Jerry Jones might have thought he had another Sean Payton or Mike Tomlin when he promoted Jason Garrett to become the Dallas Cowboys coach nine years ago.
Turns out he wound up with … Jason Garrett.
Jones groomed Garrett for the job of a lifetime, undoubtedly hoping that he would fuel a rising star.
Yet while Tomlin and Payton have Super Bowl crowns on their résumés and major respect on the NFL landscape as two of the best leaders in the business – look at how both managed to win this season after their franchise quarterbacks suffered significant injuries in Week 2 – Garrett never managed to take a team as far as the NFC title game during his tenure as Cowboys coach, which came to an end Sunday night when the owner said in a statement that Garrett’s contract will not be renewed.
Sure, Garrett had his impressive moments. He was the NFL’s coach of the year for the 2016 season, when he won the second of three NFC East titles. When crisis struck during his second full season – defensive tackle Josh Brent was behind the wheel during an alcohol-related crash that resulted in the death of his best friend and teammate, Jerry Brown, Jr. – Garrett’s leadership behind the scenes was exemplary. And he demonstrated much poise in dealing with the enormous pressures associated with coaching the NFL’s most prominent team.
But the Cowboys – with five Super Bowl trophies in the franchise’s history – haven’t been back to a Super Bowl since 1995. And that’s still the other standard to use in measuring the success of the most valuable sports franchise in the world.
Garrett is out as of Sunday, and the search has begun, officially, for the next and ninth coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
It figures that the Cowboys will pursue a splash hire. Splash and substance, that is.
Remember when Jones walked into Valley Ranch with Jimmy Johnson and replaced the legendary Tom Landry with one of the best coaches in college football?
That was splash. And even when Johnson split, Barry Switzer came along. Splash, without as much substance.
When the Cowboys bottomed out but sought support to build a new stadium palace now known as Jerry World, the splash-and-substance agent was Bill Parcells – the shop-for-your-own-groceries icon who rebuilt the team back into a playoff contender while co-existing with Jones for four years.
This situation begs for the type of high-profile coach with presence that is built on results.
Urban Meyer is the name on everybody’s list. Why not?
Meyer, 55, has won big at three college programs. No, he won’t be compared to Landry. His scruples will undoubtedly raise questions and he violated the unwritten code of the coaching industry two months ago by saying he would be interested in discussing the top job with the Cowboys – even while Garrett was trying to rally his squad for a late-season playoff push.
That all just might make Meyer, with three college national championships on his résumé, a great match.
Go ahead, Jerry, call him. You know he’s on your radar.
Not every successful college coach is cut out to succeed on the NFL level. Johnson thrived. Nick Saban failed. And Jim Harbaugh, who has flopped at Michigan, previously succeeded in the NFL. Imagine Harbaugh and Jerry trying to mesh.
Meyer, Ezekiel Elliott’s old coach at Ohio State, is hardly a guarantee. But I’d take him in a heartbeat over Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, whose name keeps getting dropped in these discussions.
One glance at OU’s defense getting shredded by LSU in the College Football Playoff semifinal should provide some context for the Cowboys. They need a head coach, not a head offensive coordinator.
Riley might turn out to be a smash hit if he someday lands in the NFL. The same might be said of Tony Elliott, the co-offensive coordinator at Clemson seeking to help produce a third national championship in four years.
But, like Garrett, they would be speculative picks. You can’t put it past Jones to go that route again. In striking it rich in the world of oil and gas exploration, Jones had his share of dry holes. But he drilled between the dry holes, too, finding gushers.
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SOURCE: USA Today, Jarrett Bell