- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

Those looking for a greatly increased minority presence in the NFL’s head coaching fraternity in 2005 are likely to be disappointed next month. Where six or seven teams made coaching changes in each of the past six offseasons, there could be as few as two vacancies this January now that Miami has hired LSU’s Nick Saban.

Cleveland, where interim coach Terry Robiskie is 0-4 since replacing Butch Davis, and San Francisco, where the 49ers are 2-13 under Dennis Erickson, are sure to be looking. However, other than New Orleans, which still can make the playoffs by beating Carolina on Sunday, the NFL’s other disappointing teams have first- or second-year coaches or ones who have won enough to afford a down year or two.

Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher, St. Louis’ Mike Martz and Tampa Bay’s Jon Gruden have taken their teams to Super Bowls. Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Detroit’s Steve Mariucci, Tom Coughlin of the New York Giants, Arizona’s Dennis Green, Chicago’s Lovie Smith and Oakland’s Norv Turner are in their first or second seasons. Dallas’ Bill Parcells is going to the Hall of Fame, and Washington’s Joe Gibbs already is there. Seattle’s Mike Holmgren should be safe after making the playoffs for the third time in six years. Dick Vermeil, a Super Bowl winner like Parcells and Gibbs, gets one more year in Kansas City before he retires.

Rice blasts Gruden — While Gruden isn’t going anywhere after winning a power struggle with longtime general manager Rich McKay last December, Tampa Bay is 12-19 since winning the Super Bowl in 2002. Only seven teams have won fewer games the past two years. Fourteen of those 19 losses have been by a touchdown or less.

The Bucs are the only team with consecutive losing seasons after a Super Bowl victory. And even though the title belongs to Gruden, star defensive end Simeon Rice said it came “under the reign of thinking” of Tony Dungy, who had been fired the previous January.

Rice blames the subsequent collapse on the difference in atmosphere under Gruden, who’s more intense than the laid-back Dungy but apparently doesn’t run as tight a ship.

“A mistake is cool,” Rice said. “There has to be [accountability]. When I first got here, if you fumbled, you’re not playing.”

That was a shot at running back Michael Pittman, whose fourth-quarter fumble helped turn a 17-7 lead into a 21-17 loss to visiting New Orleans that virtually eliminated the Bucs on Dec.19.

“You’re running the clock out and you fumble?” Rice said. “To me, that’s not attention to detail. It’s stuff like that that’s going on here. There’s nobody who has really accepted responsibility.”

Gruden declined to address Rice’s comments other than to “take full responsibility” for the devastating defeat.

Too late — The Chiefs (7-8) won’t make the playoffs, but they remain the most entertaining team this side of Peyton Manning and Co. Kansas City has averaged 32 points during its four-game winning streak.

Larry Johnson, riveted to the bench while Priest Holmes put up his usual big numbers last season, has run for more than 100 yards in three of the last four games. That includes 151 yards two weeks ago against Denver, making the Chiefs the first team to have three backs gain 150 yards in a game in the same season. Holmes went for 151 in the opener at Denver and Derrick Blaylock, who’s likely to depart as a free agent, rumbled through the Saints for 186 on Nov.14.

Holmes will be 32 next year and has finished two of the last three seasons on injured reserve. However, his departure would mean an unaffordable $8.3million salary cap hit. But Johnson, the Chiefs’ top pick in the 2003 draft, is finally out of Vermeil’s doghouse.

“We’ve got two guys who can do special things,” Vermeil said.

And Kansas City’s Trent Green will become just the seventh quarterback to record three straight seasons with a rating of at least 90. The previous six are Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Joe Montana and MVPs Steve Young, Brett Favre, Kurt Warner and Rich Gannon.

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