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On that report linking Mike Holmgren to Dallas

By Pat McManamon

This Mike Holmgren and Dallas thing is just quirky enough to be interesting.

Maybe it’s not quirky at all.

Holmgren’s name was linked to the Cowboys on Sunday by Jason LaCanfora of CBSSports.com. He said on The NFL Today that Holmgren would have serious interest in coaching the Cowboys if Jason Garrett were fired.

That’s a lot of ifs.

And it would be easy to dismiss this report as just another rumor if it were not for several factors. Among them are LaCanfora’s credibility, the tendency of Jerry Jones to want to hire big names and Holmgren’s own admission that he missed coaching more than he expected when he was the Browns president.

It’s been quite evident in past years that agents or coaches troll the waters in search of their next job as seasons wind down. The coach himself won’t do the trolling. He’ll avoid it to maintain “plausible deniability,” but his friend or his acquaintance or his agent’s friend can make his feelings known.

It happens in the NFL all the time. Some guys have it down to an art form. And it’s really amazing the lengths guys will go to get their name in the hopper for certain jobs.

Did this happen with Holmgren?

Who knows.

But what was kind of interesting about his statements of denial is that he denied something that had not been reported. Holmgren’s entire take was that he hadn’t talked to the Cowboys, and he wouldn’t do it during the season while Garrett was coaching. He said doing anything like that is against his principles.

That’s believable. No self-respecting coach wants another lurking over his desk like a vulture, and it doesn’t seem plausible that Holmgren would do that.

But Holmgren was denying something that wasn’t in the report. LaCanfora merely said Holmgren would have interest if there was an opening. Perhaps that not-so-subtle difference in wording — contact vs. interest — might leave the door open to more speculation. For those who parse statements, it might be significant.

In the byzantine world of the NFL, this kind of things happen: Guy lets a team know through back channels he might be interested. Team and guy deny it because there was no “official” contact. Season ends and guy miraculously winds up coaching said team.

Will Holmgren do it?

Many factors say no. He’s coming out of a situation in Cleveland where many feel he did not do the job. The Browns under his watch were not a winning team, and though he believes he made some good moves the results are the results.

He’s also been away from coaching since 2008. He’s 64. It’s believed his wife would prefer he not coach. And he’s dealing with the normal issues of aging.

But … other factors also say yes — and make it seem possible Holmgren might think the job worth incurring the wrath of Cleveland. Which he surely would if he left the president’s job with the Browns to coach the Cowboys. Cleveland fans would be livid, perhaps justifiably so, that a guy who did not make it work with the Browns — and who turned down the chance to coach the Browns — would so quickly coach another team.

The factors that say it does happen make the match seem perfect: Jones likes a big name and a big splash, and the “Big Show” is one of the bigger splashes who could be available.

The other big names already have hit the rumor mill with landing places … Andy Reid to San Diego … Jon Gruden to Philadelphia … Bill Cowher to stay in TV … Sean Payton to stay in New Orleans. Which makes Holmgren the biggest name left — if he wants to coach. (It sometimes seems like they’re all intertwined.)

Holmgren can coach; it’s what he does. His competitive fire remains. And if he’s healthy there’s no reason to think he couldn’t succeed.

Too, one of his better friends in the league is Bill Parcells, and Parcells worked for Jones and left saying it was a good experience. No doubt he’d tell Holmgren the same — and advise Holmgren what he’d need in his contract.

See how it can seem plausible when presented properly?

Holmgren did his best to deny the report that he might have interest.

But he denied something that wasn’t reported.

This might be splitting the proverbial hair, but that little difference might be enough to keep the rumor mill flowing.

That, and the fact that if Holmgren wants to coach, Dallas makes perfect sense.

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