- The Washington Times - Friday, September 8, 2006

With 10 new coaches, there are considerably fewer whose jobs could be in jeopardy in the NFL than in most seasons.

This year’s rookies and the 12 coaches who made the playoffs in 2005 are off limits. The same applies to Philadelphia’s Andy Reid, who tied for the league’s best record from 2001 to 2004; Miami’s Nick Saban, who won the final six games of his 2005 debut; and probably Cleveland’s Romeo Crennel and San Francisco’s Mike Nolan, who are in just the second seasons of major reclamation projects.

If Bill Parcells doesn’t return in Dallas in 2007 it will be either because he’s 65 or because of Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ decision to acquire receiver Terrell Owens.

That leaves just five coaches in jeopardy.

First on the list is Arizona’s Dennis Green, a consistent winner in Minnesota who’s just 11-21 with the Cardinals and needs to show some serious improvement in the wake of the addition of star running back Edgerrin James and the team’s gorgeous new stadium.

Next is Baltimore’s Brian Billick, who wasn’t hired by current Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti. The reserved owner doesn’t like his coach’s scattershot mouth. So a return to the playoffs for the first time in three years would seem to be in order for Billick.

Tennessee’s Jeff Fisher — second in coaching seniority — probably came off some lists thanks to a recent vote of confidence from Titans owner Bud Adams. But a third straight double-digit loss season — more likely than not — could turn that around in a hurry.

The other two coaches on the hot seat are not as obvious.

Jim Mora led Atlanta to the playoffs as a rookie coach in 2004. However, if the Falcons follow last year’s second-half collapse with a poor 2006, Mora could be in trouble. Owner Arthur Blank is a bigger booster of franchise quarterback Michael Vick than Mora.

San Diego’s Marty Schottenheimer — a first-round loser in 2004 and coach of the AFC’s major second-half bust of 2005 — is just 33-32 with the Chargers and wasn’t hired by general manager A.J. Smith.

The Steelers won’t fire Bill Cowher, but it’s not a big leap to put the coach’s decision to buy a house in his wife’s native North Carolina in 2005, combined with the breakoff in talks on a new contract last month, and come up with retirement. Cowher, who finally won a Super Bowl eight months ago after 14 seasons, has said he would like to keep coaching at least until youngest child Lauren, a high school freshman, graduates, but some think 2006 will be his swan song.

It also wouldn’t be a total shock if Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs retired from the Redskins for a second time at 66.

Faster pace — Commissioner Roger Goodell said preseason games were 11 minutes shorter on average this summer than in 2005 thanks in part to nearly seven fewer penalties a contest.

Brotherly lovefest — Indianapolis’ Peyton Manning and the New York Giants’ Eli Manning are the seventh quarterback brothers to be on NFL rosters in the same season, but they will be the first to start against each other. The brothers aren’t buying into the endless media hype. They even talked for 20 minutes on Tuesday night.

“The game doesn’t come up,” Eli said. “We don’t talk about practice or what’s happening really at all. We just kind of talk about what we did over the weekend and things like that.”

Peyton said Sunday’s game is a bigger headache for the rest of the family.

“I know it’s going to be awkward for my family, but Eli and I are excited about the game actually being here.”

Because of the five-year age difference between them, the brothers didn’t really compete until Eli was in high school.

“I was finally at the age where we were even enough where I could handle him,” Eli recalled. “I don’t know if it was really fair. I was in the middle of basketball season, and he hadn’t shot a basketball in about five years, so I probably had an advantage.”

Unless they meet in a Super Bowl, the Mannings won’t play again until 2010 in New York, when Peyton will be 34. As for a 2014 matchup, Peyton said, “I might be out of eligibility by then.”

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