Following Dallas’ 37-9 blowout loss to the Eagles last Sunday, Eagles Defensive Backs coach Cory Undlin summed things up well.
“Made ‘em quit. We made them quit!”
They sure did. Dallas looked like it couldn’t wait for time to expire for most of the 2nd half. The troubling part of the Cowboys quitting is that it may not be limited to the game. Perhaps this team has quit on their head coach.
We’ll get the answer to that in short order. The Cowboys have to go 5-1 down the stretch in order to secure a Wild Card berth. It’s a fairly winnable stretch for the Cowboys too. So given the talent that Dallas has, and the stakes laid before them, winning one or two of the remaining games would likely cost Jason Garrett his job.
PODCAST LINK: Could Jason Garrett be on the Hot Seat?
But if Jason Garrett is out of a job, who is the replacement? The Cowboys can’t just fire their head coach without a better alternative available. NFL teams generally have four types of coaches that they can hire, and Jerry Jones has hired all four types during his time.
1. The Bill Parcells Model
This is the guy who has skins on the wall, but is currently on the beach. It’s not that he can’t get a job, it’s that he’s at a place in his life to be picky about the job he wants. If he isn’t wowed by an opportunity, he isn’t giving up his life of leisure.
2. The Chan Gailey Model
The coordinator looking for his first gig that keeps coming up in coaching searches. Maybe he’s like Marvin Lewis, and interviews for a number of jobs before a team finally pulls the trigger. Or perhaps he’s more like Josh McDaniels, and becomes every team’s target in a short amount of time.
3. The Jimmy Johnson Model
The college superstar who hasn’t been wooed to the NFL yet. He’s got a great gig, and is a demigod to an entire college campus. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And this guy’s job definitely isn’t a broke. It will take lots of money, and lots of promises from an NFL owner for him to make the leap.
4. The Wade Phillips Model
The guy looking for redemption. He was once the Gailey or Johnson model, but his reputation has been damaged by his previous job or two. He’s looked to repair it the same way he earned it: by becoming one of the game’s best coordinators again, or by fixing a college program.
Every now and then you’ll get the rare instance of a coach being traded (Gruden) or a position coach leap-frogging coordinator responsibilities (Marinelli, Tomsula) but every team’s head coach typically comes from one of these four sources.
With those models in mind, here are 10 names that may come up if Dallas finds themselves looking for a new head coach this offseason.
The Parcells Coaches
The former head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers has been away from the game for over a decade.
Cowher appeared in a couple of Super Bowls (winning it all in 05-06) and finished with at least 10 wins in 11 of his 15 seasons. He’s now 60 years old and has a comfortable job with CBS’ pre-game show. Just two weeks ago he told Newsday that it was “highly unlikely” he’d coach again, but didn’t completely shut the door. Dallas just might be the type of job that would bring him back.
Gruden is a much likelier name to return to coaching.
Rumors abound about possibly taking over the Tennessee Volunteers football program after nine seasons away from coaching, but nothing concrete has come of that yet. Gruden won a Super Bowl as head coach of the Buccaneers in 2002, and is considered somewhat of a quarterback guru. If Jerry were looking for a splash, and good mentor for Dak Prescott, Gruden might be the name.
The Gailey Coaches
Jim Bob Cooter
If the Cowboys wanted to go the direction of a coordinator, Lions offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter is a coach who could dig in for the long haul.
At just 33 years of age, Cooter has orchestrated the Lions’ offense for the past three seasons. Detroit’s offense has seen substantial improvement since Cooter took over, and Matthew Stafford has played his best football in that time as well.
On the other side of the ball, Detroit’s other coordinator has also generated some buzz. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin has interviewed for nine head coaching jobs in the last few seasons.
The appeal comes from Austin’s work with a raw Detroit defense, which he helped guide to 8 consecutive games allowing 20 points or fewer. That tied for the longest streak in the NFL last season, and was the longest such streak for the Lions in over 50 years. Though the Detroit defense has struggled this season, they’re still top 5 in generating turnovers, something the Cowboys need lots of help with.
New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia is just 43-years old, but he’s a seasoned NFL veteran.
Patricia has overseen the Patriots’ defense for six seasons now, and New England has finished top 10 in points allowed each year. The last two seasons the team has finished top 10 in yards allowed as well. They’ve had a rough year in giving up chunk plays (currently last in the NFL in yards allowed) but they’re still in the top half of the league in points allowed, and this season seems to be an anomaly against his larger body of work.
Seattle’s previous two defensive coordinators – Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn – have departed for NFL head coaching jobs, and current defensive coordinator Kris Richard may be next in line.
Richard has been on staff with the Seahawks for eight seasons now, and he is in his third year as coordinator. A former third round pick by the Seahawks in 2002, Richard is a young guy (38) who has experience dealing with some pretty big personalities in Seattle.
The Jimmy Coaches
That should really read “The Jimmy Coach” since there is only one real option right now: Chris Petersen.
Petersen has never held an NFL job, but he’s done fantastic work for two programs now: Boise State from 2006-2013, and the Washington Huskies since 2014. Petersen coached four current Cowboys at Boise (Kellen Moore, Orlando Scandrick, Tyrone Crawford, and DeMarcus Lawrence) and his Washington squads have produced four first round picks in the last few years.
The Phillips Coaches
Not a name with a lot of pizzazz, but there are NFL teams that still think highly of Smith.
Smith had a nice run with the Falcons from 2008-2014 before he was dismissed in favor of the aforementioned Gus Bradley. During the first five years of Smith’s tenure, only the New England Patriots had a better overall record than his Falcons teams. After a disappointing finish to his time in Atlanta, Smith is attempting to rebuild his brand as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator.
A Parcells protégé who spent a few seasons as Dallas’ wide receivers coach.
Haley guided the Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs in 2010 (his second season with the team) but was fired with three games remaining in the following season. Since that time he’s been the offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers waiting for another call.
A bit of a curveball, but a name I think you might actually hear if Garrett is removed as coach.
Turner was the offensive coordinator for Dallas’ 1992 and 1993 Super Bowl teams, and he was a finalist for Dallas’ job in 2007. Still considered to be one of the brightest offensive minds in the league, Turner has been unemployed since resigning as Minnesota’s offensive coordinator in the middle of the 2016 season. For nostalgic purposes, and the benefit of Dak Prescott, Jerry might turn to his old friend to carry Dallas over the finish line.
Here are three other names that may be floated in a coaching search, but would be long-shots at best.
Tom Coughlin (Parcells Model)
Coughlin has the pedigree (two Super Bowls with New York, and a Parcells disciple) but he’s 71-years old now and has a nice front office gig with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Tony Dungy (Parcells Model)
Dungy could have any job he wants, if we’re being honest. But he’s been away from football for almost a decade, is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and has repeatedly said coaching is no longer his life.
Jim Harbaugh (Phillips Model)
Harbaugh’s dream job was Michigan, so it’s hard to see him leaving Ann Arbor. But with his track record in San Francisco, and the job he’s done restoring Michigan’s program, NFL teams will lust for Harbaugh’s return much like they have with Saban.