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Woeful Panthers fire their coach

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Carolina Panthers coach George Seifert, whose team ended the season with an NFL-record 15 straight losses, said he was fired Monday.

Seifert came out of retirement to the Panthers in 1999 with the best winning percentage in NFL history and two Super Bowl titles with the San Francisco 49ers. But he was 16-32 in Carolina, and his effort to rebuild the Panthers through youth this season went terribly awry.

"I have no regrets coming back into coaching. The support group here is as great as any place," he said. "This is a great job, and guys should be banging down the doors trying to get this job."

The Panthers wrapped up their dismal season Sunday with a 38-6 loss to the New England Patriots, who clinched the AFC East title with the win.

Afterward, Seifert said he planned to be back next season to continue his rebuilding effort, despite reports he would be forced to quit or be fired.

By not resigning, Seifert is owed the remaining $5 million on the final two years of his contract with owner Jerry Richardson.

Among those mentioned as possible successors as the Panthers' coach is Steve Spurrier, who quit as University of Florida coach last week to pursue an NFL job.

Seifert held his regular Monday morning meeting with players without talking about his own situation. He told players to do their usual offseason training, and that the coaching staff would be in touch with them over the winter.

"It was the same thing he's done the past two years," safety Mike Minter said. "He just basically wrapped things up and made no mention about himself. As far as I'm concerned, he's still the coach of the team."

Before he came to the Panthers, Seifert never had a losing season in the NFL. He was 108-35 in his eight years with San Francisco.

But in his three seasons with the Panthers, Seifert never had the talent he had with the 49ers. His 8-8 mark in his first year was his best in Carolina.

Richardson, who rarely makes himself available to the media, remained silent on Seifert's situation as the losses accumulated. There was speculation he'd be reluctant to fire Seifert — after all, Seifert purged the team of many high-priced veterans last winter in order to rebuild with younger, inexperienced players on Richardson's orders.

Seifert sounded an optimistic note about the team's future, while declining to describe his own plans.

"I think there's a good nucleus and some good young players. At some point, a winning tradition will be established here," he said. "I'm disappointed in the way I'm going out as a coach, but I'm looking forward to the unknown in regards to the rest of my life."