The New Orleans Saints yesterday fired Coach Hank Stram, who failed in two years to move the club out of the depths of the National Football League.
Stram, heralded as the Saint's salvation when he joined them in 1976 after 15 years with the Kansas City Chiefs and Dallas Texans, fell from the graces of owner John Mecom Jr. by building them to a 4-10 season in 1976 and 3-11 in 1977, which included a loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, winners of only that game in their two seasons of existence.
The firing of stram, who also held the title of vice president and stood only under Mecom on the Saints' table of organization, opened another job option for George Allen, recently fired as coach and general manager of the Washington Redskins. Allen has been considered a strong candidate for the coaching job with the Los Angeles Rams.
The firing was announced by Saint spokesman Greg Suit, who said Mecom would not comment. Mecom said several times each season that he would not fire Stram.
Mecom also kept quiet about the team's disastrous season this year until the final blow, that devastating loss to the buccaneers in the Saint's last home game of the season.
Allen, contacted by telephone, expressed shock at the Stram firing and said he might be interested in the job.
"But God, isn't that something?" he said when told of the dismissal. "How many is that now (NFL coach changes)?
"It might interest me, but I really don't want to comment on that now. I don't know anything about it or the ramifications. No, the Saints have not contacted me at all. . . . Yes, I'd listen. I'm unemployed."
Allen described Stram as a good friend, "a guy who went in there with high hopes of turning that program around. I knew there had been some friction, but he called me four days ago just to talk and he was working on plans for next season."
Stram was signed to a 10-year contract before the 1976 season after having spent 1975 as a television commentator. Prior to that, he was coach of the Texans and Chiefs, guiding the latter team to a victory in the 1969 Super Bowl.
In 17 years as a coach in the American Football League and the National Football League, Stram compiled a 131-99-10 regular-season record, and a 1-1 mark in the Super Bowl.
Stram was eighth on the list of NFL coaches with the most victories, third among those still active.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, there was some movement by the Rams toward filling their vacancy.
Los Angeles Ram owner Carroll Rosenbloom said yesterday he will announce his team's new head coach early this week. When asked if George Allen is the favorite for the job, he said, "There is no leading candidate."
"We'll be meeting this afternoon and then again tomorrow and probably Monday because I want to get this thing settled," Rosenbloom said by telephone from Los Angeles. "We'll be talking about the positives and negatives of each man.
"The positives about George? Well, I just think he wins, and in this league, that's the answer to most everything, isn't it?