Chargers Fire Coach Mike Riley

Monday, December 31st 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN DIEGO (AP) _ Mike Riley was fired as coach of the San Diego Chargers on Monday after ending the season with a nine-game losing streak that left him 14-34 in three seasons.

Riley, who never held an NFL job before being hired by then-general manager Bobby Beathard in January 1999, was fired by GM John Butler hours after the Chargers lost 25-22 to Seattle, finishing with a 5-11 record. San Diego's season is finished because it has a bye the final week.

Riley has two years left on his $750,000-a-year contract. He had a six-game losing streak in his rookie season of 1999 and an 11-game losing streak to open 2000, when the Chargers were 1-15.

The Chargers will be searching for their fourth head coach since the popular and successful Bobby Ross was forced out following the 1996 season in a power struggle with Beathard.

Butler, Buffalo's GM from 1993-2000, has surrounded himself with former Bills players and front-office personnel. A possible replacement for Riley is Ted Cottrell, the New York Jets' defensive coordinator-assistant head coach. He was with the Bills from 1994-2000, the last three seasons as defensive coordinator.

Riley barely survived last year's 1-15 disaster, and speculation about his dismissal this year has grown along with the Chargers' losing streak.

Butler, hired last January, inherited Riley and his staff. Riley and Butler have vastly different personalities. Riley is friendly and easygoing while Butler is intense and impatient.

Butler spent the previous eight seasons as Buffalo's GM, and has surrounded himself with several players and front-office personnel from the Bills.

Riley had an admirer on the opposite sideline Sunday in Seattle coach Mike Holmgren.

``It's extra tough because he's a good friend of mine,'' Holmgren said. ``I have tremendous respect for him as a person and a coach. I say it all the time and I'll say it again, he's one of the truly nice people in the world and he's a good man. I believe his players believe that.

At his postgame news conference after the loss to Seattle, ended, Riley seemed to be saying goodbye.

``Hey, listen, I appreciate you folks,'' said Riley, who's always gotten along with reporters.