It’s debatable whether anybody wants one. Everybody has one. He’s the NFL assistant head coach. He pretty much didn’t exist when Vince Lombardi was a head coach, not a trophy.

It’s debatable whether anybody wants one. Everybody has one. He’s the NFL assistant head coach. He pretty much didn’t exist when Vince Lombardi was a head coach, not a trophy.

Whether or not the head coach likes the title -- it can create friction among veteran coordinators whose job description is “not assistant head coach” -- he has to live with it.

What is an assistant head coach?

Often, he’s a smart guy some other team would like to steal. In today’s market, a raise and the “assistant head coach title” can be the magic formula for keeping good help.

In some cases, the title can be patronizing, as if to say, “We don’t like you as a head coach or coordinator, but you’re good enough to schmooze.”

It can be hard for a fired NFL coach to join a new staff. It’s not as hard if he’s an assistant head coach. Mike Tice (Jaguars), Bill Callahan (Jets) and Joe Bugel (Redskins) fit into this discussion.

Likewise, it can be hard to finish second in a race for a head coaching job.

After Russ Grimm was not promoted in Pittsburgh, he jumped to Arizona as Ken Whisenhunt’s assistant head coach. That was a key move in the minds of eyewitnesses who swear they see the Steelers’ line falling apart.

In the case of offensive line guru Alex Gibbs, 67, the Texans used the title, a past with Gary Kubiak and Bob McNair’s checkbook to lure him from retirement.

In the case of the play-calling guru Jason Garrett, he might be the Cowboys’ assistant head coach only until Wade Phillips gets pushed into retirement.

Forget Atlanta’s miserable 2007. No one is having a better year than Falcons assistant head coach Emmitt Thomas. The former Chiefs cornerback was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this month.

Another Hall of Famer with the title of assistant head coach is Bears icon Mike Singletary, who works for the 49ers.

Assistant head coaching résumés have nooks and crannies covering the football universe.

Buffalo’s Bobby April, 45, worked for Southern Cal and for two Pro teams (Steelers, Rams) that went to Super Bowls. Before they were NFL assistant head coaches -- Jim Skipper with the Panthers, Kippy Brown with the Lions -- were rival XFL head coaches. You really know your stuff if you can say who piloted the Memphis Maniax and the San Francisco Demons.

Winston Moss (Packers) was a 1980s NFL linebacker who became an NFL coach the moment he quit playing. He forged a bond with Mike McCarthy when they were fellow coaches in New Orleans.

Cleveland’s Rip Scherer, 56, worked 30 years all over the college ranks before jumping from Southern Mississippi to the Browns in 2005.

Happy birthday Joe Vitt, who turned 54 on Saturday. He has blown out candles in seven NFL cities as an assistant, currently as assistant head coach of the Saints.

Leslie Frazier won a Super Bowl ring while playing for the 1985 Bears and followed a coaching path that put him with Brad Childress in Philadelphia. Now, Frazier is Childress’ assistant head coach in Minnesota.

For some, “assistant head coach” is a career award.

Dante Scarnecchia has worked for Patriots head coaches Ron Meyer, Raymond Berry, Dick MacPherson, Bill Parcells and Pete Carroll. Now, at 60, he is Bill Belichick’s assistant head coach.

Paul Alexander survived Bengals stints under head coaches Dave Shula, Bruce Coslet and Dick LeBeau. Now, he is Marvin Lewis’ assistant head coach.

Dick Curl, 68, is the granddaddy of assistant head coaches. He has the title with the Chiefs, having also been a Herm Edwards confidant with the Jets, There are variations of the title.

Steve Watson, 51, is “associate head coach” in Denver. It seems safe to guess the title honors his 19 years as a Broncos’ receiver.

Jim Caldwell, 53, is Tony Dungy’s associate head coach with the Colts. He spent eight years as head coach at Wake Forest before jumping to the NFL with Dungy in 2001. They didn’t know at the time they would be moving to Indianapolis together in 2002.

Vic Fangio is “special assistant to the head coach” under new Baltimore Head Coach John Harbaugh. He had worked two years with the Ravens and stayed after Brian Billick was excused.

The Bucs (Larry Coyer, Richard Bisaccia), Rams (Art Valero, Rick Venturi) and Seahawks (Jim Mora, Gil Haskell) all carry two assistant head coaches. The old-school Steelers, Bears and Giants have none.

Then there are the Raiders of Al Davis. They do not have an assistant head coach -- unless his name is Lane Kiffin.

Madden on Upshaw

One Pro Football Hall of Famer to another, here’s what John Madden said regarding the passing of Gene Upshaw. Upshaw played for the Raiders from 1967-81. Madden was his head coach from 1969-78:

“It was such a shock because we all talk about Raiders and Raider family and team being family, and when something like this happens, you realize that you really are family. We lost someone in our family.

“Gene was a Hall of Fame player. If you look at the history of the NFL, you’re going to find out that he was one of the most influential people that the league has known.

“He did so much, not only for the players, but also for the owners, the teams and the game of pro football.

“As a player he was a tough guy, and as the union head he was a tough guy. But he was also smart, and he could compromise, and he could make things happen.”

17-and-0?

A year after going 16-0, what does Belichick think the proposed 17-game schedule would change things?

“The fewer preseason games you have, the fewer opportunities you have for the younger players. We had the Europe League or World League and that was supposedly to develop young players, and now that is not in place anymore. If you have young players on your roster, and you don’t have preseason games, then I don’t know where you get them experience. I think it makes it a lot harder for them to make the team.”

If supporters of a 17-game season get their way, the preseason would be shortened from four to three games.

Extra points

- Trivia: Who leads the NFL in receptions over the last two seasons?

- Would Belichick favor a minor league to develop younger players? “As far as trying to conquer the world and save the sport, I will leave that to someone else.”

- Belichick continues to collect older players. His new toy is safety John Lynch, a companion piece for veteran Rodney Harrison. The more he wins, the more other teams look at adding experience to their rosters.

- The Saints have racked up 12,044 yards in the last two seasons, best in the NFL. Next are the Patriots (11,949), Eagles (11,832), Colts (11,809) and Cowboys (11,623). The top five in that span in points are the Patriots (974), Chargers (904), Cowboys (880), Colts (877) and Saints (792).

- Trivia answer: T.J. Houshmandzadeh has 202 catches in the last two years. That tops Reggie Wayne (190), Torry Holt (186), Chad Johnson (180) and Wes Welker (179).

The Repository