1-29-01, 8:40 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
NEW ORLEANS _ Former Bengals head coach Bruce Coslet returned to the NFL after a 16-month hiatus Tuesday when he was asked to revive the Dallas passing game as the Cowboys' new offensive coordinator.
"I'll be bringing the 'West Coast' offense, but Bill Walsh calls it the 'North Bank of the Ohio,' offense," Coslet joked Tuesday night from Dallas after signing a three-year contract. "We've got some young quarterbacks and it's going to take some time. But we're not destitute down here. We've got the Rocket (Ismail) and Joey Galloway for receivers, Emmitt Smith is the running back, and the offensive line has some good players."
Walsh, Coslet's offensive coordinator when he played for Paul Brown's Bengals in the 1970s, was one of the many people recommending Coslet to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Dave Campo.
Bengals President Mike Brown, who accepted Coslet's resignation as head coach after an 0-3 start to the 2000 season, called Jones unsolicited on Coslet's behalf last week. Jones called Brown Tuesday afternoon to tell him the deal was done.
"They made a good pick," Brown said. "Bruce is a good offensive mind and I'm happy for him. He's got some young quarterbacks and if one of them pans out, things are going to go fine."
The Cowboys recently signed former Stanford baseball refugee Chad Huthchinson to join a stable that
includes inexperienced Quincy Carter , volatile Ryan Leaf ("That should be interesting," Coslet said) and Clint Stoerner.
Coslet has been known to like veteran quarterbacks, but he has no qualms about coming from a similar situation in Cincinnati. In 2000, second-year quarterback Akili Smith commandeered a Bengals' pass offense that finished last in the NFL. Carter, a rookie taken in the second round, saw the Cowboys replace the Bengals at the bottom this season.
"That doesn't bother me. These kids have talent and you've got to like the guys around them," Coslet said. "After talking to the owner and the head coach, I like the direction they're headed."
Coslet, who met with Jones last week in Florida, was met at the airport Tuesday by Cowboys quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson. They drove to Campo's home, where the coach is recovering from hip replacement surgery. Coslet was stunned at the number of people Campo called for recommendations
There was Coslet's successor in Cincinnati, Dick LeBeau. Ray Horton, a former Cowboys defensive back Coslet hired as Bengals secondary coach five years ago. Pete Carroll, Coslet's successor as head coach of the New York Jets, among others.
"I know Bill Walsh was very influential and I've got to call Mike Brown tomorrow to thank him," Coslet said.
Coslet, 55, joked about the possibility of becoming a head coach again after stints with the Jets and Bengals.
"This is great," Coslet said of being a coordinator again. "Now I can go back to coaching and I don't have to talk to the media. I 've told you that's all I wanted to do. was get back into coaching and it's a great feeling to be back."
Coslet said he would make some staff changes, but wouldn't divulge any Tuesday night. He already has Wilson, a coach highly regarded by Jones, as well as one of the top offensive line coaches in the NFL in Hudson Houck.