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Wednesday Roundup

Steelers fire offensive coordinator Gilbride

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Posted: Wednesday December 27, 2000 12:17 PM
Updated: Wednesday December 27, 2000 9:59 PM


PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The Pittsburgh Steelers fired offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride on Wednesday because head coach Bill Cowher wasn't happy with the progress in the passing game.

Gilbride, a former San Diego Chargers head coach, was hired before the 1999 season to help turn around slumping quarterback Kordell Stewart.

Stewart, however, wound up being benched last season, then struggled with his passing early this season before finally winning back the starting job at midseason.

Gilbride and Stewart clearly did not have a close working relationship, though Stewart never complained publicly about the complicated passing system Gilbride installed last year.

"I just wasn't comfortable with the direction we were heading in the passing game," Cowher said. "We were 29th in the league in passing when he got here and we were 29th in the league this season."

Cowher said there is no timetable for replacing Gilbride with what will be the Steelers' fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons. Chan Gailey left after the 1997 season and was replaced by Ray Sherman, who lasted only the 1998 season.

Gilbride, who had success as the Houston Oilers offensive coordinator, came to the Steelers a year after he was forced out in San Diego after going 6-16 in less than two full seasons as the Chargers head coach.

"Certainly there were a number of factors for this decision," Cowher said. "I wasn't comfortable with what we were doing in the passing game. We've given it two years to see some progress and I wasn't comfortable with where that was going.

"We ran the ball before Kevin got here. We ran it when Kevin was here and we'll run it after Kevin leaves, but we need to develop a passing game."

Phillips reportedly to meet with Bills owner Jan. 5

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) -- Buffalo Bills head coach Wade Phillips, whose job is speculated to be on the line, will reportedly meet with team owner Ralph Wilson next week.

Citing unnamed sources, The Buffalo News reported Wednesday that the two will hold their annual season-review meeting Jan. 5.

The Bills declined to confirm the date of the meeting.

Wilson traditionally meets with his head coach in the week following the end of the Bills season. The timing of this meeting might have been pushed back to allow Wilson to finish his search for a new general manager, following John Butler's dismissal last week.

The Bills finished 8-8 this year and missed the playoffs for the first time in three seasons under Phillips, who is 29-19 over that span.

Wilson, who gave Phillips a vote of confidence three weeks ago, has twice since refused to follow up on the endorsement.

MNF ratings finish season with 7 percent drop

NEW YORK (AP) -- Neither Dennis Miller nor a series of good games could prevent Monday Night Football from drawing its lowest TV ratings in 31 seasons.

ABC Sports' NFL broadcasts averaged a 12.7 national rating and 22 share, a drop of 7 percent from last season's previous record low of 13.7/23.

While 11 of the 17 Monday games were decided by a touchdown or less, the program did have to compete with the Sydney Olympics on two nights and a pushed-back fall schedule.

The low point came in Week 13, when a game between non-playoff teams Kansas City and New England generated a 9.9 rating -- the second lowest ever. The only worse rating was for a telecast opposite Game 7 of the 1986 World Series.

The show's Nielsen ratings have decreased for six consecutive seasons. In 1994, the show averaged a 17.8 with announcers Al Michaels, Dan Dierdorf and Frank Gifford.

Nevertheless, the show ranked fifth among prime-time programs during the 2000 NFL season. And it remains a strong draw among male viewers; it was the top-rated prime-time program among men 25-54.

The Titans' 31-0 victory against the Cowboys in the season finale Monday drew an 11.0 national rating. That was 9 percent higher than last season's final ABC game.

If Giants win Super Bowl, Giuliani offers parade

NEW YORK (AP) -- Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has offered a ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes if the Giants win the Super Bowl.

"They may want to stay in the Meadowlands," he said. "I hope not. We'll invite all the New Jersey people and make it a big New York-New Jersey celebration."

Giants spokesman Pat Hanlon had no comment on the offer for a celebration in lower Manhattan.

The Giants left New York in 1976 to play across the Hudson in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford, N.J., but they're still called the New York Giants. They have to win two playoff games to make it to the Super Bowl on Jan. 28.

The mayor has been trying to lure the Jets, who also play in the Meadowlands, back to New York by advocating for a new stadium on the West Side of Manhattan.

Ed Koch, who was mayor when the Giants won the Super Bowl in 1987, refused to offer the team a ticker-tape parade because of its move to New Jersey. That year, and when the Giants won again in '91, the team celebrated at the Meadowlands.

Lewis, Edinger among NFL players of the week

NEW YORK (Ticker) -- A special day for Jermaine Lewis earned the Baltimore Ravens' punt returner Special Teams Player of the Week honors in the AFC on Wednesday.

Lewis had punt returns of 54 and 89 yards for touchdowns in the Ravens' 34-20 victory against the New York Jets that helped knock Al Groh's club out of playoff contention. Lewis joined Jack Christiansen and Eric Metcalf as the only players in NFL history with two punt-return touchdowns in a game twice.

Lewis previously had two punt-return scores against Seattle on Dec. 7, 1997. He led the NFL with a 16.1 punt return average.

The NFC Special Teams Player of the Week, Paul Edinger of the Chicago Bears, also sent a playoff hopeful home for the holidays. Edinger kicked a 54-yard field goal with two seconds remaining to lift the Bears to a 23-20 victory against Detroit that eliminated the Lions.

Edinger was 3-for-3 on field-goal attempts, including a 50-yard kick in the second quarter.

The NFC Defensive Player of the Week was Bears cornerback R.W. McQuarters, who had a 61-yard interception return for a TD to give Chicago a 20-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter. He then forced a fumble that led to the game-winning field goal by Edinger.

Linebacker Randall Godfrey of the Tennessee Titans was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week. Godfrey had 13 tackles, 1 1/2 sacks, two passes defensed, one forced fumbled and one fumble recovery in the Titans' 31-0 victory against Dallas.

Running back Marshall Faulk of the St. Louis Rams and quarterback Peyton Manning of the Indianapolis Colts were Offensive Players of the Week in the NFC and AFC, respectively.

Faulk rushed for a career-high 220 yards and added 41 receiving yards for 261 scrimmage yards, and scored three touchdowns in the Rams 26-21 victory against New Orleans.

Manning completed 25 of 36 passes for 283 yards and four touchdowns with one interception in the Colts' 31-10 victory against Minnesota

Titans' playoff tickets gobbled up in 22 minutes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- It took just 22 minutes Wednesday morning for the Tennessee Titans to sell their last 4,256 tickets to the first AFC divisional playoff game in Tennessee.

Season-ticket holders already had purchased the rest of the tickets at the 68,498-seat Adelphia Coliseum. The Titans had only scattered single tickets left 12 minutes after the ticket office opened, and those were gone 10 minutes later.

"It's a credit to the organization, a credit to our great fans," ticket director Marty Collins said. "They've been die-hard. Some were camped out over 24 hours."

Those fans bought about 5 percent of the tickets to the game, which will be either Jan. 6 or 7, while 60 percent went to buyers at ticket outlets and the remainder to purchases over the telephone and Internet.

Downtown Phoenix enters race for new stadium

PHOENIX (AP) -- Downtown Phoenix entered the race to become home for a new $331 million stadium for the Arizona Cardinals.

Business leaders for the last month showed interest in putting the stadium on a railyard next to Bank One Ballpark, but they didn't make their interest public until Wednesday, when the Tourism and Sports Authority released a letter from the group after its meeting.

That brings the total of proposed stadium sites to five.

The Tourism and Sports Authority, an organization that will develop the stadium with a hotel and rental car tax approved by voters in November, wants final proposals from downtown Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, west Phoenix and the Fort McDowell Indian Reservation by Jan. 5.

A public hearing to unveil the proposals is scheduled for Jan. 6.

The authority wants to narrow the field to two finalists by Jan. 19 and pick the winner by Feb. 16. Construction is expected to begin in August.

While the tax increase pays for stadium construction, authority chairman James Grogan said the winner will have to pick up costs for roads, utilities and other infrastructure.

Wise chooses not to return to Carolina next season

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Carolina assistant coach Tony Wise, whose offensive line was atrocious this season, chose not to renew his contract with the Panthers, head coach George Seifert said Tuesday.

Seifert wouldn't elaborate on why Wise chose not to return to Carolina.

"It's difficult for me to suggest what his real reasons were," Seifert said. "We had conversations that were personal between he and I, and I can't really speak for Tony."

Wise, 48, was in the second and final year of his contract with the Panthers. Seifert said he had tried to give Wise an extension after last season, but Wise declined.

"I guess there was a red flag at that time," Seifert said.

Seifert said that despite the offensive line's struggles this season -- the line allowed a league-high 69 sacks -- had Wise wanted to return to the Panthers next year, he probably would have received a new contract.

Wise spent six years with the Chicago Bears before joining Carolina's staff. Prior to that he was with the Dallas Cowboys and coached the line on their 1992 and 1993 Super Bowl teams.

  • Wise is the second assistant to leave the Panthers this season. Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave resigned four games into the season.

    Since Musgrave quit, receivers coach Richard Williamson had done double duty. Seifert would not say Tuesday if Williamson will be Carolina's offensive coordinator next year, only saying he would return in some role.

    Appeals court orders former Koonce to pay ex-wife

    WAUSAU, Wis. (AP) -- A state appeals court Wednesday upheld a judge's ruling that ordered Seattle Seahawks linebacker George Koonce to pay another $75,000 to his ex-wife under terms of their divorce.

    At issue is whether Koonce owed the money after he waived a $750,000 roster bonus he was to have received from the Green Bay Packers.

    The 3rd District Court of Appeals said Judi Koonce was entitled to the $75,000 as part of $150,000 total because her former husband renegotiated his contract with the Packers and the divorce settlement clearly spelled out what was to happen when that occurred.

    "Why he chose to renegotiate the contract or the fact that he was later cut from the team is irrelevant [because of] the unambiguous terms of the agreement," the three-judge appeals court said.

    Koonce, 32, joined the Packers as a free agent in 1992 and was cut by the team last June. He later signed with the Seahawks.

    Koonce married Judi Ann Koonce, 35, on Nov. 4, 1996, in Green Bay, and their divorce was finalized Sept. 29, 1999. They had two children together.

    Broncos sign two to future contracts

    DENVER (AP) -- The Denver Broncos signed defensive tackles Robert Brannon and John Krick to contracts Wednesday.

    They will join the Broncos when the playoffs end and NFL rosters expand to 80 players.

    Brannon, a rookie out of Iowa State, signed with the New Orleans Saints but did not make it out of training camp.

    Krick has spent the past three seasons in the Arena League. He has never been with an NFL team.

    Contract terms were not disclosed.

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