The Dallas Cowboys sit atop the NFC East standings entering Week 13.
Dallas, the reigning divisional champions, has claimed the NFC East crown in three of the last five seasons. All the while, Jason Garrett has just one losing season on his resume since becoming the permanent head coach in 2011.
But sitting at 6-5, frustrations are mounting. It is something owner Jerry Jones made very clear after the team’s 13-9 loss in New England on Sunday.
While the Cowboys have a chance to hand the Buffalo Bills, who sit at 8-3, a loss on Thanksgiving Day, they have yet to beat a team with a winning record in four attempts this year. Under the eyes of a national audience, Garrett is absolutely on notice.
A win would favor the coach, whose contract is expiring after the season, and a loss, well, we know how the powers at be feel about that. A decision in either direction must be made, and should Jones decide to move on from Garrett, who are the candidates to replace him? That is what this week’s 6-Pack is all about.
I hope this column has become a staple for you, but just in case you are new, 6-Pack Thursday is my weekly brain dump on six football-related topics that involve the NFL, college football or NFL draft.
Let’s crack this thing open.
Urban Meyer may have retired, but it is not a matter of if he returns, it is a matter of when. While he may have his eyes on the future Notre Dame gig or be open to finding a home in Southern California, it is unclear when those opportunities will become available. After winning three national championships at the collegiate level, Meyer has reached the top of college football on several occasions and may now want to embrace the challenges of the NFL. I am sure he would love to not have to spend any more time convincing 17-year-olds to come play for his school. The hire would provide Jones the splash he is surely looking for while giving Meyer a new platform to coach and expand his legacy.
After his success with Baker Mayfield, Kyler Murray and now Jalen Hurts, Lincoln Riley likely has his choice of jobs, which includes staying with the Oklahoma Sooners. But if he were to leave for the professional ranks, the opportunity to coach the Cowboys in his native state of Texas is the one he should want the most. Riley figures to be a coveted man with NFL trends favoring offensive innovators, and Dallas just might be the opportunity that could lure him away from the NCAA.
With what is happening in San Francisco, both offensively and defensively, the 49ers are destined to be a franchise other teams pluck coaches from in hopes of replicating their recent success. Robert Saleh is no exception. He is currently at the helm of a defense that allows under 250 yards and less than 15 points per game. Saleh is fiery, energetic and in many ways the anti-Garrett which could make him a leading candidate to be Garrett’s successor. Saleh is likely to be a head coach somewhere in 2020 and if he is that hot of a commodity then Jones will surely make a run.
Ken Norton, Jr.
A two-time Super Bowl champion as a player for the Cowboys, nostalgia could kick in for Jones and make Ken Norton Jr. a top contender. It is not just the previous success Norton had in Dallas, he is building an impressive resume as a coach. Norton, the current defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, held the same position in Oakland from 2015-17. He has 16 years of coaching experience under his belt and was previously sought out for other roles. Kyle Shanahan hired Norton to be the assistant head coach in San Francisco in 2018, a position he left just one week later to become the defensive coordinator in Seattle.
I know he is only 30 and in his first season as an NFL offensive coordinator, but the Cowboys’ offense is firing on all cylinders under Kellen Moore. Dallas boasts the No. 1 passing offense and No. 8 rushing offense in football, averaging 26.8 points per game. The Cowboys are converting an impressive 48.5 percent of their first downs and quarterback Dak Prescott is enjoying a career year under Moore. Jones may feel the need to keep the offensive infrastructure the same which would make Moore a favorite to take over the reins. The NFL has been willing to take chances on younger, inexperienced head coaches and Moore could be the next one.
Hear me out.
Sean Payton would a hefty price tag but it is not that crazy of an idea. Drew Brees is 40 years old and his career is winding down but Payton is likely not ready for his to do the same. Prior to becoming the head coach in New Orleans, Payton was Bill Parcells’ right-hand man as the assistant head coach in Dallas from 2003-05. Undoubtedly, Jones would love to have him back and may be willing to part with the draft capital necessary to acquire his services. Dallas is already tight when it comes to the salary cap, considering the looming extensions coming for Prescott and his go-to receiver Amari Cooper. The Cowboys may welcome the opportunity to avoid having to pay a first-round pick and instead use it to gain one of the most respected and proven head coaches in the league. With the inevitable push of the reset button coming in New Orleans, the Saints may welcome the draft capital.