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by Mike Fisher    Wed, Jan 11, 2006, 02:54 AM

The next Cowboys names to take rides aboard The Coaching Carousel: Todd Haley and Todd Bowles

Haley, the Dallas receivers coach, will be next in line as the team's offensive coordinator should Sean Payton accept a head-coaching position elsewhere, two Valley Ranch sources tell me. And contrary to published reports that Gary Gibbs is the Cowboys' choice to move up if defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer departs, my sources say it's actually secondary coach Todd Bowles who has the inside track on the promotion.

Payton is the subject of interest from Green Bay and New Orleans. Two years ago, he decided to forego an offer to become head coach of the Raiders to instead remain in Dallas for a $1 million salary. There is every indication that Payton, 42, would not turn down another opportunity. Once source close to Payton says he will be a finalist for the Packers job.

Haley, 38, has been with the Cowboys for just two seasons. But he has a history with coach Bill Parcells. Haley was on the Jets staff when Parcells took over, having started in the scouting department and moving up to receivers coach there. He served in that capacity with Chicago from 2001-to-'03 before moving to Dallas. Haley did not play college football, but learned the game at the feet of his father, Dick Haley. Dick was with Pittsburgh as the personnel director when a young Todd was a Steelers ballboy. Later, Dick was a personnel executive working with good friend Parcells with the Jets.

The relationship between Todd Haley and Parcells took a public turn when, this season during a game, Haley attempted to register a protest with an offiicial while Parcells was already engaged with the ref. Parcells angrily spun around and shoved the assistant backwards.

Bowles, 42, just completed his first season with the Cowboys but was also a part of that Jets coaching family. He's coached in the NFL for six seasons following eight seasons as a safety in the league. Co-workers believe he'd get the nod over Gibbs, the Dallas linebackers coach and former Oklahoma head man.

Zimmer is among the candidates for the top job in St. Louis. Zimmer could've had the Nebraska job two years ago, but he too accepted a $1-mil salary to remain with the Cowboys. (Not that a million bucks and Cowboys employment is ever a bad thing, but trust us when we say that Zim still wonders about how life would have been with the Huskers, given how his rah-rah-yet-no-nonsense makeup would fit at the college level.)

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