Who Might The Cowboys Aspire To Hire

Who Might The Cowboys Aspire To Hire? Part I: Improvement By Youth Movement

"It would be embarrassing. It would be shocking if you knew the size of the check I would write if it guaranteed me a Super Bowl. It would be obscene. There is nothing I would do financially (as opposed to managerially) not to get a Super Bowl." – GM Jerry on August 28, 2018 to Shan Shariff and R.J. Ochoa on 105.3 The Fan.

The North American sports world is stumbling all over itself with the thirst to be the bleeding-edge FIRST to discover the official fate of one Jason Calvin Garrett. Others – like “The Tortured Cowboys Fan” – will calmly ponder a shortlist of potential head coaching candidates most willing to dare it (or most capable of subservience, err, compliance) towards GM Jerry’s highest-profile NFL carrot.

“Wait a minute. Wait. One. MINUTE! Back in October, you more-than-mentioned Lincoln Riley of which you spoke so highly!” – you exasperatedly recall (forgetting – or ignoring – the Oklahoma Sooners’ still-fresh BCS 63-28 loss to LSU, where Riley’s offense AND defense came up competitively small). Any remark on (former?) entraîneur du jour Riley was far less a judgment of his (suddenly suspect?) QB-whispering skill. It was (and remains) far more an observation that any Garrett successor (who dares to form another imperfect union with a certain Cowboys’ oppressor) must also have the savvy and (superhuman) will to deliver (for the fans) while still allowing GM Jerry his ego-stroking fill.

Yes, “allowing” rather than giving so that – as long as the source of that ego-inducing comes from an otherwise spineless lemming – the right (and bright) candidate can feel like he remains among the living. The next head coach of “America’s Team” must be able to DAD – Deliver And Dismiss (any public irritation towards “invasion” of his station) so that “GRAND DAD” can continue to (attempt to) bask in the glow of the credit he doth still await from that sixth Super Bowl ring which his hiring decisions have continued to abate.

“I get it. I see your meaning. So, who do you believe can succeed while enduring Jerry’s preening?” – you eagerly inquire (about which brave, overly-curious, or blatantly cocky soul might help GM Jerry put out his on-field leadership fire). While The Tortured Cowboys Fan always, ALWAYS prefers a well-rounded walk around coach (who embraced or had been forced through the position-to-coordinator-to-head-coaching trial), there should be “reasonable” acquiescence towards GM Jerry’s potential level of 77-year-old denial.

And THAT could, should, would be the key. “Father time never loses.” GM Jerry – again and again, and again – wants so desperately to win ONE MORE Super Bowl while being revered like Al Davis “The Godfather” that he could or would (but never should) allow a win-now candidate to hang up the phone and say “Why to bother?”

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidates - Young

Though there are some exciting, young possibilities – who could allow a team to bypass some of the usual retread antiquities – each comes with some walk around inequities. GM Jerry maybe (GASP) crazy enough to think “Well, Al did it his way until he was 82. What’s it to YOU?” If that really, truly is the case, then, Dallas – for at least the next five years – may, indeed, be through. What to do? What to do? The Tortured Cowboys Fan will share his view.

Lincoln Riley

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Lincoln Riley

This is – again – a repeated courtesy mention, as more than consistent, year-over-year, QB whispering could and should (but may not) be necessary to command GM Jerry’s contract-offering attention. While his record at Oklahoma is 36-6 with three-consecutive Big 12 championships (as well as three-consecutive 12-2 finishes), his BCS record is 0-3. Though the 36-year-old Bob Stoops protégé has earned his way (receiving the 2015 Broyles Award and was the 2018 Big 12 Coach of the Year), his one-dimensional focus (once on the NFL circuit) could equal a Lane Kiffin-esque fear.

Robert Saleh

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Robert Saleh

The current San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator should outwardly remind Cowboys Nation of Kris Richard (with the same potent energy but, BUT the comparative results of a MUCH LARGER petard). He brought with him (from Pete Carrol in Seattle) a better way for San Francisco defenders to battle.

“I visualize the entire game. I visualize every call I’m going to make. I visualize the calls the other team will make. I try to visualize MY ADJUSTMENTS and their adjustments. This calms me and keeps me sane.” – says Saleh (with 49ers defenders often displaying precognitive proof of their leader's cover-all-the-bases way). This is music to the ears of adjustment-starved Dallas fans who (in the past near-10 years) can only dream of such forward-thinking plans. And Saleh (unlike Richard or Marinelli with a defensive unit that too often resembled jelly) has been able to successfully do just that this season for many a typical injury reason.

While the 40-year-old has done his time (from college coach to coordinator with a pre-visualized approach), The Tortured Cowboys Fan innocently wonders (without the overlap of assistant head-coaching experience to fill in the multi-phase gap) if teams see his one-dimensional frame as overpowering his unproven ability to oversee all areas of the game. A more-experienced walk around coach can, but Saleh's success has been built on a purposely-narrow span. Some will overlook the presence of mighty micromanager Kyle Shanahan who (just like his Super Bowl-winning father) can – for better or worse – make it easier for a coordinator to stay in his lane. Though it is far from big news that Saleh WILL receive multiple interviews, this wider-experience issue could become an inescapable pain.

Josh McDaniels

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Josh McDaniels

The current offensive coordinator of the six-time Super Bowl champion New England Patriots – as one of the very best play-designers AND callers in all of today’s NFL (separate altogether from his players’ 2019 regular season performance hell) – may not be willing to answer another team’s head-coaching bell. Sure, he may entertainment many an interview but – as with his near Indianapolis Colts hire – he may not follow through. His 2009-2010 Denver Broncos head-coaching opportunity began with a shocking preseason trade of Jay Cutler (so betrayed) to Chicago and concluded with a Brandon Marshall mutiny (and his own trade to Miami). McDaniels’ first season began so 6-0 celebrated prior to finishing so 8-8 annihilated. His second season began 3-9 before he was officially ventilated. McDaniels would make one more (largely forgettable) stop – as the St. Louis Rams’ OC with the likes of Sam Bad, err, Bradford – before returning to the only organization with which the 43-year-old has ever consistently demonstrated consistent coaching pop. There may never be a better time (with Tom Brady rumors developing like tumors) to see if McDaniels and his version of the “Patriot Way” are refined enough to get another team to successfully play.

Dan Campbell

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Dan Campbell

The current assistant head coach and tight ends boss for the New Orleans Saints is the only true dark horse on The Tortured Cowboys Fan's list. While he has the "second-most" NFL coaching experience of anyone here (going an interim 5-7 for the Miami Dolphins in 2015), he also offers the least overall coaching experience – from college to the pros or otherwise – of any of these guys. And yet – within NFL circles – he is a well-respected "Parcells Guy" (originally as an injury-plagued player for the Cowboys from 2003-2005) who has continued to transition just fine on the Saints' sideline. He has also taken to the terrific tutelage of one Sean Payton (another well-worshipped winner for which Big Bill also receives some credit for creatin'). The 43-year-old Campbell just gets the gist, but time will quickly tell if – for the Cowboys – concern about his clearly-limited resume proves to be an opportunity missed.

Matt Rhule

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Matt Rhule

He has the complete background that almost any (college or pro) team might consider indispensably cool. As a position coach for multiple well-known schools, he has practically done it all (linebacker, defensive line, offensive line, running back, quarterback, as well as tight end), with experience that comes together as a near-perfect blend. Rhule also assisted the New York Giants' offensive line with their 2012 Super Bowl haul. While the 44-year-old Rhule has a 47-43 head coaching record (with a current 1-2 bowl game mark), there simply MUST be a non-fad reason why so many (NCAA and NFL) teams have made multiple attempts to strike with him an accord. Though no team pursuing the "2019 Big 12 Coach of the Year” is shooting in the dark, in order to pry Rhule away from his role as head coach of Baylor University, his “aggressive buyout” (according to athletic director Mack Rhoades) would cost even champion check-writer GM Jerry a pretty penny. Still, Matt – who once said "(I like our recruiting base), I like living in Texas, I like coaching in Texas" – did not distinctly Rhule out North Dallas (or the high-priced opportunity to help the Jones family defeat their head-coaching hexes).

Dan Mullen

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Dan Mullen

According to a certain Cowboys’ QB, the Redskins’ Alex Smith, and one Timothy Tebow, the former top dog at Mississippi State and current University of Florida head coach is in the passing know with an offensive bent beyond reproach. Clearly (going 90-51 with an 8-2 bowl / playoff record and only two losing seasons out of 10 so far) the 47-year-old Mullen is another accomplished NCAA’er and potential NFL rising star. Perhaps Mullen is Lincoln Riley with a more significant resume. On the other hand, maybe he, too, is not multifaceted enough to help the Cowboys get over ALL their “stuff.”

Greg Roman

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Greg Roman

The current Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator has had the highly-successful pleasure of working with NFL MVP candidate and star quarterback Lamar Jackson (viewed around "Charm City" as a national treasure). While 47-year-old has a nice, position-coach mix of college and NFL coaching experience (as well as being the assistant head coach to John Harbaugh in 2018), one or more teams may want to see how he can keep their existing offensive units (better than) on track in the key absence of a purposely-mobile quarterback. Lost on many (understandably impatient) fans throughout the NFL may be the fact that teams want a new head coach to improve the production of their current roster and not wait (too far beyond free agency and the draft) for their own Lamar-like (or to a lesser degree Kaepernick-like) players to foster. Dallas – among those organizations – would need Roman to help them envision how he could achieve outcomes just the same with their current QB (who has stubbornly, even uncomfortably dodged such a mobile-minded frame). A Cowboys team that increasingly sustained a morbid mix of inaccurate passes, dismal drops, and a former rushing king suffering too many stops – could, of course, have used a consistently-threatening mobile QB to escape what became too many, avoidable series-ending aggravations.

Matt Eberfluse

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Matt Eberfluse

The current Indianapolis Colts defensive coordinator is a familiar face for the Cowboys brain trust (and a coach whose methods might have prevented this year’s version of “Marinelli’s Men” from going bust). Rob Ryan (son of Buddy, brother of Rex, and former Cowboys defensive coordinator in 2011) brought Eberfluse with him from the Cleveland Browns to become as their linebackers’ coach and a key part of his “experimental” scheme approach. Through Ryan's (inevitable?) firing and eventual hiring (of cover 2 creatures-of-habit Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli) Eberfluse ended up surviving. He was key to helping both Kiffin and Marinelli transition from Ryan’s 3-4 to their preferred 4-3. He was easily elevated to the additional task of passing game coordinator in 2016. Just when it seemed he might assume Marinelli's role following a miserable defensive showing in 2017, Dallas AND Eberfluse (respectfully) waited and waited on Marinelli's (rumored) retirement decision, but Rod was too slow in coming clean. Eberfluse flew the coop to a Colts franchise on the verge of a severe emotional droop (having been dumped at the alter by a certain Patriots coordinator). With his own talented defense on tap (that made the 2018 Cowboys look like 20-0 crap), he has not looked back since. The flexible, adjustment-minded Eberfluse was thought of so highly during his time in Dallas that – perhaps – GM Jerry would like to give the Cowboys' failed effort to retain the 49-year-old a sincere head-coaching rinse.

Eric Bieniemy

Dallas Cowboys - Head Coaching Candidate - Eric Bieniemy

While the current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator has spent seven years within and helping coach Andy Reid's long-standing, well-refined scheme, it conceptually remains a mystery if the 50-year-old Bieniemy is ready to run his own team. Having primarily been a running backs coach before twice performing as an OC (with KC and years ago for the University of Colorado), yet with no assistant head-coaching experience, it is hard to know. And unfair as it may seem, a player like Patrick Mahomes (among several critical KC talents) has the natural skill to make most systems perform like a dream. Bieniemy undoubtedly deserves an interview for a head-coaching spot, but will the Cowboys be among multiple teams expected to give him a “convince us” shot?

Will They Or Won't They?

While it is a foregone conclusion that Dallas can no longer bear it with genuine Jason Garrett, have GM Jerry and VP Stephen learned a lesson on the personal energy, monetary investment, and tutoring time it takes for an NFL village to raise (or significantly improve) a head-coaching child? If you do the math, some of the above possibilities might steer Jerry and Stephen down another Garrett-like path, and that is pretty wild.

Will America’s Team go youthfully bold or go more establishment old? Will the Dallas Cowboys’ next head coach be Super successful before a certain someone grows cold? We shall see. We always do.

These are the hottest candidates who might the Cowboys Aspire To Hire as their new Head Coach. Check out what other candidates need to be considered.

Follow “The Tortured Cowboys Fan” on Twitter: @emscharf.com.

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