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Final horn blows for Bugel

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For the third time since 1995, the Oakland Raiders are searching for a new coach.

Joe Bugel, who led the Raiders to their worst record in 35 years, was fired Tuesday after one season. Oakland went 4-12 under Bugel and lost five straight to finish the season.Bugel, who has one year remaining on his contract, was promoted to the head job after two seasons as assistant head coach for offense. His predecessor, Mike White, was fired on Christmas Eve 1996 after two seasons as coach.

"We felt it was necessary to make a change," Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen said. "The record speaks for itself."

Allen said the Raiders have not yet begun interviewing for a replacement but said the team contacted the New York Jets seeking permission to talk to defensive coordinator Bill Belichick about his availability for an assistant's job in Oakland.

Allen said the Raiders also have sought permission from the Philadelphia Eagles to speak with offensive coordinator Jon Gruden about a similar position in Oakland.

SWITZER'S A NO-SHOW: Is Barry Switzer in or out? His boss isn't saying, but signs are pointing to an end to Switzer's tenure as coach after four years with the Dallas Cowboys.

Switzer, in apparent limbo after the team's worst season since 1989, was notably absent from Tuesday's news conference to announce a six-year deal for franchise offensive lineman Larry Allen.

Owner Jerry Jones offered no explanation for Switzer's no-show, and appeared somewhat irritated by the question.

"I don't have anything to say about coaching. I'm the master of ceremonies for this. I didn't need anybody else up here."

GREEN GOING PRO: Ahman Green, the star running back who helped lead Nebraska to a share of the national title, will skip his senior year to enter the NFL draft, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Green was the nation's second-leading rusher this season. He also turned in the second-best season for a running back in Nebraska history, gaining 1,877 yards.