Fassel, Crennel, Johnson also on list

Updated: December 30, 2003, 1:29 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Arizona Cardinals are wasting no time in finding a new coach.

The team fired Dave McGinnis on Monday, and scheduled interviews with Dennis Green and Jim Fassel before the ousted coach left the building.

McGinnis, who had one year left on his contract, was dismissed after a 4-12 season that ended with a dramatic victory that kept Minnesota out of the playoffs.

The team announced the move Monday -- ESPN.com reported Sunday that McGinnis would be dismissed.

"Dave McGinnis is an exemplary man, making today's action all the more difficult," owner Bill Bidwill said in a statement released by the team. "But we need to change. Our slide to 4-12 this season and the non-competitive nature of many of the losses was not acceptable."

McGinnis was 16-32 in three full seasons as head coach. He also went 1-8 as interim coach after Vince Tobin was fired during the 2000 season.

Bidwill's son, Michael, the team's vice president and general counsel, quickly identified four candidates for the job: Green, the former Minnesota Vikings coach; Fassel, just fired as coach of the New York Giants; New England Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel; and Philadelphia Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Johnson.

Green will be interviewed at Cardinals headquarters on Wednesday, Fassel on Saturday. The other two interviews will take place in New England and Philadelphia, Bidwill said.

More candidates will be identified, he said, including former NFL coaches, current NFL coordinators or college coaches.

Even though the franchise has had one winning season since 1984, the younger Bidwill said the job should be attractive. He said the franchise has modernized the way it does business; will have about $8 million under the salary cap for free agents; has the No. 3 pick in next year's draft; and moves into a new stadium in 2006.

"Something I don't think I can say enough is that we are committed to putting a winning football team on the field," he said.

McGinnis' entire coaching staff was fired. Nine assistants had one year remaining on their contracts, while offensive coordinator Jerry Sullivan and defensive coordinator Larry Marmie had two years left.

The 52-year-old McGinnis is expected to be a candidate for defensive coordinator jobs around the league.

The Cardinals were 7-9 in McGinnis' first full season, and 5-11 last season. Arizona was 4-4 at home this season, but 0-8 on the road.

The emotional, highly likable McGinnis, popular with the media and his players, coached linebackers for the Chicago Bears from 1986-95 and was Arizona's defensive coordinator from 1996 until he was promoted to head coach.

McGinnis was on the verge of becoming the Bears' head coach before the 1999 season but didn't like the way ownership handled his interview and left Chicago without taking the job.

"He's the best coach and one of the best people I've ever been around," offensive tackle L.J. Shelton said.

After Josh McCown threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Nathan Poole on fourth-and-25 as time expired Sunday to give Arizona an 18-17 victory over Minnesota, the receiver gave McGinnis the ball.

But even that victory had a sour aftermath. It cost the Cardinals the No. 1 pick in next year's draft; they'll pick third.

Arizona has been conducting background checks for weeks on McGinnis' successor.

Fassel was the Cardinals' offensive coordinator prior to becoming Giants coach and said Sunday that he wants to coach in 2004. The Cardinals also have checked on University of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.

The Cardinals have had just one winning season since 1984, and Bidwill gave McGinnis added personnel authority.

"This thing's broke and we're gonna fix it," McGinnis said at the time.

The team, ravaged by injuries, lost nine of its last 10 games in 2002 after a 4-2 start, and Rod Graves was promoted to vice president of football operations early this year, assuming control of personnel matters.

There were wholesale changes, with Jeff Blake replacing Jake Plummer at quarterback. The team let its top three receivers go via free agency, and had big problems on defense, especially on the line.

As result, the Cardinals were the youngest team in the NFL for the third consecutive season.

Still, Graves said he felt the team had the personnel to be competitive, and he wanted to see improvement as the year progressed.

The Cardinals, though, became the first NFL team since 1987 to finish last in both points scored and points allowed.

McGinnis spoke to his players Monday morning, before he met with Bidwill and Graves.

Information from The Associated Press and ESPN.com senior writers John Clayton and Len Pasquarelli was used in this report.

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