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A Premature Look at Prospective 2011 Cowboys Head Coaches



I swore to myself I'd hold off on this sort of article. It smacks of being overly reactionary and unsupportive of Wade Phillips and what he tries to do for the rest of the season. I want to begin by stating that I'm not dooming the Cowboys 2010 season. I don't hate Wade Phillips, and I'm not advocating his immediate removal as head coach.

That being said, this has always been a super-bowl-or-bust season for Wade, and it's not very likely that, even if Wade rights the ship, that he rights it upright enough to rightly save his job. With no offense intended to anyone who writes those sort of articles, I think the "doom and gloom of what went wrong" is a little overdone at this stage. I'd like to inject something slightly new and different: a look at all of the possible head coaches that can land a job in Big D. So, without further adieu (and after the jump)... "And now for something completely different."

John Gruden

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Resume: Aside from a Super Bowl appearance by a man who was using what was essentially Gruden's team, Jon Gruden was one of the last Raiders coaches to have any sort of legitimate success under Al Davis. After being traded to Tampa Bay to become their head coach, Gruden won a Super Bowl in his first season. Gruden posts a respectable 95-81 win-loss record in the regular season, and a 5-4 post season winning record.

The Good: Gruden is a well-respected former head-coach who boasts a Super Bowl win on his resume, as well as a winning record. He is well-known for his fiery, enthusiastic demeanor--something many Cowboys fans long for after what has been perceived as an apathetic Phillips regime. Part of the Mike Holmgren coaching tree as well.

The Bad: Gruden, for what it's worth, has never been a long-tenured coach anywhere. His only Super Bowl win was in his first year with another team, leading some to assert that Gruden merely won with Tony Dungy's team. Upon his firing from Tampa Bay, it was said that many players had lost their respect for Coach Gruden, who they thought was often too harsh on them.

My Slant: Gruden is my personal favorite at this point. Some accuse him of winning the Super Bowl with Dungy's team, but they neglect the fact that Gruden made many big changes to the roster upon taking over as head coach, including a complete retooling of the Buccaneer's offense. Gruden's limited success after his Super Bowl season should mostly be attributed to walking into a very unfavorable situation: Tampa Bay gave up much in terms of draft picks to acquire Gruden, and already had a very unfavorable salary-cap situation. Gruden is a student of the game, and probably would spend all of his time studying film if he could--he loves that kind of stuff. The type of offense that he runs would be perfect given the kinds of players the Cowboys have.

Bill Cowher

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Resume: Bill Cowher's resume speaks for itself. Aside from the late, great Tom Landry, Cowher's 15 years of leading the Steelers made him the longest tenured coach with any one team. Cowher went 149-90-1 as a head coach, with a 12-9 postseason winning record. He took the Steelers to a remarkable six AFC Championships, finished first in his division 8 times, and appeared in two Super Bowls. He had the grace to lose to the Cowboys in one of them, giving him one Super Bowl win as a head coach.

The Good: Not much to say here, Cowher's resume already having been listed. Like Gruden, Cowher sports a feisty attitude as he patrols the sidelines, his nickname "The Chin" being a reflection of this. Cowher is one of the most respected coaches of his time, both by his players and those outside the organization. Much to the ire of my fellow Cowboys fans, the Steelers were the model of consistency during Cowher's time with the Steelers. He brings a toughness and passion for the game that's almost unrivaled by any other coach.

The Bad:  There really isn't much bad with Cowher. However, in 15 seasons as a head coach, one would think Cowher could have won more than one Super Bowl, which came towards the end of his career. The odds of Cowher going back into coaching are low enough, though the unfortunate passing of his wife may lead to his returning to the sidelines once more. The Panthers organization seems to be strongly courting Cowher, and it's very possible that he would rather coach in a place he calls home, Carolina, than anywhere else--especially when he's being made out to be the heir apparent to John Fox, much like Shanahan was to Jim Zorn.

My Slant: Wishful thinking, for the most part, though I wouldn't necessarily rule it out. One also has to at least wonder what being out of the game for 4 years does to a head coach. Also to be called into question is Cowher's willingness to work with a heavy-handed owner like Jerry Jones. Regardless, Cowher to Dallas is definitely a possibility, and it would be  the best thing to happen to the franchise since Jimmy Johnson.

John Fox

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Resume: John Fox, though lacking a Super Bowl ring, has taken his team to a Super Bowl. This occurred in his second year with the Carolina Panthers, a team that only won a single game in the year prior to his hiring. In addition to being able to boast a dramatic turnaround, John Fox has a winning record as a head coach, going 71-62 and 5-3 in the postseason.

The Good: John Fox is a high-character individual and a hard-working coach. He's had a career winning record as a head coach, and was a decorated defensive coordinator before that. Fox has been in football a long time, and has pretty much "been there and done that" with almost any situation.

The Bad: Fox actually reminds me a little bit of Wade Phillips. Not that there's anything inherently wrong with that, but if dramatic change is what the organization needs and fans want, then Fox isn't exactly the route to go. Like Wade, Fox is a defensive coordinator turned head coach whose team has been marked by both success and periods of unexpected mediocrity. Fox is a good, but not great head coach, and there are simply better candidates out there.

My Slant: For better or worse, Fox is the favorite of several media members to land the Dallas job when he inevitably loses his in Carolina. Fox and Jones get along, and his willingness and desire to stand aside and "just coach" while Jones & Co. handle personnel decisions makes him a likely hire for Jerry. As has already been stated, however, Fox doesn't exactly take the Cowboys in a new and exciting direction and provides more of the same sort of role that Wade currently fills.

Kyle Shanahan

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Resume: Shanahan is an "up-and-coming" type of coach, so his resume isn't exactly long. This year marks just his third year as an offensive coordinator, now with his father in Washington. Shanahan oversaw one of the more explosive offenses in the NFL in his two years as the coordinator for the Texans, and mentored both Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub during his time as a positions coach.

The Good: Shanahan is widely regarded as an excellent coordinator, and several media members consider him to be a good future hire for any team. Shanahan is young, bright, and seems to have been groomed from a very young age by his father to be an NFL coach--even how learning under his dad in Washington.

The Bad: Most of the fanbase wants a proven head coach--something that Shanahan is not. He doesn't have the decades of NFL experience that the other prospects have. During his time as a coordinator, he hasn't obtained the sort of no-nonsense demeanor that Dallas fans long for, either. With any coach that's younger than many of his players, his age is a big question mark--does it make it more difficult for him to become a leader among the players he coaches?

My Slant: For those wanting fresh blood, Shanahan is an excellent choice. He's had success as a coordinator and has learned from the best, working under both Gruden and his father. As is the case with coordinators with prospects of becoming a head coach, his role in the 2011 job market is yet to be determined this early in the football season. I suppose I'd list Shanahan as a "dark-horse" candidate at this point. Potentially coaching against his father would make quite an interesting story, however.

Candidates that Merit Mention:

Leslie Frazier is another coordinator that should be in line for a head coaching position. He won't land the job in Dallas because he runs a 4-3 scheme, but he'll make an excellent head coach somewhere else.

Brian Schottenheimer's name has been uttered by many to be a potential head coaching candidate for someone. I'm not incredibly impressed by his resume, and with the other head coaching candidates available, I don't think Jerry Jones will be either.

Chris Petersen, or any other college coach. Don't look for the Cowboys to pull somebody from the college ranks this time around.

Jason Garrett. No. Just, no. Garrett's offenses have been explosive, but they simply don't put points on the board. His playcalling brilliance has come as flashes in the pan, rather than over consistent spans. At the end of the season, Jerry will probably not have enough faith to promote an in-house guy. His work and rapport with quarterback Tony Romo is worthy of mention, however.

Wade Phillips. Phillips retaining his job as the Cowboys head coach doesn't seem likely anymore, but it wouldn't necessarily surprise me if he's the head coach of the Cowboys in 2011. After a 1-4 start, it would take a Super Bowl appearance or a very close NFC Championship loss for Phillips to retain his job. Phillips is the good-hearted kind of guy that he would actually consider staying on staff as the Cowboys' defensive coordinator. However, he's also the good-hearted kind of guy who Jerry doesn't want to insult in that manner, and you'd have to wonder how the new coach would win over the locker room with the previously sacked head coach still on staff.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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