Sports Briefs

Posted: Thursday, January 06, 2005

49ers dismiss Erickson, Donahue

SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Coach Dennis Erickson and general manager Terry Donahue presided over some of the darkest days in the proud history of the San Francisco 49ers, who lost games, good players and incalculable respect in recent years.

They insisted they had a plan to restore the franchise to glory, but owner John York decided it's time for a whole new plan.

York fired Erickson and dismissed Donahue on Wednesday, just three days after the 49ers finished with the NFL's worst record. York made a rare public appearance to announce the dramatic changes to his team, which went 2-14 to match the worst season in San Francisco history.

Manning easily wins Offensive Player award

NEW YORK — Peyton Manning was a runaway winner of The Associated Press 2004 NFL Offensive Player of the Year — as if there could be any doubt.

The Indianapolis Colts' star quarterback had perhaps the greatest passing season in league history. He broke Dan Marino's 20-year-old record with 49 touchdown passes and had a passer rating of an almost unfathomable 121.1, shattering Steve Young's mark of 112.8 set in 1994. Manning threw only 10 interceptions and led the Colts to the AFC South title with a 12-4 record.

Manning earned 35 votes from a nationwide panel of 48 writers and broadcasters who cover pro football. He easily outdistanced Eagles receiver Terrell Owens and Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper, who each got four votes.

Roethlisberger top offensive rookie

PITTSBURGH — Hours away from his first NFL start, Steelers rookie quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was hunkered down in a powerless Miami hotel as Hurricane Jeanne swirled about, dumping an ocean's worth of rain and scaring players and coaches alike.

Roethlisberger knew he would be in the eye of a storm as a highly scrutinized first-round draft pick. He never realized it would occur so literally, in a dark, scary setting more suited to a Stephen King novel than any depicted in an NFL playbook.

''Talking about getting thrown into the fire,'' Roethlisberger said, using a slightly twisted analogy, following the Steelers' 12-3 victory on Sept. 26. ''Playing in a hurricane and against that (Dolphins) defense.''

Roethlisberger showed the Steelers a lot that night while subbing for the injured Tommy Maddox: poise, patience, a commanding on-field presence and the qualities of a leader. He kept displaying them during the most successful season ever by a rookie quarterback, one that was rewarded Wednesday with his unanimous selection as The Associated Press NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year by a national panel of writers and broadcasters.

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