Chiefs Fire Coach, Then Dolphins Follow Suit

Neither firing Monday was a surprise and the timing probably should not have been, either. With teams scrambling to find the right replacement — and fans agitating for rapid improvement — team owners do not want to be beaten to their preferred replacement. (The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first team to fire their coach this season, letting Jack Del Rio go on Nov. 29.)

In Miami, the owner Stephen Ross, who tried to woo Jim Harbaugh before he was hired by San Francisco — while still employing Sparano — is sure to go for a big-name candidate with experience. Jeff Ireland will remain the team’s general manager, although there has been speculation that Ross might also find a front-office role for his long-time friend Carl Peterson, who ran the Kansas City Chiefs for 20 years. Among the likely targets of Ross’s ardor: the former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

“I’d like to find a young Don Shula,” Ross said at a late afternoon news conference of the iconic former Dolphins coach.

Sparano, a Bill Parcells protégé, won a division title in 2008 with Chad Pennington at quarterback, but the Dolphins were not able to equal that success again, and there was a perceived divide between the coaching and personnel sides of the organization. Ross indicated his impatience — and his inexperience as an owner — when he flew across country to talk to Harbaugh, while Sparano was still working at his Dolphins office. Sparano got a contract extension to make up for that embarrassment, but when the Dolphins (4-9) started this season 0-7, and large numbers of fans stopped attending games, Sparano’s days were clearly dwindling.

Despite public statements Monday by Ross and Ireland that they believed there was a solid foundation in place, the rebuilding effort is considerable, beginning with finding a starting quarterback.

Haley, another Parcells product whose Kansas City Chiefs won the A.F.C. West last year but fell apart this season — and who were embarrassed in a 37-10 loss to the Jets on Sunday — was fired after almost three tumultuous seasons. Haley’s flameout was particularly acute, and included a long-strained relationship with General Manager Scott Pioli. Haley might have been fired at the end of last season if the Chiefs had not made the playoffs. Haley ran an unorthodox training camp in the wake of the lockout, focusing on strength and conditioning workouts instead of full-speed practices, in the hopes of staving off injuries. But major injuries to key players began accumulating throughout the preseason and when the Chiefs started 0-3, Haley’s job was already in jeopardy.

Then the Chiefs (5-9) won four games in a row to put themselves back in playoff contention. But the roster became threadbare as major injuries to key players mounted. The Chiefs have lost five of their last six games, and five of their losses over all have been by at least 27 points. Sunday’s loss was marked by 11 penalties, including 81 yards worth of them on one Jets drive — complete with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Haley for remarks he made to a member of the officiating crew. The Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said Monday that the lack of consistency — even sometimes within a game — was Haley’s undoing.

“I don’t perceive Todd Haley as a mistake,” Pioli said. “Todd Haley is a good football coach. I’ll say that. What we need to do is figure out what direction we’re headed in and how we’re going to continue to make progress, how we can get some consistency back.”

Pioli, a disciple of Bill Belichick’s, now embarks on his second coaching search in less than three years. Before he hired Haley, Pioli tried to lure Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz, with whom he has a close relationship and Ferentz could again be on his short list. Josh McDaniels, the former Denver head coach who is now the Rams’ offensive coordinator, could also be a candidate. He and Pioli worked together in New England and he was especially successful working with the Chiefs’ Matt Cassel when Cassel took over for an injured Tom Brady in 2008 and the Patriots won 11 games with him at quarterback.

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