Common football sense will tell you that if you’re a coach or coordinator of a very successful football team, then your name will come up when vacancies become available in the NFL. The Dallas Cowboys are no different in that they’re very successful, and they have some coordinators who have drawn interest from other teams in the league. In this case, that would be Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and assistant head coach Tony Sparano.
When the regular season ends this weekend, you can rest assured that there will be some head coaching vacancies that become available. The Atlanta Falcons have an interim coach and the Miami Dolphins, led by Bill Parcells, may be looking for one as well – assuming that Parcells fires Cameron, which I fully expect him to do. NFL teams cannot prevent assistants from interviewing for coaching vacancies, but it isn’t as simple as that. The NFL has rules in place for teams who want to interview during wild-card weekend.
Because Dallas has a bye week, the interviews must take place before January 6, 2008. Because there is a 2-week break between the conference championships and Super Bowl, an assistant can go to a second interview at a location that is acceptable to the assistant’s current employer. Here’s where it gets interesting – do Garrett and/or Sparano decide to take the right job or simply take a job just to embellish their already impressive resumes?
If Garrett and Sparano are smart, they’d take heed from some current head coaches in the league and weigh their choices carefully. Some examples: Current Saints head coach Sean Payton back in 2004 had accepted the head coaching post at Oakland, only to reverse course and stay with the Cowboys (some irony here?). After the 2005 season, Payton accepted the Saints job. Mike Shanahan did the same thing; Shanny in 1993 turned down the Denver Broncos head coaching job, but after 2 seasons of Wade Phillips in Denver (see there’s that Cowboys’ connection again), Shanahan accepted the Broncos position; Shanahan is in his 13th season in Denver.
Garrett, while a hot topic around the league, has only been a coach in the league for 3 years – his first as a coordinator. But despite that, he has played no small part in quarterback Tony Romo’s development as Romo has set team records in passing yardage and touchdown passes in a season. Sparano, on the other hand, has been a big help in developing the Cowboys’ O-line in becoming one of the best in the NFL this season. Sparano was also a play-caller last season; to wit, he led an offense that scored 425 points, had a 1,000-yard running back and two 1,000-yard receivers. That should tell you in and of itself that Sparano is head-coaching material.
I would hate to be Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in this situation, as there’s a real chance that Garrett and/or Sparano could depart Dallas to greener pastures in 2008. But as is Jones’ tendency, he may pay a premium to try and keep one or both of them in Dallas – for as long as possible. Sparano would be a good fit in Miami, as he has worked under Parcells while Parcells was the Cowboys head coach; so the familiarity is there. The same can almost be said for Garrett, save for the experience factor. My money says that Garrett is a goner after this season and that Sparano hangs around Dallas for one more season.