MARTY MORNHINWEG has established himself as one of the best offensive coaches in the NFL. In the nine seasons he has spent as an offensive coordinator in the league with the Eagles and the 49ers, his teams have finished in the top six in the league in scoring seven times.
But in between his two ultrasuccessful coordinator stints in San Francisco and Philadelphia was a 2-year period that wasn't quite so successful.
Nine years ago, Mornhinweg got his first and only head-coaching opportunity when he was hired by the Detroit Lions. Two seasons and just five wins later, he was told his services were no longer required and abruptly canned.
Since then, no one has called the 48-year-old Mornhinweg to offer him another head-coaching job. But that could be about to change.
There is going to be a lot of coaching turnover in the NFL in the coming weeks. Four teams - Dallas, Denver, Minnesota and San Francisco - already have fired their head coaches. As many as six others - Carolina, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Houston and Cleveland - also could be looking for replacements.
Mornhinweg's chances for a second shot at the big chair probably never are going to be better than they are right now.
His offense is one of the best in the NFL. First in total yards, averaging 399.1 yards per game. Second in scoring, averaging 28.4 points per game. They need just four more points in Sunday's regular-season finale against the Cowboys to break the franchise record for scoring for the second straight season.
Then there's Marty's Pygmalion, Michael Vick. Mornhinweg has managed to turn a guy who had spent 18 months in prison and previously was known mainly for his running ability into one of the league's top-rated passers.
Vick's 100.2 passer rating this season is 20 points higher than his career average. His 21 touchdown passes, 3,018 passing yards and .626 completion percentage all are career highs.
The rest of the league definitely has noticed Vick's transformation under Mornhinweg and head coach Andy Reid. Soon, we will find out if they are impressed enough to give the Oklahoma native another NFL head-coaching shot.
"I don't have time [to think about it]," Mornhinweg said yesterday. "Everything we do is focused on the next ballgame. We've got the Dallas Cowboys coming in. And really, that's all I'm focused on.
"If they call, then we'll see what happens. Here's what I know. If you do your job to the best of your abilities, then good things will happen. So we'll see."
Mornhinweg never had a chance in Detroit. Bad players. Bad personnel people (paging Matt Millen, paging Matt Millen). Clueless, panicky ownership with a quick trigger finger.
Marty knows he's a better coach than he showed in those two seasons in Motown. He would love the chance to prove it.
"I've been very fortunate," he said. "I've had great successes. But within all of those successes have been some failures.
"Sometimes, to have success, you've got to have some failures. And sometimes, they're tough failures. You get that next opportunity and you do a little bit better than the first time."
While there are expected to be a lot of head-coaching openings, there also are a lot of candidates. Bill Cowher already has put the word out that he wants back in. Jon Gruden could follow him. Stanford's Jim Harbaugh is pick-your-job hot and appears to be headed for the 49ers.
There's a good chance that the Cowboys and Vikings will end up sticking with their interim guys, Jason Garrett and Leslie Frazier.
Some other successful NFL coordinators with head-coaching experience - the Packers' Dom Capers, the Falcons' Mike Mularkey, the Saints' Gregg Williams - also will get consideration, along with some "hot" coordinators who haven't yet been head coaches, like Chargers defensive coordinator Ron Rivera, Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer and Rams offensive coordinator and former Eagles assistant Pat Shurmur.
Cleveland might be a possibility if club president Mike Holmgren and general manager Tom Heckert decide to can Eric Mangini. Mornhinweg was an assistant under Holmgren for 2 years in the mid-1990s in Green Bay. And Heckert was the Eagles' GM before moving to the Browns after last season.
But many think that if Holmgren decides to get rid of Mangini, he will name himself the Browns' new head coach.
WHERE WAS LESEAN?
Marty Mornhinweg has done a pretty good job of balancing the run and the pass this season. But that wasn't the case in Tuesday's loss to the Vikings. The Eagles threw the ball 43 times against a blitzing Vikings defense and ran it just 22 times. Only 13 of those 22 rushing attempts were by running back LeSean McCoy.
McCoy had averaged 8.2 yards per carry in the previous two games. Eight of his 26 runs in those two games went for 10 yards or more.
Against the Vikings, he had just 44 yards on those 13 carries. But you need to look a little closer at his night.
His rushing total is skewed by the fact that he lost 12 yards on two flukey first-half carries - 5 on a first-quarter sweep in which Jared Allen came clean into the Eagles' backfield and dropped him, and 7 on a botched second-quarter play in which Mike Vick was tripped by one of his offensive linemen and tossed the ball to him as he was falling down.
While he ended up averaging only 3.4 yards per carry, he had three 10-yard runs and a total of six runs of 5 yards or more. Yet he had just five carries in the second half, with his last carry coming with 11 1/2 minutes left in the game.
"I think in the first half, he averaged just 2.9 yards per carry," Mornhinweg said. "It just felt like we weren't running it there very well early. I believe they went in [ranked] eighth in defense. They're a pretty good defense."
Yes they are. But McCoy is a pretty good running back.
Michael Vick has been getting careless with the football. He had two costly fumbles in the loss to the Vikings and has fumbled nine times in the last six games.
He also has thrown six interceptions in those six games. The Eagles, who had just nine giveaways in their first nine games, have had 12 in the last six games, and Vick has had nine of them.
"It's important [that he reduces his turnovers]," Marty Mornhinweg said. "He knows that. He understands that. We'll do better there. There were some reasons for that. I think some of that is correctable."
Vick seems to be getting the Superman complex he had in Atlanta where he tries to do too much and ends up getting careless with the football. In 80 career starts he has fumbled 66 times.
"That's not a bad thing as long as he keeps that under control just a little bit," Mornhinweg said.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
* Wide receiver Roy Williams clearly hasn't lived up to the expectations the Cowboys had for him when they traded first-, third- and sixth-round draft picks to the Lions for him. He has just 36 receptions this season. Since Week 5, he's had just one game with more than 33 receiving yards. Doesn't have a TD catch since Week 6.
"I can only do what I can do," Williams told reporters, using a variation of the always popular "it is what it is" line. "Started off nice [21 catches for 306 yards and five TDs in the Cowboys' first five games], then fell off the face of the earth. I want to be here. If not, I will be somewhere else."
Asked if his lack of production was interim head coach/offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's fault, Williams said, "I was the go-to guy in Detroit. Coordinators can make who they want to make the star."
* Tuesday night's Eagles-Vikings game was watched by 23.7 million people, making it the sixth most-watched "Sunday Night Football" game since NBC bought the league's Sunday night package in 2006. It made mincemeat of its Tuesday night competition, including CBS' Kennedy Center Honors and ABC's "Rudolph's Shiny New Year" (take that, Rudy). Which means "Tuesday Night Football" almost certainly will be in the league's next TV deal.
From the lip:
* "You know what, the roads were bad for East Coast standards. But if this was in the Midwest, there would be no way that this would have been delayed. No way. No way. It was kind of weird to me that the game was [postponed]. It's something that baffles me." - Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on the decision to postpone the Vikings-Eagles game last Sunday because of a blizzard.
* "It's inconceivable, candidly, that we've had the defensive issues that we've had this year. I wouldn't have thought it. Frankly, I thought we were in much better shape there. Our entire strategy was based upon being really sound on defense. We drafted toward that defensive team strongly." - Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.
* "Probably a C-minus. I'm not going to say it's a D and I'm not going to say it's an A or B. But it didn't go exactly the way I wanted it to." - Bills running back C.J. Spiller, who was the ninth overall pick in the draft, on his rookie season.
By the numbers:
* For the 15th straight year, at least five of the 12 playoff participants will be teams that weren't in the postseason the year before. Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City and Pittsburgh all are in after not making the playoffs last year. Of the five teams still in contention for the two remaining NFC spots, four - St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and the Giants - weren't in the playoffs in 2009.
* If the Rams beat the Seahawks Sunday to win the NFC West, Sam Bradford will be the first quarterback in history to be selected No. 1 overall and start a playoff game as a rookie.
* The Patriots' Tom Brady hasn't thrown an interception in 10 straight games. The Saints' Drew Brees has thrown at least one in 11 straight games.
* Raiders running back Darren McFadden has 10 touchdowns. All have come on the road where the 7-8 Raiders are 2-5. He has zero touchdowns in 148 home touches, 10 in 122 road touches.
* Rams wide receiver Danny Amendola has 83 receptions, but not one 100-yard receiving performance.
* Last year, the Broncos' Elvis Dumervil had an NFL-high 17 sacks. This year, with Dumervil out since the summer with a torn pectoral muscle, the entire Broncos defense has 18 sacks.
* The Bucs are the first team since the 1970 merger to start at least 10 rookies in a single season and finish with a winning record.
* Ahmad Bradshaw needs just 87 rushing yards to become the third Giants player in history to rush for 1,300 yards. Tiki Barber did it four times. Joe Morris did it twice.
THAT'S SAYING THUMBTHING
To Eagles quarterback Michael Vick for his candid acknowledgment that he pretty much cost the Eagles the game Tuesday night with his two fumbles. After 11 years of rarely ever hearing a sincere "I blew it" from Donovan McNabb, it was kind of refreshing to hear Vick admit he screwed up. "I've got to do a better job of protecting the football," he said after the game. "Regardless of whether or not we pick the blitz up, it's still my responsibility to push up in the pocket, two hands on the ball. Drills that we do every day and I didn't do it. We see the effects and what happened and how that was a huge momentum swing for the Minnesota Vikings. You got to be disciplined in this game. You got to be disciplined for four quarters and you got to be conscious of what is going on around you. I failed to do that and it cost us."
I could give it to that bow-tie-wearing moron from Fox News, Tucker Carlson, for his ridiculous Michael Vick-should've-been-executed comment. But that's like shooting fish in a barrel. Instead, my thumbs down of the week goes to Eagles head coach Andy Reid and GM Howie Roseman for their curious decision last February not to re-sign defensive end Jason Babin. Why now? Well, in case you haven't noticed, Babin, who ended up signing a modest deal with the Titans, is third in the league in quarterback sacks with 12 1/2 and was voted to the Pro Bowl earlier this week. Also, in case you didn't notice, the Eagles are in desperate need of a pass-rushing defensive end. With Brandon Graham on IR, they've got Juqua Parker at left end and not much else. Signed Derrick Burgess, gave him a one-play, look-see Tuesday night and said hasta la vista, baby. Replaced him yesterday with another out-of-work, hasn't-played-a-down-this-season veteran, Bobby McCray.
(Last Week's Rankings in Parentheses)
1. Patriots 13-2 ( 1)
2. Ravens 11-4 ( 2)
3. Saints 11-4 ( 5)
4. Falcons 12-3 ( 3)
5. Bears 11-4 ( 6)
6. Steelers 11-4 ( 7)
7. Packers 9-6(10)
8. Eagles 10-5 ( 4)
9. Jets 11-4 ( 9)
10. Colts 9-6 (12)
11. Chiefs 10-5 (13)
12. Giants 9-6 ( 8)
13. Bucs 9-6 (15)
14. Rams 7-8 (18)
15. Lions 5-10 (22)
16. Chargers 8-7 (11)
17. Jaguars 8-7 (14)
18. Raiders 7-8 (16)
19. Vikings 6-9 (26)
20. Dolphins 7-8 (17)
21. Browns 5-10 (20)
22. Titans 6-9 (21)
23. Cowboys 5-10 (19)
24. Seahawks 6-9 (27)
25. Redskins 6-9 (28)
26. Bengals 4-11 (29)
27. Bills 4-11 (23)
28. Cardinals 5-10 (30)
29. Texans 5-10 (25)
30. 49ers 5-10 (24)
31. Broncos 4-11 (31)
32. Panthers 2-13 (32)