the Bengals will get to the big dance and lose.