San Diego San Diego Chargers president Dean Spanos said Monday he would not let coach Mike Riley out of his contract if Southern California offers him its vacant job.
"I'm holding him to it, yeah, absolutely," Spanos said. "He has a contract here. He has already said that he wants to be here."
Riley, though, seemed to think he has some wiggle room, because he refused to end the speculation that he could end up at USC, if he's offered the job.
"I guess I'm just not willing to do that," Riley said a day after the Chargers, who have an NFL-worst 1-13 record, set the franchise record for losses in a season with their 24-3 defeat at Baltimore.
"I don't really have a clear-cut picture of how it's going to end," said Riley, who first spoke with USC officials last Tuesday and then again on Friday. "I've made the statement that I want to coach football next year. I wish I could end the speculation, but that speculation is not in my hands."
When asked if he'd been told by the Chargers that they wouldn't stand in his way if he got an offer from USC, Riley said: "Let that come from Dean."
But if the Chargers wouldn't let Riley out of his contract, it wouldn't make sense that he was still in the running for the USC job.
"Let's just say I wouldn't be. You're right," Riley said. "That's a correct statement."
Riley appears to be looking out for his best interests, because while Spanos said he'd like to have the coach back next year, he hasn't assured him that he will be back. Riley has three years remaining on a guaranteed five-year, $3.75 million deal he received when he was hired in January 1999.
Spanos reiterated that he will sit down with Riley after the season to evaluate how to avoid another disastrous season.
"At the end of the year, we're going to sit down and come up with a very definite plan in terms of going forward in terms of the Chargers and this organization, and he feels good about it and I feel good about it, then we'll proceed," Spanos said.
And there's a chance that Spanos could fire Riley, who is 9-21 in two seasons in San Diego.
"That's always a possibility," Spanos said. "That surely is not the way we are looking at it. I would be extremely disappointed if that happened."