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Future NFL leaders get leg up at Career Development Symposium

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PHOENIX -- Some of the NFL's most promising assistant coaches and personnel men waited their turns to enter individual rooms to speak with former general managers Charley Casserly, Bill Polian and Ron Wolf -- the latter pair being 2015 Pro Football Hall of Famers.

So many of them exited the sessions with the personnel gurus more informed and excited about the possibilities. Not only did some say they learned about interviewing techniques or were prompted to think of things they'd never thought about, but they were engaging with some of the top advisors owners employ to find their team's new leaders.

It was just one of the key elements at the annual NFL Career Development Symposium -- a three-day gathering of potential future head coaches, coordinators and general managers.

In all, 66 coaches, scouts and other front office officials -- each nominated by their team -- attended the symposium in advance of the NFL Annual Meeting, which starts Sunday.

Assistant coaches like Green Bay's Winston Moss, Seattle's Darrell Bevell, Baltimore's Juan Castillo, San Diego's John Pagano and Cincinnati's Vance Joseph were among the many who have been interviewed or could be interviewed for head-coaching positions.

Some of the personnel officials included the Cowboys' Todd Williams, Cleveland's Morocco Brown, Washington's Doug Williams, Monti Ossenfort of the Patriots and the Giants' Ken Sternfeld.

Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, who interviewed for several head-coaching jobs this offseason, said the opportunity to meet so many people is important because, as assistant coaches, they rarely leave their film-room and coaching cocoons.

The chance to meet and interact with other coaches and personnel men is vital, Austin said, because often times, head coaches and GMs are hired in tandem. Building those relationships now could pay dividends in the future. The same thought process is applied to building a depth chart of potential coordinators, key assistants and personnel directors.

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"I think there is a lot of things you learn (at the symposium)," Austin said. "You learn about organizations, how sometimes the league works, how it is set up. Some things you don't give much thought to as a coach. Because all you are trying to do is win the next game and get your guys to play their best."

Cardinals team president Michael Bidwill, who is set at head coach and GM with Bruce Arians and Steve Keim, respectively, was a featured speaker. Bidwill addressed business strategies and said this symposium is also vital for people like him, who do the hiring.

"It gives us a chance just to meet people socially and get a chance to get to know them," Bidwill said. "So maybe down the line if there is an opening and when they can apply, it's not the first time you are meeting somebody, maybe it's the second or third time. And the door is a little more open at that point to having a second phase of those conversations if it's about employment."

The goal of the sessions are multiple, with the most notable being to prepare prospective leaders with the tools needed to get hired.

Hence, the one-on-one meetings with Wolf, Casserly and Polian, all of whom built Super Bowl championship teams. Joe Lockhart, who served as press secretary under Bill Clinton, addressed the entire group about crisis management. Former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher followed up with a speech on how to build a winning culture.

"There is a lot of different topics being presented here at this conference," Bevell said. "Just gives us an opportunity to open our minds up. You know we kind of get pretty tunnel vision going through the season, and focusing on our job. So it helps us to open our minds to some of the things we might come up with, when either we are interviewing or once we are head coach. It prepares us for that situation."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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