Coaches will be scapegoats

Tuesday, December 30, 2003 at 1:00am

As the playoffs get set to start, and the focus is on the field, there will still be numerous headlines made as teams wish their coaches a Happy New Year by firing them.

This will be a bloody week in the league, as owners do the expedient thing in firing a coach, and then try to figure out if the person they will hire is any better.

The great irony will be with the teams that hire fired coaches to replace the guy they fired.

And why does it seem that owners or general managers aren't held accountable for hiring the guys they fire? Some of it doesn't make sense. But fans don't go on talk shows and scream that the personnel director should be canned.

For instance, it was Bills president Tom Donahoe that hired Gregg Williams, but then decided last offseason not to re-sign wide receiver Peerless Price and draft running back Willie McGahee in the first round. The choice of McGahee might turn out to be a great one, but it sure didn't help Williams win games this past season.

Now that the firing and hiring season is officially open, most of the actual things that happen will be different than much of the speculation.

That thought was prompted by a recent comment on Fox, reporting that Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi was always looking for a reason to fire Jim Fassel.

Said Accorsi, "People just thought there was this thing that I wanted my own coach. Howie Long went on the air and said that I always wanted to get Jim. If there's any other reason not to take those shows seriously, that should be it. Nothing ever happened for anybody to say that. You only say that because of one reason: You want to say something on TV because it's entertaining.

"Bad entertainment, by the way. That was so absurd."

The story got its sea legs when then-GM George Young hired Fassel after Accorsi had recommended Nick Saban, who was then at Michigan State. Accorsi hadn't met Fassel when Young hired him.

Added Accorsi, "First of all, what did I care? Did I have any diluted feeling at the Super Bowl because I didn't hire him? And secondly, the guy that hired him was my closest friend ever in football. He was a link to George. Why would I think anything but that?

"Everybody thinks you want your own guy. What difference does it make? If I came here and (Vince) Lombardi was here, would I say, 'Gee, I want my own guy'? No, you'd ride his coattails to championships, that's what you would do.

"But that's the way the business is. It's perceptions."

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