While watching Monday Night Football this week, which pitted the Pittsburgh Steelers against the Cincinnati Bengals, I suddenly had an epiphany concerning the future of the Dallas Cowboys. ESPN Monday Night Football analyst and former coach Jon “Chucky” Gruden was talking about his brother, Jay, who is the offensive coordinator for the Bengals. He was talking about how the Bengals offense runs the “12” formation, which utilizes multiple tight ends in several formations including the fullback position. Like a lightning bolt from heaven, the idea hit me. If the Cowboys go 8-8 or worse this season, the Gruden brothers are coming to Dallas.
We all know Jon Gruden has been on the top of many media and fan lists as a possible replacement for Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. The former Hooters employee has a winning pedigree, the football knowledge and more importantly, the attitude to win in the NFL. His career record of 100 wins and 85 losses (.541%) includes a Super Bowl victory in 2003 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And Gruden would be a perfect fit in this current coaching tree. Why? How about because four of his former assistant coaches are currently on the Cowboys staff.
Defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, offense coordinator and line coach Bill Callahan, defensive line coach Rob Marinelli and special teams coach Rich Bisaccia have all served under Gruden at some point. All but one worked under him at Tampa Bay. Callahan was on Gruden’s Oakland Raider Staff. And just to give you an insight on how much Callahan is a Gruden man, former Oakland wide receiver Tim Brown alleged that Callahan threw the Super Bowl years ago to give Gruden a Super Bowl ring. Now that’s loyalty!
If Gruden did come to Dallas, making his brother, Jay, his new offensive coordinator makes perfect sense. The Cowboys have the tight end talent to run the “12” formation and, more importantly, Dallas owner Jerry Jones wants to run it. And Callahan makes a better line coach then an offensive coordinator. (at least based on the first two games of this season)
But does Gruden want to coach again? According to his ESPN colleague Ron Jaworski, the answer is yes. But just like guard Brian Waters earlier this year, Gruden only wants to coach in the “right situation”. Earlier this year, Jaworski told a Philadelphia radio station:
“He’s had numerous meetings that he’s told teams he’s not interested in certain jobs. There are jobs he’s interested in, but no one at those teams has reached out to him, or they may even have a coach in place.”
You’d have to assume, with this staff in place, one of those desired places for Gruden is Dallas.
But Jerry Jones has vocally committed to Garrett past this season. During training camp, Jones had this to say about Garrett’s future in Dallas:
“If you’re in close here, you see how Jason is responding to obviously unsatisfactory times. And I can tell you firsthand that’s impressive. So I like that as far as looking ahead at the future. It is very good. And so that everything I’m thinking about is not only about how to beat the Giants when we open up but also about what our future is in a positive way with Jason. And I look to the future with Jason and not just through his contract that we’re sitting here with right now…But it is not what is implied when you say, ‘Well, this is an Armageddon year,’ Well, it is not that with me.”
Not exactly a resounding endorsement. And let’s not forget the mass coaching exodus during the off-season in Dallas. Heads rolled like defensive coordinator Rob Ryan and running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and tight ends coach (and Garrett’s brother) John Garrett also “left” to pursue opportunities on other teams. Everyone except of Garrett and Callahan, basically. It appeared to many that the young head coach was getting one more chance with a new staff.
Of course, replacing Garrett with Gruden is still purely speculation at this point. The season is early. And Garrett’s fate is truly now in his hands. He and the team could still easily pull this thing “off”…playoffs that is. Especially considering the current state of the NFC East. But if Dallas continues to struggle on offense, the Cowboys could just as easily be facing another losing season. And I’m not sure the fans or Jones has much more patience left for the Jason Garrett experiment.