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Seahawks Fire Coach Dennis Erickson

December 28, 1998

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) _ Seattle Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson was fired today after his team finished a disappointing 8-8 and out of the NFL playoffs, a source told The Associated Press.

Erickson joined a growing list of coaches who lost their jobs Monday, including Dom Capers of Carolina, Dave Wannstedt of Chicago, Ted Marchibroda of Baltimore and Ray Rhodes of Philadelphia.

Erickson’s dismissal came one day after the team ended its season with a 28-21 loss in Denver on Sunday.

The Seahawks called a news conference for early Monday afternoon. The team would not immediately confirm word of Erickson’s dismissal, which cam from a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The fate of Erickson’s coaching staff was not immediately known.

Erickson, 51, was fired for the first time in his coaching career because the Seahawks did not make the playoffs despite lavish spending by second-year owner Paul Allen on free agents.

In four seasons as coach of the Seahawks, he compiled a 31-33 record.

The Seahawks missed making the playoffs for the 10th year in a row, which is the longest drought among NFL teams, and have not had a winning season since 1990.

Erickson was let go with one season left on his five-year contract _ at $1 million _ that was given to him by former Seahawks owner Ken Behring to lure him away from University of Miami in 1995.

Erickson’s original contract was for four years, with the team having an option for a fifth season. But the option year was guaranteed in 1996 during Behring’s failed attempt to move the franchise to the Los Angeles area.

Erickson, a state of Washington native from Everett, coached Washington State in 1987 and 1988 before moving to Miami, where he coached two national championship teams in six seasons. With the Hurricanes, his coaching record was 63-9, including his 1989 and 1991 national title teams.

Erickson was fired after his second season under Allen, who also owns the NBA Portland Trail Blazers.

Allen and team president Bob Whitsitt expected the Seahawks to make the playoffs, but they missed them for the 10th year in a row.

After the Seahawks went 8-8 and missed the playoffs a year ago, Whitsitt conducted an unsuccessful search for a general manager. So Erickson was allowed to return as coach again this season.

But the pressure and the expectations were even higher this season after Allen, a billionaire, opened his wallet wide for free agents for the second year in a row.

Running back Ricky Watters, linebacker Darrin Smith, guard Brian Habib, center Kevin Glover and punter Jeff Feagles were the latest additions through free agency in Seattle.

Not since 1983, when the Seahawks made it to the AFC title game, and ’84, with a franchise-best 12-win season, had pro football optimism been higher here. After the losing years under Behring, Seahawks fans were convinced they would have a playoff contender again.

It didn’t happen.

Watters, Smith, Habib, Glover and Feagles cost Allen about $15 million in signing bonuses. The Microsoft co-founder spent approximately $23 million in signing bonuses last year to get free agents Chad Brown, Willie Williams, Warren Moon, Bennie Blades and Dan Saleaumua and first-round draft choices Shawn Springs and Walter Jones.

Moon set records for completions (313) and yards passing (3,678) in 1997, but he lost his starting job to Jon Kitna and did not play in the final five weeks of the season.

Moon, 42, suffered two cracked ribs in Week 5 in Kansas City and did not look like the same player he was last season.

Under Behring, Erickson coached the Seahawks to 8-8 and 7-9 records.

Allen exercised his option to buy the Seahawks from Behring June 30, 1997, after the state’s voters approved Referendum 48 to build a new football-only stadium on the site of the current Kingdome. The Kingdome will be torn down after the 1999 football season.

In 13 seasons as a college head coach at Miami, Washington State, Wyoming and Idaho, Erickson compiled a 113-40-1 record.

He won coach of the year honors in the Big Sky, Pac-10 and Big East.

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