Respected Bates replaces Slowik

The changing of the guard has begun. The Green Bay Packers on Monday evening hired as defensive coordinator Jim Bates, the architect of top-10 defenses during his five seasons in Miami.

With the hiring of Bates, Bob Slowik appears to be out of a job — though head coach Mike Sherman said Slowik "has an opportunity to return" — and the long-rumored firing of defensive backs coach Kurt Schottenheimer finally was made official.

Bates, 58, became Miami's interim coach when Dave Wannstedt resigned at midseason. The Dolphins were 1-8 at the time but went 3-4 under Bates, including a thrilling come-from-behind victory over AFC champion and defending Super Bowl champ New England. Bates interviewed for the full-time job but lost out to LSU coach Nick Saban, even though a large group of his Dolphins players pressed for Bates to get the job on a full-time basis. That speaks volumes for the respect he had earned.

"The guys in the locker room adore him," quarterback A.J. Feeley said. Said tight end Randy McMichael: "I will play for that man anywhere, any day of the week."

"We've already made our decision. We want Coach Bates as our next coach. Period," said defensive end Jay Williams. "There's no discussion about anybody else. That's all upstairs. That's on them right now."

Bates also interviewed for the vacant Cleveland Browns head coaching position, though it appears that's going to go to Patriots defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel. Since his season is not finished, Crennel can not be hired until after the Super Bowl.

With Bates running the defense, Miami ranked eighth in yards allowed per game with 305.9 despite having four starters on injured reserve and another, AFC sack leader Adewale Ogunleye, traded to Chicago during training camp. Perhaps most important from the Packers' perspective, the Dolphins ranked second in pass defense with 162.0 yards allowed per game.

Under Slowik, the Packers ranked 25th in yards with 346.3 and 25th in pass defense with 228.9 yards allowed per game. The 33 touchdown passes allowed set a team record.

Turnovers were a huge shortcoming for the Packers. Green Bay forced 17 fumbles, recovering seven, and intercepted eight passes for a franchise-record-low 15 takeaways. Bates' Dolphins forced 22 fumbles, recovering 10, and intercepted 15 passes for 25 takeaways.

Bates will be entering his 37th year as a coach, including 15th in the NFL. He guided Miami's perennially stout defense from 2000-04. During those years, Miami's defense ranked a cumulative fifth in the NFL with 294.8 yards allowed per game. The Dolphins never finished worse than 10th in total defense. Eight Dolphins players were named to 18 Pro Bowls.

Spanning the 2002 and 2003 seasons, the Dolphins did not allow a 100-yard rusher for 20 consecutive games.

Slowik was promoted to defensive coordinator from defensive backs coach for the 2004 season after Ed Donatell was fired. Donatell's defenses forced a league-high in turnovers during his tenure in Green Bay, a huge contrast to what occurred under Slowik. Donatell, meanwhile, led an improved Falcons defense to the NFC championship game.

While the Packers have given Slowik the option of staying, it doesn't seem likely he would accept a demotion, especially when some of his players questioned his strategies. He is a possibility to be defensive coordinator at the University of Pittsburgh under Wannstedt. Slowik held the same post while Wannstedt coached the Chicago Bears.

The news release from the Packers said Slowik has not made a decision. If he does return, he likely would return to his position as defensive backs coach, a job he held from 2000-03.

Schottenheimer, meanwhile, has been hired by the Rams to guide their secondary. Schottenheimer served one season in Green Bay, after being fired after a two-year stint as defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions. Schottenheimer's season in Green Bay was stung by the meager development of rookie cornerbacks Ahmad Carroll and Joey Thomas.

The addition of Bates should help in that regard. His Dolphins pass defenses were among the elite in four of his five seasons. Along with last year's second-place standing, the Dolphins ranked 19th against the pass in 2003, eighth in 2002, first in 2001 and fifth in 2000. That 2000 defense intercepted a whopping 28 passes.

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