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NFL Blitz: Coaching Tenures Prove To be Precious

This could be the epitaph for every NFL head coach. No need to wait for a demise that is as certain as tomorrow, if not as imminent. Inscribe the words on the tombstone well before departure from this vale of tears: "It was fun while it lasted."

It does not last long. A lifetime of lower-level internships and assistantships eventually leads to the ship -- think Queen Mary here -- coming in. It's the job of a lifetime, coaching an NFL team.

It just depends on how a person measures a lifetime. Coaching tenures, like the days of a fruit fly, are precious and short.

Eleven coaches begin their first full regular season on Sunday. Eleven. In a 32-team league? Yow. Even Lloyd's of London would not insure these guys against sudden disaster.

Some of these ascensions came as pre-planned moves. Jim Mora, Jr., went to the Seattle Seahawks as coach in waiting and didn't need to wait long for Mike Holmgren to step aside. Jim Caldwell, designated previously as Tony Dungy's heir, stepped seamlessly into that position.

In San Francisco, Mike Singletary essentially succeeds himself. He was the 49ers' interim coach last year and compiled a 5-4 record after the club fired Mike Nolan. Just across the San Francisco Bay, the Oakland Raiders extended their interim coach, Tom Cable after he replaced Lane Kiffin and went 4-8.

There were the expected firings -- Herman Edwards in Kansas City, where the Chiefs hired Todd Haley, the former Arizona Cardinals offensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli in Detroit, where the Lions decided to give up football. Nah, kidding. They hired Jim Schwartz, last with the Tennessee Titans as defensive coordinator. Jim Haslett in St. Louis, where the Rams turned to New York Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. Romeo Crenel in Cleveland, where the Browns hired Eric Mangini, who was one of the …

Unexpected firings. Mangini coached the New York Jets for three years but took the fall when Brett Favre's arm expired and, with it, the club's playoff hopes. Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan replaced Mangini.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers probably pulled off the second biggest of the shockers by dumping Jon Gruden after a 9-3 start faded to a 9-7 finish and another playoff miss. They promoted Raheem Morris, a household name only in the Morris household (and even some of them were heard asking, 'Raheem Who?'

The award for the stunner went to the Denver Broncos, who fired Mike Shanahan, twice a Super Bowl winner for them. They brought in Josh McDaniels, the young offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

These jobs are not without their pitfalls. McDaniels, in short order, got on the wrong side of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, the two offensive maintstays. The Broncos traded Cutler and his petulance but have refused to accommodate the moody Marshall's demand for same. Haley and Morris hired offensive coordinators and fired them before the preseason ended.

Mangini wanted to keep his starting quarterback a secret. In this day and age of Twitter, texting and instant dissemination of all news (some of it true)? Two people can keep a secret if both of them are dead, bub. Haley's quarterback is hurt. Schwartz will go with Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the draft. Cable ditched veteran Jeff Garcia and sticks with JaMarcus Russell and Singletary chose journeyman Shaun Hill over Alex Smith, the top pick in the 2005 draft.

Nobody inherited a Super Bowl contender. Schwartz took over a team that went 0-16 and hasn't won since Dec. 23, 2007. Haley's club was 2-14, as was Spagnuolo's. Ugly days surely lie ahead as these franchises seek to rebuild and reestablish themselves. It's not so long ago the Rams were contenders, the Chiefs a high-flying offense, the Lions a doormat (hmm, some things never change).

The jobs are few, the seekers many.

Some of the previously fired yearn to get back in. Some of the retired burn to get back in. Haunting all the incumbents are the ghosts of Gruden, Holmgren, Shanahan, Bill Cowher, Brian Billick. Every one of them won at least one Super Bowl and only Holmgren and Cowher stepped down on their own terms. All of them but Holmgren and Shanahan found employment in the TV ranks, so they remain a presence in the hearts and minds of fans. Ignore Steve Mariucci and Mike Martz if you like but each would answer the phone and say howdy.

Stick around. In a year or two, they might all be back. All with different teams than they had coached before.

And up in the TV booth, critiquing their work? Why not Mangini, Scwhartz, Morris? The NFL goes green when it comes to coaches. It recycles with a fury.

QUOTABLE:

"We are married to him. Everything we do around that position, around this team, around this organization, the Tampa Bay area, it's going to be about (Josh) Freeman. That's just what it has to be." -- Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris on Josh Freeman, the QB the Bucs chose in the first round.

"It was a surprise but we don't have time to dwell on it." -- Alex Van Pelt, named offensive coordinator of the Buffalo Bills after the sudden firing of Turk Schonert.

"He had a good training camp. I was familiar with him in high school where he played in Texas. We thought when we evaluated him on the Missouri film that he was a big part of that program's turnaround. But equally important was the film that we had on him at Washington in the preseason. He's a guy that is smart and competitive and can make some plays on his feet." -- New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton on former Redskins prospect Chase Daniel, signed to the Saints' practice squad.

TWO CHAIRS, NO WAITING:

The Super Bowl returns to New Orleans in 2013 after way too long an absence. Eleven years will have passed between NFL championship games in the Crescent City. Never before was the wait longer than seven years. Super Bowl XLVII -- that's 47 in plain English -- will help the city continue to heal from the devastation wrought in 2005 by Hurricane Katrina. With any luck there won't be too much arguing about how things get done but that may depend on the Host Committee's co-chairs, and they agree on very little. They would be James Carville and Mary Matalin, the political consultants to the Democrats (him) and Republicans (her) and noted TV sparring partners. Carville and Matalin are married and Carville is a Louisiana native. This will be the 10th Super Bowl in New Orleans.

STILL THE ONE:

The season opener on Thursday night heralded the return of the nation's most popular sport to its autumnal throne. The NFL continues to tower over the other pastimes in terms of fan support and economic muscle. An ESPN Sports poll conducted last year found that 24 percent of respondents named the NFL as its favorite among spectator sports, more than the next two (Major League Baseball, college football) combined (20 percent total). In terms of sales of sports merchandise, seven of the top 10 most popular teams are from the NFL. Same with video game sales. NFL-themed games sold nearly 6.7 million units, with the NBA next at about 3.9 million.


Larry Weisman covered professional football for USA TODAY for 25 years and now joins the Redskins Broadcast Network and Redskins.com to bring his unique viewpoint and experience to Redskins fans. Go to Redskins.com for the Redskins Blitz column and NFL Blitz on Friday. Larry also appears on The Jim Zorn Show on WRC-TV on Saturday night, on Redskins Nation, airing twice nightly on Comcast SportsNet, and on ESPN 980 AM radio, all in the Washington, D.C. area. Read his blog at redskinsrule.com and follow him on Twitter.com/LarryWeisman.

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