The odds of the Cowboys coming close to meeting the Super Bowl expectations of owner Jerry Jones look more remote by the week, and the team continues to be linked to several of the hottest head coaches in college football.
League sources said Jones has paid close attention to the work continuing to be done by Baylor coach Matt Ruhle and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley in particular, gearing up for what appears to be an inevitable coaching change. Jason Garrett's future grows more bleak with each listless performance by a team that Jones believes has championship-level talent. Jones, who also serves as the team's general manager along with his son Stephen, also believes that his players could flourish under some of the concepts that have been dominating the college game for years.
Several teams strongly pursued Ruhle a year ago, with the Jets job his for the taking had he agreed to certain stipulations on his staff. Despite recently signing an eight-year extension at Baylor, several NFL teams want to get an audience with him again. He is viewed as a pro coach in the making, and the work he did rebuilding Baylor in the aftermath of a rape scandal under former coach Art Briles has earned him a legion of supporters in NFL front offices.
Riley's exceptional work with quarterbacks and offensive concepts has made him a hot commodity in the pro game as well, and Jones has been a fan of his work for quite some time, sources said. Several general managers and owners set to begin their own coaching searches are convinced that Riley and Ruhle are at the top of Jones's wish list, and expect to have to compete with the Cowboys for their services should those teams choose to pursue them as well.
With a small list of truly rising coordinators in the NFL, and an emphasis on men who have been head coaches before at the pro or college level, some executives expect more than one college coach to make the jump next year. Stanford's David Shaw has already drawn the interest of Carolina and Washington, sources said, two teams that have already fired their coaches, and at least a half dozen openings are anticipated in the NFL in 2020.