The Cowboys still in first in the NFC East despite falling to 6-7 Thursday, their third consecutive loss, but that sub-.500 record led to even more speculation that the end for head coach Jason Garrett is near. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has stuck with Garrett for 10 seasons, and that has produced two playoff victories.
That, in turn, has led to more rumors about former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, along with other college coaches such as Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott being linked to the job.
Jerry Jones says Jason Garrett will remain the coach but I can confirm a very real interest in Urban Meyer. In fact, I’m told Stephen Jones spoke with him recently. Lincoln Riley remains a strong candidate & file this name as a possibility Clemson OC Tony Elliott per sources.
— Jane Slater (@SlaterNFL) December 6, 2019
Meyer, 55, retired after seven successful seasons at Ohio State in 2018. He’s won three national championships between stints at Florida and Ohio State, and he did that with a 187-32 record. Here are five reasons why this isn’t a bad idea for Big D, and why the Cowboys gig makes more sense for Meyer than any available at the college ranks.
Jerry Jones’ winning history with college coaches
Jones was a co-captain on Arkansas’ national championship team in 1964, and he found the most success in Dallas with his first two hires.
Jimmy Johnson had a 52-9 record at Miami from 1984-88 and won a national championship in 1987 before taking the job with the Cowboys. He won two Super Bowls and was succeeded by Barry Switzer, who was 157-29-4 and won three national championships at Oklahoma. Switzer added that third Super Bowl.
Johnson and Switzer combined for an 84-60 record with the Cowboys over nine seasons. Garrett is 83-66. The difference was the playoff success. Johnson and Switzer were 14-6 in the postseason.
Meyer, like those two coaches, was a hyper-successful coach in the college game at programs flush with NFL talent. The Buckeyes have produced the second-most draft picks and first-round picks this decade, behind only Alabama.
Urban Meyer doesn’t need college football
The fact USC retained Clay Helton tips this hand.
Meyer does not need to go back to college. There is nothing left for him to prove. He built national championship powers at Florida and Ohio State, but both of those stints were not without controversy.
There were 31 player arrests during his time at Florida. He was suspended three games in 2018 for mishandling domestic abuse allegations involving wide receivers coach Zach Smith. Meyer retired from Ohio State because of health reasons, and that track record would make it more difficult to land a job at the next school that could produce a national championship.
That’s a short list of schools. Meyer might not have gone to USC even if offered the job. Notre Dame has never lined up, and Florida State’s athletic director said they weren’t interested.
That’s OK. Meyer does not need to need to go back to campus.
The NFL poses a real challenge
Meyer could build a staff around the talent in Dallas.
The Cowboys have talent that has underachieved this season. Dak Prescott leads the NFL in passing yards with 4,122. Ezekiel Elliott, who starred for Meyer at Ohio State, is fourth in the league with 1,071 yards. Amari Cooper ranks fourth in the league with 1,054 receiving yards.
Dallas has the triplets. They just need to keep them under contract and make a real run at the Super Bowl before the window starts to shrink. Meyer was a master motivator at the college level. Could he do the same with Dallas?
It’s worth a try. Ohio State pro days were must-attend events for NFL coaches. He has connections, and he could use those to build an excellent coaching staff. Remember: Meyer hired Ryan Day — a former NFL assistant who has enhanced that model at Ohio State now with the Buckeyes ranked No. 1 in the country.
Urban Meyer can return to TV any time
If Meyer were to leave, perhaps the biggest hit would be to the “Big Noon Kickoff” on Fox. Meyer has been an Emmy-worthy studio analyst for the show, and he is a big reason why ESPN’s “College GameDay” had competition in the noon hour this season.
Meyer, in one season, has matched what Tony Romo has done in the booth at CBS while simultaneously becoming Jon Gruden. Every time there is a major coaching vacancy, Meyer is the first name that pops up.
The studio, however, does not have a real scoreboard. That is the urge Meyer spoke about with Cleveland.com this morning about the challenge of not coaching.
“I’ve been in a fight for 33 years, and now you’re not in that fight,” Meyer told Cleveland.com. “So how do you fulfill that fight? And I feel that every morning. Every morning.”
The NFL offers the ultimate challenge of football at the highest level.
NFL COACHING HOT SEAT TIERS
Cowboys’ Jason Garrett, Browns’ Freddie Kitchens could be fired next
Urban Meyer to Dallas is worth the risk
How would this turn out? Johnson, Switzer and Pete Carroll are the only three coaches who have won both a national championship and a Super Bowl. In his second NFL stint, Carroll is 99-56-1 with Seattle and has won nine or more games in eight straight seasons. The Seahawks have made two Super Bowl appearances.
That would be the best-case scenario for Meyer in Dallas.
Of course, it didn’t work out for other coaches. Nick Saban was 15-17 in two seasons with the Dolphins. Steve Spurrier was 13-24-1 with the Redskins. Those coaches did not have the talent that Meyer would have in Dallas, however.
Meyer’s biggest rival in college, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh, was 44-19-1 in the NFL. This could be a chance for Meyer to prove he is a better coach at both levels.
Jones could always follow the NFL’s trend of going young with Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley, the hottest name around any coaching rumor, based on his reputation with quarterbacks or Tony Elliott, a long-time Clemson assistant who has been waiting for that first head coaching job.
Meyer, however, might be better equipped to handle the pressure of the most-visible head coaching job in North American sports. Jones and Meyer both have egos, but sometimes that works when they share a common goal. Dallas hasn’t won a Super Bowl since 1996.
Is it risky? Of course. For Meyer, it’s time to take that NFL challenge once and for all. This is the best situation NFL-wise for Meyer, unless he prefers to chase the ghost of Paul Brown and take over in Cleveland. But it’s not off base to say, given Meyer’s Ohio roots, the Cowboys job would come with less pressure than a Browns job. It’s worth it.
For Jones, it’s time to go back to the college coach. He has tried Chan Gailey, Dave Campo, Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips and Garrett since Switzer’s final season in 1997. If it does not work out with Meyers, coaches such as Riley likely would still be there in two or three years.
It’s time to make this move now. There won’t be another chance.