Campo, Coughlin and LeBeau out; Parcells may be in

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

America's Team fired its coach. America's laughingstock did, too. And Jacksonville got rid of the only coach it has ever had.

The Dallas Cowboys fired Dave Campo after three straight 5-11 seasons; Cincinnati fired Dick LeBeau after finishing with a 2-14 record -- awful even by the Bengals' low standards; and the Jaguars fired Tom Coughlin after a 6-10 mark, their third straight losing season.

Campo's dismissal was widely expected after owner Jerry Jones spent 11 hours in two separate meetings with Bill Parcells over the last 10 days. The Dallas Morning News reported on its Web site that Parcells and the Cowboys had agreed to a four-year deal at $4.5 million a year. But ESPN, the network for which Parcells works as an NFL analyst, reported that there was no deal.

The Bengals' coaching change probably won't bring a sudden turnaround for the NFL's worst franchise. The team hasn't had a winning record since going 9-7 in 1990 and winning the AFC Central title. LeBeau went 12-33 in three seasons, but team president Mike Brown said he wouldn't change the front-office structure.

Coughlin had served as coach and general manager during all eight years of the Jaguars' existence. He went 72-64 and twice took Jacksonville to the AFC championship game, but the Jags went 19-29 the past three years.

The firing with the most ramifications is Campo's, largely because the Cowboys are a high-profile team and because of Jones' approach to Parcells, who won two Super Bowls with the Giants and took the Patriots to a third.

That is somewhat complicated by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' demand for compensation if Dallas hires Parcells. The Bucs contend that Parcells signed a contract with them last year before backing out at the last minute.

The NFL said it is studying the merits of that claim.

"This change is more about a change in philosophy, not about what Dave didn't do," Jones said of Campo.

That philosophical change presumably would take Jones out of the coaching equation and off the sideline, where he often watches during games. Jones also has served as his own general manager and has made most of the personnel decisions.

Parcells doesn't seem to likely to tolerate that.

In Cincinnati, meanwhile, the philosophy is staying the same. Brown was asked whether he intended to bring in a GM to run the team.

"I've considered many things," he replied. "Do I intend to do that? No, I do not."

Brown's stand probably will cause a number of potential head coaches to turn down the job. Brown has kept many of the same assistants in place since Sam Wyche left, meaning the hiring options are limited for any new coach.

"There's a point in this business where you have to say, 'We need innovative new ideas, new fresh approaches, and we have to move in a different direction,"' Jaguars owner Wayne Weaver said. "And that's what this is all about."

What it's also all about is attendance.

Ticket sales have declined precipitously in Jacksonville, after the early success turned to mediocrity and then losing. Last winter, Coughlin was enlisted to take part in a sales campaign, but his dour personality wasn't suited to that.

It also alienated some of his players.

"After listening to the same thing over and over, you can have a tendency to shut it out," cornerback Jason Craft said Monday.

There are probably more changes to come around the league.

Seattle coach Mike Holmgren was meeting with team officials and may be forced to let go of his dual duties as general manager and coach. He also might have to fire some defensive assistants.

But team president Matt Millen and coach Marty Mornhinweg apparently remained safe for the time being in Detroit, which is 5-27 in the past two seasons. Owner William Clay Ford was vacationing in Florida, and the Lions said they were closing down for the next two weeks.

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