Reeves on hot seat with Falcons mired in five-game losing streak

Updated: October 15, 2003, 7:09 PM ET

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Dan Reeves has been through it all before.

In Denver, where a feud with John Elway contributed to the coach's ouster. In New York, where conflict over personnel decisions greased the way for Reeves to get fired again.

Now, at age 59 and just one win away from his 200th coaching victory, Reeves finds himself at another crossroads with the Atlanta Falcons.

Can he survive a five-game losing streak? Can he overcome the strong possibility of a seventh losing season in nine years? Can he cope with growing discontent among the players?

"Losing always brings about anxiety, regardless of whether you're worried about your job," Reeves said Wednesday, facing the inevitable question about his future. "It's just a disappointment with all the people you feel like you've let down and all the people who are hurting because you are hurting.

"But worried about my job. No."

Actually, Reeves and just about everyone else in the organization below owner Arthur Blank should be concerned about their job security.

The Falcons (1-5), who haven't won since the first week, reached a new low Monday night with a humiliating 36-0 loss to the St. Louis Rams. The season isn't even half over -- and it already feels like it's over.

So much for all those high hopes at the beginning of the year, when Atlanta was touting itself as a Super Bowl contender after making it to the second round of the playoffs.

"Mr. Blank wants results, and he's going to do what it takes to get them," cornerback Ray Buchanan said. "Maybe he's going to get rid of some players. Maybe he's going to get rid of the coaches. That's just the way this business is."

Last week, Blank told The Associated Press he still had confidence in Reeves and was convinced the Falcons could turn things around.

Of course, that was before the debacle in St. Louis.

Facing a Rams team that didn't have Marshall Faulk and no longer starts Kurt Warner, the Falcons were more than doubled in total yards (496-209), committed four turnovers, gave up their fourth safety of the year and surrendered more than 30 points for the fourth time in five games.

"I've been in these situations before, and all you can do is try and dig your way out of it," Reeves said. "It doesn't go away. You don't sweep it under a rug and forget about it. It's reality and you have to deal with it. But we're men, and we have to stand up and face it."

There are the familiar -- and disturbing signs -- of a losing team on the verge of spinning out of control.

Starting cornerback Tyrone Williams was suspended for one game, supposedly for lashing out at the coaches. Highly paid running back Warrick Dunn has been moping around since being benched three games ago. Receiver Peerless Price is unhappy about the lack of passes being thrown his way. Special teams leader Travis Jervey grumbled that the practice regime is too grueling and said the staff won't respond to player concerns.

Several players came to Reeves' defense, most notably Ed Jasper.

"Don't go behind the man's back," the nose tackle said. "If you've got a beef, go talk to him. Everybody's going behind his back. I think coach Reeves is a good coach. You can't put it all on him. Look what we did last year. Look what we did when he took us to the Super Bowl."

Then again, the 1998 NFC championship team and last year's wild-card playoff squad produced the only winning records since Reeves came to Atlanta in 1997. Before that, two straight losing seasons finished his tenure with the Giants.

"I know a lot of people are saying the game has passed him by," Buchanan said. "But he's trying to makes changes."

Reeves announced a major change after practice. Second-year quarterback Kurt Kittner will make his first career start in Sunday's game against the New Orleans Saints, replacing Doug Johnson.

Kittner is actually the Falcons' third-string quarterback -- Pro Bowler Michael Vick hasn't played since breaking his right leg in a preseason game.

Johnson stepped in for Vick but leads the league with 10 interceptions. The numbers for the new starter aren't too encouraging, either.

Kittner, who didn't play in his rookie season, has completed just 7 of 17 passes for 53 yards with two interceptions in mop-up roles this year. His quarterback rating is a minuscule 9.8.

"We need a spark," Reeves said. "I hope Kurt can provide that."

While Vick is still weeks away from returning to the field, Reeves sounds determined to battle through this latest round of adversity.

"It's not like we're not trying. It's not like we enjoy what's going on," he said. "But you take it. That's the way life is."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index