Marion Campbell was fired as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles today, and 26-year-old David Shula, son of Miami Dolphins Coach Don Shula, emerged as the major candidate for the job.
Campbell was an hour and a half late for his weekly news conference when Eagles General Manager Harry Gamble arrived and announced: "We have released Marion Campbell from the remainder of his contract with the Philadelphia Eagles. Associate Coach Fred Bruney will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season."
Campbell, 56, had two years remaining on his five-year contract. He had moved up from defensive coordinator when Dick Vermeil resigned after the 1982 season.
Under Campbell, the Eagles were 17-29-1. The club lost, 20-14, to San Diego on Sunday and fell to 6-9, ensuring a fourth straight losing NFL season.
Eagles owner Norman Braman took the action when Campbell asked him to make an immediate decision on whether the coach would be released after the Eagles' season ends Sunday in Minnesota.
Campbell made his request after Braman and Gamble met with David Shula last Monday in Miami to discuss the possibility of Shula's replacing Campbell.
Braman, a Miami businessman who is a good friend of Don Shula's, purchased the Eagles last spring for $65 million. He predicted during preseason training that the Eagles would make the playoffs this year and perhaps the Super Bowl.
"Marion felt we were a playoff-caliber team," Braman said Monday. "I still think we are."
Braman said he was not concerned about David Shula's age. "He has all of the qualities to be a head coach in the NFL," he said.
This is Shula's fourth season as an assistant to his father. He spent the first three coaching the Miami wide receivers and this year also has coached the quarterbacks. A graduate of Dartmouth College, where he was an all-Ivy League receiver, he spent one year with the Baltimore Colts as a punt returner and occasional receiver. He also attended the University of Baltimore Law School.
Braman said Shula was not the only prospect for the job. He also mentioned Jim Mora, coach of the two-time U.S. Football League champion Baltimore Stars, who formerly played in Philadelphia.
In a written statement, Campbell said he felt no rancor about the firing.
"I feel at peace with myself because I know that my coaching staff and I put every ounce of effort we had into making the Eagles a better team," Campbell said. "And I feel we succeeded. There's no question in my mind that this year's team is considerably better than the one I inherited three years ago."
He added: "I leave with no animosity toward anyone in the Eagles' organization, and I wish Mr. Braman the best."