NFC East: Ray Horton

Redskins to interview Caldwell

January, 1, 2014
Jan 1
The Washington Redskins will interview former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Caldwell next week, according to John Wooten, the chairman of the Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation. It's uncertain what day he will interview.

At this point, he's the third name that has surfaced in the Redskins' quest to replace fired Mike Shanahan. They've spoken to Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and will interview Carolina defensive coordinator Sean McDermott this weekend. Also, the Redskins have requested permission to speak with New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.

Also, Wooten said their foundation has recommended that Washington interview Cincinnati's assistant head coach/running backs Hue Jackson, also a former Redskins running backs coach and ex-Oakland Raiders head coach. But Wooten said he did not know if the Redskins have contacted the Bengals for permission to speak with him. They can't interview him now anyways because the Bengals play a first-round playoff game this weekend.

Caldwell has served as the Raiders' offensive coordinator since late last season and also is the quarterbacks coach. He posted a 26-22 record as the Colts' head coach from 2009-11; that mark included a 2-14 final season with quarterback Peyton Manning sidelined. He went 26-63 in eight seasons as the head coach at Wake Forest.

The Fritz Pollard Alliance Foundation compiles a list each season of coaches they feel are deserving of interviews. In addition to the above two, that list also includes former Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray, Arizona defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, Indianapolis offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, Cleveland defensive coordinator Ray Horton, former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith, Carolina assistant head coach/defensive backs Steve Wilks, Indianapolis offensive line coach Harold Goodwin, Green Bay assistant head coach/linebackers Winston Moss, Chicago defensive coordinator Mel Tucker. They also included college coaches James Franklin (Vanderbilt), Kevin Sumlin (Texas A&M), David Shaw (Stanford) and Charlie Strong (Louisville).

Well, it turns out Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wasn't just blowing smoke when he said on the radio last week that things were about to get uncomfortable around Valley Ranch. If you're a Cowboys coach right now, you can't be feeling comfortable at all. Running backs coach Skip Peete was let go Monday, and reports that defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has been fired as well.

Ryan seems like an odd move in some ways. I mean, yes, the Cowboys finished 19th in the league in defense in terms of yards allowed and 24th in terms of points allowed, but they did lose five starters and their nickel cornerback to injury along the way, which is the kind of thing that can generally get a coordinator a break. Hard to really judge Ryan's performance considering he didn't really have his team.

And it remains to be seen what else happens, as there's some chatter in Dallas about the possibility of Jones taking play-calling responsibilities away from head coach Jason Garrett and hiring an offensive coordinator. But assuming Ryan's dismissal turns out to be the Cowboys' biggest offseason change, it could actually signify continued support for Garrett. The reason I say that is because it's a change that doesn't really strike at Garrett's authority over the offense. It allows Jones to make a big, heads-will-roll splash without undermining the coach in whom he's placed and professed so much long-term faith. Heck, it could even allow Garrett to have more input into the hiring of the new defensive coordinator than he had in the hiring of Ryan two years ago (when, it is believed, he preferred Ray Horton).

It could also allow the Cowboys, if they so choose, to switch to a 4-3 defense, which some have suggested might suit their personnel better. Whether they do that or not could depend on which defensive coordinator they hire to replace Ryan. If they hire Lovie Smith, for instance, expect that they're making that switch. If they hire Horton or Mike Pettine or someone like that, that would signify a desire to stay in the 3-4.

So if this is part of a larger slate of firings still to come, all bets are off and everybody's really uncomfortable in Valley Ranch. But if Ryan's firing is the big-splash move to which Jones was alluding when he talked "change" last week, there's a chance it could portend more power for Garrett instead of less. I admit I don't know which way it will go, but as we watch the Cowboys' offseason continue to unfold, it's worth looking for signs of whether Jones is wavering on Garrett or doubling up on his determination to stand behind him and try to make him successful.

Steelers wanted no part of Mike Jenkins

February, 2, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Pittsburgh Steelers win on such a consistent basis that they rarely have draft picks in the top half of the first round. On Tuesday, I talked to several members of the organization about what they look for in players via the draft or free agency. I'm writing a column Thursday about why the Cowboys have fallen off the map in terms of playoff success over the past 15 years, and I thought the Steelers (and the Packers) might provide a good point of reference.

Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton, who once won a Super Bowl as a safety for the Dallas Cowboys, brought up Ryan Clark as an example. The former Redskins safety gets lost in Troy Polamalu's shadow a lot of the time, but he's invaluable to the Steelers' success on defense. Clark's started 44 games for the Steelers over the past three seasons.

"When he's on the field, you don't notice him," Horton told me Tuesday. "But when he was out earlier this season, we're saying, 'What's going on out there?' He's not flashy, but everything runs smoothly when he's on the field. You have to have those types of players to be successful."

Horton told me that when he's preparing for the draft, he's constantly asking himself the question, 'Would I want my job depending on that guy?'

Since Horton still keeps up with the Cowboys from afar and was actually mentioned as a candidate at defensive coordinator, I asked what he thought of Dallas cornerback Mike Jenkins when he was coming out of South Florida three years ago.

"I didn't want him at the time because he wouldn't tackle," said Horton. "If you're going to play for us, you have to be able to tackle. Or you need to be picking off a lot of balls."

Jenkins appeared to put it all together in '09 as he made his first Pro Bowl team. But he regressed in 2010, and as Horton predicted, tackling is not one of Jenkins' strengths. In fact, there are two painful reminders for Cowboys fans ('08 and '10) of Jenkins going out of his way to avoid contact with ballcarriers.

I think the Cowboys' secondary was undermined by an inconsistent pass-rush this past season. But Jenkins still had a poor season. Perhaps having the Steelers and Packers in town for a week will help Jerry Jones have a first-hand look at how successful teams are built.

Or he could just keep doing it his way.

Lots of Eagles talk at Media Day

February, 1, 2011
ARLINGTON, Texas -- I expected Packers and Steelers assistants to play it pretty close to the vest regarding the defensive coordinator vacancy with the Philadelphia Eagles. And I was wrong.

I had a 20-minute visit with Steelers secondary coach Ray Horton, a former Cowboys safety. He wouldn't say whether the Eagles had contacted his representative, but it's pretty clear the prospect of switching to a 4-3 defense with the Eagles doesn't bother him at all. In fact, he played on a Cowboys Super Bowl team (XXVII) that used the 4-3. Horton's not a fan of the NFL's policy that assistant coaches from the Super Bowl teams have to wait until after the game to interview for vacancies.

"It punishes you for having more success," he told me. "The system actually rewards the coaches who don't make the playoffs or get knocked out early."

Horton hopes one of the three teams that haven't hired a defensive coordinator gives him a shot. He has a great deal of admiration for the late Jim Johnson, and he talked at length about how coaches around the league still use a lot of Johnson's concepts.

I also talked to Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac about the Eagles' opening. He'd been quoted saying he planned to return to the Packers next season, but he told me that he wanted to leave the door open to a coordinator position. Trgovac said he'd promised his high school-aged daughter that he would remain with the Packers for at least three years if possible, so that's something that's also on his mind.

The Inquirer's Jeff McLane spent a lot of time talking to Packers inside linebackers/assistant head coach Winston Moss on Tuesday. Moss wasn't shy about his admiration for the Eagles.

"The Eagles have some established talent there right now," Moss said. "It would be fun to work with that group. They work extremely hard. They play on a fanatical level. They have some playmakers on that defense. In carefully looking at them and then competing against them twice [this season], that would be a fantastic opportunity."

He said he likes the mindset of the Eagles organization.

"It's a very tough culture there," he said. "It's a very aggressive culture there. It's a very fearless culture. You can tell how Andy Reid attacks people from his offensive scheme that that's what he wants. And I believe that I have that same passion. I have that same relentless, fearless desire to get a defense to want to be able to compete at that same level."

And we haven't even mentioned Darren Perry.