Joining All The Worrywarts

he thinks the current system of interviewing potential head coaches during the bye week is a fair and more equitable one. He says the players are not adversely affected, and has seen this happen before, while with the Vikings when Brian Billick was being wooed by Baltimore and when Tyrone Willingham was talking with Stanford. 

Johnson says the "strain" is on those guys during that period. 

"They have to think about it, obviously," Johnson said. "But we're at a point this season that the most important thing right now is the next game." 

He says he doesn't "think you have to worry about" guys with the character of Garrett or Sparano being distracted. 

Now Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips doesn't seem that concerned, either. He's even willing to give Garrett and Sparano any advice they might ask for to help them during the interview process. 

"I don't think it's a distraction, as far as our assistants talking to teams," Phillips said. "It's an opportunity for those guys to interview and maybe get an NFL (head coaching) job, and I think that's more important than any distraction it would be, which it is not for the team. 

"These guys will not let it be a distraction. They are great professionals and really good coaches. They will do everything they can, even if they get the job, to help us win this year. That's part of why they are getting these opportunities." 

That I have no doubt about. But see, here is the deal. When this kind of stuff starts happening, there is a trickle-down effect. There are other Cowboys assistants in the final years of their contracts, mostly guys Phillips inherited when he was hired: Linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni, secondary coach Todd Bowles, defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers, strength and conditioning coach Joe Juraszek. 

Hey, it's no secret Parcells thought a lot about those guys, and had he stayed might have promoted Bowles to defensive coordinator to replace the departed Mike Zimmer. Sparano would be very familiar with these guys if he were to get an opportunity. 

For them, the situation grows even worse. They are only human. They know their contracts will be up. Sure, they want nothing more than to win this game. That's how coaches think. But how can they help from thinking about in the coming weeks where their check in March is coming from? That's how the rest of us would think. 

Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson saw this take place last year during the Chicago Bears' Super Bowl run. Teams were calling on defensive coordinator Ron Rivera (including the Cowboys) and offensive coordinator Ron Turner. He said both guys handled the inquiries very professionally and that none of it bothered the team's preparation. 

But still, he did admit "there were a lot of closed doors," meaning a potential head coaching job was never far from their minds, knowing that if they get one putting a staff together does not become a last-minute thing. Hey coaches, they love to gossip. 

And just in case you're wondering, Phillips is not spending these days worrying about what his staff might look like next season. He remains pretty calm, willing to take whatever in stride. 

"Next year is next year," Phillips said. "There is always changes. That's what pro football is - you have to adapt. The future is now for this team." 

Yeah, I know. That's why I'm evidently more concerned about all this than seemingly anyone else. The future is * now*, and as we know in the sports arena, the next season is promised to no one. Go ask the Bears and the Saints and the Eagles, three of last year's four NFC semifinalists. Go ask Kansas City, Baltimore and the New York Jets, comprising half of last year's AFC playoff field. 

None of those six teams qualified for the playoffs this year. Nary one finished with a winning record. In fact, the Eagles had the best record of them all. They finished 8-8. All of which just highlights my worries. 

While these teams must interview Garrett and Sparano by Sunday and adhere to the moratorium on further interviews as long as the Cowboys are winning, that doesn't mean the possibility of becoming a head coach and all that it entails isn't cluttering their minds in the meantime. You worry about

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