There seems to be a growing trend of solid former NFL head coaches watching games instead of being on the sidelines coaching them.

Teams don’t seem to want to throw out millions to get what would be called a “retread” coach, and instead seem more inclined to go with either an assistant coach from another team, or they hire within such as the Raiders promoting Hue Jackson to head coach after dismissing Tom Cable.

Consider the names sitting on the sidelines as teams begin to put the lockout behind them and get ready for the 2011 season:

Jeff Fisher

Bill Cowher

Mike Holmgren

Wade Phillips

Eric Mangini

Brad Childress

Now while the bottom three on the list (Phillips, Mangini and Childress) were dismissed after failures in or during the 2011 season, the top three are all coaches that have track records that could and should land them on sidelines in 2012 if not sooner if they so choose.

Fisher spent 17 seasons with the Houston Oilers/Tennessee Titans, and while mistakes were made during his tenure (Adam “Pacman” Jones and Vince Young), he also year after year seemed to get the most out of his teams. Taking players like Kerry Collins to the next level, there is no doubt that Fisher’s tenure speaks for itself.

He already has stated that he will look at opportunities to be back on the sideline of a team in 2012. “I may entertain something (another head job) next year,” Fisher said on NFL Network Monday night.

The cases of Cowher and Holmgren are a little more complicated. Cowher walked away after the 2006 season to spend more time with his family, and since then has been on CBS as a studio analyst and also experienced tragedy last summer with the passing of his wife Kaye from skin cancer.

Is it time for Cowher to finally get back on the sidelines? There has been so much speculation when a job becomes open that he may be in the running, but he also seems to quickly put a stop to rumors by coming out and saying he isn’t interested.

Cowher is smart to take his time before jumping into a bad situation. Pittsburgh was a perfect situation for him — the ownership was patient when the teams failed (four AFC Title game losses) and gave him support when he needed it. He will likely sit back and continue to wait for the perfect situation.

As for Holmgren, he’s currently sitting in a plush office in Cleveland as the teams president. While Mangini was failing as the team was tanking last season, there was plenty of talk that Holmgren would step out of the president chair and into the head coaching spot.

That never happened. The former Packers and Seahawks coach instead stayed in his position of power, and after firing Mangini the day after the season ended, he decided to hire former Rams assistant Pat Shurmur.

Holmgren, like Cowher, will continue to have his name brought up when teams begin to tank in 2011 and coaches get fired. At 63, you have to wonder if the fire is burning as bright to coach as it once was, and if so, where he may be willing to go when spots become open.

As for the other three, Phillips has taken the defensive coordinator job with the Texans, while Mangini and Childress are waiting in the wings for jobs to open up. When spots become open in 2012, Fisher will be the number one name on the board, followed by the usual talk of Cowher and Holmgren being interested.

It will be a storyline to the 2011 season if the trend continues for teams to hire lesser known assistants and up-and-comers, or if those former NFL head coaches waiting by the phone finally get calls — and if they answer the call to head back to the sidelines.