Hot Air From a Hurricane?

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November 30 , 2000
Hot Air From a Hurricane? By Ric Sweeney

The year was 1995 and Butch Davis, hot off his second consecutive Super Bowl triumph (this one as the Dallas Cowboys’ defensive coordinator), figured to be the next Jimmy Johnson disciple to leave Valley Ranch for the greener pastures of head coachdom, following in the well-worn path of Norv Turner and Dave Wannstedt. 

Among the teams chomping the hardest on its bit to land Davis was the University of Miami, who knew a thing or two about Jimmy Johnson disciples. At the time, their program was in utter ruins, having landed on probation after the NCAA found them in violation of league rules. Against such an uninviting backdrop, they began the wooing process of Davis anyway with what was being billed as a simple, get-to-know-you style meeting in Florida — no pressure, no offer, no big deal.

As the story goes (and stop when this starts to sound familiar), Davis, on the flight down, told a nearby reporter that he had no actual desire to take the Miami job, that he was meeting with the university only as a courtesy and, as proof of how little interest he had, as well as how informal the get-together was to be, he pointed out that he had only brought one bag with him, and that one bag was above them in the overhead bin. How could anyone take a one-bag traveling coach serious?

The kicker is that while Davis was denying interest and speaking enthusiastically about going after ring number three with the Cowboys, he had already accepted the job in Miami. And sure enough, after the flight had landed, the reporter next saw Davis at baggage claim, pulling eight additional bags off the carousel.

The moral of the story, of course, is that there’s nothing to worry about when checking your bags at the airport. Also that we shouldn’t bother trusting Butch Davis any further than we could throw him. Which seems an appropriate time to mention that Davis emphatically denied Wednesday that he was leaving Miami to become the first-ever coach of the Houston Texans. 

Uh-huh, yeah, whatever.

If we’ve learned one thing about Bob McNair thus far (the protracted naming process aside) it’s that the words “hem” and “haw” are not a part of his vocabulary. When he sees something, he goes after it. Quickly. Evidence abounds, including the manner in which he swept the NFL off its feet with a too-good-to-pass-up deal that landed Houston the league’s 32nd franchise, not to mention his candidate list for the GM vacancy never had a second name added to it after Charley Casserly’s first (and only) interview. And while, in theory, it’d be prudent for McNair and Casserly to wait until the season is over before hiring a coach, there’s really no need. What other candidate could possibly bring more to the table than Davis?

Of the rumored list (Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Titans defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, Ravens defensive coordinator Marvin Lewis, Jaguars defensive coordinator Dom Capers and University of Pittsburgh head coach Walt Harris), only Capers has a leg up in terms of experience, having previously coached the expansion Carolina Panthers. But let’s be honest, that went so well, he’s now a defensive coordinator. Not exactly an upwardly mobile career path.

Harris is the only other name on the list with head coaching experience, and while he’s done wonders at Pittsburgh, his accomplishments pale in comparison to the work Davis has done restoring Miami’s luster. 

The other, more intriguing aspect to Davis’ credentials (and one, granted, Harris shares), is that Davis has spent the last six years scouting and evaluating talent each spring as part of the annual recruiting process. And one look at Miami’s loaded roster would seem to indicate he’s pretty good at it, an invaluable coaching commodity for a team building its franchise from scratch.

Current NFL assistants, such as the ones rumored to be on McNair’s short wish list, are usually forced to make a sculpture from the clay the top brass supplies. They probably know and can recognize talent, but when and where have they actually been able to put that skill into practice when it counted? Davis has shown he can not only mold the clay, but go out and find it too.

Combine Davis’ Super Bowl experience, his renaissance with the Hurricanes, his successful recruiting classes with his ability to relate well to the younger, hipper urban element that’s becoming more and more an NFL staple, and you have to wonder if it’s really worth waiting to find out later what’s already readily apparent now: that Davis is the best man for the job. 

My guess is that as Davis was issuing his blanket dismissal of interest in the Texans’ opening, McNair and Casserly were waiting for him at baggage claim.

Ric Sweeney is claiming that he was misquoted in his previous article when he proclaimed Marty Schottenheimer the ideal candidate to be the Texans’ first coach. He would also like to point out that he didn’t feel good that day, that the teacher didn’t like him and that the sun was in his eyes. Butch Davis Butch Davis Home

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