- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2002

It's that season again. Firing time. Mike Riley, fired by San Diego on Monday after going 6-26 the past two seasons, figures to be just the first NFL coaching casualty.
If Dick LeBeau survives his 9-19 record in Cincinnati, it won't be just because of the Bengals' upsets of defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore and AFC favorite Pittsburgh. The notoriously cheap Bengals don't like having to pay coaches not to coach.
"As long as they keep feeding me, I have a job," LeBeau said.
Despite playoff appearances in 1999 and 2000, Indianapolis' Jim Mora could be out after this year's 5-10 disaster and his tirade directed at quarterback Peyton "the Franchise" Manning. With the Colts having failed to put a decent defense on the field to take some of the pressure off Manning, both Mora and general manager Bill Polian could be let go if owner Jim Irsay can lure a big name like Bill Parcells to Indianapolis.
Parcells' name has also surfaced in Tampa Bay, where the Buccaneers' late playoff run might not be enough to save coach Tony Dungy's job if they don't make a big postseason impression, and in Carolina, where George Seifert is on the verge of becoming the first coach to lose 15 straight games in a season after winning two Super Bowls in San Francisco.
Speaking of the 49ers, the increasingly testy relationship between coach Steve Mariucci and GM Terry Donahue could lead to the former's departure for another NFL job despite the team's unanticipated success this season.
Dave Campo seems safe in Dallas despite his 10-21 mark since he does whatever owner Jerry Jones says. Tom Coughlin appears to have retained Jacksonville owner Wayne Weaver's confidence despite the Jaguars' 14-17 record the past two years and their huge salary cap problems. Detroit rookie coach Marty Mornhinweg will likely survive despite his 1-14 record since rookie GM Matt Millen doesn't want to admit that his first major decision was a bust. That is unless Mariucci becomes available. The Chargers would likely pursue Mariucci as well, but their leading candidates are Wade Phillips and New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, both of whom worked for GM John Butler in Buffalo.
Trivia time The Jets' Herman Edwards is one victory from leading his team to the playoffs. How many rookie coaches have done so since 1990? (Answer below).
Retiring sort? Tennessee's Bruce Matthews has approached the end of each of the last several seasons as if it could have been his last and each time he has come back for another year. So the sure Hall of Fame offensive lineman won't say that Sunday's home game against Cincinnati will be his finale, despite much speculation in that regard.
"I'm still mentally about 14 years old and that's going to take a grown-up decision [which] I guess I'm incapable of as of right now," Matthews said. "Coming back next year is a longshot in some regards, [but] I'm not willing to rule it out completely."
Meanwhile, Matthews' team had its NFL-best streak of 32 straight victories when leading after three quarters snapped last Sunday. Tennessee led Cleveland 38-24 with 10 minutes to go but lost 41-38. The last time the franchise lost when scoring 38 or more points was the legendary playoff meltdown against Buffalo nine years ago yesterday.
"We must have been in the locker room getting dressed while Cleveland was still out there playing," said Derrick Mason, who needs just 58 yards this Sunday against Cincinnati to become the franchise's first 1,000-yard receiver since 1991. "It's embarrassing."
Right man, wrong place
Dallas' Emmitt Smith needs just 56 yards Sunday in Detroit to become the first back with 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons. However, Smith expects to get booed if he sets the mark since he'll be surpassing the record he now shares with Lions sure Hall of Famer Barry Sanders. Smith's December surge left him just 616 yards shy of the late Walter Payton's all-time rushing record.
Where's Brigitte?
Michael Strahan isn't married to a movie star, but the New York Giants defensive end needs to sack Green Bay's Brett Favre just once Sunday to break the NFL record of 22 set in 1984 by the New York Jets' Mark "Mr. Brigitte Nielsen" Gastineau. If Strahan's quarterback, Kerry Collins, throws every pass for the Giants, he'll become the first player to do so for a team two straight years, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Trivia answer
Nine: Pittsburgh's Bill Cowher (1992), Minnesota's Dennis Green (1992), San Diego's Bobby Ross (1992), Dallas' Barry Switzer (1994), Philadelphia's Ray Rhodes (1995), the New York Giants' Jim Fassel (1997), San Francisco's Steve Mariucci (1997), New Orleans' Jim Haslett (2000) and St. Louis' Mike Martz (2000).


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