Saturday, October 4, 2003
Homecoming for Emmitt, Mariucci, Holmgren, Dungy in Week Five
JERSEY CITY, New Jersey - It's the NFL's version of
Homecoming Weekend in the NFL.
Emmitt Smith rides back into Dallas, Steve Mariucci heads back
to San Francisco, Mike Holmgren makes a second trip to Green Bay
and Tony Dungy travels to Tampa Bay in Week Five.
"This is like the reunion weekend," Mariucci said. "But when
you think about it, this is the sign of the times. That's not
going to happen very often. People are going to be changing
teams, for whatever the reason."
Smith refused to ride into the sunset as a Dallas Cowboy. On
Sunday, he will share the spotlight with the new sheriff in town
when the Arizona Cardinals (1-3) visit the Cowboys (2-1).
Not part of Bill Parcells' rebuilding program in Dallas, the
NFL's all-time leading rusher departed for the desert.
"I think he got what he wanted," Smith said.
The 34-year-old Smith rushed for 17,162 yards and 153 touchdowns
in 13 glorious years with the Cowboys, winning three Super Bowl
Last October 27, he passed Walter Payton (16,726)
for first place on the NFL's all-time rushing list, but his
streak of 11 straight 1,000-yard seasons also came to an end in
2002, when he rushed for 975 yards and five touchdowns,
averaging 3.8 yards per carry.
An eight-time Pro Bowl selection, Smith incensed his former
teammates when he was quoted in a Sports Illustrated article as
saying he felt "like a diamond surrounded by trash" in his final
season in Dallas. Smith apologized for those remarks, but some
of the Cowboys may be using that as motivation.
Overall, Smith has produced 193 yards on 59 carries, an average
of just 3.4 yards per carry, for Arizona.
Dallas is a different team with Parcells at the helm. After
opening the season with a home loss to Atlanta, the Cowboys beat
the New York Giants and New York Jets - two of Parcells' former
teams - with a bye week in between.
Mariucci renews acquaintances with his former team when the
rebuilding Detroit Lions (1-3) visit the San Francisco 49ers
(1-3) on Sunday.
"I guess it's different than going to Houston or Jacksonville,"
said Mariucci, who signed a five-year, $25 million deal with the
Lions after getting fired by the Niners last January. "I'll
know half the people in the stands and I'll know the players.
It's kind of a neat story."
San Francisco appears to be a team in turmoil after last week's
35-7 loss at Minnesota. Terrell Owens, the Niners' star
receiver, expressed his frustration by berating offensive
coordinator Greg Knapp on the sidelines during the game.
Owens' tantrums are no longer Mariucci's problem. That is now
an issue that must be addressed by coach Dennis Erickson. Owens
met with Erickson on Monday and was not fined or suspended for
The personable Mariucci had his share of problems with Owens
over the past few years in San Francisco. But that did not cost
him his job.
The 49ers claimed that Mariucci wanted to expand his role in the
organization and add the title of vice president of football
operations. General manager Terry Donahue said there were
"philosophical differences" between Mariucci and John York, the
49ers' owner representative, that made it impossible for
Mariucci to continue as coach.
Mariucci compiled a 60-43 record with two division titles and
four playoff berths in six years as Niners coach, but never went
to the Super Bowl.
Erickson is Mariucci's successor to a job in which the bar of
success is raised quite high. A three-game losing streak has
spelled immediate trouble for Erickson, who had a 31-33 record
in four years as coach of the Seattle Seahawks from 1995-98.
In 1999, Mike Holmgren made a rousing return to Lambeau Field,
leading the Seattle Seahawks to a 27-7 win over the Green Bay
Packers. He comes back for a second reunion Sunday. This time,
he will be accompanied by quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and
defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.
The only coach to succeed in the prodigious shadow of Vince
Lombardi, Holmgren won a Super Bowl, took the Packers to another
and guided the franchise to six playoff appearances in his
But Holmgren left Green Bay after the 1998 season to become
coach-general manager of the Seahawks. Holmgren, who has taken
the Seahawks to just one playoff appearance, relinquished his
general manager duties after last season. But he returns with
his Seahawks (3-0) atop the NFC West.
In Holmgren's final season in Green Bay, Hasselbeck spent the
year on the Packers' practice squad. He was a backup to Brett
Favre for the next two seasons before Holmgren acquired
Hasselbeck in 2001 for draft picks.
Rhodes was fired as Packers coach after just one season, posting
an 8-8 record in 1999. He also served as defensive coordinator
for the Packers in 1992 and 1993.
Dungy celebrates his 48th birthday Monday by returning to Tampa
Bay to face the Buccaneers (2-1) - the team he coached for six
years but couldn't take to the Super Bowl. Dungy picked a good
time to come back, with his Indianapolis Colts unbeaten at 4-0.
The Bucs had made three postseason appearances in 20 years until
Dungy turned them into a perennial playoff team. But they
advanced only as far as the NFC championship game in 1999. That
was followed by losses in the wild card round the next two years
Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer fired Dungy after the 2001 season and
targeted Parcells as his successor. After Parcells jilted the
Bucs, Glazer sent four draft picks and $8 million to the Oakland
Raiders for Jon Gruden. It turned out to be a bargain when
Gruden led the Bucs to their first Super Bowl title.
Dungy landed on his feet in Indianapolis and guided the Colts to
the postseason, but he experienced more playoff failure with an
embarrassing 41-0 loss to the New York Jets in the wild card
round last season.
"My only hope is this doesn't get turned into a sideshow," Dungy
said. "Playing on Monday night against the defending
champions, we're 4-0, that should be the story line. I think
that would be a great story line."
A total of 25 Bucs, including the nucleus of defensive tackle
Warren Sapp, linebacker Derrick Brooks, safety John Lynch,
cornerback Ronde Barber, quarterback Brad Johnson, receiver
Keyshawn Johnson and fullback Mike Alstott, all played for
"It's definitely going to be special," Lynch said. "But it's
going to be a battle. He's in here trying to beat us and we're
trying to beat him."
There's a battle of unbeaten teams when the Kansas City Chiefs
(4-0) host the Denver Broncos (4-0) on Sunday.
The AFC West rivals have played overtime contests in Kansas City
each of the last two years. The Broncos pulled out a 37-34
victory last October 20, but haven't won in consecutive years at
Arrowhead since 1976-79.
Sunday's game matches up two of the NFL's highest-scoring
offenses. The Chiefs are averaging 31.8 points per game and are
on pace to score 508 points, which would surpass the franchise
record of 467 set last season. Denver is second overall with 118
points, averaging 29.5 per game.
Two other unbeaten teams are in action Sunday - the Vikings
(4-0) visit the Atlanta Falcons (1-3) and the Carolina Panthers
(3-0) meet the New Orleans Saints (1-3).
The Philadelphia Eagles (1-2), who earned their first win of the
season last week at Buffalo, host the Washington Redskins
The Miami Dolphins (2-1) visit the Giants (2-1) in a marquee
The Tennessee Titans (3-1), who trail the Colts by one game in
the AFC South, face the New England Patriots (2-2).
In other games, the Bills (2-2) meet the Cincinnati Bengals
(1-3), the Raiders visit the Chicago Bears (0-3)
and the Jacksonville Jaguars (0-4) host the San Diego Chargers
On Sunday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers (2-2) meet the
Cleveland Browns (1-3).
The St. Louis Rams (2-2), Baltimore Ravens (2-2), Houston Texans
(2-2) and Jets (0-4) are in a bye week.