'Today' looks to rebound from tough week

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'Today' looks to rebound from tough week
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Ryan Phillippe appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Al Roker and Natalie Morales with the Harlem Globetrotters appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Moderator Chuck Todd, left, and Willie Geist, 'Today Show' co-host, right, appear on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday, Oct. 19, 2014. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Willie Geist and Jamie Oliver appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 03: (L-R) Al Roker, WillIe Geist, Ryder Cup Captain Tom Watson, Natalie Morales Carson Daly and Robin Roberts during the TODAY Show at 30 Rockefeller Center on September 03, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Montana Pritchard/The PGA of America via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Olympic Mascot from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Usher and Tamron Hall appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 02: Today Show hosts Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Matt Lauer enjoy themselves when Counting Crows perform on NBC's 'Today' at Rockefeller Plaza on September 2, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Al Pereira/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Vincent Piazza appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Usher appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Joshua Jackson appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Hoda Kotb, Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Phillip Phillips and Carson Daly appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Maria Celeste, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Dylan Dreyer, Carson Daly and Kate Snow appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, and Al Roker appear on the 'Today' show on Thursday, October 31, 2014 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist and Dylan Dreyer speak on stage during NBC's 'Today' at the NBC's TODAY Show on September 1, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 01: (L-R) Jesse Carmichael, Mickey Madden, Adam Levine, PJ Morton, James Valentine, Carson Daly and Willie Geist speak on stage during NBC's 'Today' at the NBC's TODAY Show on September 1, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Andrew Toth/Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Jenna Bush Hager, Willie Geist and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- 08/20/2014 -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Al Roker, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Tamron Hall, Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, Willie Geist -- (Photo by: Michael Loccisano/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dreyer and Craig Melvin appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dryer and Carson Daly appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Dylan Dreyer and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker and Ryan Tedder appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Ian Ziering appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Tamron Hall appear on the 'Today' show on Thursday, October 31, 2014 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Savannah Guthrie and John Legend appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 10: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist and Samantha Guthrie host John Legend's performance on the NBC's TODAY Show on July 10, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Chance Yeh/FilmMagic)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Savannah Guthrie, Bobbie Thomas, Willie Geist and Matt Lauer appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 20: Al Roker (L) and Willie Geist celebrate the launch of TODAY Show Radio at SiriusXM Studios on June 20, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 26: (L-R) Willie Geist, Austin Mahone and Natalie Morales attend on NBC's TODAY Show on May 26, 2014 in New York, New York. (Photo by Daniel Zuchnik/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Dolly Parton appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Gina Neely, Pat Neely, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Al Roker, Hoda Kotb, Willie Geist, Kathie Lee Gifford and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Willie Geist appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Mary Sue Milken, Susan Feniger and Tamron Hall appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Jeff Goldblum appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Al Roker -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb, Kathy Lee Gifford, Carson Daly, Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Tamron Hall -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker, Dr. Nancy Snyderman from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Natalie Morales, Kathie Lee Gifford and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker, Maia Shibutani, Alex Shibutani, Natalie Morales, Willie Geist from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales and Sarah Paulson appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist, Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Michael White, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Jenna Bush Hager, Willie Geist and Courtnay Smith appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Hoda Kotb and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Charlie Palmer, Brooke Shields and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tara Lipinski and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) NBC News' Natalie Morales, Willie Geist, Al Roker and actor Orlando Bloom appear on NBC News' 'Today' show on December 13, 2013 -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Willie Geist and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Willie Geist appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly as Officer Jon Baker, Erik Estrada, Al Roker as Mr. T, Kathie Lee Gifford as Wilma Flintstone, Hoda Kotb as Betty Rubble, Natalie Morales as Shirley Feeney, Savannah Guthrie as Laverne De Fazio, Matt Lauer as C.J., Carmen Electra and Willie Geist as David Hasselhoff's Mitchappear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie and Tamron Hall appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Carson Daly, Natalie Morales, Jamie Oliver and Al Roker appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 21: Natalie Morales, Olivia Newton-John and Marlen Lanvin perform during Olivia Newton-John's residency 'Summer Nights' at the Flamingo Las Vegas on August 21, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales and Savannah Guthrie appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Natalie Morales appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Natalie Morales, Savannah Guthrie, Matt Lauer, Jason Mraz -- (Photo by: Heidi Gutman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Natalie Morales appears on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Al Roker and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: (l-r) Tamron Hall, Willie Geist, Hulk Hogan and Natalie Morales appear on NBC News' 'Today' show -- (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
TODAY -- Pictured: Natalie Morales from the 2014 Olympics in Socci -- (Photo by: Joe Scarnici/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) - It's rarely a good sign when morning television hosts are painfully bantering about whether they are keeping their jobs.

That's where Willie Geist and Natalie Morales found themselves during the most difficult week for NBC's "Today" show in two years. At its end, an NBC News executive was fired after two months on the job and the network was tamping down reports of mutinies, firings and transfers at the lucrative morning franchise.

It was an unwanted reminder of the ugly firing of Ann Curry from "Today" in 2012, which helped ABC's rival "Good Morning America" fly past NBC to the top of the morning heap.

"It's reopening the same wound," said Shelley Ross, a veteran producer who ran morning shows at ABC and CBS.

Now NBC News is searching again for an executive to oversee its most important broadcast.

It was considered a coup when NBC lured Jamie Horowitz from ESPN for a newly created job as "Today" brand manager. Horowitz wasn't to concern himself with filling four hours of television a day, but to look at the big picture. "Today" was no longer in a free fall with viewers but hadn't made appreciable progress narrowing ABC's lead.

By all accounts, he was in the midst of studying and creating a plan for the show's future.

'Today' Show Anchors Address Firing Rumors Live On the Air

The first sign of trouble came with a tabloid report of feuding between Morales and colleague Tamron Hall. That had to anger NBC News President Deborah Turness, who was burned by how the dismissal of David Gregory from "Meet the Press" played out in an ugly public fashion.

A week ago, Turness announced that Horowitz was out, telling her staff in a memo that she was convinced that it was "not the right fit."

That prompted a flurry of anonymous reports describing sinking morale and backbiting at the show, even an intercession by Matt Lauer when he heard of proposed changes. When it culminated in a story that Geist and Morales were being fired, presumably an idea that predated Horowitz's ouster, Turness issued a strongly worded statement supporting the current "Today" cast.

"In response to the false rumors that have been circulated about our anchor team, NBC wants to be absolutely clear," Turness said. "The rumors are wrong - period. This is the team we are committed to."

On-air personnel issues are particularly touchy on morning television, which creates an illusion of "family" with viewers.

So it felt like an uncomfortable Thanksgiving family dinner table when Hall, Morales and Al Roker gathered around the anchor desk the day after the debunked report appeared. Geist was onscreen from Brooklyn, where he was doing a report.

"When I didn't see you this morning when I walked in, being your usual diva self, I thought you were gone," Hall said to Geist.

"Natalie and I walked in yesterday, looked at each other and said, what are you doing here?" Geist said.

Yuk, yuk.

For Turness, who has been on the job for more than a year, the episode could cut one of two ways: She's a strong boss who moved quickly when it was clear something wasn't working, or she made a disastrous personnel choice.

"It depends on her relationship with her management," said Richard Wald, a former network news executive now teaching at Columbia University. "There isn't a simple answer."

"Today" should concentrate on fixing the show, and that doesn't mean casting anchors aside, Ross said.

NBC News will now look for a new "Today" brand manager, with the Horowitz episode sure to leave questions in the minds of potential applicants: Will I really have the freedom to make changes? If it comes down to my opinion versus a powerful anchor's, do I really have a chance?

"You have to have the sense that you're good at what you do," Wald said. "That requires a bit of ego. The people who are looking at this kind of work say, 'I won't make those mistakes. I'll be successful.'"

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