Marion Campbell's days as coach of the Philadelphia Eagles were numbered as soon as Florida businessman Norman Braman purchased the team.
Braman, who cleaned house after purchasing his Florida car dealerships, did not make any drastic changes immediately after buying the Eagles from Leonard Tose but made no secret of his admiration for the Miami Dolphins and their coach, Don Shula, a personal friend.
If there's one thing the Philadelphia Eagles aren't, it's the Miami Dolphins. And Campbell is surely no Shula.
Braman has spoken positively of the way the Dolphins do things and of their dynamic offense, so it must have pained the new owner to see the Eagles' offense take five weeks to score its first touchdown.
The new owner put pressure on Campbell at the news conference where he announced his purchase of the team, posing with a shirt that read "Philadelphia Eagles--Superbowl."
When training camp opened, Braman released veteran backup quarterback Joe Pisarcik, apparently to save some money, without telling Campbell, and his fiscal policies caused 11 Eagles, including the team's No. 1 draft pick, to miss all or part of training camp.
Then Braman said he expected the Eagles, coming off a 6-9-1 season, to be a playoff team.
Philadelphia started 1-4, then played probably its best football under Campbell to win five of its next six games and spark hope the team could make its first post-season appearance since 1981.
But a loss at Dallas was followed by a collapse at home against Minnesota, when Philadelphia blew a 23-0 lead in the fourth-quarter and lost to the Vikings, 28-0. Losses to Washington and San Diego caused the losing streak to reach four, and cost Campbell his job.
After the Minnesota loss, speculation over Campbell's future began to appear in the local papers, while Braman and general manager Harry Gamble were discussing his status privately.
"That was a serious point where we began to talk about our needs," Gamble said. "Whether it be players--what changes do we need to make to improve our football team? What about the coaching situation? What can we do to improve?"
After last Sunday's 20-14 loss to the Chargers, Braman made the decision to fire Campbell and the team made the move Dec. 16 because Campbell forced the issue--asking that he be released immediately if the decision had been made to get rid of him.
"I really feel a change in coaching, based on the personnel that we have here in Philadelphia, will be in the best interest of the club as far as the future is concerned and get the club where we want it to be as a playoff contender," Braman said.
Assistant coach Fred Bruney, whom Campbell endorsed as his successor, was named interim coach, but Braman made no secret of his interest in David Shula, the 26-year-old Miami assistant coach, as the permanent replacement.
The fact that Shula's father is veteran coach Don Shula certainly does not hurt.
"He is a leader," Braman said of the younger Shula, who would be the youngest coach in NFL history. "He approaches the game on a highly scientific basis and is part of a winning tradition, which is important."
The Eagles did not immediately offer the job to Shula, but both Braman and Gamble said they hope to find a new coach as quickly as posible.
Many of the players, however, did not share Braman's enthusiasm.
"It's something new and somethat that new, you have to question," said Philadelphia receiver Mike Quick. "That's never happened--26 years old. Hell, we're the youngest team in the league and darn near everybody on this team would be older than he is."
Neither Gamble nor Braman, however, believe that Shula's age will be a problem.
When Braman announced he had decided to retain Campbell, he said Don Shula had spoken highly of him. Campbell's character had not changed in a few months, but the change was still made.
"You can't always pinpoint the reasons for success," Gamble said. "Coaching certainly enters into it, players certainly enter into it, along with an attitude or a chemistry, an atmosphere. There's a lot of things. It's very nebulous.
"It's not as cut and dried as a lot of people would like to believe. I still think Marion is as good a coach as he ever was but unfortunately in this situation we didn't win as many football games as any of us would have liked and consequently in this situation, a change might have been for the better."