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Chargers’ Henning Thought He Would Be Back : Pro football: Fired coach hoped for another season. Beathard expects to name replacement by early January.

From Associated Press

Dan Henning thought he would get another chance with the San Diego Chargers, but instead was fired on Monday, one day after he completed his third consecutive losing season and seventh overall as an NFL head coach.

Henning’s staff also was dismissed, although General Manager Bobby Beathard said he would encourage Henning’s replacement to interview the assistants. Henning’s staff includes secondary coach Jim Mora, son of New Orleans Saints coach Jim Mora, and receivers coach Charlie Joiner, who still ranks as San Diego’s all-time leading receiver.

Henning finished the third and final guaranteed year of a five-year contract he signed when he became the Chargers’ coach in February, 1989. The Chargers finished this season 4-12, giving Henning a 16-32 record in San Diego.

“The bottom line, as is always, is if you don’t win, they make a change,” Henning said. “I have no argument with that. We haven’t won. We haven’t won at the level I certainly would have liked to have won at.”

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Henning cited the high player and front-office turnover during his tenure, and said the Chargers didn’t make any big trades to land prominent players.

“I’m disappointed that during the time I’ve been here we’ve been through a great deal of turmoil, both in the organization and player personnel,” Henning said. “I think at times we’ve shown that we’re very capable of playing football with the best. I’m disappointed that I won’t be here to go on and try to reap some of the rewards of what we’ve done in turning it over with the plan that we had.”

Henning said he still felt Sunday night that he’d be back. “I went along as if a decision would be made in a positive fashion. That’s the way I do business.”

He said he had no immediate plans, other than to relax. He said he should have opportunities to remain in coaching, but that he might try something else.

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Henning was 22-41-1 as the coach of the Atlanta Falcons from 1983-86. His overall NFL coaching record is 38-73-1.

“I had one goal--to win as a head coach,” he said. “I’m very disappointed to not continue to have that opportunity. But that’s Mr. Beathard’s decision.”

Beathard said he had input from owner Alex Spanos, but that the decision to fire Henning was his. Beathard said it was a “very, very tough, emotional decision.”

Beathard’s association with Henning goes back to the early 1980s, when he was GM of the Washington Redskins and Henning was an assistant coach.

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But Beathard said, “I have a strong feeling a change had to be made. . . . The bottom line is you have to win.

“The question has come up, well, when you make a change, you’re starting over,” Beathard said. “If you look at change that way, then you never make change. I look at it just the opposite. I feel that making the change gives you the hope of coming back at a new level, a higher level.

“We’re going to bring in a guy I think the players will be excited about,” Beathard said. “He’ll be a very demanding, disciplined coach who I think will be very fair with players, with excellent leadership ability.”

Beathard said he hoped to name a replacement by the end of the first week in January.

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Beathard said the list of candidates includes some NFL assistant coaches whom he wouldn’t identify other than to say their teams were in the playoffs, plus Georgia Tech coach Bobby Ross and Miami coach Dennis Erickson.

Ross and Erickson “are both awfully attractive college coaches and I would have to say their names certainly are on the list I gave Mr. Spanos,” Beathard said. Beathard said the not yet contacted Ross or Erickson.

“The only thing I have heard, and this came from a source, is that I’m on their list . . . and that I’m high on that list,” Ross said.


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