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2 for road: Flores, Phillips fired

Three and counting.

That's where the NFL coach firing season stood yesterday after Tom Flores of the Seattle Seahawks and Wade Phillips of the Denver Broncos joined the Philadelphia Eagles' Rich Kotite in the ranks of the unemployed.

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Flores was fired by Seattle owner Ken Behring after posting a 14-34 three-year mark; Phillips was sacked by Denver owner Pat Bowlen after going 7-9 in the second season of a 16-16 stint.

Their departures left four NFL jobs open. Besides Denver, Seattle and Philadelphia, the expansion Carolina Panthers are looking for a coach.

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The future of two other coaches, Chuck Knox of the Los Angeles Rams and Sam Wyche of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, remains up in the air.

"I feel a little like the Grim Reaper," Bowlen said as he announced Phillips' firing.

Bowlen said he'd lost confidence in the coaching staff, which was all let go yesterday. "When the owner or the chief executive officer of the team loses confidence in his staff, it's unfair to keep them," Bowlen said.

The Broncos started out 0-4 and 1-5. Although four of those losses were close to the end, the slow start may have doomed Phillips even though the team came back to win seven games.

Noted for his wit, Phillips flashed some gallows humor as he departed. When he got the job two years ago after Dan Reeves was fired, he said at the news conference, "YESSS."

"I guess since the first time when I first stood here a couple of years ago, I guess I should be saying, 'NOOO,' " Phillips said.

Phillips also said that when he was told to hurry to a meeting yesterday, he said, " 'What are they going to do, fire me if I'm late?' "

Phillips' wife and children attended the news conference and hugged him when he finished his statement. He didn't take any (( questions.

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His final words were, "I would really be concerned if they only fired bad coaches, but they fire good coaches, too. Thank you."

His father, the homespun Bum Phillips, who coached the Houston Oilers and the New Orleans Saints, once said there are only two kinds of coaches: "Them's that's been fired and them's that will be fired."

Flores, who coached the Oakland-Los Angeles Raiders to a pair of Super Bowls in the early '80s, said, "It's a very fleeting profession and it's based on what have you done lately. Memories are short."

Behring was not in Seattle to make the announcement and didn't comment. His son, David, told reporters by phone from his home in Danville, Calif., that it was, "a very painful and agonizing decision."

Flores met with David Behring in Danville Tuesday and was informed Wednesday night that he'd been fired.

In effect, Flores lost the job because he lost the fans. There was an average of 13,532 no-shows at the Kingdome this year and for the first time in the team's 19-year history, there were two crowds under 40,000.

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It didn't help Flores that only the first three years on his five-year contract were guaranteed.

David Behring said: "Unfortunately, in professional sports, the measure of success is by wins and losses, ticket sales and performance on the field."

Flores said: "There are a lot of empty seats in the stadium so somebody has to take the blame. That's the way this business operates."

Neither executive would discuss candidates, but Mike Shanahan, the offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers, is likely to get one of the jobs.

Although former 49ers coach Bill Walsh has met twice with the Seahawks, David Behring said Walsh hasn't been offered a job. He also said the new coach would not be the general manager the way Flores was.

There had been published reports in Seattle that Walsh had suggested he run the club with Shanahan as the coach. The 49ers were so upset with those reports that they filed a tampering complaint with the NFL.

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49ers coach George Seifert complained the reports were a distraction as the team starts its run for the Super Bowl. "Knowing Bill as I do and knowing how frustrated he would get when this type of thing would happen . . . I find it hard to believe he would be promoting this type of thing," he said.

Shanahan, a onetime Raiders head coach, is a better bet to wind up with Denver, where he once served as offensive coordinator and was close friends with quarterback John Elway.

Bowlen denied Elway would pick the coach. "He's a football player and football players don't pick coaches," Bowlen said.

University of Miami coach Dennis Erickson also could wind up with the Seattle job. Although he said earlier this week he's staying at Miami, pro football people think that comment was designed to end distraction before his team plays top-ranked Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

In another development on the coaching front, the Houston Oilers' Jeff Fisher, who went 1-5 after replacing Jack Pardee, fired four of Pardee's former assistants yesterday. That's a sign he's likely to stay on as head coach.


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