- The Washington Times - Friday, December 13, 2002

No NFL coaches wield more power than Seattle's Mike Holmgren and Jacksonville's Tom Coughlin. But each is in serious jeopardy three years after winning a division title (Holmgren's fourth, Coughlin's second). And each is a victim of his past success.
Green Bay's renaissance under Holmgren from 1992 to 1998 seems more and more the product of astute general manager Ron Wolf and incomparable quarterback Brett Favre.
Seattle is 19-26 since Holmgren made his debut there with a 9-7 AFC West championship in 1999. The team is 4-9 this year in the NFC West while struggling on both sides of the ball. And because all but eight players were acquired by Holmgren, he can't blame his predecessors.
Seahawks owner Paul Allen remains a backer of the well-respected Holmgren, but as the empty seats grow in the team's gorgeous new stadium more than 7,000 for each of the last two games and a second double-digit loss season in three years looms, the pressure mounts for the Seahawks to start over yet again in search of their first playoff victory since the Reagan administration.
Things are even more dire in Jacksonville, where fans have established a firetomcoughlin.com Web site and the players aren't enamored of the coach's drill sergeant methods. The Jaguars, devastated by having to let players go because of salary cap excesses during their four-year postseason run (1996-99), are 2-7 since their surprising 3-1 start.
Four of the losses have been close, including one to the expansion Houston Texans. However, even owner Wayne Weaver criticized the eighth-year franchise's only coach after the botched coverage on Cleveland's Hail Mary that beat Jacksonville 21-20 last Sunday with 46,267 on hand at 73,000-seat Alltel Stadium.
Offensive stalwarts Mark Brunell, Jimmy Smith and Fred Taylor remain, but the Jaguars have averaged 19 points during their slump. At 5-8, Jacksonville (with lousy Cincinnati and playoff-bound Tennessee and Indianapolis left) is a game ahead of Houston in the AFC South.
One would hope that beating Dallas on Sunday and ensuring a .500 season would save Jim Fassel's job with the New York Giants, but some other coaches seem on the way out.
Cincinnati's Dick LeBeau (11-31 over two-plus seasons) and Detroit's Marty Mornhinweg (5-24) have awful records and have made bonehead moves during games.
Both franchises need to be overhauled, but Bengals owner Mike Brown doesn't want to give up his GM title despite a 12th straight losing season. And Lions owner William Clay Ford still supports Mornhinweg and GM Matt Millen, although William Clay Ford Jr. seems willing to declare the tandem a failure.
No Cardinals coach in a quarter-century has a winning career record, so Arizona's just-ended six-game skid might not have proved fatal to Dave McGinnis (13-25). However, he could have set the stage for his dismissal after a 49-0 rout by Kansas City on Dec.1 when he said, "Anytime you've got a one-sided loss like that, it has to go directly to the head coach."
Charging downhill Six weeks ago, San Diego had a shot at becoming the first team to play the Super Bowl at home. The surprising Chargers were 6-1 and leading the AFC race for homefield advantage. But only late missed field goals by San Francisco and Denver in San Diego's overtime victories have kept the Chargers from a six-game losing streak since.
At 8-5, San Diego is holding onto a playoff spot over New England because of its 21-14 victory over the Patriots on Sept.29. Only twice in his previous 17 seasons with Cleveland, Kansas City and Washington did coach Marty Schottenheimer have a losing second half, but that's still a possibility for San Diego although the remaining schedule (at Buffalo, at Kansas City, Seattle at home) is all a slumping team could ask.
Losing is nothing new to the Chargers, who endured at least one five-game losing streak in each of the previous five seasons with separate skids of eight, nine and 11 games.
"It's not about [Schottenheimer]," fullback Fred McCrary said. "It's about the players. We're the ones who play the games. It's up to us to go out and get it done. He can encourage us and teach us, but it's up to the leaders and everybody else on this team to have the attitude of 'hey, we're going to get out of this funk.'"
Thanks, Ricky The second consecutive 200-yard game by Miami running back Ricky Williams thrilled New Orleans. That's because it put Williams, whom the Saints traded to the Dolphins last spring, over 1,500 yards. That means New Orleans gets the Dolphins' top pick instead of a third-round selection in the 2003 NFL Draft.
True indicator? The NFC's six best teams Tampa Bay, Green Bay, San Francisco, Atlanta, Philadelphia and New Orleans are easily the conference's top six teams in turnover ratio. However, in the more jumbled AFC, Oakland and Tennessee are the only currently playoff-bound teams with positive turnover ratios.

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