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Cowboys coaching search: Sifting through growing list of candidates for their next HC (Part III)

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Here are some long shots to think about for the Cowboys job.

New Orleans Saints v Dallas Cowboys
Sean Payton has a lot going for him. And he claps well, too.
Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

In the final part of this series looking at potential candidates to become the next head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, we’re going to cast a wider net. There really is no reason to rule out anything when it comes to the Cowboys, you never know who they might take a swing at getting. Let’s focus on a few long shots.

To recap, we’ve hit many of the major targets in our previous editions:

Part I

  • Mike McCarthy (Packers 2006 - 2018)
  • Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma)
  • Urban Meyer (Ohio State 2012 - 2018)

Part II

  • Greg Roman (Ravens OC)
  • Dan Campbell (Saints Asst. HC/Tight Ends)
  • Matt Rhule (Baylor)

What about coaches that are currently spoken for?

Bill Belichick, Patriots

Why it makes sense: Hello, it’s the best coach in all of football. How happy is Belichick with his current situation? Probably pretty happy most would say. However, what if Tom Brady retires after this season. Belichick’s backup plan was Jimmy Garoppolo, but he is now in command of a 49ers team that is gearing up for the playoffs. Bill Belichick might not view a rebuild in New England as his best option. Why not come to the Joneses, where the talent level is high and the players are young?

Why it’s not likely: Maybe Bill Belichick would simply rather call it a career, there isn’t anything he has left to accomplish except for taking measurements for that gold jacket he will eventually own. If the Tom Brady era ends this offseason, it is more likely that the entire Brady-Belichick era in the NFL would ride off into the sunset.

Tom’s take: I’d love it, but you have to question whether he could come to an agreement with Jerry and Stephen about power and control. Frankly, I doubt it. But if somehow it could come to pass, I think he could unlock the talent that the Cowboys should be showing on the field.

Plus it would be worth it just to see how quickly the Dallas media came to long for the informative and in-depth answers Garrett used to give, compared to what they get from Bill.

Sean Payton, Saints

Why it makes sense: Sean Payton has always had a love affair with the Cowboys, having cut his teeth as an assistant for Bill Parcells. In similar sentiments as above, what if Drew Brees calls it quits after the season? Now, a rebuild might not take long as the Saints roster is pretty stacked. However, Payton and the Jones’ family are very friendly and if not New Orleans, Dallas seems like the only place in Payton’s heart.

Why it’s not likely: Sean Payton is the favorite son of New Orleans. He could have more clearance than the city officials in NOLA. Payton’s loyalty to Mickey Loomis and ownership would also suggest that Payton will remain in the Big Easy for a while.

Tom’s take: I’d buy into this just about as fast as I’d buy into Belichick. And it is much more likely. There is no question about the affection the Jones family has for him, plus that “former part of the organization” factor working for him.

However, that is strictly in comparison to how remote the possibilities of getting Belichick are. Payton is still a less than 1% kind of long shot.

Mike Zimmer, Vikings

Why it makes sense: Well, there have been at least four separate NFL sources that have suggested that a Zimmer return in Dallas is more possible than you would think. Zimmer is beloved in Dallas and the Cowboys defense is talented but not fundamentally sound. It would be a very Cowboys thing to do to buyout Zimmer’s contract with Minnesota and bring him back to be their guy. It would also probably open the door to retain more of the offensive staff like Kellen Moore or Jon Kitna. Where there is smoke, there is usually fire, right?

Why it’s not likely: Like the Saints above, the roster for the Vikings is built strong for the future. Would the Vikings let Mike Zimmer leave after bringing them to another postseason? Would Zimmer even consider leaving a successful team he has helped mold for success?

Tom’s take: I wouldn’t be crushed to see Zim come back to Dallas, especially if he has a strong offensive staff to support him. But the Vikes have been making noise about him not going anywhere. It actually seems like a direct response to the sudden rumors. So I think we can relegate this one to the “forget about it” category.

Any other hotshot NFL coordinators to consider?

Josh McDaniels, OC Patriots

McDaniels is atop the list of candidates for interview seemingly every offseason. He did have one forgettable stint as the head coach with the Broncos. He was also about to accept the Colts gig a few years ago before he got cold feet and returned to New England. McDaniels is smart, capable, and has done a great job of getting players to elevate themselves past their limitations. It comes down to one question. How much of New England’s dynasty success is a result of the guy calling plays on offense?

Tom’s take: If you read what I said about Urban Meyer in part 1, then when I say that McDaniels is kinda the NFL version of Meyer in my mind, you know I am not a fan of this idea. That whole Colts fiasco soured me on him for the foreseeable future, even if it may have wound up working out to Indy’s advantage in the long run.

Eric Bienemy, OC Chiefs

Bienemy is from the Andy Reid coaching tree and he has brought a few wrinkles of innovation to Reid’s west coast concepts. Bienemy has been highly-touted as the soul of the Chiefs’ offense and Pat Mahomes has praised his coach for his quick development into an NFL superstar. The concern is just how big of a stick does Bienemy actually have in the decision-making. Andy Reid is a legendary offensive mind and will always cast a shadow over his coordinators.

Tom’s take: This is a good one, just based on what he has done. He would seem an outstanding fit for Dak Prescott. Obviously, the defensive staff would be crucial to his success. There is also the fact that he may want to install his own offensive assistants. But there may be a general value to a clean sweep approach. I would certainly be interested to see how he would do.

Robert Saleh, DC 49ers

Saleh is getting a ton of praise around the league for what he has made of the 49ers defense. Players love to playing for him and he’s a great motivator. Saleh’s defenses are physical, they tackle well, they get takeaways, and sack quarterbacks. These are all qualities that will have Saleh on the Cowboys radar. The concern for Saleh is how he would plan to handle the offense? With how much money the Cowboys are about to invest in QB Dak Prescott and WR Amari Cooper, the next coach has to have a great plan in place on offense.

Tom’s take: I’m not as sold on Saleh. And I fear Jerry and Stephen would basically force Moore and Kitna on him. They might be good choices from the perspective of their talents, but that would smack too much of what happened with Wade Phillips and Garrett. I don’t want to go through that whole cycle of a head-coach-in-waiting and the drama when Jerry decides to promote another one of his large brood of adoptive children.