Mortensen: 2001 archive

Seven coaches feeling most heat

Let's spare Marty Schottenheimer from our "coaches on the hot seat" list. After all, Redskins owner Daniel Snyder will tell you repeatedly, "Marty's my guy." Yes, and Jeff George was his guy, too. Bet that one of them isn't around for the 2002 season. Take the latest "my guy" over the former.
Jim Mora
The Colts' Jim Mora has yet to win a playoff game as a head coach.

Mike Martz almost made the list. It's his second year since the Rams won the Super Bowl under Dick Vermeil. He has made his coaching changes and personnel moves. If the team stays healthy (i.e. Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk) and the Rams don't make a run for the title again, Martz's situation might bear watching. Then again, Martz is the ring leader of the greatest show in the NFL, and it is an entertainment business.

Jim Fassel will probably face the heat. It's New York. The Giants are the defending NFC champions. Their schedule is tough, and the offense may be very suspect going into the 2001 season. But Fassel has a new contract and supportive owners, so he is going nowhere, which is a good thing.

Dan Reeves won't get fired in Atlanta if the Falcons flop. He'll step out. He may even step out if the Falcons win.

Some people may try to put Mike Holmgren on this list, too, but he has at least this year and next to show Seahawks owner Paul Allen that he knows exactly what he's doing.

Here's where the coals may turn to flames:

1. Tony Dungy, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Kind of weird that the man responsible for the turnaround of one of the NFL's sorriest franchises should be in this position. But Warren Sapp spoke the truth when he said the expectations for a team with plenty of Pro Bowl players are so high that anything less than a Super Bowl -- or NFC championship game -- may result in Dungy's dismissal.

2. Jim Mora, Indianapolis Colts
Almost the same deal as Dungy. When you have Peyton Manning, Edgerrin James and Marvin Harrison, people expect something special. Among the people is Colts owner Jim Irsay. The biggest problem for Mora is that the Colts play in a very deep conference (AFC) that makes it a tough haul.

3. Dick Jauron, Chicago Bears
Frankly, Jauron almost needs a miracle to survive. In fact, if he can win 7-9 games with this team, give him Coach of the Year honors. New GM Jerry Angelo has purged some veterans, paving the way for the future -- most likely a future without Jauron.

4. Mike Riley, San Diego Chargers
He gets a year to show GM John Butler whether he can lead the Bolts back to respectability. Butler at least has upgraded the talent to be competitive in a very tough AFC West division. Don't underestimate the nice-guy Riley -- remember, he was 8-8 in his first season ('99) with a shaky team, and he initiated the hiring Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. If Riley doesn't work, he may have hired his successor.

5. Dave Campo, Dallas Cowboys
Believe it or not, Campo may not be on the hot seat as much as everybody thinks he is. He has done as good a job as one can expect, given the shackles put on him by Jerry Jones. If the season is a disaster, the danger for Campo is that then Jones may want to sell a "new era" in 2002 with somebody else manning the ship. Then again, unless Jones relinquishes control, can he really get a better man than Campo?

6. Tom Coughlin, Jacksonville Jaguars
Interesting phenomenon: Lower expectations may save Coughlin. Actually, Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver has been steadfast in his support of the coach, probably because Coughlin is as unshakeable as they come. Then again, the salary cap has a stranglehold on a team with some real stars, but no depth, and Coughlin is the general manager. Weaver always wanted his coach to be the front office boss so he could hold him fully accountable.

7. George Seifert, Carolina Panthers
Owner Jerry Richardson once guaranteed (sort of) that his franchise would win a Super Bowl in its first 10 years. It's year seven and the direction is south, not north. Even if Richardson accepts the plan, I have a feeling Seifert is going to put himself on the firing line in his third season with the Panthers. In other words, if the season has a feeling of hopelessness, I wouldn't be surprised to see Seifert re-assess his desire to coach and pull the trigger himself. Much will depend on whether rookie quarterback Chris Weinke gives the franchise -- and Seifert -- a spark.

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