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NFL Lists Cowboys OC Scott Linehan As One Of Six Head Coach Candidates

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After helping turn a 4-12 season into a 10-1 start, Linehan is one of the hottest names on the head coaching candidates list.

NFL: Chicago Bears at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

NFL’s Career Development Advisory Panel has compiled a preliminary list of recommended candidates for head coaching jobs that are bound to be available after the season. This year’s preliminary six-man list includes Cowboys offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan, who's been instrumental in transforming last year's 4-12 unit into this year's 10-1 team.

Pro Football Talk is reporting that these are the names on the preliminary list:

  • Scott Linehan Cowboys OC
  • Harold Goodwin, Cardinals OC
  • Teryl Austin, Lions DC
  • Matt Patricia, Patriots DC
  • Vance Joseph, Dolphins DC
  • Jim Harbaugh, Michigan HC

As PFT explains, “this year, the Career Development Advisory Panel consists of Tony Dungy, Charley Casserly, Carl Peterson, Bill Polian, Jimmy Raye Sr., James “Shack” Harris, Ernie Accorsi, Dick Daniels, and John Madden. Their list will be finalized on December 8, and it will be distributed to teams on December 10."

Little-known fact: Linehan was the first person to hire Garrett for an NFL coaching job, when he hired him as Miami’s QB coach when he was Miami's offensive coordinator in 2005. When Linehan moved on to the head coaching job in St. Louis, he unsuccessfully tried to hire Garrett as his offensive coordinator.

In 2014, the roles were reversed, and head coach Jason Garrett hired Linehan as his offensive coordinator. At the time, Bill Callahan held the title of offensive coordinator, so Linehan was installed as the "passing game coordinator". Callahan retained his title, but had to give up playcalling duties to Linehan, who was the OC in all but title. When Callahan left for Washington after the 2014 season, Linehan was formally installed as the offensive coordinator.

Foxsports recently named Linehan as one of five NFL coordinators who will become head coaches in 2017, so his inclusion on the NFL's list shouldn't come as too big a surprise.

The Cowboys are third in yards, fourth in points, first in rushing and are 8-1 – all of this with rookies at quarterback and running back. Linehan has done a remarkable job devising a game plan and scheme that suits Dak Prescott’s game. While he’s certainly great in the pocket, Linehan has drawn up more moving pockets, more read-option, and simpler reads for Prescott than he would have with Tony Romo under center. He took a seemingly disastrous situation with Romo and Bryant injured yet again and turned Dallas into the league’s best team.

Linehan had a brief head coaching stint with the Rams from 2006-08, going 11-25 in that span. He rebounded by working with Matthew Stafford and the Lions for a few years before joining the Cowboys last year. Dallas would love to have him back in 2017, but he might choose to test the waters as a head coach somewhere.

Linehan has a long history of having success with quarterbacks, and his most recent success with Dak Prescott will likely make a him a prime candidate for any team with a new quarterback.

In January 2015, Linehan and Cowboys DC Rod Marinelli signed three-year contract extensions that would keep them in Dallas until after the 2017 season. At the time, Jerry Jones said the pay range for both coordinators would make them among the highest-paid assistant coaches in the NFL.

There is no salary cap for coaches, so Jerry Jones could conceivably offer Linehan whatever pay raise would be needed to keep him in Dallas as offensive coordinator, but would Linehan be willing to forsake a chance at a second head coaching job just for more money?

The Cowboys can block any interview that is not for a head coaching position, as they did most recently when they blocked Bill Callahan from interviewing with the Browns in 2014. But they can't block Linehan from interviewing for a head coaching vacancy.

We'll know soon enough whether Linehan will take interviews: Per NFL rules, coaches on the top two seeds in either conference can interview with another team during the week of their bye, and with the Cowboys looking good for one of those seeds in the NFC, Linehan might be fielding interviews in early January. Also per NFL rules, those interviews would have to take place in Dallas.