Urban Meyer has serious competition for the Dallas Cowboys‘ soon-to-be-vacant head-coaching position.
While many consider Meyer a front-runner to replace Jason Garrett when the Cowboys’ season concludes, the team’s brain trust — owner Jerry Jones and VP Stephen Jones — are heavily interested in Oklahoma Sooners coach Lincoln Riley, according to NFL Media insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero.
“He’s very high on the radar of the Jones family, in the event the Cowboys miss the playoffs and Jason Garrett is on the way out, Rapoport and Pelissero reported for an NFL.com article previewing the expected 2020 coaching candidates. “Few college coaches have had as much success with the quarterback, and Riley (36-5 in three seasons) is popular among NFL people for that. The only question: Would he actually leave?”
The Riley-to-Dallas hype train picked up steam earlier this month following the Big 12 Championship between Oklahoma and Baylor. It was an instant classic in which the teams traded scores for five quarters until the Sooners landed the overtime knockout blow in a thrilling 30-23 victory.
Jerry Jones kept an eye on the contest, held at AT&T Stadium, and emerged with praise for Riley and Bears coach Matt Rhule.
“I’m impressed with him. But, boy, I’m impressed with Baylor’s coach, too,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan. “Those were two outstanding coaches at the stadium this weekend. … They’ve done great jobs. … That was a great chance to see a couple great coaches out there.”
Two of the best offensive minds on the planet, Riley and Rhule have resisted NFL overtures in recent years, but the temptation might be too great this time around. One or both could make the leap to the pros in the coming months; the latter reportedly is “very interested” in the NFC East-rival New York Giants’ gig.
As for Meyer, Rapoport and Pelissero characterized the Cowboys’ interest as “wait-and-see.”
“Meyer’s name began circulating when he publicly expressed interest in the Cowboys job (and a chance to reunite with former Ohio State running back Ezekiel Elliott) during a radio interview. Clearly, Dallas would look into it,” they reported. “But Meyer (187-32, three national championships in 17 seasons at four schools) has also recently told political reporter Brit Hume that he didn’t see himself back coaching so soon. This one is wait-and-see.”
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Jones Has Expressed Prior Intrigue in Riley
Whether he admits it or not (he hasn’t, and won’t, at least outright), Jerry Jones is mulling potential successors for Garrett. And Riley likely is atop his wish list.
CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported in October that Jones is “very intrigued” by Riley, who’s expected to take calls from NFL suitors in 2020.
“Several sources indicated Jones, if he does make a coaching change, is very intrigued by Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley,” La Canfora wrote Sunday. “Several league sources said Riley would be willing to seriously consider the right NFL openings in 2020, and, obviously, the Cowboys’ head coaching job is one of the most high-profile and coveted in all of sports.”
Riley has been a popular dot connected to the Cowboys in recent years, given his successful tenure with the Sooners and the relatively close proximity to Texas. He’s cut from the Kellen Moore cloth in that he’s a young (36), bright offensive mind.
But he’s also repeatedly declined to entertain the leap from college to the pros, content churning out franchise quarterbacks (Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray) at a whopping $6.5 million annual salary.
“The truth is for me is I love Oklahoma. I love coaching here. I love college football,” he said in October 2018, via NFL.com. “I certainly don’t have that itch right now. I don’t know that I ever will, but I’m never going to be a guy that’s going to stand up here and say no way, no how with any of these things ever happen. I don’t know that, but I know right now I couldn’t care less about the NFL. We’re trying to win this game and try to make a run that we all think we have in us right now.”
Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL