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Edwards gets two-year extension, says Jets can improve from 6-10

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Published January 16, 2004

HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. - Jets coach Herm Edwards received a two-year extension Thursday despite finishing with the team's worst record since 1996.

Edwards, who had two years left on his deal worth about $1.3-million annually, is 25-23 in three seasons with the Jets. He went 6-10 this season after losing quarterback Chad Pennington for the first six games of the season with a broken left wrist.

The defense struggled all season, finishing 28th against the run and 21st in yards allowed. Edwards fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and three defensive assistants when the season ended.

"We have a good foundation with some young players, that's how you have to look at it," Edwards said. "We stumbled this year, we didn't have the year we wanted, but now it's a new year."

The Jets made the playoffs in Edwards' first two seasons and won the AFC East in 2002.

Edwards is interviewing candidates to replace Cottrell. Titans linebackers coach Gunther Cunningham interviewed Wednesday and former Nebraska interim coach Bo Pelini interviewed Thursday.

BEARS: Lovie Smith knows how to win over fans. His No. 1 goal as Chicago's new coach is to beat its biggest rival, the Packers.

"I've been on the winning side the last five times I've played them, so I think we know how to beat them," said Smith, the Rams defensive coordinator for three seasons.

"As the leader of our team, I will do everything possible to bring back the pride, tradition and excellence of the glory years of past Bears teams," Smith said.

Applause greeted his talk about beating the Packers, who have won 18 of the past 20 against the Bears.

BILLS: Mike Mularkey is excited about the chance to finally lead an NFL team.

"This is a very good team that is not very far off," Mularkey said at a news conference introducing him as coach. "I don't want to predict playoffs but they are on the brink of something special."

It's Mularkey's first top job at any level. He's been an NFL assistant for 10 seasons, the past three as Steelers offensive coordinator.

The Bills hope Mularkey's offensive creativity will turn around a franchise that went 6-10 in 2003 and had trouble scoring.

He replaces Gregg Williams, fired after three seasons. In Williams' first two seasons, the offense ranked near the top of the league. But the unit was 30th in 2003.

"Mike will bring toughness to our football team, which I think we need," GM Tom Donahoe said.

BROWNS: Former Packers GM Ron Wolf visited the Cleveland training facility to speak with officials for the team, which is looking to upgrade its personnel staff. Wolf, 65, retired since 2000, said nothing was decided.

CHARGERS: Former NFL head coach Wade Phillips interviewed for the defensive coordinator job, meeting with coach Marty Schottenheimer for about six hours.

He was not immediately offered the job.

"I generally like to take some time after an interview like that to make sure I make judgments based not on emotion but from a practical standpoint," Schottenheimer said. "We had a good visit."

Phillips was defensive coordinator of the Falcons last season, and was interim coach for the final three games after Dan Reeves was fired.

CHIEFS: Coach Dick Vermeil signed a two-year contract extension, a formality. Vermeil, 67, said Jan. 1 that he had informed his staff and Chiefs president Carl Peterson he would remain for at least one and possibly two more years. Terms were not announced.

49ERS: Willy Robinson was hired as defensive coordinator after four seasons as Steelers defensive backs coach.

Robinson replaces Jim Mora, hired as Falcons coach last week.

Robinson will be reunited with 49ers coach Dennis Erickson, his boss for six seasons at the University of Miami, the Seattle Seahawks and Oregon State.

ARENA LEAGUE: The Storm will hold open player tryouts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the University of South Florida's football practice facility. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. The workout is open to all positions and will include agility, speed and position-specific drills. Participants should bring a T-shirt, shorts and grass cleats. Cost is $60, cash or money order. For details, call Dave Ewart at 813 307-5908 or e-mail dave@tampabaystorm.com

In other news, the Storm signed offensive/defensive lineman Evan Pilgrim, a former center and guard with the Atlanta Falcons and Chicago Bears. Pilgrim, 6 feet 5, 300 pounds, spent part of last season with the Detroit Fury.

Offensive/defensive linemen Troy Wilson and Sai Poulivaati retired.

- Times staff writer Frank Pastor contributed to this report.

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