Benson Boogies With More Big Moves

(From The New Orleans Times-Picayune)

New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson moved quickly to stabilize his organization Friday, reaching an agreement with Coach Jim Haslett on a four-year contract extension and promoting director of football operations Mickey Loomis to general manager. Both announcements will come Monday, NFL sources said. Loomis, 45, will oversee Haslett and Director of Player Personnel Rick Mueller, brother of former GM Randy Mueller, who was fired Thursday. Haslett's new contract runs through 2005 and calls for him to be paid $2 million annually, sources said, which will place him among the top 15 highest-paid NFL coaches. He was among the lowest paid at $900,000 last season. Arnold Fielkow will remain in his position as the team's director of administration. Loomis accepted the job Friday after discussing the matter with longtime friend and colleague Randy Mueller, who had one year remaining on his contract worth $650,000. Loomis' contract as GM runs through the 2002 season. "I think Mickey will make a great GM," Randy Mueller said. "The Saints won't miss a beat." Although Benson indicated he likely would restructure the football operations and possibly eliminate the title of general manager altogether, it appears the setup is exactly the same as before Thursday's events. The primary difference is Haslett and Rick Mueller will handle all personnel decisions, and Loomis, one of Randy Mueller's first hires in January 2000, will deal primarily with contract negotiations, the salary cap and oversee all football operations. Randy Mueller called all personnel shots during his two-year tenure. Benson, Loomis and Haslett could not be reached for comment. Since joining the organization Loomis has been responsible for salary-cap management and contract negotiations.

He worked for the Seattle Seahawks from 1983 to 1998 with Mueller, spending the last seven years as their executive vice president. Benson wasted little time in finding Mueller's replacement, electing to promote from within his organization instead of conducting a national search. At Thursday's press conference Benson addressed that issue, saying, "if necessary we will go outside, but I would hope we got the talent that can work within the framework of what we need to do within our organization. And I think it's here. We got some great talent. We got a lot of great people in this organization, and we're going to rely on all of them." Benson huddled behind closed doors Friday with lawyers Stanley Rosenberg and Tom Roddy, hammering out contract details for Loomis, Haslett and all assistant coaches. The contracts for Haslett's assistants also will run through the 2005 season. Haslett, 46, has guided the Saints to an 18-16 record in two seasons, winning the NFC West title and the franchise's first playoff victory in 2000. After being chosen NFL Coach of the Year in 2000 his team struggled down the stretch in 2001, losing its last four games by a combined score of 160-52. The Saints finished third in the NFC West (7-9).