Falcons cut loose Reeves
Hunting season opened yesterday, three weeks earlier than expected, when the Atlanta Falcons fired coach Dan Reeves.
Just as Reeves was succeeded by defensive coordinator Wade Phillips with the Denver Bron cos, the same has occurred with the Fal cons, who lost franchise quarterback Michael Vick at the start of the season.
Atlanta's coaching change is the first of eight to 10 that are expected during the coming off-season. It came about in an awkward, unexpected fashion Tuesday night.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank informed Reeves he would be dismissed after Atlanta's final three games of the season, and the NFL's longest-tenured and sixth-winningest coach in NFL history asked to be released immediately.
"When Arthur told me he had made the decision about the end of the year, I knew it had to come to a fullness [yesterday]," Reeves said at a news conference at Falcons headquarters.
"I'm an eternal optimist, so yeah, it was a surprise. But I'm also realistic enough about coaching to understand this is how it is in the NFL."
Reeves, 59, went through a similar process in Denver and with the New York Giants, where he spent the first part of his 23 years as an NFL head coach chasing but failing to win a Super Bowl. He is uncertain whether his future will include football.
"The Lord's got a plan for me," said Reeves, who leaves Atlanta with a 201-174-2 career coaching mark. "I don't know what it is, but I'm open to whatever his plan might be. A window's been closed but a door is open, so I'm interested in seeing what it is."
Some of the hottest coaching candidates include former Vikings coach Dennis Green, Rams defensive coordinator Lovie Smith, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and LSU coach Nick Saban. There also has been speculation in New York that Jets coach Herman Edwards could find his way to Atlanta.
Word of Reeves' ouster swept through the league.
"It's very disappointing," said Broncos tight end Shannon Sharpe, whom Reeves drafted out of Savannah State in the seventh round of the 1990 draft.
Broncos offensive tackle Ephraim Salaam, whom Reeves drafted in Atlanta, did not share Sharpe's sentiment.
"I don't like Dan, so I'm not surprised," said Salaam, who left Atlanta after the 2001 season. "I could care less if he coaches again, and you can quote me on that."