Riley & McCarthy among Cowboys contenders after Garrett firing
The Jason Garrett era finally came to an end in Dallas on Sunday, as the Cowboys parted company with their head coach after nine full seasons together.
Garrett, who initially took over on an interim basis in 2010, led the Cowboys to three playoff appearances, but paid the price for a mediocre 8-8 season in which Dallas failed to live up to expectations.
Owner Jerry Jones has already begun the search to find the new man to try harness the potential of a supremely talented roster, with Mike McCarthy and Marvin Lewis reportedly interviewed by the Cowboys.
Here we look at the likely contenders to replace Garrett, as the Cowboys plot a long-awaited return to the glory days of the early 1990s.
Thank You, Jason Garrett pic.twitter.com/l5PxoZ0t2j— Dallas Cowboys (@dallascowboys) January 6, 2020
The bookmakers' favourite, Riley is regarded as one of the brightest young coaching minds in the college game. Riley has led the Oklahoma Sooners to three consecutive College Football Playoff appearances, while his ability to get the best out of quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray saw them selected first overall in successive drafts.
Riley had similar success with Jalen Hurts in 2019 and his potential impact on Dak Prescott and the Cowboys offense is likely to appeal greatly to Jones, whose challenge would be convincing the 36-year-old to leave one of the premier jobs in college football.
Still receiving significant interest despite going back on his handshake agreement with the Indianapolis Colts last year, former Denver Broncos head coach McDaniels appears destined to receive a second chance in a top job. The New England Patriots offensive coordinator will surely be keen to prove he can succeed without Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. The Cowboys have the talent to help him do so.
Highly sought after following a year out of the game, McCarthy has significant experience and a Super Bowl title to his name from his spell with the Green Bay Packers. McCarthy is said to have spent his time away reinventing himself and improving his knowledge of analytics. The Cowboys were seemingly very impressed with McCarthy 2.0, as he reportedly stayed an extra day in Dallas after his interview.
Meyer has never coached at NFL level but has the big-name cachet Jones will likely crave having won three National Championships during a decorated spell as a college coach. He left Ohio State for health reasons after a 2018 season marred by scandal but has reportedly said he is interested in making the jump to the pros with Dallas. Given his history of success at every college team he coached, that interest should be mutual.
The Cincinnati Bengals were a consistent contender during Lewis' 16-season tenure, and consistency is exactly what the Cowboys need. The blot on Lewis copybook is his playoff record, with the Bengals 0-7 in the postseason under his stewardship. That may affect his standing with a Cowboys franchise that has seen only four playoff victories since their last Super Bowl triumph in the 1995 season.
Other potential candidates
Matt Rhule is a popular name in this hiring cycle following the turnaround he has inspired at Baylor and a move from college to the pros seems likely at some point.
San Francisco 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh has no head coaching experience but his energy and the success he has overseen could win over a franchise. Florida head coach Dan Mullen is a long-shot candidate, having coached Prescott at Mississippi State.