- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

This weekend’s games might end the stays of close to a third of the NFL’s coaches.

Among those likely departing, of course, are Arizona’s Dennis Green and Atlanta’s Jim Mora.

Green, 16-31 in three seasons with the Cardinals, likely will watch his team go 5-11 for a second straight year despite the additions of running back Edgerrin James and quarterback Matt Leinart and the move into a fantastic new stadium.

The Cardinals, who play at San Diego on Sunday, have had one winning season (1998) in the last 22. But they do have James, the promising Leinart, dynamic young receivers Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald and Pro Bowl safety Adrian Wilson.

Arizona would love to lure Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll back to the NFL but probably can’t give him enough money and power. Other names being mentioned are Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel and offensive coordinators Ken Whisenhunt of Pittsburgh and Cam Cameron of San Diego.

As for Mora, he self-immolated by “joking” on a talk show that he would leave the Falcons, even during the playoffs, if a job at his alma mater, the University of Washington, became available. And it was no accident that Mora’s father, an NFL Network commentator, referred to Atlanta quarterback Michael Vick as a coach-killer.

After guiding Vick and the Falcons to the NFC title game in his 2004 debut, Mora hasn’t come close to matching that standard. Atlanta collapsed after a 6-2 first half of the season to finish 8-8 in 2005 and is 7-8 after starting 5-2 this year. Only an upset in Philadelphia on Sunday and losses by the New York Giants, Green Bay and Carolina will put the Falcons in the playoffs. Even that might not be enough to save Mora. Whisenhunt will be among the leading possible successors.

Art Shell, 56-41 with the Raiders from 1989 to 1994, is 2-13 in his return to Oakland. However not only is Al Davis devoted to his former Hall of Fame offensive tackle, but the Raiders’ owner loves doing the unexpected, so he might well retain Shell.

Tom Coughlin has gone 24-24 in three years (counting a playoff loss last season) with the Giants and might have to beat Washington to return to the playoffs and remain employed.

While former Bill Belichick assistants Eric Mangini and Charlie Weis have been hits with the New York Jets and Notre Dame, respectively, Romeo Crennel hasn’t transferred New England’s winning ways to Cleveland. The Browns are 10-21 under Crennel, but owner Randy Lerner isn’t likely to overrule general manager Phil Savage’s desire for stability.

Jon Gruden won the Super Bowl in 2002, his first year in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers are 27-36 since and 4-11 this season. But Gruden, under contract through 2008 at $4.5 million a year, likely will have a chance to see what he can do with about $30 million of salary cap room to sign free agents this winter.

Rod Marinelli should survive his horrid debut (2-13) in Detroit. If Dallas’ Bill Parcells and Miami’s Nick Saban leave, it will be by choice. That’s also true in Pittsburgh, where Bill Cowher is expected to retire next week after 14 seasons and turn the team over to assistant head coach Russ Grimm.

Another Music City Miracle? — If Tennessee wins a seventh straight game Sunday against New England and gets some help, the Titans will have completed the biggest comeback in NFL history, making the playoffs after an 0-5 start.

“When I start thinking about some of the games we lost by a mere one or two points, that stinks,” linebacker Keith Bulluck said.

Long time coming — Chris Weinke won his first game as Carolina’s starting quarterback as a rookie in the 2001 opener. It took Weinke more than five years and 17 starts to win again, which he did Sunday in Atlanta. So Houston’s Dan Pastorini still has the record with 23 straight losses from 1970 to 1972.

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