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The Dallas Cowboys Need to Take a Gamble With Next Head Coach

The Dallas Cowboys will soon embark, if they haven’t already, on the search for their next head coach. But after years of ranging between average and good, it’s time to stop playing it safe. The Cowboys need to take a gamble if they want to move the needle to greatness.

The Jason Garrett Era appears to be ending any moment now and the organization will be looking for just its ninth head coach in six decades. Moving on from Garrett is the right call for a variety of reasons, but Dallas could wind up treading water if they don’t swing for the fence with the next hire.

Garrett had an 85-67 record as head coach, which averages out at about a 9-7 record per season. If you adjust for Tony Romo’s injuries and Ezekiel Elliott’s suspension, it’s closer to 10-6 each year.

Jason won three division titles and mostly dominated the NFC East in head-to-head games over recent years. He’s been good enough to keep the Cowboys in or around the playoff picture for the majority of his tenure.

Will hiring an NFL retread like Mike McCarthy really guarantee improvement? He averaged 9.6 wins in 13 years with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers at quarterback. Or what if we’d gone with Ron Rivera; 8.4 win average with the Panthers.

We’re not the Redskins or Giants; guys like Rivera and McCarthy probably aren’t going to improve things in Dallas. We might as well keep Jason Garrett and stay on the treadmill of mediocrity.

The Cowboys are moving on from Garrett because they want to achieve something more than the occasional divisional title and brief playoff appearance. But if they want to land the next great one at head coach, Dallas will need to take a chance.

Bill Belichick, Jason Garrett
Patriots coach Bill Belichick and Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images)

The reality is that 31 teams in the NFL are chasing Bill Belichick, hoping that their current guy or next hire will join the lineage of legendary head coaches. But the road to Canton for great coaches has often started with some humble or unexpected beginnings.

After taking some time away from coaching college football and working in land development, Bill Parcells returned as a linebackers coach with the NY Giants in 1980, eventually working his way up to the head job. Bill Walsh went from NFL assistant jobs to head coach at Stanford for a few years before being hired by the 49ers.

And as we all know, Jimmy Johnson had zero NFL experience before Jerry Jones hired him in 1989 to coach the Dallas Cowboys.

But perhaps the greatest story of all is Belichick’s. After a bad run with the Cleveland Browns, 36-44 with one playoff appearance, Belichick didn’t get another head coaching job from 1996-1999. He worked as an assistant with the Patriots and then the Jets before New England hired him in 2000 for a second chance in the big chair.

To put that in Cowboys terms, it was the equivalent of Scott Linehan or Rod Marinelli being hired as a head coach today.

Of course, six Super Bowls later, we know how it worked out for the Patriots. And while Belichick is uniquely surprising given how he started, all of these coaches illustrate that the unconventional route is often the most profitable.

Sure, the Cowboys could hire some hot assistant from the NFL ranks. But time has proven that those guys generally come with a flash of success, even a single Super Bowl win like Doug Pederson brought Philly, but then quickly rejoin the ranks of average performers.

Case in point; look what happened this year to “genius” Sean McVay and the Rams.

Jerry Jones: Lincoln Riley to Cowboys Pure Speculation
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley

It’s time for Jerry Jones to take a real gamble again, like he hasn’t done since hiring Jimmy about 30 years ago. Otherwise, the risk is not really improving this team much or at all from what we’ve seen the last decade.

I don’t necessarily mean pulling someone from the college ranks, either. Yes, I think a guy like Lincoln Riley or Matt Rhule would be the right kind of hire at this point. But I’m not limiting my search there.

What about a guy with some baggage like Josh McDaniels? Yes, he had a bad run as Broncos head coach 10 years ago. But like Belichick when he went back to working for Bill Parcells, McDaniels has been learning from from a legend and perhaps will be stronger for his bad experience.

As a Jedi master once said, “the greatest teacher, failure is.”

Hopefully, Jerry Jones has learned from these 25 years of ultimate failure with the Dallas Cowboys. It’s been a long time since we added to the trophy case and a lot of that has had to do with uninspired choices for head coaches.

Jason Garrett was worth a shot and he almost delivered. The 2014 Dallas Cowboys were a championship-worthy team and just had bad luck in a single playoff game. You could argue the same in 2016 as well.

But Garrett proved in the last decade that he’s not a great coach. He’s just another good-to-average guy in the vast sea of safe options.

It’s time to gamble on something different. It’s time to try to find out our next great one; the next Cowboys head coach who can rival Tom Landry and Jimmy Johnson in franchise history.

May the Force be with us.

What do you think?

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Jess Haynie

Written by Jess Haynie

Cowboys fan since 1992, blogger since 2011. Bringing you the objectivity of an outside perspective with the passion of a die-hard fan. I love to talk to my readers, so please comment on any article and I'll be sure to respond!

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  1. In the first place; DON’T removeCowboys your nose despite your face. If I remember correctly Jerry Jones is using Jason eGarrett as a puppet. Garrett needs to coach the Cowboys his way for at least for another season. Then; if he fails fire him. If you decide to hire a different coach; all you have then is a worse gamble. Jerry Jones needs to re-think his decision making on the subject: Think about it!

    • I think Josh McDaniels is ready to be coach again. You have to give him a pass on Denver. If you remember,being the youngest head coach at that time, he walked into a buzz saw. His #1 receiver (Brandon Marshall) was at his bipolar worse. His franchise quarterback (Jay Cutler) was dysfunctional as well. Nobody can be successful, playing daddy to grown men brats.

      • No Josh McDaniels please. First when he was with Denver he had total control. That isn’t going to happen in Dallas. He drafts Tim Tebow in the first round. So a big no McDaniels. I would rather have Lincoln Riley.

  2. The Dallas Cowboys need to take a chance with a new GM. Players have come and gone, coaches have come and gone, but Jerry and mediocrity have been constant.

    • Stating the obvious lol, tell that to Jerry. His ego is more important than winning. As long as he is the center of the universe with a subpar team, he will choose his ego over everything. Sad, but true. Everyone knows he is the real problem, but at some point I’ve come to accept he truly can care less about winning, he just talks like he does. Any other NFL team would have fired Jerry as GM long ago, even if he was hireable in first place, yet he still remains the one constant on 25 years of mediocrity. As long as his net worth increases, he will never step down. I’ve been a Cowboys fan for life, but I’m finally about to move on cause I’ve had enough. You are 100% correct, thanks for the wise words, I hope someone pays attention.

  3. I’ll throw in a vote for someone like Greg Roman or Dan Campbell.

    And we need to upgrade at DC too. . .since everyone listed so far is an offensive guy

  4. Get ready folks. Garrett is getting a contract extension. Makes my stomach turn to think of it but it’s true. Why would Jerry fire him? Jerry knows the only real change would be to fire himself. 3 meeting so far? That ain’t you’re fired, that’s an extension. Garrett has already said (probably in meeting #1) “I’ve done ever single thing you all have said to do. Every move from who to sign, who to draft, who to play and how to play them–ive done what you said.” If we’ve lost when we should have won, that’s on you guys. I did everything you said.” He’ll come out of these meetings with a new 5 year deal.

  5. Riley may good for there offense but you just can’t outscore every one in nfl Oklahoma has shown no real interest in playing defense

  6. Rivera the disciplinarian was what we needed. Eric Bienemy is Andy Reid disciple and with our talent we would be awesome!!!

    • Eric Bienemy would be a good hire for the Cowboys. If the Giants hire him, that would be 3 coaches in the NFC East from the Andy Reid coaching tree, and we know how good of a record he had against the Cowboys. We need an experienced coach who is a motivator. I will also throw another name out there, Bill Cowher. Even though he has not coached in sometime now, but Gruden seems to headed in the right direction.

  7. I like Jason Garrett. He is super intelligent and he commands the respect of his players. They always play hard for him and never give up. That is a sign of a good coach. Through all the ups and downs throughout the season he never lost the locker room. There is nothing out there better than Jason Garrett out there perhaps Josh McDaniels and I doubt he would want to be affiliated with an owner who will not allow his coach to have total control. The best outcome would be for Jerry Jones to step down as GM and turnnover thet position to s Jason Garrett. Hire a dynamic young head coach and bring in as OC someone like Norv Turner.

    • He commands respect From his players, hes only been to the playoffs 3 times in 10 years yeah that’s a great reason to keep him. Let’s sign him to a 5 year contract extension, he’ll lead the team into the playoffs one time in those 5 years. You’ve been standing behind the exhaust pipe to long.

  8. Even if they do fire Garrett (why is it taking this long?
    It takes about 2 seconds to say “YOU’RE FIRED!”.

    No matter who Jerry hires. NOTHING WITH THE
    COWBOYS WILL CHANGE! I have been a Cowboys
    fan since 1967 (after several years being a Packer fan
    during the what would become the first 2 Super Bowls.
    Donnie Anderson, Texas Tech All American sold life
    insurance for the company my father was head of Sales.
    But Dad and my brother were Cowboys fans).
    Jerry is going to hire another YES MAN to coach and
    that guy is going to have to bend to Jerry and probably
    Stephens demands. I would imagine there are many
    GREAT COACHES who would work under that situation.
    Also, Jerry will probably demand the new coach to accept
    Jerry’s current assistants. ALL GOOD/GREAT COACHES
    WANT TO NAME THEIR ASSISTANTS!
    I hate to say that nothing will change (unless Jerry was
    visited by 3 ghosts on Christmas Eve) until Jerry goes
    to the multi billionaire’s club in the here after. I do not wish
    death on anyone and I hope Jerry has many healthy years
    left. I am just afraid Stephen will think he is a football
    man too and won’t hire a true general manager when he
    runs the club! I have been resigned for 20 years that nothing will ever change. That is why I root for the
    Steelers now. My parents grew up about 60 miles south
    of Pittsburgh and my best friends are huge Steelers fans.

  9. Jerry is going to have a hard time getting someone not because of who is there “…in the locker room…” but because of who is outside the building, locker room, etc. Most seasoned candidates want to be the master of their domain, and coach but in Jerry’s world, it’s not possible. Ask yourself one question: name anyone who could work for Jerry…or would want to sign up to live in the supernova that is Jerry’s World…

  10. The GM assembled extra talent this year so that Garrett would have a chance to prove his coaching mettle. Despite this, he failed miserably despite having what was called the best roster since the 90’s. With good coaching the cowboys should have easily made the playoffs.
    Why take Elliot out of games, when he gets them to the red zone? Why take your best receivers out on the most important play of the season? This team wins in spite of it’s coaching, not because of it. Time to clean house!

  11. Dude you sound like a fanatic.Take into account the injuries Garrett record is 10-6. Injuries are part of the game it is nauseatingly to hear this what if excuse. What if too tall had knocked down the pass, if Elliott hadn’t hit the shot, if Fischer didn’t hit the .4 shot. STOP living your life in what if’s man.

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