- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lofty expectations did in Eric Mangini and Romeo Crennel after their teams’ seasons crumbled from high hopes to demoralizing finishes.

Little was expected of the Detroit Lions - but not was the worst season in NFL history. That cost Rod Marinelli his job, too.

“You can’t go 0-16 and expect to keep your job,” he said.

Now two interim coaches who breathed some life into downtrodden clubs - the Rams’ Jim Haslett and the Raiders’ Tom Cable - await word on their fates.

Three NFL clubs fired coaches Monday, less than 24 hours after the regular season ended. Out were Marinelli, the New York Jets’ Mangini and the Cleveland Browns‘ Crennel.

Only Mangini’s firing came as a surprise. The Jets harbored Super Bowl aspirations after an 8-3 start that followed an offseason spending spree, including a trade for Brett Favre. But they didn’t make the playoffs, losing four of their last five.

“I don’t think it was one thing,” owner Woody Johnson said. “We had to go in a different direction. There’s nothing specific. It’s just a call we made. Hopefully it’s correct.”

The Browns’ search to replace Crennel is already off to a disheartening start: Bill Cowher told owner Randy Lerner on Saturday he doesn’t intend to coach in 2009.

Cleveland was rewarded with five prime-time TV appearances this season after going 10-6 in 2007 and placing six players in the Pro Bowl. But the Browns collapsed to 4-12 amid injuries and didn’t score an offensive touchdown while losing their last six games.

“Romeo was a gentleman through and through,” Lerner said. “He was gracious to a fault.”

The Lions became the first NFL club to go 0-16 after their loss to the Packers on Sunday. Marinelli won only one of his last 24 games.

Three coaches were fired during the regular season: Mike Nolan in San Francisco, Scott Linehan in St. Louis and Lane Kiffin in Oakland. Mike Singletary replaced Nolan and will be retained after the 49ers went 5-4 in their final nine games.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones insisted Wade Phillips will return as coach after Dallas, a preseason Super Bowl favorite, failed to make the playoffs - and was eliminated in humiliating fashion in Sunday’s 44-6 loss to Philadelphia. Phillips vowed to do things differently.

“We know things must improve. The only way is to change things,” he said. “To get to the standard we want, I don’t see another way.”

PRO BOWL: The Pro Bowl will be played one week before the Super Bowl in 2010, and both games will be staged in Dolphin Stadium, a person directly involved in the decision told the Associated Press.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not announced the move.

It’s not a new notion to have the game played between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The NFL has discussed it multiple times in recent years, and commissioner Roger Goodell told the AP last month that having the game precede the Super Bowl would avoid a “somewhat anticlimactic” ending to the season.

STEELERS: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not stay in a hospital overnight after receiving a concussion Sunday against Cleveland, but it was uncertain if he will practice this week.

Roethlisberger lay on the ground for nearly 15 minutes after being leveled by two Browns defenders and was strapped to a stretcher as he was carried off the field.

CHARGERS: Billionaire developer and San Diego owner Alex Spanos has announced in a letter that he suffers from dementia.

The 85-year-old Stockton, Calif., resident was in the owner’s box for the Chargers’ division-clinching win against Denver on Sunday, but family members wanted to tell the public that his infrequent appearances lately have been because of his declining health.

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