Haslett won't return as Saints head coach

SAN ANTONIO -- The New Orleans Saints acknowledged the
troubles Jim Haslett faced through the hurricane-disrupted 2005
season, and praised the coach for an admirable job under the

After they fired him, that is.

General manager Mickey Loomis said Monday's firing of Haslett
was about more than the 3-13 record the Saints endured after
Hurricane Katrina wiped out New Orleans and forced the team to set
up a temporary home in San Antonio.

"I think Jim performed really well under some adverse
conditions, unprecedented conditions," Loomis said. "But
unfortunately we haven't had the results the past five seasons that
you come to expect in this league. It wasn't based just on this

Haslett was the 2000 NFL Coach of the Year in his first season
after leading the Saints to the only playoff victory in team
history. But he never made it back to the postseason, finishing
45-51 in six seasons for the second-most victories in team history
behind Jim Mora's 93.

Haslett is expected to be a highly sought candidate in an exploding market. More respected leaguewide than within some quarters of his own organization, he likely will hear from multiple suitors as franchises begin the process of filling vacancies.

Haslett, 50, wasn't at Monday's news conference, but issued a
statement through the team.

"There were some unexpected challenges, but in any case our
record isn't good enough," he said.

Loomis said the team will pay the remaining year of Haslett's
contract, worth $3.2 million. Haslett said earlier this month he
wanted an extension to his contract, and Loomis said the team
rejected his request.

"I knew what his desires were, but we didn't get to that
point," Loomis said. "We talked about four or five different

Loomis said he has some people in mind to be the next coach, but
wouldn't mention candidates by name. Interviews could begin in the
next few days, he said.

The next coach of the team must have NFL experience, said
Loomis, who doesn't expect the uncertainty surrounding the
franchise to make it more difficult to find a coach.

Although the Saints will return to their headquarters in
suburban New Orleans later this month, it's unclear where they will
play home games next season. Owner Tom Benson said the Superdome,
heavily damaged by Katrina, will be ready for games in
mid-September despite official projections for November.

"I don't think it will be difficult," Loomis said. "This is a
good job. Obviously, we have some challenges in front of us, but
frankly I wouldn't want a head coach who's not willing to face

New Orleans hasn't had a winning season since 2002, and this
year was marred before it even began. Katrina hit New Orleans less
than two weeks before the regular season, and the Saints ended up
playing four home games in Baton Rouge, La., three in San Antonio
and one "home" game against the New York Giants that irked the
Saints players because it was played in New Jersey.

New Orleans opened the season with an emotional win at Carolina,
but finished by losing 11 of 12, including Sunday's season-ending
27-13 defeat at Tampa Bay.

"For all of us, it was a time to follow a new direction, to
bring closure to what was a disappointing year record-wise and move
forward," Haslett said in the statement.

The turmoil surrounding the Saints slowly took its toll on them.
Their practice site changed frequently because of previously
scheduled events in the Alamodome, and their locker room was part
of a high school baseball complex. Players voiced their
frustrations, and receiver Joe Horn was a frequent critic of the

Regardless of whether the circumstances contributed, the Saints
finished tied with Green Bay as the worst team in the league in
turnover margin. The Saints had 24 more turnovers than their

They also allowed seven returns for touchdowns on turnovers or
blocked kicks without getting one of their own.

"It was tough under these conditions for Jim and the team to
win games," Saints receiver Donte' Stallworth said. "But this
business is about wins and losses."

Haslett broke in as an NFL coach working with linebackers with
the Los Angeles Raiders in 1993 before his first stint with the
Saints in 1995-96. He was the defensive coordinator his second year
with the Saints and for three seasons with Pittsburgh from 1997-99.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.