The search continues
IRVING, Texas - For the seventh time in franchise history, and the sixth time since owner Jerry Jones bought the team in 1989, the Cowboys are looking for a new head coach.
Just one day removed from Bill Parcells' surprising decision to retire from his head coaching duties, the Cowboys now dive headfirst into their coaching search, which certainly has more questions than answers.
It's not the next question here at Valley Ranch, it's simply the question.
Who is going to be the next coach here in Dallas?
Right now, it's simply anyone's guess.
Instead of attending the Senior Bowl practices in Mobile, Ala., this week as planned, Jones is now focused solely on finding Parcells' replacement.
While his coaching search is expected to include many big names, from former NFL head coaches to some of the league's top young assistants to a few big-named college coaches, Jones started off his search with a few in-house candidates.
Jones was scheduled to meet with three Cowboys assistant coaches on Tuesday, including Tony Sparano, Todd Haley and Todd Bowles.
Sparano, the team's offensive line coach and running game coordinator this past season, is the only coach among the three with head coaching experience, albeit a four-year stint at New Haven College (1994-98).
Haley, the Cowboys' passing game coordinator this past season, also oversees the wide receivers, while Bowles has spent the last two years as the team's secondary coach. However, Bowles also is expected to be one of the top candidates for the defensive coordinator position vacated by Mike Zimmer, who took a similar job in Atlanta two weeks ago.
By interviewing Bowles, an African-American, the Cowboys have now met with at least one minority coach, a requirement all NFL teams must follow in interviewing for a head coaching vacancy.
But it's hard to gauge any kind of pattern in Jones' previous coaching searches.
The first two times Jones needed a coach, he went the college route, grabbing Jimmy Johnson in 1989 and then Barry Switzer in 1994.
After that, he gave a pair of assistant coaches their first head-coaching jobs - Chan Gailey in 1998 and then Dave Campo in 2000.
And when neither of those two worked well enough for Jones' standards, the owner finally dished out the money for one of the most prestigious head coaches in league history - Parcells.
So what's next for the Cowboys? Again, it's too early for legitimate front-runners or even a short list. But here are a few names being mentioned so far, in no particular order.
Jimmy Johnson - Go with what works, right? At least that's a saying. But that's about all that sounds good regarding this name. Johnson hasn't coached since the 1999 season in Miami - a four-year run that wasn't so successful (26-21 with two playoff appearances). But more importantly, Johnson apparently has no desire to leave his gig at Fox Sports, where he has become one of the more respected NFL analysts around. Johnson had a great run in Dallas in the early 90's and that's probably going to be how it stands.
Steve Mariucci - Has coached Terrell Owens before in San Francisco. But that may not be a good thing. Mariucci runs a West Coast offense and didn't get much of a chance in Detroit. He's been out of coaching for a couple of years and probably would be interested. While he might not be a top choice, he does have same name recognition, and Jones has proven to be a fan of that.
Dan Reeves - Another guy out of coaching with skins on the wall. And another coach who seems interested in the job. Remember, Reeves played eight years and coached for another 10 years with the Cowboys, before he had three head-coaching jobs with Denver, New York Giants and Atlanta.
Bill Cowher - Now this one sounds good, but will certainly cost the Cowboys a few draft picks. Remember, the Steelers wanted him back for his final year of his contract before he retired. So for the Cowboys to get him, it will cost them at least a first-round draft pick. For Jon Gruden to move from Oakland to Tampa Bay, the Bucs eventually gave the Raiders two first-round picks and two-second rounders. Steep price, but the Bucs did win a Super Bowl, coincidentally beating the Raiders.
Norv Turner - Probably the top candidate at this early stage of the search, only because of his history with the Cowboys. While Jones likes a big name, he also likes people he knows and trusts, and Turner fits the description on all accounts. He's had more success as an offensive coordinator in Dallas, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco than his two head coaching jobs in Washington and Oakland. But if the Cowboys are looking for someone to help Tony Romo in his young career, Turner's track record suggests a good fit. His 58-74-1 record as an NFL head coach is a different story.
Wade Phillips - Here's an interesting candidate who is picking up steam in a hurry. The current defensive coordinator of the Chargers is not only coming off a season in which the San Diego defense ranked ninth in total defense and first in sacks (61), but he has head coaching experience, having coached four different teams. He's most known for coaching the Broncos and Bills, but also had a short stint with the Saints and an interim position in Atlanta. Phillips ran a 3-4 scheme last year in San Diego and was able to help outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, a player often compared to Dallas' DeMarcus Ware because of their 2005 draft position, become one of the NFL's most dominating defensive players.
Ron Rivera - The same reason he's a hot candidate might be a hang-up in this entire coaching search. The Bears' defensive coordinator has been linked to head coaching jobs in the past two years, but currently, his biggest priority is trying to figure out how to stop the Colts' Peyton Manning in Super Bowl XLI in two weeks. Unless the Cowboys want to interview Rivera this week, Jones will have to wait until after the Super Bowl before contacting the Bears' defensive coordinator of the last three years.
Norm Chow - One thing seems rather certain: Romo probably would flourish under Chow's leadership. His history of developing quarterbacks is pretty stout, ranging from players such as Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart and now Vince Young last year with the Titans.
Mike Martz - Offensively, you can't argue with what Martz has done in his career. He helped mold a St. Louis Rams offense that will go down as one of the top offensive football teams ever in a five-year span. What might be even more impressive, he made the Detroit Lions a formidable offensive team last season. Would his style work with the current personnel here in Dallas? That's a question Jones and the Cowboys must figure out. But if you like offense and a coach that knows how to move the ball, Martz shouldn't be overlooked.
Bob Stoops - Take him off the list. Whether or not the Cowboys were ever heavily interested in him, the Sooners head coach apparently is not. With the national signing day looming in two weeks, Stoops issued a statement Tuesday afternoon stating he has no interest in leaving Oklahoma for any coaching job.
Charlie Weis - Here's a college coach at one of the most prestigious universities in the nation. The current Notre Dame head coach has also coached in the NFL under both Parcells and New England head coach Bill Belichick. Sounds like a great fit? Maybe, but a $21 million buyout of his current Notre Dame contract is probably even too steep for Jones' pockets.
Kirk Ferentz - The current Iowa head coach was a hot commodity a few years ago, but coming off a 6-7 season with the Hawkeyes, it would be hard to imagine Ferentz arriving here in Dallas. He does have pro experience, having coached under Belichick with Cleveland Browns in the 1980's.
Houston Nutt - Only connected because of Jones' Arkansas ties. And although many in the state of Arkansas wouldn't mind seeing Nutt leave for another job, it's not likely going to be in Dallas.
Pete Carroll - Although he just lost his offensive coordinator, Lane Kiffin, to the Oakland Raiders, Carroll isn't likely going anywhere at USC. Like Stoops, it's likely that Carroll will put most, if not all, of his attention into recruiting in the final weeks before signing day.
Les Miles - Has Cowboys ties, having spent two years under Chan Gailey as tight ends coach. Miles went to Oklahoma State and then LSU, where he is considered one of the best motivational head coaches in the nation.