The Dallas Cowboys may soon be looking for a new head coach. Pro Football Network’s NFL Insider Benjamin Allbright is being told by sources that owner/general manager Jerry Jones will only keep head coach Jason Garret if he can win out. This also may include games beyond the regular season. Per Allbright, the feeling is that Garrett needs to win out, including the playoffs. And if that doesn’t happen, Allbright says that Jones will be looking to make a splash. Enter Oklahoma Sooners HC Lincoln Riley, Baylor Bears HC Matt Rhule, and former Florida Gators and Ohio State Buckeyes HC Urban Meyer.
But how did we get to this point, especially considering that Garrett was the 2016 NFL Coach of the Year? It comes down to the lack of patience that Jones now has while knowing that their Super Bowl window might be closing in a few years.
The Cowboys are currently in the midst of a three-game losing streak, with two of those losses coming during nationally televised games. Their 26-15 loss to the Buffalo Bills showcased a flat Cowboys team at home on Thanksgiving. Their Thursday Night Football game against the Bears yielded another moderately numb Dallas team. Combine all of that with the perceived notion that they have underachieved over the last several years, and you are presented with this dilemma.
The Cowboys are currently tied with Philadelphia atop the NFC East at 6-7, with no margin for error. While the Cowboys can still win their division, Garrett will likely need to do much more to guarantee another season on the sideline in Dallas. If he can’t pull the rabbit out of the hat, then it becomes Jerry’s time to make a splash.
Hello, Lincoln Riley.
Will Lincoln Riley want to come to the NFL?
Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley has been brought up several times in the past few offseasons as a potential candidate to jump to the NFL. However, Riley has said himself numerous times that he is comfortable at Oklahoma and did not have much interest in jumping to the NFL.
But this won’t stop the Cowboys from pursuing him with fervor. As Pro Football Network Insider Tony Pauline put it, “Dallas is pushing for Lincoln Riley at this point…or at least that’s the name being bandied about.”
And where there is smoke, there is fire.
On Thursday morning during a radio appearance on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas, Jones was asked by reporters about Riley. He was quite open about his opinion.
“I’m impressed with (Riley). But, boy, I’m impressed with Baylor’s coach, too. Those were two outstanding coaches at the stadium this weekend. … That was a great chance to see a couple great coaches out there.”
Even if he seemed impressed by both Rhule and Lincoln, he also said later in the interview that bringing a college coach into the NFL doesn’t come without a cost.
“College coaches coming directly into (to the NFL), have the lowest percentage rate of success … So, you pay a price for someone to get up to date that hasn’t spent the prior months or years in the NFL.”
Riley’s name has surfaced before, and there’s always room in the NFL for a “young mad scientist” on offense. He is orchestrating an offensive juggernaut at the University of Oklahoma and has the Sooners as the fourth seed in the College Football Playoffs. But will he want to make the jump to the NFL? According to what we are hearing, Jones is going to give it his best shot.
What about Matt Rhule?
Pauline mentioned this during the 12/7 edition of the PFN live college football blog: “Baylor will look for redemption after their collapse to the Sooners just a few weeks ago. NFL teams will want to see how Baylor responds as BU head coach Matt Rhule is one of the hottest head coaching names in league circles as the regular season enters its final month.”
Despite a disparity in talent in Oklahoma’s favor, Rhule’s Baylor team took the Sooners into overtime in the Big-12 Championship Game before succumbing to the eventual conference champions.
Per Allbright, Rhule has been vetting his NFL options with his family this week. Rhule spent 2012 as the assistant offensive line coach with the New York Giants and is the only coach of the three top collegiate candidates with any type of NFL experience.
Starting as head coach at Baylor in 2017 amidst the rubble of the Art Briles fallout, the Bears finished 1-11. Flash forward to 2019, Baylor is 11-2. It seems that everything Rhule touches turns to gold, which is why he will be in high demand if he decides to make the jump to the NFL.
Rhule was nearly named the New York Jets head coach last offseason. However, reports stated that the demands of former Jets general manager Mike Maccagnan to choose Rhule’s coaching staff derailed the process. That’s why Rhule’s desire to have a large say on the personnel side of football operations may ultimately derail his opportunity with the Cowboys as well.
According to Pauline, “While the Cowboys are a likely candidate for Rhule’s services, one hang up may be authority over player personnel and decision making. Sources inform me that Rhule will want to have a large say in many areas, including player personnel — part of the reason he did not get the head coaching job with the NY Jets last year. Jerry Jones is unlikely to cede the authority Rhule wants, which could be a non-starter for the Baylor coach ending up in Big D.”
Furthermore, a report published by Pro Football Network on Thursday evening stated that if the New York Giants job were to open, Rhule would be very interested. That, along with the Carolina Panthers being interested in interviewing Rhule, would make for some tough competition for Jones.
Bringing Urban Meyer out of retirement?
Although there have only been “whispers” according to Allbright, Meyer essentially said, “Hey, give me a call” when he had lofty praise for the Cowboys organization during an interview on the Colin Cowherd show.
“That’s the New York Yankees, that’s the Dallas Cowboys,” Meyer said. “That’s the one. Great city. They got Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott. You got a loaded team. And I can’t speak for him obviously, I hate to even speculate because I don’t know him, that’s really not fair, but to me, that’s the one job in professional football that you say, ‘I got to go do that.’”
When Colin Cowherd asked if Meyer would be interested in the head coaching role, Meyer replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely. That one? Yes.”
Meyer has no NFL coaching experience, but his resume as a head coach speaks for itself. He has three collegiate national titles and is an impressive 187-32 throughout his career.
The future of the Dallas Cowboys
Meanwhile, in the backdrop of their coaching drama, quarterback Dak Prescott is having the best season of his NFL career. He is leading the NFL in passing yards, tied for 5th in touchdowns, and 13th in QB rating. Prescott is QB03 in PFN’s OSM (Offensive Share Metric) rating, meaning he has the third-most responsibility for his team’s offensive success compared to other NFL QB’s.
Prescott’s contract expires after the 2019 season, and his new contract will likely compete for the richest in NFL history. Whether the team decides to extend him long term or franchise tag him is yet to be seen, but it is an interesting situation for a new head coach to be stepping into.
Couple a consequential quarterback negotiation with a possible head coach search and the Cowboys organization has major decisions to make this offseason, with one possibly affecting the other.
We will continue to monitor the situation and update as more news becomes available. For more, make sure to follow Ben on Twitter: @AllbrightNFL along with Tony Pauline: @TonyPauline and Pro Football Network: @PFN365.
PFN Co-Owner Aaron Sutton also contributed to this report.