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PREVIOUS SPORTS
• Sideline: Yes, Non–Conference Games DO Count
• NCAA Preview 2009
• Sideline: Time For The Talking To Stop
• Sideline: In Memory of Air McNair
• Sideline: Will Goodell Hand Out Hard Time?
• Sideline: Marshall's Not Joshing
• NFL Draft: No Rush To Judgment
• NFL Draft Analysis 2009 (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts (Part 2)
• Sideline: NFL Draft Thoughts
• Sideline: Will Play For Food
• Sideline: Wonderlic Scores
• Sideline: Manning and Sanchez
• Sideline: 2010 Leagues Sci–fi, or Fantasy? / March Madness
• Sideline: Break Out The Brackets
• Sideline: LaDainian Tomlinson On The Record
• Sideline: The Incredible Sulk Continues
• Sideline: Guildford Heat Fired Up
• Sideline: Super Bowl thoughts from the Valley of the Sun
• Sideline: I know I came in here for something
• Sideline: College Football National Signing Day
• Sideline: 27 Points — 27 Super Bowl thoughts
• Sideline: An Epic QB Matchup?
• Sideline: Appreciating Arizona for What They Were
• Sideline: NFL Divisional Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Bowl Season Hangover
• Sideline: Six weeks Later
• Sideline: Wildcard Weekend Preview
• Sideline: Santa's Sackings
• Sideline: A Weis Decision ...for Now
• Sideline: Eye on the Ticker
• Sideline: Lions — An Anagram of Losin
• Sideline: Ready for the Turkey
• Sideline: Making it to the Big Dance
• Sideline: Brighter Days Ahead for Chargers?
• Sideline: Unnecessary Hits To The Pocket / Upset: BYU
• Sideline: Romo's Pause / Seattle Seahawks
• Sideline: Weekend Prep: Red River and More
• Sideline: College Football's 'Crossroads' Weekend
• Sideline: Gramatical Error
• Sideline: Turning The Page
• Sideline: So Cal 'Quizzed
• Sideline: 3rd Tuesday Panic / Forté Yard Dash
• Sideline: Two and Oh; Oh and Two
• Sideline: No More NCAAffeine
• Sideline: Week 1 College Football
• Sideline: How To Spell Heisman / Chad Ocho Cinco
• Sideline: A Second Slice
• Sideline: The Favre story STILL won't go away
• Sideline: Olympic Notes / Ricky's Still Relevant
• Sideline: Committee Meetings
• Sideline: Let the QB Battles Begin
• Sideline: Slinging The Slinger — More Favre
• Interview: Clint Dempsey
• Sideline: Welcome to the 2008 season
• Sideline: Plus One
• 2008 NFL Draft Review
• Sideline: Draft: The Morning After
• Sideline: Draft: Thinking the Unthinkable
• Sideline: Draft: Ready For The Long Haul
• Sideline: Sofa–bound Sport
• Sideline: Post–Winter Wonderland
• Sideline: Six Impossible Things
• Sideline: Brady's Misdirection Play
• Sideline: Colorful Language
• Sideline: Let the Romo–bashing begin
• Sideline: Bowl Bites: The Wrap
• Sideline: All About The Coaches
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 3
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 2
• Sideline: Bowl Bites 1
• Sideline: Coach Situations Vacant
• Sideline: For Some, The Playoffs Are Now
• Sideline: A Certain Lack Of Welcome
• Sideline: Unrelated Notes
• Sideline: Two Thanksgiving thoughts
• Sideline: Halftime: NFC
• Sideline: Halftime: AFC
• Sideline: London / A Tale of Two Chads / Intimidation
• Sideline: Damp Squib / Other London Notes
• Sideline: Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em / Dolphins – The Aftermath
• Sideline: The Dolphins Did What?
• Sideline: Notes on the Defenses
• Sideline: Habits to be Broken
• Sideline: Overtime
• Sideline: This Week's Starters
• Sideline: USF: Covering The Spread / Fantastic Football
• Sideline: Grossman: The Final Act? / McNabb, the Epilogue
• Sideline: Eagles QB in Slight Controversy
• Sideline: Leftwich's Parting Gift / Boos cruise
• Sideline: Notre Dame M.I.A.
• Sideline: Looking Beyond NFL Wk. 1
• Sideline: Best Hope For Heisman
• Sideline: Coaching Hot Seats / AP Poll Feeling ’Appy
• Sideline: The NFL’s Prime Cuts
• Sideline: Michigan Falls to Killer Apps
• Sideline: Look Out Couch / The Taint's On You, Bud
SPORTS

SIDELINE
Observations, Opinion & Occasional Silliness by Richard L Gale

THE EMPTY CHAIR
December 22, 2007


When 'Sideline' went online, I intended to take a monthly look at NFL head coaches on the hot seat. However, that idea fell by the wayside and, last week, was overtaken by the first coaching move of the season.

I will, however, take a look at something like a hot seat list in a minute, if only because there's now blood in the water. As soon as one coach goes, and a position opens up, seats elsewhere are turned up a notch. Coordinators enter the picture for the vacant position. Coveted ex–coaches start to field questions about whether they are ready to come back to the NFL. And rival owners get to thinking whether the coach about to go to that other team might not look better on his or her own sideline.

Ironically, Bobby Petrino wasn't actually on a hot seat, even if he was shifting uneasily in it. Falcons owner Arthur Blank had voiced his support for Petrino to a live national audience only the day before Petrino decided to quit, effectively icing the blowtorches some of the Falcons players had been firing under their first–year coaches chair.

And yet, the chair is empty, with a 90–word letter that amounts to little more than 'Goodbye. All the best, Bob.'

The media has been vicious about Petrino's exit, decrying him as the lowest of the low or a traitor or a coward. My reaction was a little more sympathetic (but only a little). Like many people who have had more than, say, four jobs, I can recall a time when I made a career misstep, moving to an environment where there was an 'atmosphere', if not from day one, then from even before that. Being the manager in such a situation, you either find the magic combination to unlock better times or, more likely, get dragged into the thick of it, becoming the lightning rod for criticism.

At this point, ownership either has to side with their appointed leader, or jettison him. Alternatively, ownership does nothing, the manager/coach realises the situation is futile and leaves, or becomes accustomed to never–ending misery for all concerned. Petrino's error was to leave just when Arthur Blank had made it apparent – on Monday Night Football no less – that he had his back. And at that point any sympathy I have for Petrino's situation in Atlanta went clean out of the window.

Only an idiot would walk away from an employer as supportive and generous as Arthur Blank. If Blank looked and sounded stung this past week, just consider how two of his highest–paid employees – Petrino and Vick – have treated him this year.

And don't get me started on Bill Parcells piling it on.

One rumor has it that San Francisco linebackers coach Mike Singletary might be in the frame for the Atlanta job. While Singletary certainly lacks long coaching experience – he is in his fifth year as an assistant coach – his status as an iconic Hall of Fame player, and his reputation as a leader and man of outstanding character have already seen him shortlisted for head coaching positions in the NFL (Dallas, San Diego), and it is only a matter of time before he does become a head coach.

For Blank, Singletary might be the perfect antidote for the poisons of '07.


SITUATIONS (ALMOST) VACANT

Okay, not precisely a 'hot seat' list, but instead a highly speculatory list of situations likely to be vacant at the end of this season or possibly becoming vacant next season, either through firings, contract terminations, or moonlit flits.

1. Atlanta Falcons
Before we lock Singletary in for the Falcons job, consider this. Interim Coach Emmitt Thomas is business–like, has the respect of players and owner, and unlike Petrino, has been through the years of hope before the disaster. Like Singletary, he has a superbowl ring as a player, and has 22 years more experience as an assistant coach (earning two more rings in the process). He will be a finalist for the 2008 Class of the Hall of Fame. Maybe this job isn't as open as it looks.

2. Carolina Panthers
If John Fox came into the season on the hot seat – and with the Panthers slipping ever further away from the Superbowl, that was certainly the case – then his pants are glowing right now. Even with the unexpected victory over the Seahawks, it just feels like the Panthers are waiting for the next chapter to begin, though I wouldn't be surprised if Fox turned up somewhere else next year or the year after.

3. Miami Dolphins
From his address to the fans following the Ginn selection to the 0–13 start, Cam Cameron has done little to distinguish himself as a head coach thus far. A win over the Ravens changes little, and with Bill Parcells supplying a new face up the hierarchy, Cameron's suitability will at least be reassessed. Of course, beating the Patriots would make him a hero. Realistically, he is a coach in jeopardy even after only one season.

4. San Francisco 49ers
Mike Nolan has fallen out with QB Alex Smith, and that means one of these two is turning into a bad investment. Ownership might like to take soundings on which one the rest of the players think is the weak link (now that players seem to have sway over their coaches). The team was expected to make the breakthrough and challenge for the playoffs this year, but they have looked like one of the league's worst instead.

5. Cincinnati Bengals
Three times in four years, the Bengals have finished 8–8 with Marvin Lewis running the show, and in his fifth year, 8–8 would be a blessing. Instead, they're at 5–9. If there is any suggestion that good times are just around the corner, it is that the arrest rate for Bengals players has plummeted, but Coach Lewis will need asbestos pants to ride out another offseason.

6. Philadelphia Eagles
Andy Reid's sons are not the issue here (he does have offspring who don't get into trouble, by the way), but clearly this is not a team that is going to be in the hunt in a perennial way, as they have been. And it is during this sort of lull that change happens. Don't be too surprised if McNabb and Reid leave Philadelphia, though both will find second homes.

7. Washington
Joe Gibbs is a legend, and for that reason alone, he won't be run out of town by the fans ...even if his coaching decisions this year have been error–prone. None the less, a 10–win season next year is probably needed to beat the heat.

8=. Detroit Lions
8=. New York Giants
The Lions have already completed their collapse, and the Giants are going through the process. Both seemed to be in strong playoff contention early in the season. Rod Marinelli's job is probably the safer of the two, if only because Matt Millen would almost certainly have to go too if yet another coaching change is made. If the new caring, sharing, touchy–feely version of Tom Coughlin doesn't close the playoff deal with the Giants he'll be gone, because we've already tried the hard–line version.

10. St Louis Rams
Terrible record when some people though the team might challenge for the playoffs? Check! Downward trend? Check! Falling out with one of your key stars (in this case, apparently Torry Holt)? Check! The decimation of the Rams offensive line may be Scott Linehan's only defense for now.

Also in the mix
Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets (3rd years almost certainly guaranteed); Baltimore Ravens and Denver Broncos (how long since those Superbowl rings?)

For the future
Chicago Bears
I don't realistically think Lovie Smith is going anywhere soon after signing a long–term contract in the offseason, but his inert expression on the sideline when his offense repeatedly stalls itself with penalties certain bugs the heck out of me. I'd sure like to see him looking more frustrated than resigned.



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