Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NFL Assistants Deserve Better Deal

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

NFL Assistants Deserve Better Deal

Article excerpt

He turned 65 a few weeks ago, and Nick Nicolau counts himself

among the very, very lucky.

He is an NFL assistant coach older than 55. And he still has


This was not true in early 1995. Nicolau, then 61, had just

been fired by the Colts. He was out of work and wondering what

the next four years would hold.

Then Tom Coughlin called.

Coughlin hired Nicolau onto the Jaguars' staff. Last year Kevin

Gilbride made him assistant head coach in San Diego.

"I was lucky Tom gave me a break," Nicolau said yesterday.

"They'd turned me out on the street after 20 years of

professional football.

"What was I going to do?"

That question was at the center of the odd goings-on at the NFL

spring meetings in Coral Gables this week. The NFL brought back

instant replay for yet another preseason test but, while that

was odd, it was nothing compared to what happened early


The event was a league symposium for assistants, the idea

being to train them to be head coaches. Topics included job

interviewing, salary cap and media relations.

A good idea. If a guy's going to be a head coach, these are

needed topics.

The problem is they're not topics that concern most assistants.

Most coaches dream of being a head guy, but there are more guys

such as Nicolau -- solid coaches who never reach the top -- than

a head coach who attains lifetime financial security. Lifetime

assistants have different issues they don't feel the NFL is

addressing -- early retirement, age discrimination and severance


So at 8:15 a.m. Wednesday, 50 or 60 assistants entered the

symposium 15 minutes late. The point was unification, an act

that prompted this from commissioner Paul Tagliabue:

"It borders on silliness. . . . We're well aware of their

issues. We've been talking to them and actually doing more than

talking. We changed a number of policies like healthinsurance


"I don't know why people need to drag their feet going into a


Here's why:

They don't feel they have a choice. …

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