We’re not saying things will get bad enough with the Dallas Cowboys to force a change, but if they do…
By Matthew Postins
For the second straight week the Dallas Cowboys were dogged by rumors of a potential new head coach. Last week it was Sean Payton. This week it’s Mike Holmgren. It is possible, after all, to forget the Cowboys do have a head coach, given all the chatter surrounding the job.
On Sunday CBSSports.com’s Jason LaCanfora reported that sources close to Holmgren told him that the Dallas Cowboys were the one team Holmgren would consider coaching for when he leaves Cleveland after this season. Naturally, LaCanfora didn’t reveal his sources and Holmgren has since refuted the story. In fact, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones felt the need to refute the story as well.
But the timing is curious, since the Cleveland Browns are in town this weekend to face the Cowboys and theoretically Holmgren will travel with the team.
Holmgren is the Browns’ team president, but the Browns’ new ownership has told him he won’t be back next year. From here I consider that a mistake. If a scenario develops that compels Jones to fire current Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, the Cowboys may benefit.
In that scenario, there is no doubt in my mind that Holmgren would be the right choice to lead the Cowboys. Why?
First, Holmgren can coach. His career record of 161-111 is 12th all-time in victories. He’s one of five head coaches that have led two different teams to a Super Bowl. He won a Super Bowl as a head coach with the Green Bay Packers. Before being a head coach he was the offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl teams in San Francisco.
Second, he can identify, evaluate and develop talent. He’s credited with the development of three quarterbacks you may have heard of – Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck. Holmgren walked away from Green Bay after the 1998 season because he wanted a bigger say in personnel. In Seattle as head coach and general manager from 1999-2002 Holmgren traded for Hasselbeck and oversaw drafts that included the selection of several players that started on that Super Bowl team, including NFL MVP Shaun Alexander, All-Pro tackle Steve Hutchinson and tight end Jerramy Stevens. After 2002 Holmgren relinquished the title of general manager, but still had a large say in personnel.
Holmgren’s selections in Cleveland are getting panned, but in three years Browns fans may be thanking him for selecting the trio of quarterback Brandon Weeden, running back Trent Richardson and wide receiver Greg Little.
Third, he can get along with Jones, or at least that’s what LaCanfora alluded to in his story. He based this assumption on the fact that Holmgren and Jones were on the NFL’s competition committee for 10 years and had a “good working relationship.” Whether that would actually translate into a good working relationship on the field is anyone’s guess.
But here’s the thing. When Jones chooses to work with a head coach with expert personnel evaluation skills, his teams do well. If what Jimmy Johnson said last week was accurate, that he made the personnel decisions during his five years as coach, then those results are self-explanatory. Barry Switzer, and to a lesser degree Chan Gailey, coached on Johnson’s fumes.
While the Cowboys didn’t win any Super Bowls will Bill Parcells, he had a heavy say in personnel and made the team better in the short term and in the future. Under Parcells the Cowboys had their best run of drafting personnel since Johnson’s tenure, identifying several starters that are still with the Cowboys, including DeMarcus Ware, Jason Witten, Marcus Spears, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Tony Romo and Miles Austin.
Holmgren as the offensive pedigree Jones loves. He has the track record to develop a player like Romo, or a young quarterback, and take them to new heights. He’s also better in the NFL Draft than he’s been given credit for.
I’m not convinced that Jones will make a move even if the Cowboys finish under .500, which is still very possible. He loves Garrett too much to throw in the towel. But should a disastrous finish force Jones’ hand, Holmgren should be his first phone call. He’ll be available and he would be the best choice for a franchise in need of his overall skills.