Aging Hudson Houck ready for young OL

A running theme during the 2010 season was that longtime offensive line coach Hudson Houck, 68, was on his last legs and was about to retire.

That wasn't the case.

In fact, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones jokes all the time how Houck is the highest-paid offensive line coach in the game at $1 million per season. But there were concerns about the lack of improvement from several young offensive linemen -- most recently Robert Brewster, a third-round pick in 2009.

And when the Cowboys drafted USC tackle Tyron Smith, the question again was raised about Houck's ability to work with young players.

"I love young players," Houck said. "I’m excited. I think any coach that has the opportunity to work with a guy this talented is excited. And that’s our job as coaches."

Houck, entering his 29th season, has been an NFL coach longer than Smith, 20, has been alive. Yet as Houck enters the last year of his contract with the Cowboys, this might be his last season with the club, unless he receives a new deal or he decides to retire.

Sometimes older coaches say they don't relate well with younger players, and use that as a reason why that specific player struggles to develop.

Houck, who seems to have a good relationship with the veterans, probably takes too much criticism for younger players' inability to move to another level in their development. Houck should get some credit for Doug Free moving into the starting lineup, and Free was drafted the same year as Brewster.

Tom Ciskowski, the Cowboys' director of college and pro scouting, said sometimes young players fail because they're afraid of the NFL's big stage.

Jones doesn't think Houck has problems developing young players.

"I do not think that there is validity to that," he said. "One of the things I felt comfortable with in making this pick [Smith] was that he was going to get to come in and be coached and tutored by Hudson. And I think that is a big plus. I think that’s a big plus for Tyron, and I think it’s a big plus for the Cowboys."