Sports Outside the Beltway

Dallas Cowboys Next Head Coach

There is, naturally, quite a bit of speculation as to who will replace Bill Parcells as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys.

Mickey Spagnola reads between the lines in owner Jerry Jones’ statements and believes “you can probably rule out any college head coach lacking NFL experience. That probably means no Bob Stoops, no Tommy Tuberville, no Houston Nutt, no Les Myles, no Mack Brown. Jones thinks the learning curve is not conducive to picking up where Parcells has left off.”

I hope that’s right.

He thinks Dan Reeves is a strong possibility, despite being aged 63, because of his ties to the Cowboys and his success with young quarterbacks. I certainly wouldn’t complain, as I’ve got a lot of respect for Reeves, who I think is underrated.

Other names he throws out:

Mike Sherman, recently named the offensive coordinator in Houston; Steve Mariucci, working at NFL Network; Wade Phillips, defensive coordinator in San Diego; former Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner; and maybe even former Cowboys assistant Jim Bates, a one-time interim head coach in Miami (2004) recently hired by Denver as assistant head coach. As for some of the guys considered top assistants in waiting of head coach jobs, that would include Rex and Rob Ryan – Buddy’s boys – Indy quarterbacks coach Jim Caldwell, former Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis recently hired in Carolina, Jacksonville defensive coordinator Mike Smith, Chicago defensive coordinator Ron Rivera.

Rivera would definitely be intriguing. I’m generally not a fan of re-cycling failed ex-coaches and don’t know that much about most of the assistants being mentioned.

Todd Archer reports Jones will interview three in-house candidates: “offensive assistants Tony Sparano and Todd Haley as well as secondary coach Todd Bowles.” He notes, “Jones has promoted from within before, bumping up Dave Campo from defensive coordinator in 2001. Campo, however, had a 15-33 record as coach, prompting Jones to go after Parcells.” Which is precisely why he won’t go in-house again, I think.

Rick Gosselin thinks the key is finding someone who can get the most of out young talent.

With salary-cap limits, you must play youth. That means drafting well and playing them early on. Neither Gibbs nor Parcells grasped that. They tried to win the way they won in the 1980s – with older players.


Old teams tend to play their best football early in the season when the legs are fresh. The Cowboys faded badly in December.

So Jones won’t be merely changing head coaches in 2007. He’ll be changing philosophies.

Jones needs to find a coach willing to play young players and let them develop – as Jimmy Johnson did in the early 1990s. As Tony Dungy does every year at Indianapolis. Someone who is up to speed with how today’s game is played.


Caldwell has interviewed for head coaching vacancies at Arizona in 2007 and Buffalo in 2006. So he’s legit. If in fact the Cowboys believe Tony Romo is the answer at quarterback, it’s in their best interest to bring in someone who can accelerate his development.

Caldwell has spent the last five years working with the best quarterback in the NFL – Peyton Manning. So he has plenty of coaching expertise to offer a young quarterback. He also would implement the Indianapolis offense that has ranked in the top three in yards each of the last four seasons.

Norm Chow also would be a consideration. He, too, interviewed at Arizona this month. In the last three seasons, Chow coached Matt Leinart to a Heisman Trophy at Southern Cal in 2004 and Vince Young to NFL Rookie of the Year honors at Tennessee in 2006. So he has plenty to offer an emerging young quarterback, as well.

Like Caldwell, Chow appreciates the need to play and develop youngsters. Having spent 22 seasons in the college game, Chow knows how to turn over a roster every four years. He also was the offensive coordinator on the youngest team in the NFL in 2006 – a Tennessee team that finished 8-8.

Mike Martz would be the proven commodity if Jones wants to hire with his offense and quarterback in mind. Young Brian Schottenheimer (Jets) would be the unproven commodity. Also, Jones has a history with Norv Turner. Never discount history with Jones.

Even bringing Gailey back from Georgia Tech would be a thought. In hindsight, it was a mistake firing him in 1999 after back-to-back playoff appearances.

While the idea of returning to the Gailey era makes me cringe, he’s got a point. I’m not really a Martz fan, either, but the man knows offense.

Given that Charlie Wies is bound up in an incredibly expensive contract to buy out of, going with a proven pro coach makes the most sense. I tend to prefer a young up-and-coming coordinator who could ostensibly coach here for years. Then again, Reeves is intriguing.

Recycling a head coach who has failed before, especially in multiple stops, is among the least attractive options. It worked for the Patriots in Bill Bellichick but it’s not a bet I’d like to make.

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