Mac Engel

Cowboys’ Linehan trying to balance ambition, family

Offensive coordinator and play-caller Scott Linehan is content to work with quarterback Tony Romo and take a backseat to Jason Garrett.
Offensive coordinator and play-caller Scott Linehan is content to work with quarterback Tony Romo and take a backseat to Jason Garrett. Fort Worth Star-Telegram

One of the funnier things to hear from a head coach is to rave about his family, yet he is gone 13 months out of the year, and his golf handicap is a plus-2.

There can be no bigger pack of old school, Mad Men-style frauds than career coaches. They simply can’t stand being around the house, but they know what sounds good.

It is as Bill Parcells once said: Coaching is not for the well-adjusted. God knows that man would know.

As much as Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan would like to be a head coach one more time to get it right, he would also like to try to do right by his youngest son and do something that is increasingly difficult as an assistant coach in the NFL.

As sports fans and sports media, we often forget, or don’t care, there is a life and family for the human beings we so casually kick around and easily dismiss. Putting family above the job in the NFL is a nearly impossible task. The money can be great, but the lifestyle atrocious.

“I’ve been with five NFL teams since I started this in 2002, and my family has lived with me each time I’ve moved,” he told me last week. “I mean, I know there are worse things, but people don’t realize how hard that is.”

Linehan’s two oldest sons are out of high school and in college. The youngest will attend Highland Park this fall.

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Wouldn’t it be great if my youngest could graduate from Highland Park?’ and say I was able to do that?” he asked.

Linehan is the Dallas Cowboys idiot-turned-genius. He was the “idiot” hired by Jason Garrett last year away from the Detroit Lions to be the Cowboys’ passing-game coordinator while Bill Callahan retained the offensive coordinator title.

Linehan was handed the “idiot” label while he was head coach with the St. Louis Rams from 2006 through the first games of the ’08 season when he was fired. The Rams were 11-25 in his tenure; the high point was 8-8 in his first year.

The Cowboys’ offense was fantastic last season, and predictably Linehan received rave reviews for his play-calling, work with Tony Romo and the emphasis on the running game. If the Cowboys have a similar season, Linehan will be one of those “hot assistants” who interviews for openings after the year.

Would he take it?

“I get asked that a lot by my friends,” he said. “Here is how I look at it — I’m in a great situation here. I can’t always say I’ve been able to say that. I’m not looking for it. It’s really not on my radar.”

Any fool would think he would leave if given the opportunity to be a head coach, but Linehan is the poster child for the new reality of NFL coordinators: Life can be good, if not better, as the No. 2. The money is good, and the headaches are considerably smaller.

He signed a three-year deal in the off-season that likely pays him in the high six figures, if not seven. He is working for a head coach who just signed a five-year deal, and the Cowboys figure to be competitive. Linehan does not look like scapegoat material.

Linehan is like a lot of former head coaches who return to the coordinator ranks: They would return only if the situation suits their preferences. The ones who have been fired know firsthand that the job is a beast, and that total control is nearly impossible to obtain.

“I was talking to [Cowboys assistant coach Derek] Dooley about it; he and I have a lot in common about this,” said Linehan of Dooley, who was head coach at Tennessee. “It is amazing how much different you would do it the second time because you know exactly what has to be in place.”

Start with good players.

Linehan is in the tricky area where he could be defined as a career assistant if he passes on head coaching offers. He is 51, and he fully realizes the phone rings to be a head coach but a few times. Sometimes you have to say yes, and move again, when you know the situation is not ideal.

He also knows that he has asked his family to move and move and move while he chases jobs. His preference is not to do it again until his youngest son is done with high school.

That’s his preference, but … coaching is not for the well-adjusted.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30-10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel, 817-390-7697

Twitter: @macengelprof and The Big Mac Blog

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