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Cardinals fire Green after 5-11 season

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Dennis Green has joined a long list of
failed coaches for the Arizona Cardinals.

The franchise with one winning season in the past 22 years
already is lining up candidates to be the next one to give it a
shot. Mike Sherman is to be interviewed on Thursday, and five other
NFL assistants were identified as potential hires.

Green was fired on Monday, one day after the Cardinals concluded
a 5-11 season with a 27-20 loss at San Diego. He finished with a
16-32 record at Arizona. The Cardinals will pay $2.5 million to buy
out the final year of his contract.

He was the seventh coach the Cardinals have had since the
franchise moved to Arizona in 1988. The team has had one winning
season since 1984, and Green was optimistic he was the man to turn
things around. But his three teams in Arizona went 6-10, 5-11 and
5-11.

"In the final analysis, when you look at the three years of
wins and losses, we didn't win enough games," said Cardinals vice
president and general counsel Michael Bidwill, son of owner Bill
Bidwill.

While Green was shown the door, the man in charge of player
personnel, Rod Graves, got a new contract.

Michael Bidwill announced at a news conference that Graves, vice
president for football operations, has been given a new three-year
deal.

"I think he's done a very good job as far as building the
talent on this team," Bidwill said. "We've got a lot of young
players that are under contract for a long, long time. I think
that's part of what makes the Cardinals very attractive to many of
the coaches we've talked to."

Sherman, now assistant head coach of the Houston Texans, will be
in Tempe to interview on Thursday, Graves said.

Interviews have yet to be scheduled for five others:
Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Ron Rivera; Tennessee Titans offensive
coordinator Norm Chow; Indianapolis Colts assistant head coach and
quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell; Russ Grimm, assistant head
coach/offensive line coach in Pittsburgh; and Ken Whisenhut,
offensive coordinator of the Steelers.

The list could grow, Graves said, for what he believes is an
attractive job.

"We feel like we have a very good football team in place," he
said, "and that we're talented. We'll continue to build on this
team much the way we have over the last several years, being
aggressive in free agency and drafting well. But we certainly feel
like we have a young, talented team and it's certainly capable of
being a playoff contender."

Green's dismissal is not surprising, as he never reached a majority approval rating from SportsNation after Week 2. In the final weeks of the season, however, the Cardinals did show improvement, which pushed Green's rating just under the 50 percent mark. But this improvement was not enough to save Green's job.


• Green's Week-to-Week Graph

Green's mission was to turn around the perpetually losing
Cardinals and put a winner into the new stadium when it opened this
season.

The stadium, the signing of running back Edgerrin James and the
drafting of quarterback Matt Leinart stirred up great interest in the team, which
sold out every home game this year.

But after a season-opening home victory over San Francisco, the
Cardinals lost eight in a row and quickly fell out of the playoff
hunt. The skid included close home losses to St. Louis, Kansas City
and, most memorably on a Monday night, to Chicago.

Green demoted offensive coordinator Keith Rowen after six games
and replaced him with Mike Kruczek, one of many shake-ups on his
staff during his time with the Cardinals. Leinart replaced Kurt
Warner after five games and showed great promise.

However, the team's fortunes didn't turn around until the coach
finally settled on who should play on the offensive line. Arizona
won four of its last seven, but it was too little, too late.

"We had a lot of close losses that we shouldn't have had, and
that kind of put a lot of weight on Denny's back, because he
couldn't figure out what was going on," linebacker Orlando Huff
said when told of Green's firing. "With the offensive coordinator
changes and stuff, he was trying to find something. But you can't
put it on Denny because we're the ones who have got to suit up and
put the jerseys on and play."

Green was out of coaching after his decade with the
Minnesota Vikings ended in 2001. He was lured back by a four-year, $10
million contract and the belief that Arizona was on the brink of
becoming a successful team.

He made several moves that seemed to backfire, beginning with
the abrupt release of offensive lineman Pete Kendall on the eve of
his first training camp. In his first season, Green benched
quarterback Josh McCown for Shaun King even though the team had won
three of its last four. By the time McCown got the job back, the
Cardinals had lost three straight.

The coach made no reference of his job status when he met with
the players briefly Monday morning.

"He told us how lucky we are to be here and have such a great
job and play such a great game," Leinart said,
"and just to know that we're all professionals and we all can play
in this league and have a good offseason. That's about it."

Less than two hours later, the Cardinals put out a news release
announcing Green's dismissal.

The Cardinals are retaining seven assistant coaches, at least
until the new coach is hired.

"We felt that these guys will certainly fit in our future,"
Graves said, "but those coaches are going to be evaluated, along
with my input, with the new head coach, and we'll see ultimately
where the status will fall."

Those retained are Kruczek, defensive coordinator Clancy
Pendergast, assistant head coach/linebackers coach Frank Bush,
defensive quality control coach Rick Courtright, offensive line
coach Steve Loney, wide receivers coach Mike Wilson and defensive
line coach Larry Brooks.