HARRIS: Cowher, Briles figure to top Redskins’ list

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, right, greets Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan after the Steelers won 34-17 in the AFC Championship football game Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006, in Denver. The Steelers advanced to Super Bowl XL with the win.  (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher, right, greets Denver Broncos head coach Mike Shanahan after the Steelers won 34-17 in the AFC Championship football game Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006, in Denver. The Steelers advanced to Super Bowl XL with the win. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

The Redskins took Wednesday off, going so far as to close their headquarters so players, coaches and support staff (and the media) could spend the holiday with family and friends. A nice gesture, sure, though the wiseguys among us could ask how is it different from the rest of the season since it seems as if the Skins have taken the whole thing off.

They’re back to business Thursday to prepare for the season finale at the New York Giants in what should be called the Who Cares Bowl. Does the result matter a lick at this point to anyone other than the Rams, who own the Skins’ top pick in the 2014 draft?


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Nope. The only thing anyone who cares about the Redskins should be thinking about at this point is who will be the team’s head coach next season. There doesn’t seem to be a shred of a chance Mike Shanahan will remain in the position after this season’s unmitigated disaster.

So let’s have some fun with filling the vacancy.

First, the disclaimer: We know nothing. There are no sources, anonymous or otherwise. This is speculation at best, some guesswork based on a little observation rather than any keen insight. In short, a few random thoughts rattling around in a brain that needs defragging.

A whole bunch of names will surface in the coming days. It is an old media trick (guilty as charged): throw enough names out there and you might hit on the right guy.

The belief here is two names will rise above the rest and the next Skins coach will be one of them: current Baylor coach Art Briles and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher.

There are plenty of reasons to like both choices and plenty of reasons to be wary.


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Briles, 58, has never coached in the NFL. He’s spent his life in Texas at various high schools and colleges there. One of them is Baylor, alma mater of Robert Griffin III. It was thought for a bit that RG3, who won the Heisman trophy his final season, made Briles. Maybe it is the other way around? Briles and the Bears have gone 19-6 since RG3 has been a Redskin and they’re 11-1 this season.

Baylor has scored more than 70 points four times this season and more than 60 in two other games. Briles clearly knows a thing or two about offense. Given that Chip Kelly has had a bit of success with the Eagles this season after coming from Oregon, Briles earns a checkmark in the trendy category. Kelly has helped make taking a chance on a college coach more palatable.

There’s also a massive, bright, huge red flag with Briles. Bleacher Report’s Jason Cole reported last week (albeit with those pesky anonymous sources) that RG3’s dad has been lobbying Redskins owner Dan Snyder to hire Briles.

If that’s the case, sorry Art. You’re out. Snyder needs to show some spine with this hire and make it clear to RG2 and 3 that he will make a call for the team, not for the Griffins. While RG3 is a vital part of whatever future this team has, he isn’t the only part. Briles may indeed be a fine choice, but if there’s been lobbying by the Griffin family the team will know and his hire will send the wrong message.

Which brings us to Cowher. He has an impressive NFL pedigree after his 15-year stint with the Steelers that included a Super Bowl championship and nine seasons with at least 10 victories. He’s still relatively young at 56 and should be plenty refreshed since he hasn’t coached since he walked away from Pittsburgh in 2007.

Why he would want to return to the madness that is head coaching is a head scratcher, but trying to figure out the way a coach thinks is a fool’s errand. They’re not wired like normal people.

Rumors have been flying for several weeks that Snyder has already been in touch with Cowher. At this point, they are no more than that — believable though they may be. Cowher was in town earlier this month for Octagon’s 30th birthday party. Did he meet with Snyder while he was here and did the two more recently have a long conversation? Again, rumors and only rumors.

As Shanahan has learned, a fine legacy can be tarnished by a poor showing. Cowher’s legacy is secure if he never coaches again. But there’s that thing that drives these men again, the ego and competitive juices that make them think they can succeed where others haven’t.

One of the reasons Cowher retired when he did was to spend more time with his family. His wife Kaye died in 2010 after a battle with cancer. His three daughters are grown.

The Cowhers are an athletic family. Kaye and all three daughters played basketball. Daughter Meaghan is married to Kevin Westgarth of the Carolina Hurricanes. Daughter Lindsay is engaged to Ryan Kelly of the Lakers. The point is the entire family understands the competitive juices that come with coaching.

If Cowher is indeed ready to give up the stress-free life of an analyst and return to the sidelines, that’s probably the best choice for the Skins. There won’t be any debate about who’s in charge, won’t be a stigma of being Dad’s choice. If he wants the job, give him the whistle and get out of the way.

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