American Football: Denver fire Reeves after 12-year reign

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The Independent Online
THE dust had barely settled on the Denver Broncos' season when Pat Bowlen, the team's owner, fired Dan Reeves, his head coach for the last 12 years.

Denver's season has been punctuated by speculation about Reeves and the two met yesterday to discuss his future. A few hours later Reeves told a news conference he had been sacked. 'I certainly wish it wasn't coming to an end,' Reeves said. 'But again, I respect what Pat wants to do. I've been very lucky to be able to do what I do for a living, which is coach football. Life goes on.'

Reeves's current contract, worth around dollars 950,000 ( pounds 608,000) a season, expires in February and he was keen to negotiate another one. The sticking point appears to have been whether Reeves, who was already offensive co-ordinator and in charge of most player personnel decisions, had too much power.

Reeves, 48, has enjoyed continued success with the Broncos, guiding them to three Super Bowls (though they lost them all). They narrowly missed out on making it to a fourth last season when they were beaten 7-3 by Buffalo in the AFC Championship game. This season came to an end at Kansas City on Sunday when they lost 42-20 to the Chiefs in a game in which only the winner progressed to the play-offs. Reeves, a proven winner, can expect plenty of offers now that he is in the jobs market.

In two other final games of the regular season Houston overwhelmed Buffalo in their Astrodome only to set up a chilly re- match in upstate New York this weekend, while Minnesota's reward for reprieving the Washington Redskins was to have to entertain them, and not Green Bay, in the first round of the play-offs. So much for the spoils of victory.

The Oilers thrashed the Bills

27-3, with the respective moods reflected in the contrasting fortunes of the starting quarterbacks. Jim Kelly of the Bills sprained his right knee after being flattened by Ray Childress in the second quarter and limped out of the game. His participation on Sunday is far from certain. Warren Moon, the Oilers starter who has been out with a broken arm since mid-November, returned to see some action and threw a touchdown pass.

Even so the Bills can be confident about the re-match. They have won all five play-off games in the cold outdoors of Rich Stadium.

Minnesota knew that by beating Green Bay they were issuing an invitation to the Super Bowl champions. They did so anyway, and at last generated some pass offense in the 27-7 defeat of the Pack, Sean Salisbury throwing for 292 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Washington have serious injury problems after their loss to the Raiders on Saturday, but their head coach Joe Gibbs is fit and healthy and so they remain a formidable proposition despite a moderate season. 'You can throw their record out. Everyone knows what their record is in January,' Salisbury said.

Buffalo's defeat allowed Miami to take the AFC East title, albeit unimpressively. Indeed the Dolphins may be on the crest of the feeblest wave in NFL history. After vapid victories over the Raiders and Jets, they trailed the Patriots 13-3 at half-time, and had to wait for the last three minutes before Bobby Humphrey's touchdown brought the scores level at 13-13. Even then the Patriots scorned a reasonable field goal opportunity in normal time, and the first possession of overtime before Pete Stoyanovich settled matters with a 35-yard field goal.

Dan Marino, whose quarterbacking has carried Miami plenty of times but now finds his offense stalling, will have to emulate former glories if the Dolphins are to progress. They have a bye this week to seek solutions.

THIS WEEKEND'S PLAY-OFFS

SATURDAY: Washington at Minnesota (NFC); Kansas City at San Diego (AFC).

SUNDAY: Houston at Buffalo (AFC); Philadelphia at New Orleans (NFC).

NFL: Indianapolis 21 Cincinnati 17; Kansas City 42 Denver 20; Minnesota 27 Green Bay 7; Philadelphia 20 NY Giants 10; Pittsburgh 23 Cleveland 13; Miami 16 New England 13 (o/t); Dallas 27 Chicago 14; LA Rams 38 Atlanta 27; Tampa Bay 7 Phoenix 3; San Diego 31 Seattle 14; Houston 27 Buffalo Bills 3.

----------------------------------------------------------------- NFL STANDINGS ----------------------------------------------------------------- AMERICAN CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division W L T Pct F A * Miami 11 5 0 .688 340 281 ] Buffalo 11 5 0 .688 381 283 Indianapolis 9 7 0 .563 216 302 NY Jets 4 12 0 .250 220 315 New England 2 14 0 .125 205 363 Central Division * Pittsburgh 11 5 0 .688 299 225 ] Houston 10 6 0 .625 352 258 Cleveland 7 9 0 .438 272 275 Cincinnati 5 11 0 .313 274 364 Western Division * San Diego 11 5 0 .688 335 241 ] Kansas City 10 6 0 .625 348 282 Denver 8 8 0 .500 262 329 LA Raiders 7 9 0 .438 249 281 Seattle 2 14 0 .125 140 312 ----------------------------------------------------------------- NATIONAL CONFERENCE ----------------------------------------------------------------- Eastern Division W L T Pct F A * Dallas 13 3 0 .813 409 243 ] Philadelphia 11 5 0 .688 354 245 ] Washington 9 7 0 .563 300 255 NY Giants 6 10 0 .375 306 367 Phoenix 4 12 0 .250 243 332 Central Division *Minnesota 11 5 0 .688 374 249 Green Bay 9 7 0 .563 276 296 Detroit 5 10 0 .333 267 308 Tampa Bay 5 11 0 .313 267 365 Chicago 5 11 0 .313 295 361 Western Division *San Francisco 13 2 0 .867 407 230 ] New Orleans 12 4 0 .750 330 202 Atlanta 6 10 0 .375 327 414 LA Rams 6 10 0 .375 313 383 ----------------------------------------------------------------- * clinched division title ] clinched play-off berth -----------------------------------------------------------------

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