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Report: Wannstedt to step down

Posted: Tuesday, November 09, 2004

MIAMI Dave Wannstedt may have coached his last game for the Miami Dolphins.

With his team at 1-8, Wannstedt was expected to resign Tuesday, according to reports late Monday on the The Miami Herald's Web site and two South Florida television stations. A third TV station, WTVJ, said Wannstedt already resigned.

Wannstedt met Monday night at the team's complex with owner Wayne Huizenga, who confirmed an announcement will be made Tuesday.

''Dave called me and we got together, but I'm not going to comment at this point,'' Huizenga told The Associated Press.

The Herald, citing anonymous club sources and an NFL source in its report, also said defensive coordinator Jim Bates will be named interim coach at a news conference Tuesday.

It's unclear whether Wannstedt was forced to resign midway through a dismal season that began with the retirement of star running back Ricky Williams and has left the team with the NFL's worst record.

The timing of the move wasn't surprising with the Dolphins beginning their bye week.

Wannstedt's departure comes after Miami blew two leads and lost 24-23 Sunday to the Arizona Cardinals, who ended a 17-game road losing streak. The Dolphins endured their most lopsided defeat of the season last Monday, 41-14 against the archrival New York Jets.

Wannstedt barely avoided being fired after last season, when Miami failed to reach the playoffs for the second year in a row. Huizenga decided to keep Wannstedt but stripped him of authority over personnel decisions.

Little has gone right for Miami since. Wannstedt was twice forced to change offensive coordinators during the offseason, and Williams abruptly retired just before training camp. Receiver David Boston, the top offseason acquisition, suffered a season-ending knee injury before the first exhibition game.

That was the start of an injury wave as the Dolphins endured the worst start in their 39-year history. They're one defeat from their first losing season since 1988.

Bates' first game as interim head coach would be Nov. 21 at Seattle. He was head coach of the USFL's San Antonio Gunslingers in 1985 and became the Dolphins' defensive coordinator when Wannstedt became head coach in 2000.

Wannstedt, who succeeded Jimmy Johnson in 2000, has a record of 43-33 in Miami. His career NFL record, including six seasons with the Chicago Bears, is 84-90.

Wannstedt was fired in 1997 by the Bears. His final two teams there went 4-12.

The Dolphins won only one playoff game under Wannstedt, and that was four years ago. Even with seven Pro Bowl players in 2002, including NFL rushing champion Williams and sacks leader Jason Taylor, the Dolphins missed the playoffs.

One of Wannstedt's first moves when he became coach was to nudge a 38-year-old Dan Marino into retirement. As a replacement Wannstedt acquired Jay Fiedler, who has never been popular with Dolphins' fans.

Wannstedt was just the fourth coach in Dolphins history, and only Don Shula coached the team longer. Dolphins players were aware of Wannstedt's tenuous future and the rising tide of discontent among fans.

''I feel sorry for the guy because he's a first-class guy,'' cornerback Patrick Surtain said after Sunday's loss.

''It's not like guys aren't going out there giving 110 percent and laying it on the line for him. We're doing it all getting holding penalties, offsides, we're doing crazy stuff. How can he control that when he's on the sidelines?''

While the Dolphins have been a perennial playoff contender until this year, at least they haven't reached the AFC championship game since 1992. Their last Super Bowl berth was in 1984, and they haven't won an NFL title since 1973.

Huizenga, who became sole owner of the Dolphins in 1994, has been through three coaches in pursuit of a championship. He nudged Shula into retirement following the 1995 season, and Johnson called it quits four years later.



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