Dennis Green and Jim Mora yesterday became the first, but possibly not the last, NFL coaches fired this season.
Green was canned by the Arizona Cardinals after he failed to turn the downtrodden franchise into a winner in three seasons on the job.
Mora was jettisoned by the Atlanta Falcons just two years after he led the team to the NFC Championship game but after two disappointing seasons.
Green was dismissed one day after the Cardinals concluded a 5-11 season with a 27-20 loss at San Diego. He finished with a 16-32 record at Arizona.
The Cardinals will pay $2.5 million to buy out the final year of his contract.
He was the seventh coach the Cardinals have had since the franchise moved to Arizona in 1988. Green's teams in Arizona went 6-10, 5-11, and 5-11. He has a career NFL coaching record of 124-115.
"In the final analysis, when you look at the three years of wins and losses, we didn't win enough games," said Cardinals vice president and general counsel Michael Bidwill, son of owner Bill Bidwill.
Michael Bidwill announced at a news conference that Rod Graves, vice president for football operations, has been given a three-year extension to his contract that expired after this season.
Graves identified several candidates to replace Green and said the list could grow. One of the candidates is Mike Sherman, the former Green Bay Packers coach and now assistant head coach of the Houston Texans. Sherman is to be interviewed Thursday, Graves said.
Among the other candidates are Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera; Tennessee Titans offensive coordinator Norm Chow; Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell; Russ Grimm, assistant head coach/offensive line coach in Pittsburgh; and Ken Whisenhut, offensive coordinator of the Steelers.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank decided to fire Mora, whose team lost six of its final eight games in 2005 to miss the playoffs, and finished 7-9 this season by losing seven of its last nine contests.
Atlanta went into the final weekend with a slim chance to slip into the playoffs with a .500 record.
That ended Saturday night when the New York Giants won at Washington; the Falcons closed the season Sunday with a meaningless 24-17 loss at Philadelphia.
The 45-year-old Mora, son of longtime NFL coach Jim Mora, went 26-22 in three seasons as Atlanta's coach.
A former defensive coordinator in San Francisco, the younger Mora led the Falcons to the NFC South title in his rookie season. The team slumped to 8-8 a year ago, then endured his first losing record.
"I'm proud of the many things we accomplished here, even though we fell short of our goal to bring a Super Bowl title back home to these people," Mora said.
Mora had two years left on his contract, which was extended before this season.
"This was an extremely difficult decision for us," Blank said in a statement before an afternoon news conference. "We had the highest hopes and aspirations for a long run with Jim as our coach, but we feel this decision is in the best long-term interests of our franchise. I have great respect for Jim's passion for the game, and we wish Jim and his family all of the best."
Mora's third season was his most difficult. The defense was weakened by injuries to star ends Patrick Kerney and John Abraham, while the offense had to make do without reliable receiver Brian Finneran, who tore up a knee in training camp.
But Mora's tenure also was marked by an odd series of off-field distractions, including the embarrassment he caused himself during a Seattle radio station interview before a crucial game against Dallas last month.
Mora said his "dream job" was to coach at the University of Washington, his alma mater, and that he'd jump at the chance to take it -- even if the Falcons were in the middle of the playoffs.
The fact the school already has a coach, Tyrone Willingham, only added to the embarrassment.
Mora also endured an awkward situation created by his father. The senior Mora, also speaking on a radio show, agreed with a co-host that quarterback Michael Vick was a "coach killer."
Vick was clearly upset by the comment and left to wonder if the father's opinion was influenced by private comments from Atlanta's coach.