Originally created 01/01/02

Chargers fire coach Mike Riley



SAN DIEGO -- Mike Riley was fired as coach of the San Diego Chargers on Monday after ending the season with a nine-game losing streak that left him 14-34 in three seasons.

Riley, who never held an NFL job before being hired by then-general manager Bobby Beathard in January 1999, was fired by GM John Butler hours after the Chargers lost 25-22 to Seattle, finishing the collapse that left them with a 5-11 record. San Diego's season is finished because it has a bye the final week.

"It just came down to the bottom line, and that's winning football games," Butler said at a news conference. "Unfortunately, that didn't take place as much as we'd hoped this year, and in previous years."

While Butler and team president Dean Spanos were grim-faced, Riley was his usual pleasant self when he met with reporters a short time later.

When asked what he accomplished, Riley said: "I don't know, but I did it my way. I treated people the way I wanted to, and I coached the team the way I wanted to. I feel good about that."

After Butler and Spanos told Riley he was fired, Riley said he thanked Spanos for the opportunity to coach in the NFL.

"The best deal in a thing like this is to be grateful," Riley said. "I told Dean Spanos, 'Not many people get a chance like this.' "

The only coach from Riley's staff who will be retained is offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who has three years left on his contract. Butler was noncommittal when asked if Turner would be considered for head coach.

Turner coached the Washington Redskins for eight seasons until being fired in December 2000. The Chargers hired Turner last Jan. 9.

The Chargers will pay the final two years of Riley's contract, at $750,000 a year. The contracts for the rest of the staff expire at the end of January.

The Chargers will be searching for their fourth head coach since the popular and successful Bobby Ross was forced out following the 1996 season in a power struggle with Beathard.

Butler, Buffalo's GM from 1993-2000, has surrounded himself with former Bills players and front-office personnel. A possible replacement for Riley is Ted Cottrell, the New York Jets' defensive coordinator-assistant head coach. He was with the Bills from 1994-2000, the last three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Riley had a six-game losing streak in his rookie season of 1999 and an 11-game losing streak to open 2000.

Riley barely survived last year's 1-15 disaster, and speculation about his dismissal this year has grown along with the Chargers' losing streak, which followed a promising 5-2 start.

Butler, hired last January, inherited Riley and his staff. Riley and Butler have vastly different personalities. Riley is friendly and easygoing while Butler is intense and impatient.

Riley had an admirer on the opposite sideline Sunday in Seattle coach Mike Holmgren.

"It's extra tough because he's a good friend of mine," Holmgren said. "I have tremendous respect for him as a person and a coach. I say it all the time and I'll say it again, he's one of the truly nice people in the world and he's a good man. I believe his players believe that.