- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 18, 2009

HE SAID WHAT?

“Mark’s going against the grain on this decision and he knows that. He knows coming out early is a tremendous challenge for a quarterback and the statistics don’t back up that it will be easy the way he’s going about it.” - Southern Cal coach Pete Carroll, disagreeing with quarterback Mark Sanchez’s decision to turn pro

COACHES SHOWN THE DOOR

Eight different NFL coaches have won the past 10 Super Bowls. Six of them are gone. Is this a tough business, or what?

Jon Gruden became the latest casualty Friday when Tampa Bay fired him. Gruden’s Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII six years ago, but that was then. This is now: The team broke down this season en route to Super Bowl XLIII, and Gruden is through after VII years with the Bucs.

“We will be forever grateful to Jon for bringing us the Super Bowl title,” team co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a written statement. Left unsaid: “And, Jon, don’t let the door hit you on the way out.”

Join the club. Mike Shanahan, who coached Denver to back-to-back Super Bowl wins, got the ax a few weeks ago. After last season, Ravens coach Brian Billick was let go. We’ve also had the voluntary departures of St. Louis’ Dick Vermeil, Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher and Indianapolis’ Tony Dungy.

The two survivors are Bill Belichick, who coached New England to three Super Bowl victories, and the New York Giants’ Tom Coughlin, who won it last season. Belichick is untouchable and might coach forever. The Giants faded this season. Another disappointing year and Coughlin, who almost was fired once before, might not make it to the new stadium in 2010.

It’s a high-risk, high-reward job with extraordinary demands. Just win, baby. Now. Or else. And if losing doesn’t get you, the physical and emotional toll might.

TWT FIVE Cardinals Players

The best story in the playoffs is the Arizona Cardinals. You have to go back a few years, but here are the Cardinals’ top players of all time (with guidance from colleague Dan Daly):

1. Charley Trippi (1947-55)- The versatile halfback, kick returner and quarterback scored touchdowns on a 44-yard run and a 75-yard punt return in the 1947 championship game win against Philadelphia, the franchise’s only title.

2. Ollie Matson (1952-58) -The running back and kick returner won two Olympic sprint medals in 1952, then was named co-rookie of the year. He was traded to the Los Angeles Rams for nine players in 1958.

3. Larry Wilson (1960-1972)- Played his entire 13-year career with the Cardinals, made the Pro Bowl eight times and helped invent the safety blitz.

4. Jackie Smith (1963-1977)- Played 15 years for the Cardinals and retired as the NFL leader among tight ends in receptions, yards and touchdowns.

5. Dan Dierdorf (1971-1983)- For most of his 13 years, the gruff CBS broadcaster was among the game’s dominant offensive tackles.

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