Whenever folks talk about the Dallas Cowboys during the days when Jimmy Johnson was the team’s head coach, they say “Jimmy did this or that.” After Johnson was run out of town following back-to-back Super Bowl wins by team owner and general manager Jerry Jones, folks said “Jerry did this or that” when referring to moves made by the team. Since Johnson left after the 1993 NFL season, that’s always been the case except for the brief time that Bill Parcells coached the Cowboys in the early-to-mid 2000s. There’s a reason for that: Johnson and Parcells called the shots, not Jones. Dallas needs another coach like that.
However, it’s not as easy as it sounds because Jones’ ego won’t allow anyone else in the organization to receive more credit than him for the team’s success. Thus, the Cowboys can’t just go out and hire any head coach because the best candidates won’t consider coming to Dallas because of Jones’ meddling ways. All hope is not lost, though. The Cowboys just need to find a coach who knows how to play Jones.
In this case, the term “play” doesn’t mean to portray Jones or behave like him. Think of the term’s more modern, urban meaning: to trick or use someone. The Cowboys need a coach who will call the shots, but make Jones think he does and allow him to take the credit for it. It sounds silly, doesn’t it? It is silly, but at this point, it’s the only way Dallas can have any possible shot at playoff contention while pinned under Jones’ meddling thumb.
The best candidate for this sort of position is former Cowboys offensive coordinator and New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton. After serving half of his one-year suspension because of Bountygate, Payton’s contract with the Saints was voided by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, which means any team can hire the former Super Bowl-winning coach. The Saints will likely try hard to re-sign Payton, but many rumors already have him linked to Dallas, especially considering the Cowboys’ struggles under Jason Garrett.
Obviously Payton isn’t the only option, but he represents a coach who could succeed in Dallas, at least for a short time. He already has a good relationship with Jones, which is what brought Johnson to Dallas in the first place and although he may not last long, Payton might be able to win a title as the Cowboys’ head coach.
Whoever the Cowboys hire to replace Garrett will have to display some of the same qualities as Payton. He’ll have to be an excellent talent evaluator with a canny ability to make personnel decisions while directing all credit toward Jones. There’s a reason guys like Johnson and Parcells didn’t last long in Dallas: They’re good football coaches who are used to calling the shots and Jones doesn’t like anyone there other than him calling the shots–or at least he likes to think he calls the shots.
In short, the Cowboys’ next head coach will have to be as much of a manipulator as anything. As mentioned, the Cowboys’ organization is in a sad state of affairs and will continue to be as long as Jones is in charge. Thus, the only way for Dallas to succeed in the meantime is to hire a coach who can manipulate Jones while putting together and running a winning football team. Let’s put it this way: Coaching the Cowboys and being successful at it under Jones is a tough task and it probably won’t ever happen again.