Earlier today, the Cleveland Browns fired head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley. With a head coaching job now available in the NFL, Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley was asked about his interest in the NFL. His connection to Baker Mayfield made the question something that was bound to come up. As you may expect, a college coach in the middle of the season, especially one fighting for a possible national title, would immediately declare he is not interested. After all, you still got some games to go and you don’t want any distractions at the end of the schedule and into a possible playoff situation. But Lincoln Riley didn’t exactly shoot it down forever, just for right now.
“I knew that was coming,” Riley said during his weekly press conference. “No, not right now. You sit here and answer these questions and I always want to be truthful. The truth is for me is I love Oklahoma. I love coaching here. I love college football. I certainly don’t have that itch right now. Don’t know that I ever will.
”But I’m never going to be a guy that stands up here and say no way, no how with any of these things ever happening. I don’t know that. But I know right now I could care less about the NFL.”
So why does this relate to the Cowboys? Well, in truth, it only does through conjecture and speculation. Jason Garrett, even though he has gotten votes of confidence from the Joneses, could be coaching for his job. It’s fair to say that much of Cowboys Nation is reaching the end of their patience with the current regime and if the 2018 season doesn’t play out right, the clamor for a new head coach will be loud. So loud that the Joneses may not be able to resist it.
It’s also no secret that many fans have their eye on Lincoln Riley if there is a coaching change. Riley is young but his team’s in Oklahoma are offensive juggernauts and with the mixing of college concepts into the pro game increasing every year, Jerry Jones may remember fondly another college coach he once plucked for the pro game, Jimmy Johnson.
Oddsmakers have listed Riley among the favorites to replace Garrett if it comes to that in the offseason. A simple Google search with the words Lincoln Riley and Dallas Cowboys brings up a multitude of stories connecting those two. They contain quotes likes this one from Kirk Herbstreit in the offseason.
“It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the NFL, within a few years, knock on his door and try to get him to leave,” Herbstreit told SportsDay on Tuesday. “He’s as hot as he can be, as not just a head coach what he did with his first year but also as a playcaller.”
“If and when the Cowboys ever need a head coach...” Herbstreit said, emphasizing he isn’t recommending the team fire Garrett, “it wouldn’t surprise me if the Jones group considered him.”
Riley’s comments today make it pretty clear that at some point he would consider the NFL, so it’s worth keeping an eye on as we proceed in the 2018 season. If things start to go south on the Cowboys and Jason Garrett, speculation on changing coaches will only grow.
Also, Todd Haley was included in that firing in Cleveland. Haley, of course, was a former wide receivers coach and passing game coordinator in Dallas under Bill Parcells. He’s since had stints as offensive coordinator in Arizona, Pittsburgh and as head coach in Kansas City. People will likely connect him to Dallas in some way this offseason just because of his previous tenure here.
Jason Garrett has some time left in this season to secure his future. For all we know, he may not even be on the bubble with Jerry and Stephen Jones. There are so many variables at play. If the Cowboys can somehow make the playoffs the whole question likely becomes moot. But if there is a change, Riley would make an interesting candidate, and while he made it clear he wasn’t interested “right now” it sure sounded like he could be convinced in the future. Maybe a future as soon as this offseason.
The coaching carousel is beginning.