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Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wanted to clear the air after a week of wild speculation about the future of head coach Mike McCarthy, the seemingly imminent loss- and then sudden re-signing- of defensive coordinator Dan Quinn, and the surprise stepping down from the Saints organization of former Cowboys assistant and longtime personal friend Sean Payton.
A week after his final regularly-scheduled appearance of the season on Cowboys flagship radio station 105.3 The Fan, Jones reportedly requested to call in one more time to publicly get a few things off this chest.
Some of it didn’t make much sense.
Jones talked about retaining Quinn, even acknowledging that McCarthy helped in the effort. But he also bizarrely offered Quinn’s whirlwind tour on the coaching-interview circuit as the reason for his own prolonged silence- and subtle digs- about McCarthy’s own future with the club, even as the Cowboys fanbase and TV pundits openly called for McCarthy’s removal as the team’s smartest option.
“The idea of Mike twisting in the wind just wasn’t the case at all,” Jones told the K&C Masterpiece show on Friday. “We’re sitting there trying to keep Dan Quinn and trying to maintain continuity on our coaching staff.”
Quinn was rumored to be the front-runner for the head coaching role in Denver and Chicago, and had second meetings with both clubs. Within the space of a few hours Thursday, the Broncos and Bears announced other hires, and Quinn had committed to staying in Dallas.
To hear Jones tell it, Quinn actually got an offer to return to the head coaching ranks, only to be talked out of accepting by Jones himself.
“I believe that very much,” Jones confirmed.
And according to Jones, McCarthy himself helped with the sales pitch.
“Mike did everything that he could do to help us get and keep and extend Dan Quinn,” Jones said. “There’s no question it was a competitive situation.”
In fact, the market for Quinn was so hot, Jones would have fans believe, that he couldn’t even risk openly promising that McCarthy’s own job in Dallas was safe.
“I couldn’t really get out and speak to it publicly because I didn’t want to push teams toward him. I wanted to keep him for ourselves.”
It’s a strange leap of logic that Jones is asking his audience to make. But somehow Jones seems to imply that staying mum on McCarthy and letting the rumor mill crank at red-line RPMs was the best tack for keeping Quinn in the building in a subordinate role.
“An announcement wasn’t necessary,” Jones said of his silence on McCarthy. “Man, we’re in a competitive situation for key personnel, key coaches here. I didn’t want to be over here pushing and talking about how good they were or how good they weren’t, where we are. All that’s read like a fine-tooth comb with your competition, over teams trying to get your staff.”
That part has happened before. Jones shared that, during his ownership, he’s been able to similarly convince a couple of other high-profile Cowboys coordinators to stay in the fold in a lesser job.
“I’ve had two other occasions in my career where a coach- coordinator- was offered a head coaching job and I got them not to accept it,” Jones said. “One was with Sean Payton; he was offered the job at the Raiders when Parcells was the head coach. I asked him to not take it and stay coordinating and see what happens with the future here with the Cowboys. And then I asked Jason Garrett to do the same thing; he passed on a head coaching job as well, to stay here and be a part of the future of the Cowboys.”
Payton went on to coach New Orleans; Garrett became the head man in Dallas.
Quinn remains DC… for now. Jones isn’t ready to talk about what may be down the road for the 51-year-old, instead suggesting that this is a long-term extension.
“He is staying and being our coordinator for years to come.”
But whispers about how Jones should fire McCarthy and install Quinn as the Cowboys head coach were getting rather loud as recently as this past week.
Jones was admittedly frustrated following the team’s wild-card loss to San Francisco, and the owner declined to discuss his head coach’s status in the immediate wake of the 23-17 defeat. Jerry’s son Stephen said the next day he felt “confident” that McCarthy would remain in place, but no more was spoken about it until last Friday’s radio call-in, when Jerry offered cryptically, “I’ve got a lot to think about regarding these coaches.”
This Friday, he attempted to clarify his remarks.
“What I said on the show, and I’ve said it several times,” Jones said, “is that I’ve got everybody under contract that I want under contract. It’s just a question of whether, under the rules, they’re going to be able to get out of the contract. And so we went out and did something about and reinforced at the most critical level with Dan. It was never an issue with me, with Mike being the head coach. You never heard that from me.”
But by not explicitly stating that McCarthy was his man, Jones has to know he was leaving loads of room for doubt.
“I was sitting there being coy… it was taken as though I were somehow wishy-washy. Unh-unh.”
Some listeners even suggested that Jones was playing the part of the angered team owner in his season-ending phoner, merely placating a disappointed fanbase by ranting and raving and hinting at changes that he had no intention of making.
This time, Jones was asked point-blank to respond to those allegations.
“I really don’t know how to respond to faking to be angry. I’ve been told that I’m easy to read. I wear it out on the cuff,” Jones said. “I am frustrated. I’m still frustrated. If the wound is open, I want to rub salt in it. I want it to hurt. I’m being dramatic here, but this hurt. And I want to do everything we can to remind us continually how bad it hurt to have to go home two weekends ago. This hurt. We had a good football team… I know this: it sure helped me make the decisions I made yesterday to keep Dan Quinn.”
Stroking the check to Quinn is a brilliant move that keeps his considerable defensive talents in Dallas. Leaving McCarthy and Cowboys fans to twist in the wind for ten days- because that’s exactly what Jones did with regard to his head coach- is a completely separate issue. Trying to convince the world the two things were all part of the same master plan is just insulting.
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