One of the big events that usually occurs as the Dallas Cowboys prepare for the upcoming season are visits from former NFL players. It’s not an uncommon sight to see Hall of Famer Michael Irvin at training camp or organized team activities (OTA’s) giving tips and pointers to our current group of wide receivers and especially Dez Bryant.
This season, Hall of Famer Charles Haley has been spotted multiple times giving tips and advice to our current group of young defensive ends like Randy Gregory, DeMarcus Lawrence and Ben Gardner. When Russell Maryland and other guests visit camp, I always wonder – What if these guys were on the coaching staff?
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For some players, the answer is easy: They moved on to become commentators, announcers and broadcasters. There still remains many former NFL athletes that didn’t jump from the field to the small screen and could be a tremendous assett. Let’s look at some players that might make great assistant coaches.
Quarterback: Our current quarterback coach is Wade Wilson. This position is also covered by our head coach Jason Garrett, a former NFL backup quarterback. Wilson spent three years with the Cowboys (1995 – 1997) and spent a total of 19 years as an NFL quarterback. Wilson was Troy Aikman‘s backup during the 1995 championship season. Wilson is the perfect example of a former Cowboys player becoming an assistant coach.
Running Back: Current coach is Gary Brown an 8th round selection that managed to have an 8 year NFL career. None of those years were with the Cowboys, so he doesn’t make this list. When I narrowed my choices to three names, I couldn’t pick a winner. They all played in Dallas together – Tashard Choice, Marion Barber and Julius Jones.
I’ve always been a fan of Choice and I didn’t say the list was unbiased. Choice was a well rounded running back that spent four years with the Cowboys. Barber was our power back and Jones was the last player before DeMarco Murray to rush for more than 1,000 yards. I don’t think any of them burned bridges with the Cowboys and would be welcomed by both players and Cowboy Nation.
Wide Receiver: This took some thought because both enjoyed a love / hate relationship with Cowboy Nation. Option 1: Roy Williams, the former first round pick that Jerry Jones believed would get his team a Super Bowl ring. Option 2: Miles Austin, an undrafted free agent from a small school that worked hard to make the roster. Statistically, they both had productive seasons as Cowboys. However, I’m going with Option 3: Terrell Owens.
Owens is a controversial player, but he blocked downfield for receivers and running backs. Selfish players don’t hustle downfield to block for others. When the ball was in the air, he was going to fight for it and catch it. Finally, if he didn’t win a ring as a player, he’d do anything to get one as a coach.
Linebackers: Current coach Matt Eberflus doesn’t have any NFL playing experience. When I think of former Cowboy linebackers, one name jumps to the top: Dat Nguyen. The weird thing about Nguyen is that he was formerly a Cowboys assistant linebackers coach. He left the staff in January of 2010 to coach linebackers at his alma mater, Texas A&M.
Secondary: Current coach Jerome Henderson played 8 seasons as a defensive back, but none with the Cowboys. So, excluding the obvious choices of Deion Sanders and Darren Woodson, I should probably choose one of the few defensive players to be named Super Bowl MVP – cornerback Larry Brown. Brown started 75 games and had 14 interceptions from 1991 to 1995.
It didn’t hurt that Brown played opposite Sanders and quarterbacks didn’t dare throw towards his Sanders side of the field. The other guy I’d consider didn’t win a ton of awards, but was a solid defender – Anthony Henry. Henry started in 51 games and finished with 12 interceptions from 2005 to 2008.
Are there other former Cowboys that you believe would make great assistant coaches? I’m sure I missed a few hundred players that didn’t get a ring but would love to earn one as a coach. Try focusing on players that weren’t physically gifted or talented but overachieved by mastering technique and becoming students of the game. Make sure you post your selections in the comments.
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