Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones is the man most fans assume is in charge of the team’s personnel decisions. As we have learned through the past few years, Jones and his family are actually leaning more and more on their scouts to handle football decisions. The man behind many of the decisions that has landed this franchise in its first playoffs since 2009 is assistant director of player personnel Will McClay.
Reports surfaced yesterday via Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network that stated the New York Jets will be looking to interview McClay for a potential general manager job. Although Cowboys fans thought the former Arena Football League coach was their best kept secret, people around the league have begun to take notice of the job he has done. It was only a matter of time before McClay was going to start garnishing attention from teams around the league. His short resume in Dallas will show you why he can be valuable.
Since being promoted in June 2013, as well as head coach Jason Garrett having an increased role–the Cowboys have shifted the way they conduct their business. They are no longer looking to build through free agency and big money signings. Instead, most of Dallas’ work in free agency comes after the first few days, where the team now searches for value instead of flash. The team has entrusted McClay to build the team through the draft, which he and his scouting department have done a tremendous job of in recent years.
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The 48-year old Houston native has slowly been working his way up the Cowboys scouting ranks since he returned to them full time in 2008. He undoubtedly should receive credit for the draft successes of center Travis Frederick, guard Zack Martin, linebacker Anthony Hitchens, and wide receiver Terrance Williams. McClay was also the man responsible for finding hidden gems like defensive tackle Nick Hayden and defensive ends George Selvie and Jeremy Mincey. It might be hard to steer power away from an owner like Jones, but the team of McClay and Garrett have transitioned the franchise to a philosophy that their boss didn’t always agree with.
McClay and his staff have rebuilt the offensive line and added pieces while adding depth on the defensive side. With the offense looking healthy for years to come, the front office will most likely try to rebuild on the defensive side of the ball over the next few years. The drafting of defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and the discovery of defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford are their two young cornerstones to build around. A tandem of linebackers that feature Sean Lee and Rolando McClain will also give McClay a solid foundation.
Although McClay might still be a relative unknown league-wide, that is going to change as soon as this offseason. When a team like the Jets looks at his draft success, free agent value signings, and the careful stroking of his owner’s ego–they will have no choice but to consider making him their next general manager. The Cowboys may have to advance his title and perhaps give him a pay raise as well if they hope to keep him around. Jones has stated previously that he will never relinquish his job as top Dallas personnel man. He may have to reconsider that sentiment if he wants his team to keep hanging around in contention for the remainder of quarterback Tony Romo‘s career.
It would be a tremendous blow to the Cowboys’ franchise should McClay be stolen away by another franchise. Many will probably dismiss his role in the franchise due to the star power of the owner, but there is no question that the direction of the Cowboys has improved under McClay’s watch. It does appear like it won’t be long before he is running his own franchise, unless he has a strong loyalty to what he has built it Dallas. If not, it could be another long transition until they can find another personnel guru of his caliber.