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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

In an NFL stunner, Colts fire Bill and Chris Polian

Indianapolis vice chairman Bill Polian and his son, Colts president Chris Polian, helped build a team that won at least 10 games 11 times in 14 years before going 2-14 in 2011. Rams, Bucs fire coaches.

January 02, 2012|Sam Farmer
  • Colts owner Jim Irsay, center, talks to vice chairman Bill Polian, left, and General Manager Chris Polian before a game this season against the Carolina Panthers in Indianapolis.
Colts owner Jim Irsay, center, talks to vice chairman Bill Polian, left,… (Sam Riche / McClatchy-Tribune )

In a move that would have been unimaginable a few months ago, the Indianapolis Colts fired Bill and Chris Polian, the father-and-son tandem atop one of the NFL's most successful franchises of the past decade.

Colts owner Jim Irsay, who has yet to decide whether to keep Coach Jim Caldwell, said it's time for a fresh start in the wake of a 2-14 season. He made the most dramatic move on a day that included the firing of St. Louis Coach Steve Spagnuolo and General Manager Billy Devaney, and Tampa Bay Coach Raheem Morris.

"Just less than two years ago [we were] getting ready to play in the Super Bowl and go to Miami," Irsay said in a news conference to announce the firings. "Less than two years ago, cleaning off the confetti from the turf at Lucas Oil Stadium. It's been a very sharp decline.

"Even last year when we were getting ready to play our playoff game at 10-6 and division champs, if someone had said in this room, 'You're going to be having the No. 1 pick in the draft, and you're going to lose 13 games in a row and be 2-14,' no one could have possibly believed it."

But without four-time most valuable player Peyton Manning, the Colts were a shell of the team that had so much success with the Polians running the front office. In 14 seasons with Bill Polian running the club, first as general manager and eventually as vice chairman, the Colts went 141-67 with 11 seasons of 10 or more victories. They made it to the playoffs 11 times during his tenure, twice advancing to the Super Bowl and winning the Lombardi Trophy in February 2007 with a victory over Chicago.

Chris Polian had various personnel duties with the team before being promoted to general manager in 2009 and ultimately to team president.

Irsay called the choice to fire the Polians "an intuitive decision" and said, "It was time."

He said, however, that he will continue to evaluate Caldwell and indicated the coach might remain for a fourth season.

Less surprising was the decision of the Rams to part ways with Spagnuolo and Devaney, a move anticipated for weeks. The team was 10-38 in three seasons under Spagnuolo, showing promise in 2010 before slipping back to 2-14 this season.

"Coach addressed the team this morning to let us know that he was terminated," running back Steven Jackson said. "He was sorry — especially for the guys that have been here the entire three years he was coach — that he didn't get the job done. He took full responsibility. He really regretted that he couldn't turn this franchise back around."

There is widespread speculation the Rams will be first in line to interview Jeff Fisher, the former Tennessee Titans coach. His agent is Marvin Demoff, whose son, Kevin, is the Rams' executive vice president of football operations. The younger Demoff said he has not spoken to any coaching candidates.

The Rams, who dismissed all of their coaches but offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, have assembled a coaching search committee that includes former coach Dick Vermeil and Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk.

Kevin Demoff told reporters his father was in town over the New Year's holiday, the two spoke Monday about the process for interviewing Fisher, and he expects that process to "move quickly."

"I think the one thing to caution is that because my father represents Jeff Fisher, that we're a natural fit," Demoff said. "His job is to represent Jeff Fisher. Our job is to find the right head coach for the Rams. If those two intersect, that would be fantastic. If they don't, we'll each do the right job for our prospective clients and our prospective organization."

The Buccaneers fired Morris after losing their final 10 games, their longest single-season losing streak since 1977. The last five losses in this season's tailspin were by an average of 23 points.

Jacksonville, which fired a defense-minded coach, Jack Del Rio, during the season, reportedly plans to interview four offensive coordinators: the Jets' Brian Schottenheimer, the Patriots' Bill O'Brien, the Broncos' Mike McCoy and the Falcons' Mike Mularkey.

The fate of San Diego Coach Norv Turner and General Manager A.J. Smith is unclear. As of Monday, they still had their jobs — Chargers owner Dean Spanos is disheartened by missing the playoffs for a second consecutive year, but pleased by his team's performance Sunday in a victory at Oakland.

"I'd be excited about being back, excited about this team," Turner said Monday. "Again, unless you're living it day to day, you can't appreciate what these guys have been through, what this team has been through from a physical standpoint. They've responded, and I do believe this team can go on and do some great things."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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