I guess having the 6th most wins in NFL history isn't good enough, after your team is 3-10, your QB Michael Vick is out in the preseason.
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
Phillips to take over as head coach
Stats:All-time NFL coaching wins
Name Teams Wins
Don Shula Colts, Dolphins 347
George Halas Bears 324
Tom Landry Cowboys 270
Curly Lambeau Packers, Cardinals, Redskins 229
Chuck Noll Steelers 209
Dan Reeves Broncos, Giants, Falcons 201
ESPN.com news services
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- The Atlanta Falcons fired Dan Reeves on Wednesday, dismissing the sixth-winningest coach in NFL history with three games left in a disappointing season.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will take over as head coach for the rest of the season, according to the Falcons' team Web site.
The Falcons scheduled a morning news conference to announce the stunning move. The 59-year-old Reeves is in his 23rd consecutive season as an NFL head coach, by far the longest tenure in the league. He had one year left on his contract.
According to ESPN's Chris Mortensen, Reeves met with owner Arthur Blank on Tuesday night, and Blank informed Reeves that he intended to hire a new head coach before next season.
Reeves responded that if Blank was going to fire him, Blank should do it immediately.
Reeves' job security had been a subject of speculation as the Falcons fell from the playoffs a year ago to one of the worst teams in the league after quarterback Michael Vick was hurt in the preseason.
Still, the timing of the move was curious, coming only three days after the Falcons (3-10) defeated Carolina 20-14 in overtime in Vick's first start of the season.
Reeves began the season with his 199th career victory, the Falcons winning 27-13 in Dallas.
Atlanta then lost seven in a row before Reeves finally got his 200th win at New York against the Giants on Nov. 9. Afterward, he said, "It's great. But when you've lost seven in a row, it was all about trying to get them to win No. 2."
Vick broke his right leg in the preseason, exposing the Falcons as a one-man team. Initially expected to be out 6 to 10 weeks, the third-year quarterback's rehabilitation dragged on for 3½ months.
At one point, there appeared to be a rift between player and coach. Reeves said Vick needed to get back on the field; Vick responded that he wouldn't play until he was fully recovered.
Vick played the final two series in a Nov. 30 loss to Houston, then finally made his first start last weekend. He rushed for 141 yards -- the third-highest total by a quarterback in NFL history -- and finally brought a little hope to a dismal season.
But Reeves won't be around for the rest of it. He leaves with a career record of 201-174-2, including the playoffs.
Only Don Shula, George Halas, Tom Landry, Curly Lambeau and Chuck Noll won more NFL games.
Reeves, a protege of Landry, began his head coaching career with the Denver Broncos. After swinging a trade for John Elway, Reeves guided the Broncos to three AFC championships, but they lost in the Super Bowl each time.
Reeves was fired after the 1992 season, a move that was linked to a feud with Elway. The quarterback accused Reeves of stifling the offense; the coach countered that Elway had secretly drawn up plays with former offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan.
After the firing in Denver, Reeves landed in New York with the Giants. They made the second round of the playoffs in 1993 and had a winning record the following season, but Reeves was fired again after the Giants went 5-11 in 1995 and 6-10 in '96.
Then, it was back home with the Falcons. Reeves is a native of Rome, just north of Atlanta, and grew up in the Georgia town of Americus.
After going 7-9 his first season, Reeves took Atlanta to the greatest season in franchise history. The Falcons went 14-2 in 1998, going on to capture their first (and only) NFC championship with a thrilling overtime victory in Minnesota.
Adding to the drama of the season, Reeves underwent heart bypass surgery late in the season but managed to return to the sideline for the playoffs. Then, he got to face Elway, Shanahan and the Broncos in the Super Bowl.
The Falcons fell flat in Miami. Starting safety Eugene Robinson was arrested the night before the game and accused of soliciting an undercover police officer for sex, then was beaten for a long touchdown in the game.
Denver won 34-19.
Atlanta then struggled through three straight losing seasons, with a combined record of 16-32. But a trade on the eve of the 2001 draft brought Vick to the Falcons, a precursor of brighter times.
When Blank bought the Falcons before the 2002 season, he gave Reeves a new three-year contract.
Vick took over as the starting quarterback last season, and the Falcons rebounded from a 1-3 start to make the playoffs for the first time since 1998. In the playoffs, they became the first visiting team to win a postseason game at Green Bay's Lambeau Field before losing 20-6 at Philadelphia in the NFC semifinals.
Atlanta was looking to have an even better season in 2003, having signed receiver Peerless Price to give Vick another offensive weapon.
But Vick broke his right fibula in an Aug. 16 preseason game against Baltimore. The Falcons weren't able to handle his loss.
Doug Johnson and Kurt Kittner struggled at quarterback, and the defense fell apart. Atlanta is tied for the worst record in the league.
Earlier this season, Reeves was asked about his future. He vowed to stick with the Falcons through the end of his contract -- or until he was fired.
"I'm not a quitter," he said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.