Jerry Jones has won three Super Bowls over the course of his ownership of the Dallas Cowboys. All three were won by former college coaches — two by Jimmy Johnson, one by Barry Switzer. Jerry is desperate to win a fourth… to a point. He wants to win, yes, but he really wants to win while getting the credit, thus validating this former oilman as a Football Man once and for all.
Hence, why Jason Garrett held on to his job half a decade longer than any other owner would have kept him around, and why it’s proven so difficult for him to sever ties with the former Cowboys quarterback/third Jones son.
But, barring a last minute reversal of field, Garrett will be out. His replacement will be the eighth coach under Jones’ employ — the Cowboys employed one coach for the 29 pre-Jerry seasons — and, while it wouldn’t be smart to come out and say Jerry won’t hire an established NFL coach with final say over personnel matters, it would be a significant departure from Jerry’s MO over the past 25 years.
|Coach||Say in Personnel?|
|Chan Gailey||lol No|
|Dave Campo||lol No|
|Wade Phillips||lol No|
Johnson served as his own general manager (though Jerry retained the title), quickly built one of the NFL’s greatest dynasties, then walked away because he and Jerry couldn’t agree on who got the credit. Jerry’s next three coaches were varying form of puppets, and the team descended from a Super Bowl champion during the 1995 season to Campo’s three straight 5-11 seasons from 2000-02.
With his roster and his brand at an all-time low point, Jones hired Parcells in 2003 and handed over personnel — largely to focus his energy on securing the team a new stadium. The move worked. By 2006, construction had begun on what would become AT&T Stadium, and Parcells had built a Tony Romo, Jason Witten-led roster that put Dallas back in the playoffs. By January of 2007, Parcells was so sick of working for Jerry that he walked away.
Jones hired soft-power head coaches in Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett — Garrett was actually hired as offensive coordinator before Phillips was named head coach — and the rest is history.
Given all that, it wouldn’t be right to say there’s absolutely no way Jones would turn around and hire an established NFL head coach who would demand personnel oversight a la a Sean Payton or a Mike McCarthy, but it would be significantly out of character.
Which is why plenty have speculated Jones could turn to a college head coach. Here are four, with reasons why a deal could or could not come together.
Why it makes sense: The Air Raid has achieved proof of concept at the NFL level in both Kansas City and Arizona, and both Baltimore and Colin Kaepernick’s San Francisco teams have proven a college-style spread run attack can work (with the right quarterback). Hiring Riley would be getting a man who can do both. Riley has not shut the door on an NFL opportunity, and the chance to coach the Dallas freakin’ Cowboys might be too much for a kid from Muleshoe, Texas, to turn down.
Why it doesn’t: Sure, Riley hasn’t outright said he has no interest in the NFL, but he’s also said plenty of times he’s not actively looking to leave Oklahoma. Does a 36-year-old really want to walk away from one of the best jobs in all of football to work for Jerry Jones?
Why it makes sense: Rhule has proven to be a Grade 1 Leader of Men at Temple and Baylor. Despite the fact he’s spent all of one season of his two-decade coaching career in the NFL, he’s consistently been pegged as an NFL guy, and his dalliances with the Indianapolis Colts and New York Jets have done nothing to dissuade that. He’s already at the tops of the lists of the New York Giants and Carolina Panthers, and if he’s considering those gigs he’d consider the Cowboys, who offer two things those teams can’t: a better roster, and the chance to hop down I-35 and pick up a Gut Pak during his down time.
Why it doesn’t: Like Riley, Rhule has only said he’d only leave his job for the right job, and does anything about the Cowboys scream “This is the right job”?
Why it makes sense: A 187-32 career record. Three national championships. More AP Top 5 finishes than not. Meyer would easily be the most accomplished coach the Cowboys could hire — college or pro — and, unlike others mentioned, he has documented interest in the job.
“That’s the one,” Meyer told Colin Cowherd of the Cowboys job this fall. “That’s the New York Yankees. That’s the one. Great city. You’ve got Dak Prescott, you’ve got Zeke Elliott, you’ve got (a) loaded team. To me, that’s the one job in professional football where you say, ‘I’ve got to go do that.'”
Why it doesn’t: Much like how a football player marvels at how much better his body feels in July versus January, Meyer appears healthy and stress-free… now. He’s out of coaching at the moment for a reason, and the evidence that he can coach again free of the debilitating headaches that chased him out of Ohio State is… what?
While we’re on the topic of relevant Meyer quotes, here’s one from his farewell press conference at Ohio State last December: “I see some of these guys’ records because the NFL is so even. Some of these guys, their record is 74-58. I could never do that.”
Why it makes sense: Mullen is very much Urban, Jr., without the depth of accomplishments and none of the baggage. He went 69-46 in nine seasons at Mississippi State, and now stands at 21-5 through two years at Florida. He runs Meyer’s power spread offense, he’s proven an elite ability to develop quarterbacks, and he has a prior relationship with Dak Prescott.
Why it doesn’t: Outside of media members (cough) trying to play matchmaker, there is no public evidence Dallas carries interest in Mullen or vice versa. Other than that minor detail, it makes perfect sense.