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The World Of Coaching



DallasCowboys.com Columnist

January 13, 2004, 5:05 p.m. (CST)

IRVING, Texas - Of the coaching carousel, coaching decisions and retro coaches as we head toward the NFL's conference championship weekend, something the Cowboys now have not been a part of in the past eight years . . . .

Hard to tell how serious Oakland owner Al Davis is in Cowboys assistants Sean Payton and Maurice Carthon. Payton interviewed with Davis and general manager Mike Lombardi on Monday for the vacant Raiders head coaching job. Carthon flew up to Oakland Tuesday morning for his interview. Both are young assistants on the rise, but frankly who knows what Davis is looking for this time around. He's been all over the map. Let's see, he's talked with Dennis Green, since taking the Arizona job. He's talked with Kansas City offensive coordinator Al Saunders, a 20-year NFL veteran, including three as the San Diego Chargers head coach back in the late 80's. He was interested in San Francisco offensive coordinator Jeff Knapp, who since has fled the Bay Area to join Jim Mora Jr. in Atlanta. Davis received permission to talk with Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Mike Mularkey, but Mularkey turned him down, presumably fixing to follow former Pittsburgh exec Tom Donahoe to Buffalo as the head coach. And supposedly St. Louis defensive coordinator Lovie Smith is on his "long" list, but he's ticketed as a finalist, along with Pittsburgh offensive line coach Russ Grimm, for the Chicago head coaching job. You with me on all this? And how about throwing this name into the fire? Rick Neuhisel. So when you look at this group, who's to say Payton or Carthon aren't serious candidates? That is, unless Davis continues the trend of NFL retro coaches by bringing back Art Shell or something . . . .

Speaking of retro coaches, guess we can say Cowboys owner Jerry Jones began a trend with his hiring of Bill Parcells just about a year ago. Look at what Washington has done and is doing. Not only have the Redskins turned back the clock more than a decade by hiring Joe Gibbs, he in turns has brought back Joe Bugel to be his offensive line coach, just like the old days. And if that weren't enough, hold onto your seat for this one: Sources say Gibbs will hire one Ernie Zampese to be like an offensive consultant since it seems likely Gibbs will coordinate his own offense. Zampese? Dear Ernie last coordinated an offense in New England (1999) and was re-hired by Jones as an offensive consultant to aid Jack Reilly in 2000-01 with the Cowboys. When he supposedly retired from the NFL after those two seasons, he then went to St. Louis to be an offensive consultant for Mike Martz, and told me how lucky he was to keep his hand in the NFL. But "Ernest," as his dear wife Joyce called him, suffered a stroke back in September. Evidently bad enough to forget he "liked" smoking, and boy did Ernie like his smokes. But evidently Gibbs wants some old-time offensive religion, and he's tapping his former coaching buddy, the two assistants on Don Coryell's San Diego staff back in the late 70's before Gibbs rose to fame in Washington. Now that's some clock turning, there . . . .

Now for some less fortunate coaching moves. Bill Bates, who spent 15 years playing for the Cowboys and then another five years as an assistant coach, was fired in Jacksonville after just one season. And not just fired, mind you, but cut loose by friend and former teammate Jack Del Rio, who hired him as his special teams coach this past off-season. Bates had a chance to remain with Parcells as a defensive assistant, helping Mike Zimmer with the secondary, but wanted to do his own deal, getting the opportunity to take care of special teams. Evidently, that didn't work out too well for Bates, who after all these years uprooted his horde of five kids for the move to the Atlantic shoreline . . . . And I guess someone had to take the fall in Kansas City after they bottomed out the end of the season, and there goes defensive coordinator Greg Robinson, resigning on Tuesday. While head coach Dick Vermeil shed a tear, of course, he also approved, and probably with good reason since the Chiefs (13-3) gave up 172 points in the final six games, which includes 38 to Indy in Sunday's playoff loss. Included in those six games was getting slammed for 45 points by Denver and Minnesota and the 38 by Indy in losing three of their final five games . . . .

So say what you want about the Cowboys defense, ranked No. 1 in the NFL but short on takeaways, or trash on Parcells' conservative offensive approach, but at least the Cowboys held opponents to less than 30 points in 14 of 17 games and did toss in seven games of no more than 12 points . . . . As it turned out, the Cowboys faced four backup quarterbacks and Philly's Donovan McNabb when his thumb still was mighty sore and Miami's Jay Fiedler in his first start after his lengthy absence. They finished 4-2 in those games, losing badly to Miami and the opener to the Michael Vick-less Falcons, but beating the Jets, Philly, Washington and the Giants . . . . By the way, how does this happen? The Panthers do not get flagged for one penalty - NOT ONE - in their 29-10 playoff victory over the Cowboys but the next week are nailed with 13. One of those things - I guess . . . . Cowboys consultant Paul Warfield at least got his foot in the Miami door for an interview, one of seven, before the Dolphins turned over some front-office duties to Dan Marino. Hope the Dolphins realize pulling the trigger on personnel decisions is a lot harder than just aiming the gun on some pre-game show. Ask Matt Millen . . . .

Now that was nice for nowhere-land wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson to start recruiting prospective teams this past Sunday on the Fox pre-game show, saying he was most interested in playing for New England, Dallas and Baltimore. But there are some hurdles there before you start panting. First, Tampa Bay still owns his rights, and probably will be trolling for a trade. Secondly, he didn't say if he was offering a discount to play for either of his two former coaches, Parcells or Bill Belichick. And lastly, how much would you pay for a going on 32-year-old wide receiver who is not that fast to start with? Just asking . . . . Same with Tim Brown, who also says he'd like to return to his hometown of Dallas to finish out his career. Great. But he's going on 38. Would he be insulted by a $1 million offer, with only a couple hundred thou up front? . . .

And speaking of wide receivers, while there is this highly-held opinion the Cowboys must do something with Joey Galloway's contract, Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones didn't seem to be chomping at the bit to get something done. He said if some restructuring did occur in Galloway's $8 million cap hit, "It could happen between now and March 1 or after that." His point being, the Cowboys are in good cap shape and don't have to do this just to do business in the off-season . . . . And owner Jerry Jones sure didn't sound like a man ready to run off offensive guard Larry Allen, whose cap charge this coming season will be $5.5 million: "While Larry really struggled early, as the season came along, everything he was dealing with came together. I look for Larry Allen to have a better year in the coming season." . . . And really, with still $8.26 million of unaccounted prorated signing bonus, the Cowboys really need Allen to have a better year for years to come . . . .

Can you believe it, St. Louis head coach Mike Martz attributed his ultra-conservative approach to the end of regulation in that eventual 29-23 playoff loss to Carolina to what he learned in last year's 13-10 loss to the Cowboys? That's the Cowboys. Martz said he remembered cheating his team out of a chance to win when boldly trying to go deep on a third down late in the game, only to have quarterback Jamie Martin sacked, forcing a 49-yard field goal Jeff Wilkins missed. The Cowboys would turn around to drive for Billy Cundiff's game-winning 48-yarder as time expired. Because of that, Martz, trailing 23-20 with the ball on the Carolina 19 and more than a minute to play, chose not only to not clock the ball and stop the clock or use his lone remaining timeout before the three-second mark, he never even allowed quarterback Marc Bulger to throw for the end zone and the win. "I learned from that Cowboys game a year ago, taking that shot - and how devastated the players were when it backfired." Hmmm, wonder how devastated the Rams were after losing in double overtime? At home? To Carolina?

By the way, smoke this one: Carolina and the Cowboys are the last two teams to defeat St. Louis at home, the Cowboys back on Sept. 29, 2002, and then the Panthers 15 games later.

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The only "trend" I wanna see is the Cowboys going BACK to those wonderful 5-11 seasons

Bubba, what's up with the Peyton Manning sig?

Have you been talking to my dad or pineaded older brother the Colts fans and one of them talked you into it to bug me?

I wouldn't put it past them ;)

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