Cardinals Fire Coach Green After Three Years
Green Tallied a 16-32 Mark in Arizona

By BOB BAUM
The Associated Press
Monday, January 1, 2007; 5:52 PM

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 contract.

"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 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 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," quarterback Matt 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.

© 2007 The Associated Press