Almost as soon as the St. Louis Rams announced Monday that Mike Martz was out as head coach, they asked the Chicago Bears for permission to talk to Ron Rivera, their defensive coordinator.
Same thing in Houston: The Texans fired Dom Capers and asked Denver for permission to talk to offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak.
Such is the way of the NFL. If there's a "hot" coaching prospect out there, try to get to him as soon as possible before the competition grabs him.
And there's a lot of competition this year.
Four coaches were let go on "Black Monday," the day after the regular season ends and the traditional day for firing coaches. Martz, Capers, Mike Sherman of Green Bay and Jim Haslett of New Orleans were canned.
They join Mike Tice of Minnesota, fired after the Vikings' final game Sunday, and Dick Vermeil of Kansas City, who retired at the age of 69. With the firing of Detroit's Steve Mariucci in November, that brings to seven the number of vacancies, with the prospect of one more - Norv Turner of Oakland, who could learn his fate today.
None of the firings were surprises.
Haslett's job has been in question most of the season as the Saints, who finished 3-13, went through a chaotic period in which the team was driven from its home by Hurricane Katrina, settled in San Antonio and played "home" games in three different stadiums, including its opener at Giants Stadium - home of its opponent, the New York Giants.
"There were some unexpected challenges, but in any case our record isn't good enough," Haslett, who coached the team for six seasons and was coach of the year in 2000, said in a statement.
The 54-year-old Martz took a medical leave this season after five games with an infection of the heart lining and was not allowed back on the sidelines, in part because of differences with director of football operations Jay Zygmunt. At the time he left the team, his career record was 56-36 and he had led the Rams to the playoffs four times, and to the Super Bowl after the 2001 season.
Thus it was no surprise when New Orleans' offensive players heard of the availability of Martz, known for his innovations, and hinted he be considered for the opening.
"I'd like an offensive-minded coach," wide receiver Donte' Stallworth said, nodding when asked if it was a coach who had a recent health problem.
The list of prospects for the vacancies is long.
Rivera is one of those at the top. Because he is of Hispanic heritage, he also fits the specifications of the "Rooney rule," which requires that all teams with vacancies interview at least one minority candidate.
Another top prospect in that category is Tim Lewis, defensive coordinator of the New York Giants, who was once a cornerback for Green Bay and who turned down an interview with Detroit when it hired Mariucci.
Other potential minority candidates include Cleveland offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon; Minnesota defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell; and Mike Singletary, the Hall of Fame linebacker who is San Francisco's assistant head coach.
Other likely prospects among assistant coaches include Gregg Williams, assistant head coach for defense of the Redskins; offensive coordinator Brad Childress of Philadelphia; and Baltimore offensive coordinator Jim Fassel.
College prospects are Pete Carroll of Southern California; Charlie Weis of Notre Dame; Kirk Ferentz of Iowa; Bob Stoops of Oklahoma; and Pat Hill of Fresno State. All but Stoops were NFL assistants.
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