Chargers fire Coach Mike Riley

Dec. 31, 2001 at 2:15 PM
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SAN DIEGO, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The San Diego Chargers fired Coach Mike Riley Monday, one day after closing the season with a nine-game losing streak following a promising 5-2 start.

"It came down to one bottom line and that's winning football games and that didn't take place enough this year," Chargers general manager John Butler said at Monday's news conference. "I thought this was better than a 5-11 football team."

Riley was on shaky ground following a franchise-worst 1-15 season in 2000, but Butler opted to retain him. However, the Chargers hired former coach Norv Turner as their offensive coordinator to assist Riley.

"I have no regrets whatsoever," Butler said about staying with Riley after the 2000 season. "I'm glad he had the opportunity to try it again. Unfortunately, it just didn't happen."

Riley was just 14-34 in three seasons with the Chargers, with eight of the wins coming in his first year.

The Chargers faltered in the close games this season, losing eight of nine games decided by seven points or less.

"There are a bunch of 10-9 and 20-17 games in the NFL and the good teams win those," Riley said. "We got one when we beat Buffalo (27-24 on October 28), but we didn't win any more after that."

San Diego's season was perhaps best summed up in Sunday's 25-22 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. After San Diego's Steve Christie kicked the game-tying field goal with 16 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Charlie Rogers returned the ensuing kickoff 64 yards and Rian Lindell drilled a 54-yard field goal to give Seattle the win. As Lindell's field goal split the uprights, replays showed Riley close his eyes in despair on the San Diego sidelines.

It has been speculated that Butler may pursue New York Jets defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell, who worked for Buffalo when Butler was the general manager with the Bills. But Butler made no commitments.

"I have no ideas of any successor," Butler said. "I know Norv is still under contract for several more years (as offensive coordinator), but nothing has been discussed regarding a coach."

Riley's tenure with the Chargers was also clouded by his possible interest in returning to college. The coach at Oregon State from 1997-98, Riley was rumored to be a candidate for college jobs at Southern California last year and San Diego State this season although he denied the reports.

Chargers president Dean Spanos also denied that Riley was interested in returning to college.

"I never heard from him he ever wanted to leave here," Spanos said at Monday's news conference. "I'll take it from him that he always wanted to be here."

Riley expressed a desire to keep his family on the West Coast and will not rush into taking a coaching position.

"I want to see what's going on a little bit," Riley said. "I'd like my next job to be my last one. I'd like to build something and leave something there that's good."

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