— The line starts at the left for Bill Cowher. Single file please.
Take a number for Mike Shanahan. We currently are serving No. 23.
If you are interested in Jon Gruden, leave your name, number and how much power and money you would be willing to give him. If his curiosity is piqued, we will call back.
It seems like former NFL head coaches who have had success in the league are all the rage these days. Forget that most of them were fired from their previous teams. If they had the answers once, they surely can have them again, right?
The beauty of hiring a coach like Cowher is you know much more about what kind of head coach he would be than you could ever know about a coach who never has been where Cowher has — in charge of an NFL team.
“Coaches like Cowher have a history of success, and in some cases, long-term success,” said one AFC front office executive. “With one of them, you feel you are buying a total package. It’s instant credibility with your fan base. If they have been out for one year, they have had a chance to evaluate themselves and make changes.”
The rumor mill already has Shanahan lined up for the Redskins job, or perhaps the Cowboys job if that opens up. And Cowher might be set up to be the next Panthers coach, assuming a change is made there.
There are basically four categories of coaching candidates from which NFL teams can choose.
The first is comprised of former successful coaches who are sitting it out like Tony Dungy, Mike Holmgren, Brian Billick and Herm Edwards.
The second category is former head coaches who are serving time as assistants. Among those who could get play in this category are Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers, Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, Broncos defensive coordinator Mike Nolan and Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams.
The third category is NFL assistant coaches who have yet to be head coaches. Among the candidates who will get a look this year are Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Vikings defensive coordinator Les Frazier, Titans offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer.
The final category is college head coaches. Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, Oklahoma’s Bob Stoops, Southern Cal’s Pete Carroll, Connecticut’s Randy Edsall and Stanford’s Jim Harbaugh could generate interest.
What every team is looking for is a sure thing, a coach who promises the least amount of unwanted surprises. And the coaches with blueprints that have worked once often are the most appealing as a result.
Part of coaching is being a salesman — to the players, the fans, the media and the team owner. Nothing sells like a track record of success. “Owners don’t want to have to jump through a lot of hoops,” the front office executive said. “They want success now. The easiest way to get that might be with a guy with a track record.”
Whether what worked before will work again is unknown, however. As they say in the personnel wings of many teams, the NFL still is more about Jimmys and Joes than Xs and Os.
Among the coaches who have had great success with one team but not as much with another have been Jimmy Johnson, George Seifert, Dan Reeves and Dick Vermeil. “Coaches who fail the first time sometimes do better the second time than coaches who have won Super Bowls then come back with a second team and try to do it again,” the front office man said. “Other than Bill Parcells, there aren’t a lot of coaches who have been successful with one team, and then as successful a second time.”
Sometimes, successful coaches may lose their edge as they age or get satisfied. Other times, they might suffer from not being surrounded with the right assistants, personnel men or even ownership.
The truth is there is no perfect coaching candidate. But it’s harder to see the faults of the candidates when the glare of their Super Bowl rings is causing you to squint.
Q: Hey Dan, what kind of action can Bill Belichick take on Randy Moss slacking off lately, at practice and during the game Sunday? Or do you side with all the guys who think Moss didn’t do anything wrong?
— Joe Casola, Kansas City, Mo.
A: Look, Moss has been taking off a play here, a play there for his entire career. This is nothing new. I don’t agree with it and don’t endorse it. I think every player owes it to his team and himself to play hard on every play.
But when you have as much talent as Moss does, you look at things a little differently than the rest of us. Usually, when it happens it’s on a play away from him and no harm is done.
There really isn’t much Belichick can do about it, other than berate, plead and teach. But the good Moss has done for the Patriots this year far outweighs the bad.
Q: How would you rate Perry Fewell’s performance thus far? Will the Bills give him a chance to be the coach permanently?
— Chris T., Buffalo, N.Y.
A: I think Fewell has done pretty well as the Bills’ interim head coach, and he should be given a long look for the permanent position. He has a 2-2 record as head coach. It really isn’t fair to judge interim coaches by their won-loss record, however.
Of course, the NFL is a bottom line league, but interim coaches have their hands tied. It is wiser to judge them by their leadership ability, their impact on the players and the direction they take the team.
Q: If 2010 is an uncapped year, can teams just release players that have not earned their contracts, i.e. JaMarcus Russell or Adalius Thomas? Are the salaries guaranteed in an uncapped year? Will we see teams dumping high priced veterans that don’t perform at high levels?
— Nate Socia, Helena, Mont.
A: Yes, we will see a lot of underperforming players with big contracts cut if there is an uncapped year. Normally, teams are hesitant to cut these players because a portion of their contract would be “accelerated” into the current year’s salary cap.
But if there is no cap, there is no acceleration. Teams subsequently will be more free to rid themselves of past mistakes if they so choose.
Q: I just watched Eli Manning fumble the ball when falling to the ground. What happened to the the rule that states simply "The ground CANNOT cause a fumble."? Are there exceptions to this rule? The officials even reviewed the call. What the heck?
— Steven D. Riggle, Walla Walla, Wash.
A: The ground cannot cause a fumble if the player is tackled because once the player is on the ground, the play is dead. But the ground can cause a fumble if the player falls without being tackled, because the play still is alive.