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Reports: Vikings shake up defense; Rhodes to Redskins

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Posted: Thursday January 20, 2000 10:02 AM


EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. (AP) -- Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Foge Fazio is prepared to resign, and recently fired Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Willie Shaw could take his place, according to several reports.

Former Green Bay Packers coach Ray Rhodes will become Washington's defensive coordinator, where Fazio would become the Redskins' linebackers coach. Rhodes was fired Jan. 3 after an 8-8 season as head coach of the Packers.

Also, Vikings linebackers coach Tom Olivadotti was fired unexpectedly Wednesday.

Citing team sources that it didn't identify, the Star Tribune of Minneapolis reported today that Fazio will take the demotion partially to be closer to his ailing mother in Pittsburgh. Team sources also told the newspaper that Fazio had grown weary of working with an undermanned unit that takes a back seat to the team's offensive personnel priorities.

The Vikings did not address their defensive deficiencies in the 1999 draft and finished the season ranked 27th on defense in the NFL.

Reached at a hotel Wednesday night in Mobile, Ala., where the Vikings' coaches are scouting Senior Bowl workouts this week, Fazio told The Associated Press the information that he was going to Washington was "not necessarily true. ... Right now it ain't." He hung up without clarifying his status.

Fazio has been the Vikings defensive coordinator for four seasons. He joined the Vikings as an inside linebackers coach in 1995. Before that, he worked four seasons as linebackers coach with the New York Jets.

Shaw is believed to be the first choice of Vikings coach Dennis Green to replace Fazio. Shaw coached under Green at Stanford and also with the Vikings from 1992-93. He was fired by the Raiders last week.

The Vikings announced Olivadotti's firing Wednesday night, but a club spokesman said there was nothing to report on Fazio. Green did not return a message left at his Mobile hotel room.

Green was scheduled to meet with owner Red McCombs and team president Gary Woods today in San Antonio. Earlier in the day, McCombs told the newspaper, "I don't know if Denny has any [other] plans to shake up the coaching staff. But I'm sure we'll talk about that and the 2000 season."

Olivadotti said Green told his staff at a meeting on Monday that no changes were forthcoming.

Olivadotti was shocked when Green came to him that night and fired him. Having co-coached the linebackers with Trent Walters for the past four years, Olivadotti has one guaranteed year remaining on his contract.

"I've been coaching 32 years, and I've never been fired by a coach I worked for," Olivadotti told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. "If you want to know the truth, I was not given a reason. I was told by Denny that he wanted to make a change in the defense, philosophical changes."

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