Originally created 12/21/96

NFL coaches stand on thin ice



Rich Brooks has been on the hot seat so long, he's even joking about it. Rick Venturi said he is not even thinking about his precarious situation.

And Dan Reeves is in a similar predicament as coach of the New York Giants.

Today, all three probably are coaching their last game with their present teams. Brooks sends his Rams against Venturi's New Orleans Saints in a 4 p.m. (WRDW, Channel 12) game in St. Louis, while Reeves and the Giants go against the New England Patriots in East Rutherford, N.J. at 12:30 p.m. (Fox 54).

It was Nov. 3, when St. Louis Rams president John Shaw, after a 42-6 loss to Pittsburgh, told Brooks that he had until the end of the season to turn around the team. Since then, Brooks has answered numerous questions regarding his future, and he was surprised this week when public relations director Rick Smith described his postseason media briefing as a "postmortem."

"That sounds ominous, doesn't it?" Brooks said. "This year, it sounds very ominous."

Maybe so. Signals have been mixed recently and the Rams are in the midst of a late-season push, even if it has come against the lowly Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints.

If the Rams (5-10) win their finale today against the Saints (3-12), who they beat 26-10 Dec. 1 at New Orleans, they'll have won three of their last four.

"I'm just going to coach this game like I'm going to be here and if I'm not, I'm not," Brooks said. "I've said it many times, I don't control that and I'm not going to approach the game any differently."

While Brooks' return is uncertain, it's a virtual certainty that Venturi, the Saints' interim coach, will be gone. Venturi, the linebackers coach before Jim Mora resigned, is 1-6 with the Saints, 2-16 as an NFL coach and 3-47-1 overall as a head coach that includes a 1-31-1 record at Northwestern from 1978-80.

"I won't concede anything," Venturi said. "I haven't given it a thought, but I will soon."

Bill Parcells doesn't want any part of the sideshows on tap at Giants Stadium, where he once coached.

It is Parcells' first game against the Giants since resigning as coach after the Super Bowl win over Buffalo in January 1991.

It is expected to be Reeves' final game as the Giants' coach, and there is bound to be an ugly crowd ready to cheer the returning hero and bid a not-so-fond farewell to a man who led New York to one playoff berth in four years, in 1993.

Those are distractions Parcells wants his players to ignore because the Patriots (10-5) have important work to finish against the Giants (6-9).

A win gives the Patriots a first-round bye in the playoffs, and Parcells knows the importance of an extra week off. Since 1990, only one team that played a wild-card game - the 1992 Bills - reached the Super Bowl.