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Originally published December 12, 2011 at 8:02 PM | Page modified December 12, 2011 at 8:25 PM

Kansas City fires Todd Haley, Miami follows suit by letting Sparano go

The day after the NFL regular season ends is known as Black Monday, because it is a bleak day when failed head coaches are sent packing. Black Monday came three weeks early this season, with the Kansas City Chiefs firing Todd Haley and the Miami Dolphins following a few hours later by dismissing Tony Sparano.

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The day after the NFL regular season ends is known as Black Monday, because it is a bleak day when failed head coaches are sent packing. Black Monday came three weeks early this season, with the Kansas City Chiefs firing Todd Haley and the Miami Dolphins following a few hours later by dismissing Tony Sparano.

Neither firing was a surprise and the timing probably should not have been, either. With teams scrambling to find the right replacement — and fans agitating for rapid improvement — team owners do not want to be beaten to their preferred replacement. The Jacksonville Jaguars were the first team to fire their coach this season, letting Jack Del Rio go on Nov. 29.

In Miami, owner Stephen Ross, who tried to woo Jim Harbaugh before he was hired by San Francisco — while still employing Sparano — is sure to go for a big-name candidate with experience. Jeff Ireland will remain the team's general manager, although there has been speculation that Ross might also find a front-office role for his longtime friend Carl Peterson, who ran the Kansas City Chiefs for 20 years. Among the likely targets of Ross' ardor: former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

"I'd like to find a young Don Shula," Ross said at a late afternoon news conference of the iconic former Dolphins coach.

Sparano, a Bill Parcells protégé, won a division title in 2008 with Chad Pennington at quarterback, but the Dolphins were not able to equal that success again, and there was a perceived divide between the coaching and personnel sides of the organization. Ross indicated his impatience — and his inexperience as an owner — when he flew across country to talk to Harbaugh, while Sparano was still working at his Dolphins office. Sparano got a contract extension to make up for that embarrassment, but when the Dolphins (4-9) started this season 0-7, and large numbers of fans stopped attending games, Sparano's days were clearly dwindling.

Haley, another Parcells product whose Kansas City Chiefs won the AFC West last year but fell apart this season — and who were embarrassed in a 37-10 loss to the Jets on Sunday — was fired after almost three tumultuous seasons.

Haley's flameout was particularly acute, and included a long-strained relationship with general manager Scott Pioli.

Haley might have been fired at the end of last season if the Chiefs had not made the playoffs. Haley ran an unorthodox training camp in the wake of the lockout, focusing on strength and conditioning workouts instead of full-speed practices, in the hopes of staving off injuries.

But major injuries to key players began accumulating throughout the preseason and when the Chiefs started 0-3, Haley's job was already in jeopardy.

Defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel will serve as the Chiefs' interim coach for the final three games, and Pioli said he will be considered for the permanent job.

"I don't perceive Todd Haley as a mistake," Pioli said. "Todd Haley is a good football coach. I'll say that. What we need to do is figure out what direction we're headed in and how we're going to continue to make progress."

Titans wait and see on Hasselbeck's calf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee coach Mike Munchak says Matt Hasselbeck is sore but walking around despite a left calf injury.

Whether the veteran quarterback is strong enough to start against winless Indianapolis remains to be seen.

Munchak said they will wait and see how Hasselbeck, the former Seahawk, is Wednesday when they take the field next for practice when the quarterback starts moving around.

The coach said they hadn't heard anything yet on the MRI, but assume the injury is on the mild side.

For anyone wondering if the Titans are tempted to use this injury to give rookie Jake Locker, the former Washington Husky, his first NFL start, Munchak made it clear chasing the team's first playoff berth since 2008 matters most.

"We have to win these three games. If Matt's healthy, then Matt will quarterback us. As far as Jake, he'll have plenty of time to be our guy. So we wouldn't put him in just to give him experience. We know we can win with him in there. We feel real good about what we've seen in just the two games he's had a chance to play," Munchak said.

"Our thing is we have three huge games ahead of us, and we got to take care of all three of those if we want to play anymore."

Injury report
Player, position Team Injury Prognosis
Greg Jennings, WR Packers Knee Out 2-3 weeks
Matt Hasselbeck, QB Titans Calf Questionable
DeMarco Murray, RB Cowboys Broken right ankle Out for season
Jim Leonhard, S Jets Right knee Out for season
Kevin Kolb, QB Cardinals Head Uncertain
Matt Moore, QB Dolphins Concussion Uncertain
Jake Long, OT Dolphins Back Uncertain
Bobbie Williams, G Bengals Broken ankle Out for season

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