Wade's Aides: A Bumper Crop?

Today, in the subject of hiring assistant coaches, Wade Phillips must feel a little conflicted. Like George Constanza, who once said, "Ah, this is the kind of day that almost makes you feel good to be alive.''

Conflicted, because Marty Schottenheimer, his former boss in San Diego, just got canned. Conflicted because one of the reasons the Schott was fired (get it?) is because Phillips' move from the Chargers to the Cowboys further strips San Diego of its reliable coaching staff, and ownership there thought all the vacancies on the staff provided a good excuse to create one more in the head-coach's office.

Conflicted because a bunch of Chargers assistants might join Schottenheimer in the unemployment line.

Conflicted because if there are ex-San Diego assistants on the unemployment line, their buddy Wade Phillips can pick and choose and sample and eventually swallow 'em up like a fat kid in a candy store.

Conventional wisdom has it that because Bill Parcells was slow to make his decision to exit, and because Jerry Jones was slow to choose his replacement, assembling a coaching staff will mean slim pickin's. But Valley Ranch voice tells me "there's a stack of resumes on Wade's desk that's a foot-high.'' And it's about to get higher, because the Chargers may have just provided a bumper crop.

San Diego's four top assistants have left for better jobs: Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron is head coach of the Dolphins. Tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski is Cleveland's offensive coordinator. Linebackers coach Greg Manusky is San Francisco's defensive boss. And of course, the defensive coordinator, Wade Phillips, has become head coach of your Cowboys.

It's possible that the new coach in San Diego will come from inside the team; TheRanchReport's long-time friend James Lofton, SD's receivers coach, hasn't much experience, but he's interviewed to be a Raiders head coach. It's also possible a new hire could be propped atop the staff members who remain under contract. (And most of them reportedly are, through 2007.) Familiar names from Dallas' search (Mike Singletary or Ron Rivera or Rex Ryan or Norv Turner or Gary Gibbs) would fit there. Or how about "too-tired-to-coach'' Parcells? I bet he'd get un-tired for, say, $8 mil a year.

It's also possible, however, that Chargers ownership is prepared to allow the whole thing to be stripped down, to give the coaching reins to someone like USC's Pete Carroll (he'd barely have to change addresses), and that Carroll would then bring in his own collection of assistants.

And that would send some present Chargers assistants out into the street looking for work -- where the Cowboys could be waiting.

Phillips has connections all over the place; four decades of NFL coaching will do that for a guy. Veteran O-line coach Carl Mauck, the old Oilers center who played for daddy Bum, is, the last time I checked, an assistant at Southern Illinois University. He coached for a time with the Chargers. Veteran Ted Cottrell is out there. He was Wade's D-coordinator in Buffalo but is now out of football. On the Chargers staff, Lofton has DFW ties and is well-thought-of at Valley Ranch, secondary coach Brian Stewart is seen by some as a young up-and-comer, and a familiar name, Clarence Shelmon, was a Dallas assistant from 1999-2001. Shelmon was the running backs coach until this month, when he was elevated to Chargers offensive coordinator.

(A sidebar: Local newspaper reports noted that Phillips was denied permission by the Chargers to interview Stewart and John Pagano, a quality-control coach. But that was then; this is now. Again, time will tell whether a new head coach in San Diego will want to retain Stewart or Pagano or anyone else.)

Four more names of interest: Former Chiefs All-Pro cornerback Albert Lewis was briefly a Chargers assistant a few years back and wants to get back into coaching. The Cowboys could not find a classier person. Ray Sherman, the veteran NFL assistant most recently the Titans' receivers coach, has an expired contract and will be interviewed at Valley Ranch. (Once upon a time, he was a hot prospect as a head coach, so he could also be a running backs coach or more.) Tracy Simien, the former NFL'er and TCU star, is available after spending last year as the Texans' linebackers coach. Oh, and Wade might as well interview ol' special-teams guru/Cowboys folk-hero Joe Avezzano, too.

Phillips -- with his "We Are Family'' approach -- is certain to examine members of his Chargers' family to join Valley Ranch holdovers Tony Sparano (running-game coordinator), Paul Pasqualoni (linebackers), Vincent Brown (inside linebackers), Kacy Rodgers (D-line) and Todd Bowles (secondary coach) and newcomer Jason Garrett (likely the offensive coordinator). As we've reported for a month, Bowles is a candidate to serve as Dallas' D-coordinator -- really, just Wade's right-hand guy, since Phillips will be hands-on with the D -- but he and other staffers could be shifted around depending on Phillips' pursuit of "family'' members.

Wade's son, Wes Phillips, the QB coach at Baylor, is on that list, literally. Some time down the line, other members of the Garrett Brothers coaching family (again, literally) might fit.

But immediately and ironically, Phillips may "go back'' to San Diego to fill his staff. "Immediately,'' because the draft is coming and the staff must be assembled. "Ironically'' because Phillips will be seeking insight into Chargers assistants' availability from none other than San Diego's general manager, AJ Smith. Smith is the man who fired Schottenheimer. Smith is the man who, had he fired Schottenheimer a week ago, would've possibility elevated Phillips to the top job in San Diego. Smith happens to be a friend of Wade Phillips, who with jobs coming and going, is suddenly going to find himself with LOTS of friends. Job-seeking friends.

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