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Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Meeting different without Shanahan, other mainstays

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

DANA POINT, Calif. -- It's so strange not seeing the familiar faces of the NFL this week.

Where are Mike Shanahan, Mike Holmgren and Jon Gruden?

We're still getting used to not seeing Bill Cowher at the annual NFL owners' meeting, and now we must face the fact that three other Super Bowl winning coaches are no longer in the league.

Weird.

Shanahan and Gruden were both unexpectedly fired after the 2008 season. Holmgren went into retirement, although the expectation has been he will return as soon as next season as a coach or executive.

The league's trend toward younger coaches has been a story line at the meeting this week, and there have been several fresh faces walking the hotel corridors. Josh McDaniels and Raheem Morris are both 32. McDaniels replaced Shanahan in Denver and Morris took over for Gruden in Tampa Bay.

The league constantly changes, but it still takes time getting used to the absence of legends. Shanahan had been at every meeting since 1995. Holmgren went even further back, dating back to 1992. Gruden has been around since 1998.

They all could be back, some as soon as next year. Shanahan has made it clear he will return. He almost certainly will be a hot ticket next January -- as will Cowher, Holmgren and Gruden. Maybe the meeting won't be so unfamiliar next year.