Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips was fired yesterday, bringing an end to a three-and-a-half year tenure marked by near misses in the playoffs and expectations not met in the regular season.
Former offensive coordinator/coaching wunderkind Jason Garrett will coach the Cowboys for the remainder of the season. But Jerry Jones has to conduct a full search at season's end, according to the Rooney Rule, which requires the interviewing of minority candidates for head-coaching positions.
Who's the front runner in Dallas right now to take on the head coach's headset in 2011? We're breaking down the odds of the top 15 candidates, explaining why they'd be a good fit and why they wouldn't. Let's get going, shall we?
Why He’d Fit: Saban would be a big name and a high-profile guy, something Jerry Jones would like. He'd make an impact almost immediately, and he's capable of imposing his style on the roster quite well.
Why He Wouldn’t: Saban has been in the NFL before, remember? He jumped ship in Miami after just two seasons at the helm to take the Alabama job. He has seemed to be content to coach the Crimson Tide for the rest of his days. Plus, he has got a bit of an ego on him, and that would clash with Jerry Jones' ego quickly.
Odds of Hiring: 50-1. Saban is a remote possibility, but his name is still getting mentioned.
Why He’d Fit: Dungy would be another big name, and he would definitely make waves in the media. He's a discipline guy, someone who could come in and maximize the talent the Cowboys have without needing to do much to build a team from scratch. He's a guy players love playing for, and he could turn the team around within a year or two.
Why He Wouldn’t: Dungy seems perfectly happy being retired. He has no visible desire to return to coaching. He doesn't have an ego, but I feel like he'd struggle to deal with Jones' sizable one.
Odds of Hiring: 40-1. Dungy is another long shot, but who knows what could happen if Jerry opens his checkbook wide enough?
Why He’d Fit: Schottenheimer is known around the league as a quarterback guru. He helped Drew Brees and Mark Sanchez grow and develop, and he could do the same with Tony Romo. He has got the pedigree, thanks to his dad, Marty, and he has been a hot commodity for a couple of years now.
Why He Wouldn’t: Brian is still young, and he has a lot to learn before becoming a head coach. He's got the pedigree, but Jones is looking for someone with a bit more experience to coach this talent-laden club.
Odds of Hiring: 30-1. Schottenheimer could be the guy. But if he's not ready yet, the Cowboys won't pick him.
Why He’d Fit: Fox is a defensive whiz, something the Cowboys could use, considering the state of their defense. He's not a big ego guy, so he could co-exist with Jerry Jones, and he has the head coaching experience Jones values.
Why He Wouldn’t: Just because he has the experience doesn't make him a great coach. Fox has gone 8-8 or worse in five of his eight seasons in Carolina. He coaches not to lose, which, in the NFL, is a good way to do just that.
Odds of Hiring: 25-1. Fox has the experience, but he's not a winner. Jones would keep him around (much like Phillips) because he'd agree with Jerry's ideas. But ultimately, the results on the field would dictate his departure.
Why He’d Fit: Lewis is a good football coach who can turn the Cowboys into winners. His strategies are sound. His coaching, while conservative, gets the job done when the players perform. Plus, he's at the end of his contract in Cincinnati, so he could be available next season.
Why He Wouldn’t: Lewis is interested in having more control over personnel decisions in his next job, something Jones won't relinquish. His philosophy might be too conservative for Jones' liking.
Odds of Hiring: 15-1. Lewis is a viable candidate, but he's far from the favorite in this race.
Why He’d Fit: Rex's kid brother has done a fantastic job in Cleveland. He's making quite a name for himself. The success of his brother makes many think he'd make a good head coach as well, and he would immediately boost an under-performing Cowboy defense.
Why He Wouldn’t: Ryan has no head coaching experience and, if he's anything like his brother, his ego would prevent him from playing second fiddle to Jones and his ideas.
Odds of Hiring: 15-1. Ryan has got the name, but can he keep the ego in check to get this job? A dark-horse candidate.
Why He’d Fit: Capers has done a solid job as head coach in other stops in the NFL, including Carolina and Houston. He's the kind of coach Jones would like—capable, but humble—and he showed what he can do for a defense when he came to Green Bay in 2008.
Why He Wouldn’t: Capers turned the Cowboys down in 2009, when they offered him a defensive coaching position. He'd be unlikely to leave Green Bay unless he was given some sort of personnel control.
Odds of Hiring: 12-1. Capers is building steam, and he could be the guy when all is said and done. But right now, there are other more appealing candidates.
Why He’d Fit: Rivera has been a head-coaching candidate in the NFL dating back to his days in Chicago as Bears defensive coordinator. He's now with the Chargers, and their unit has been one of the league's better defenses since his arrival.
Why He Wouldn’t: Rivera has been up for head-coaching jobs in the past, and he hasn't made the cut. So perhaps there's something scaring teams off. He hasn't been a head coach in his career, something Jerry Jones values.
Odds of Hiring: 11-1. Rivera is a solid candidate, but he lacks some of the name recognition many other candidates have.
Why He’d Fit: Fewell is another hot name in coaching circles right now. He's a defensive expert who has turned the Giants' defensive fortunes around in 2010, and he's a guy players love playing for. He has head coaching experience during his time in Buffalo, going 3-4 to close last season.
Why He Wouldn’t: He is not a big enough name, and while 3-4 is impressive in Buffalo, it's not going to get the job done in Dallas.
Odds of Hiring: 10-1. Fewell is a good candidate and someone the Cowboys should look long and hard at. Call him a sleeper for the time being.
Why He’d Fit: The former Baltimore Ravens head coach has plenty of experience, has the name to draw Jones' interest, and he has the profile of a guy Jones would pursue. He did wonders with Baltimore's defense in his tenure, and he is still regarded as a strong offensive coach in many circles.
Why He Wouldn’t: Ego. Billick is known for being a bit of a control freak, something Jones hasn't had patience for in the past.
Odds of Hiring: 9-1. Billick could be a good candidate, but his need to control would prove toxic in Dallas.
Why He’d Fit: Frazier has been on the head-coaching radar for some time now, and he's done wonders to build the Minnesota Vikings defense into the elite unit it has become. He's a good coach and someone players enjoy playing for.
Why He Wouldn’t: Name recognition. Jones is looking for someone to make a splash. Frazier has no head coaching experience whatsoever, and Jerry tends to value that.
Odds of Hiring: 6-1. Frazier is one of the frontrunners, but not the frontrunner.
Why He’d Fit: Harbaugh is another name that's gaining steam in the NFL coaching ranks. He's turned the Stanford Cardinal into legitimate contenders, and he's got the name recognition and the pedigree (brother John is the head coach of the Ravens) to make him an appealing pick to Jerry Jones.
Why He Wouldn’t: He might not come. Harbaugh seems happy in the college ranks. He doesn't appear to want to leave. He could get a bit of an ego, and he has little coaching experience at the NFL level.
Odds of Hiring: 5-1. Harbaugh is a popular name and you can expect Jerry to try and woo him from Stanford.
Why He’d Fit: Ever since he was let go by the Buccaneers, Gruden's name has popped up in almost every conversation about head-coach openings in the NFL, and with good reason. He's an excellent coach on both sides of the ball, and he's won a Super Bowl. He's a huge name and a recognizable face.
Why He Wouldn’t: Gruden's got the slightest ego, and would probably want control of personnel. He and Jones would clash on a fairly frequent basis.
Odds of Hiring: 3-1. Gruden is a popular pick, but he's not quite the frontrunner.
Why He’d Fit: Cowher is just the kind of coach Jones is looking for. Talented, big name, capable of turning things around quickly, defensively minded. He'd be an excellent fit in Dallas.
Why He Wouldn’t: Cowher would want control of personnel and Jones has shown no signs of relinquishing it.
Odds of Hiring: 3-1. Cowher is one of the biggest names at the top of the Cowboys' short list of candidates.
Why He’d Fit: Garrett has been the guy in Dallas since he was hired. Jones said that he wasn't looking to have him take over on an interim basis, citing the fact that interim coaches never do well. He's still the same coaching talent he was when he was hired, and the players know and trust him.
Why He Wouldn’t: He is still green. He doesn't have any head coaching experience, and he has looked overwhelmed at times as offensive coordinator this season.
Odds of Hiring: 2-1. Jones said this wasn't an interim job. So for now, Garrett is the front runner to be Cowboys' head coach in 2011.