Detroit Lions owner William Clay Ford has fired Coach Darryl Rogers, who led the team to a 2-9 record this season and a tie for last place in the NFC Central Division, sources said today.
Rogers, 53, was fired after the Lions' 23-20 loss Sunday to the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers and was replaced temporarily by defensive coordinator Wayne Fontes, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.Rogers, in his fourth season with the Lions, has a record of 18-40.
Reached at his home late Sunday, Rogers denied he had been fired.
"Not that I know of," he said.
Bill Keenist, the Lions public relations director, said he couldn't confirm the report.
But the sources said formal announcement of the move would be made at the team's regular weekly news conference at noon Monday.
Fontes, 48, is in his fourth year with the Lions and 13th in the NFL. He spent nine years with Tampa Bay under John McKay.
This marks only the second time that Ford, an heir to the Ford Motor Co. fortune, has fired a head coach before the end of a season since assuming sole control of the team in 1963.
In 1976, Ford axed Rick Forzano after a 1-3 start and replaced him with Tommy Hudspeth. The team finished that season 6-8 and was 6-8 in 1977. That was enough to get Hudspeth fired and bring on Monte Clark who lasted until Rogers was hired.
Fontes, whose brother, Len, is the defensive backfield coach for the New York Giants, pleaded guilty to drunken driving charges earlier this year.
Fontes got his first coaching job directing the freshman team at Michigan State in 1965 while working on his Masters degree in administration. He coached at Visitation High School in Bay City in 1966-67, winning the Class B state championship in 1967 with a team that went 10-0.
Fontes then served as an assistant at three universities, including Southern California.
There has been speculation over the past month that Rogers would be fired if the team didn't turn things around. The Lions' loss to Tampa Bay dropped them into a tie with the Green Bay Packers at the bottom of the NFC Central.