Cowboys Take Action With Lincoln Riley as Coaching Search Begins: Report

Lincoln Riley

Getty Lincoln Riley

The Dallas Cowboys have staked their interest in Lincoln Riley. Now they’re attempting to determine if the feeling is mutual.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday that Dallas will “at least take the temperature” of the renowned Oklahoma head coach as their search for Jason Garrett’s successor intensifies.

“See if he is actually interested in coming to the NFL,” Rapoport said of the Cowboys’ intentions. “I’ve talked to people close to him [and] they don’t think so. But nobody has said definitively, ‘No.'”

Riley has been a popular dot connected to the Cowboys in recent years, given his successful tenure with the Sooners (30-4 through three incomplete seasons) and the relatively close proximity to Texas. Riley is also cut from the Kellen Moore cloth in that he’s a young (36), extremely bright offensive mind.

But Riley has repeatedly declined to entertain the leap from college to the NFL, 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 “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.”

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is said to be “very intrigued” by Riley and virtually admitted as much following last month’s Big 12 Championship between No. 7 Baylor and No. 4 Oklahoma, hosted at AT&T Stadium — a thrilling overtime victory for OU.

“I’m impressed with him. But, boy, I’m impressed with Baylor’s coach, too,” Jones said, referring to Matt Rhule, another hotly-courted NFL coaching candidate, via 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.”

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Cowboys Reportedly Interview Two Candidates

If Dallas is intent on retaining Garrett for 2020, giving him a new deal in the process, they have a funny way of showing it. Their coaching search essentially started Saturday, as former Packers head man Mike McCarthy and former Bengals HC Marvin Lewis interviewed at The Star for the soon-to-be vacancy.

The Cowboys purportedly are targeting candidates who own big-league experience over those considered up-and-comers. Jerry Jones previously expressed apprehension about gambling on the unknown — i.e. Riley’s transition to the pros — so it makes sense that he’s seeking more of a sure thing, or the closest he can come to it, anyway.

And if they’re looking for coaches with skin in the game, McCarthy certainly fits the bill. He spent nearly two decades as an NFL assistant — offensive coordinator for the Chiefs (1993-94), Saints (2000-04) and 49ers (2005), and quarterbacks coach for Kansas City (1995-98) and Packers (1999) — before taking the big seat in Green Bay in 2006.

Across 13 seasons as the Packers’ head man, McCarthy compiled a 125-77-2 regular-season record (.618) and a 10-8 mark in the playoffs. The Packers made the postseason nine times under his watch, including a 2010 run to Super Bowl XLV, where they defeated the Steelers, 31-25, delivering the legendary franchise its fourth Vince Lombardi trophy and 13th NFL title overall.

Lewis, 61, held the head-coaching seat in Cincinnati for a whopping 16 years, tallying a 131-122-3 regular-season record across 256 games from 2003-2018. His playoff record, though, is abysmal: 0-7. And his squads? Perennially average, never advancing beyond the Wild Card round. (Sound familiar?)

Lewis agreed to mutually part ways with the Bengals following the 2018 season. He was employed this last year as a special consultant at Arizona State, working alongside Herm Edwards.

Lewis was the first candidate to formally interview for the Dallas gig. The club reportedly has also expressed interest in college coaches such as Riley and former Ohio State HC Urban Meyer. On the NFL side, they’ve unofficially been linked to Ravens offensive coordinator Greg Roman and Vikings HC Mike Zimmer.

By sitting down with Lewis, the Cowboys fulfilled the league’s Rooney Rule, which requires teams to interview minority candidates for HC and general manager positions before they are filled.

Garrett’s Fate Undecided Until Monday, At the Earliest

Rapoport reported Saturday that no decision on Garrett’s future with the organization is expected this weekend. Rapoport, who pinged a source close to the situation, suggests to “tune in Monday” when the team could (and likely will) cut ties with the 53-year-old after a decade on the job.

“Jason Garrett, as of right now, still employed as the Cowboys coach,” Rapoport said. “Remember, this was essentially something that was expected, that they would move on from Jason Garrett. In fact, Jerry Jones said it before the season ended: Garrett needed to win the division and go to the playoffs — and, from what I understand, go deep in the playoffs — to keep his job. None of that happened. They are not in the playoffs. They are, in fact, expected to move on.”

Garrett met with the Jones family on Monday and Tuesday as part of his exit interviews — standard operating procedure at the end of a regular season. There was conflicting information on Garrett’s third sitdown with Jerry and Stephen Jones, which was expected after New Year’s Day.

Based on Rapoport’s hearsay, the Cowboys are simply allowing the clock to run out on Garrett’s contract, which expires Tuesday, Jan. 14.

“The team has not announced anything on coach Jason Garrett, though they are expected to move on from him and are laying the groundwork for a search,” he said.

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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL

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