Much has been made about the Dallas Cowboys negotiations with Dak Prescott, but the uncertainty at head coach looms in the background. ESPN’s Get Up crew recently discussed how Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley could be a prime candidate to be the Cowboys’ next head coach if the 2019 season does not go well.
While Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has been complimentary of Jason Garrett, he will be coaching on the final year of his contract next season. Dallas News’ Jon Machota reported in February that Jones had no plans to offer Garrett an extension.
Jerry Jones on the NFL Honors red carpet over the weekend when asked about a Jason Garrett contract extension: ‘Well, no. He doesn’t need one. He’s got a contract. We really don’t have to worry about that right now.’ Garrett is entering the final year of his current deal.
Riley’s contract with the Sooners means the Cowboys would have to be willing to write a major check for him to even consider Dallas. Riley has a five-year, $32.5 million deal that runs through the 2023 season, per Tulsa World. Riley has a hefty buyout which sits at about $4.6 million if he leaves Oklahoma, but it does decrease by $1 million each year as Tulsa World detailed.
The contract specifies the coach would be responsible to pay OU 22.5% (about $4.6 million) of the remaining guaranteed compensation. The amount drops about $1 million each year. On March 16, 2022, the amount will be waived by OU.
Riley’s contract at Oklahoma is larger than Garrett’s current five-year, $30 million deal. Dallas would need to give Riley a sizable raise to even have a chance to lure him away from Oklahoma.
Lincoln Riley Continues to be One of the Most Coveted College Coaches by NFL Teams
Riley’s fingerprints are all over the NFL despite being a college head coach. Riley’s last two quarterbacks, Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, were back-to-back No. 1 picks in the NFL draft. Riley is considered one of the best offensive minds in football at a time when the NFL is prioritizing young, offensive-minded head coaches thanks to the success of Sean McVay among others.
Riley has maintained that it’s “hard to see myself leaving Oklahoma,” per Pro Football Talk. Yet, there is a major difference in being pursued by the Cowboys than the Browns.
The Cowboys have cited franchises like the Steelers, who rarely have coaching turnover, as a model for success. However, Garrett has just two playoff wins in his nine seasons with Dallas. To Garrett’s credit, one of these victories came last season, but the Cowboys have always been a franchise that has strived for Super Bowls rather than postseason appearances.
Publicly, Jones has said all the right things about Garrett’s future, but the reason the Cowboys coach is on the final year of his contract is he has not done enough to prove he is the long-term solution at head coach. If Garrett’s postseason success remains minimal after a decade with the team, it may be time to go in a different direction. It would make this decision a lot easier if the Cowboys can somehow lure Riley away from Norman.