- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 29, 2005

Last offseason was a remarkably quiet one on the NFL coaching carousel. Only Cleveland, Miami and San Francisco made changes.

This January figures to feature much more upheaval.

While Baltimore’s impressive victories over Green Bay and Minnesota snuffed talk of 2000 Super Bowl champion Brian Billick losing his job and Jeff Fisher seems certain to survive a second straight rebuilding season in Tennessee, others won’t be as fortunate.

Houston’s Dom Capers has been playing out the string for weeks as the gradually improving expansion team fell apart in 2005. General manager Charley Casserly could go, too, since Texans owner Bob McNair brought in former Denver, New York Giants and Atlanta coach Dan Reeves to give the organization a thorough look-over.

New Orleans owner Tom Benson is willing to blame much of the Saints’ 3-12 season on the disruption caused by Hurricane Katrina, but he won’t extend Jim Haslett’s contract. And since Haslett doesn’t want to go into the last year of his deal with no guarantees, the Saints will be looking for a new coach when they return to Louisiana.

Norv Turner, 9-22 in two years in Oakland, is about to become Al Davis’ sixth ex-coach in 12 years.

Kansas City’s Dick Vermeil is expected to retire at 69 after the Chiefs (9-6) narrowly miss the playoffs — as they should when Pittsburgh (10-5) takes care of Detroit to win the AFC’s last postseason berth.

Speaking of Detroit, the Lions (5-10) have been even more lifeless under interim coach Dick Jauron than they were under Steve Mariucci, whom GM Matt Millen fired in November. Millen inexplicably will be back and will hire his third coach in six years.

Buffalo’s upset of AFC North champion Cincinnati last week might not have been enough to save GM Tom Donahoe, but a victory Sunday over the forlorn New York Jets probably will be enough to allow Mike Mularkey (14-17) to return for a third season.

Mike Martz’s shaky health, which caused him to step aside in October, will be the excuse St. Louis’ front office will use to end its tempestuous relationship with the coach of the 2001 NFC champions.

It looked certain Minnesota’s Mike Tice would be fired after the Vikings’ awful start and “Love Boat” shenanigans. Did six straight victories do enough to save Tice, or did the subsequent losses to Pittsburgh and Baltimore seal his fate? Bet on the former.

Green Bay’s Mike Sherman followed a 9-7 debut in 2000 with four straight division titles only to be stripped of his GM duties before this season. Injuries were responsible for much of the collapse of the Packers (3-12), and it’s Sherman’s first bad season. His fate could be intertwined with that of Brett Favre. If the 36-year-old quarterback comes back, he certainly won’t want to go through a coaching change.

Among the hot names teams will consider are defensive coordinators Gregg Williams of Washington, Ron Rivera of Chicago, Tim Lewis of the New York Giants and Jerry Gray of Buffalo, as well as Denver offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and Philadelphia assistants Brad Childress and John Harbaugh. College coaches like Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz also could be in the mix.

Farewell to Favre? — Favre will start a quarterback-record 241st consecutive game Sunday. It could be the final game of his magnificent 15-year career as he faces Seattle and his former coach, Mike Holmgren, at Lambeau Field.

Favre’s three MVP Awards are an NFL record, as are his 14 seasons with at least 3,000 passing yards and 16 consecutive playoff games with a touchdown pass. Favre can set a record of 20 touchdown passes in 12 straight seasons with one against the Seahawks.

Don’t go for it on fourth down — Ten teams have gone for it on fourth down more than 15 times this season, and only two of those teams, Denver and Kansas City, have winning records. Nine teams have gone for it on fourth down 10 times or less. Only two of those teams, New Orleans and San Francisco, have losing records.

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