For once, it looks as if coaching casualties will be minimal this year, perhaps because most owners now realize what Washington's Daniel Snyder doesn't -- the line between good and bad in the NFL is very thin.
So, other than Buffalo's Wade Phillips, Kansas City's Gunther Cunningham, and Snyder's interim coach, Terry Robiskie, everyone is assured of returning next season. That includes Dick LeBeau of Cincinnati (4-9 as an interim coach) and Arizona's Dave McGinnis (1-8), both of whom now have permanent jobs.
It also includes Mike Riley of San Diego, which finished 1-15.
Moreover, if Cunningham and Phillips go, Snyder may be bailed out.
He earned points when he appointed Robiskie to succeed Norv Turner. When he lets Robiskie go (and it's almost surely when, not if), Snyder will probably take a lot of heat because Robiskie got just three games to prove himself. He went 1-2 with a team that clearly was demoralized by the Turner firing.
But it's conceivable that at least one (perhaps all three) of the potential openings could be filled by blacks in a league that's been criticized for not giving minorities enough opportunities to become head coaches. All seven openings after the 1999 season went to whites.
If Ralph Wilson lets Phillips go, the leading candidate becomes defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell. And if Cottrell doesn't get the Bills' job, he's highly regarded around the league and probably will be interviewed for future vacancies.
One name that's come up in Kansas City (along with Dick Vermeil) is Herman Edwards, Tampa Bay's assistant head coach. He is a former scout and assistant coach for the Chiefs. And, for trivia buffs, he's the ex-Philadelphia cornerback who returned Joe Pisarcik's bobble for a TD in "The Fumble" play that is part of Eagles and Giants lore.
If either gets a job, it makes it easier for Snyder to fire Robiskie, who is black. He could go with:
1. Bill Parcells. No way.
2. Steve Spurrier. Hah!
3. Frank Beamer. Maybe -- the Virginia Tech coach grew up as a Redskins fan and says it's the only NFL job he'd consider. On the other hand, that may be a tease.
But Snyder then could turn to Marvin Lewis, the defensive coordinator of the Ravens, another black assistant considered good head coaching material.
On the other hand, Lewis may not want to work for Snyder, either.
THE NEW BREED? Is there really a new breed of running, athletic quarterbacks, as advertised on everyone's favorite TV channel?
Or is it just expansion of an old breed.
Yes, when Fran Tarkenton was scrambling all over the field in the 1960s and '70s, he was the only one.
But many of the best quarterbacks of the last two decades -- John Elway, Brett Favre and Steve Young to name three -- are great athletes who did more than drop back five or seven steps and fling the ball downfield. So is Rich Gannon at 35. And, of course, 38-year-old Doug Flutie.
Mark Brunell, before he injured his knee, was the same way, and so was Randall Cunningham in his Philadelphia days. And a young Joe Montana moved well, too. "The Catch" by Dwight Clark was on a rollout, and Montana once ran 60 yards during a playoff game with the Giants by easing up as he approached the sideline, then taking off downfield.
Yes, there are more mobile quarterbacks these days, particularly young ones such as Donovan McNabb, Daunte Culpepper, Steve McNair, Cade McNown, Shaun King, Kordell Stewart, et al. Even Jay Fiedler is surprisingly athletic.
But there still are classic QBs: Kurt Warner, Peyton Manning, Tim Couch, Drew Bledsoe, Kerry Collins, Vinny Testaverde, Elvis Grbac (somewhat nimble). Even Ryan Leaf, whose skills have improved, if not his personality.
Here are the 12 playoff quarterbacks:
New Breed (6) -- McNabb, Culpepper, McNair, Gannon, King, Aaron Brooks.
Old Breed -- (6) Warner, Manning, Collins, Trent Dilfer, Brian Griese-Gus Frerotte, Fiedler (sort of).
And Culpepper, Brooks and King prefer to operate in the pocket, making them a little more old school.
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