If Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has interest in Bill Belichick, time may not be on his side

Sunday evening, when he was repeatedly pressed for his feelings about the performance of his coaching staff in a playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones evaded any and all declarations. Apart from one.

His timeline.

Asked whether the Cowboys needed to move swiftly with any coaching determinations, Jones shrugged off the question. Pressed again on whether he felt pressure to get into the interviewing mix — with so many quality head coaches available, and so many other teams solidly down the road in their pursuits — Jones didn’t flinch.

“Those aren’t high-pressure situations — coaches,” Jones said.

"… [Interviewing is] no issue. That’s no issue at all, the fact that coaches have interviewed, not interviewed. I’m not being trite, but there’s what, 30 something coaches on 32 teams, so there’s a thousand coaches out here. … And that’s just the ones in the league, not the 10,000 that are out of the league. So there are a lot of coaches.”

He’s not wrong. But there is only one Bill Belichick. And if the Cowboys decide to part ways with head coach Mike McCarthy and pursue the former New England Patriots icon, Jones is going to have some competition. Including one member in the field who officially declared themselves Monday night, with the Atlanta Falcons announcing they had completed an interview with Belichick.

ORCHARD PARK, NEW YORK - DECEMBER 31: Head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots looks on against the Buffalo Bills during the first half at Highmark Stadium on December 31, 2023 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills won 27-21. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)
Bill Belichick interviewed with the Atlanta Falcons this week, staying true to his word that he still wanted to coach in the NFL. (Photo by Rich Barnes/Getty Images)

While the Falcons' interview is believed to be in an exploratory stage for both Belichick and Atlanta owner Arthur Blank, it fits the high-profile coach that league sources say Blank is pursuing in his next hire. That fact — along with a Falcons roster that is lined with young talent — makes Atlanta a credible competitor for Belichick’s next landing spot. Particularly given that Blank is believed to be open to yielding personnel power to his next hire, too.

That said, the Cowboys remained in a holding pattern in the 24 hours after losing to the Packers, with Jones doing exit interviews with players on Monday and McCarthy also meeting with players and staff before departures into the offseason. On one hand, that’s a normal part of the process that would typically be a prelude to McCarthy being safe. On the other hand, Jones has taken his time with these decisions in the past, which could translate into a days or weeklong wait for definitive word on the future. For example, Jones waited a week after the 2019 season concluded to announce Dallas wouldn’t bring back head coach Jason Garrett, whose contract was set to expire just days later.

While Jones takes his time with McCarthy’s future, the rest of the league is moving swiftly with interviews that could quickly impact the number of openings and the options available to the Cowboys if Jones decides to go that route. A good showcase of this is Dallas defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, who will have four head coaching interviews in the books by the end of the week, with Zoom meetings already locked in with the Carolina Panthers and Tennessee Titans on Wednesday, the Washington Commanders on Thursday and the Los Angeles Chargers on Friday.

For now, that’s the lone sliver of impactful information that has come out of Dallas regarding the coaching staff's future. But aside from Quinn’s future, Jones going through exit interviews with players before making any decision is still significant, largely because it allows them to weigh in for McCarthy if they feel compelled, as well as giving Jones a chance to pick their brains individually about the coaching staff. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott has already given McCarthy his vote of confidence, saying Sunday that his progression as a player this season was due to McCarthy’s work. Others could follow.

But until Jones or the organization makes a definitive declaration, the Belichick speculation will continue. Eventually, it could go beyond Belichick. For now, Jones isn’t speaking, including skipping his typical Tuesday radio appearance on the team’s flagship station, a season staple of Cowboys information. Jones’ obligation to that spot ends after the Cowboys’ season concludes, but he has made appearances in the past following the ends of seasons to have a de facto wrap-up visit. Apparently that won’t be happening Tuesday, leaving open the door for even more speculation.

But this is Jerry Jones' timeline, and he’s running it the way he sees fit. If the first 24 hours was any indication of how it’s going to run, we could be waiting a while for answers.