Lincoln Riley

Latest On Cowboys’ Coaching Search

Jason Garrett is still technically the coach of the Cowboys, but everything continues to indicate they’ll be moving on with the team already scheduling interviews with Marvin Lewis and Mike McCarthy. Here’s the latest on everything pertaining to Dallas’ search:

  • The Cowboys were conspicuously quiet for a while, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t working behind the scenes. The McCarthy interview news just leaked Friday morning but the former Packers coach was apparently originally scheduled to interview on Thursday before rescheduling to accommodate his Browns interview, according to David Moore of the Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). That proves owner Jerry Jones hasn’t just been sitting on his hands after the season ended.
  • Garrett, meanwhile, is continuing to lobby Jones for another chance, as Jay Glazer of FOX Sports reported in Sunday’s FOX pregame show. Jones has been steadfast in his decision to move on from Garrett, but Garrett is doing everything he can to keep his post. Meanwhile, the team’s interview with McCarthy went so well that McCarthy stayed an extra day in Dallas.
  • Baylor coach Matt Rhule and Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley have also been connected to the Cowboys’ job. The Jones family should have a good read on their potential interest in the job since they have the same agent as McCarthy, tweets Albert Breer of SI.com. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network says that Jones will gauge Riley’s interest, but Riley is unlikely to leave Oklahoma at this point (video link).
  • The Lewis interview caught a lot of people by surprise, but there is one interesting link between the two sides. Jones is very good friends with Bengals owner Mike Brown, tweets Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic. Dehner writes that the two men “hold very similar view[s]” on handling their teams. Lewis, of course, was Cincinnati’s coach for 16 seasons and Brown was very reluctant to let him go. It’s possible that Brown recommended Lewis to Jones.
  • Speaking of Lewis, Rapoport says the former Bengals HC would require that the Cowboys — or any club — hire Hue Jackson as his OC (video link). That could be a deal-breaker for the Cowboys given the presence of Kellen Moore.
  • Garrett had told his assistants on expiring deals they were free to start looking for other work. Most assistants were on expiring deals like Garrett, but that notably excluded Moore and offensive line coach Marc Colombo, Breer tweets. The organization thinks very highly of Moore and he generally received positive reviews in his first year calling plays. Since both are still under contract, it’s quite possible the Jones’ will retain them even when they hire a new coach. Breer adds that Garrett hasn’t spoken to any of his staff since Monday.

HC/GM Rumors: Gase, Lynn, Panthers, Shurmur

Black Monday is tomorrow, so let’s take a look at the latest coaching and GM rumors from around the league:

  • This doesn’t come as much of a surprise, given that neither man was really believed to be on the hot seat, but Jets HC Adam Gase and Chargers HC Anthony Lynn will both be back in 2020, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (h/t NFL Update on Twitter).
  • We learned yesterday that the Panthers would seek to interview Baylor head coach Matt Rhule, which David Newton of ESPN.com confirmed today. Matt Miller of Bleacher Report believes Rhule would leave Baylor if the right opportunity presented itself, despite signing a lengthy extension with the school back in September (Twitter link).
  • Despite speculation that the Panthers could look to move on from GM Marty Hurney, Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic says owner Dave Tepper remains intent on keeping Hurney, and Hurney wants to stay (Twitter link). Tepper does want to bring in an assistant GM, and Joe Person of The Athletic offers a list of potential candidates. The problem, as NFL insider Adam Caplan observes, is that Carolina could be blocked from interviewing candidates under contract with other teams unless the Panthers’ gig comes with decision-making responsibilities (Twitter link).
  • We heard earlier today that the Browns are doing their due diligence on HC candidates, which isn’t a good sign for Freddie Kitchens. As Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com tweets, the team wanted to see modest progress from Kitchens this year, which is why a loss to the Bengals on Sunday afternoon could seal his fate. But for all his faults, Kitchens remains well-liked in the building, so he’s not a goner just yet. We also heard today that Browns GM John Dorsey may be on the hot seat.
  • Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reiterates yesterday’s report that Ron Rivera is high on the Redskins‘ wish list, and that Rivera could have a new job as soon as tomorrow (video link). However, other clubs also want a crack at Rivera. One of those clubs, the Cowboys, will almost certainly move on from Jason Garrett if they are eliminated from playoff contention today, and Rapoport names Rhule, Lincoln Riley, and Rivera as names to watch for Dallas’ expected vacancy.
  • In the same report, RapSheet says Giants ownership is split on head coach Pat Shurmur, with Steve Tisch wanting to move on and John Mara not quite convinced. A win over the Eagles today could save Shurmur’s job.
  • Dan Graziano of ESPN.com confirms (via Twitter) that former Texans GM Rick Smith is definitely a name to watch if the Redskins move on from Bruce Allen, which they are expected to do. Graziano says it’s still unclear as to whether Smith wants to return to a front office, contrary to a report from last month, but if he is, Redskins owner Dan Snyder will be interested. Mark Maske of the Washington Post hears that Smith, who lost his wife to cancer 11 months ago, is not quite ready to return to football (Twitter link).

East Rumors: Rhule, Meyer, Jets

Despite reports connecting the Cowboys to Lincoln Riley and Urban Meyer, team owner Jerry Jones on Saturday downplayed the notion that he would pursue a college coach this offseason. However, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports says Jones remains interested in Riley, and he is also paying close attention to Baylor head coach Matt Rhule.

Rhule was a hot name on the NFL head coaching circuit last year and reportedly could have had the Jets’ job if he agreed to certain appointments to his coaching staff. He signed an eight-year extension with Baylor in September, but pro teams are still interested in him. Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network shot down recent speculation that the Cowboys would pursue Sean Payton, but he says Dallas made it known through back channels last offseason it was interested in the Saints’ HC, which helped Payton land his extension with New Orleans in September (video link).

Now for more from the league’s east divisions:

  • The Cowboys may not be the only team interested in Meyer. As JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington tweets, Meyer is at FedEx field for the Redskins‘ contest against the Eagles today, and Washington would love to land Meyer as its next HC. Meyer, of course, served as Dwayne Haskins‘ head coach at Ohio State, but it seems like the Redskins don’t really meet Meyer’s criteria for coming out of retirement.
  • Rich Cimini of ESPN.com expects the Jets to overhaul 50% of their roster this offseason, and he unsurprisingly names Brian Winters and Quincy Enunwa as two of the big-name players who could be cut. He also says that, if New York retains Le’Veon Bell, it should bring in another RB with the speed to run outside the tackles.
  • Though the Patriots just cut kicker Josh Gable two days after adding him to the practice squad, head coach Bill Belichick suggested that Gable could be back in 2020 as possible competition for Stephen Gostkowski, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com writes.
  • In the same piece linked above, Reiss says Patriots D-line coach Bret Bielema, a former collegiate head coach with Wisconsin and Arkansas, is generating interest from college teams. Bielema is said to be open to such an opportunity if the right one presents itself.
  • The NFL’s decision on the Patriots‘ punishment for Spygate 2.0 is expected shortly.

Latest On Cowboys’ Pending FAs, Jason Garrett

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Cowboys have made no progress on extensions for pending free agents Dak Prescott, Amari Cooper, or Byron Jones, as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes. La Canfora had a similar report towards the end of October, and nothing has changed since then.

Dallas, obviously, is not going to let Prescott get away, and even if the two sides cannot work out a long-term pact prior to the deadline for using the franchise tag, the Cowboys would tag their signal-caller to buy themselves some more time. That would mean that the Cowboys could not tag Cooper, and La Canfora’s sources say the odds of the team retaining Cooper without the tag are slim. Plus, given that we are now close to the end of the season, Cooper is not inclined to forego his shot at the open market by restarting extension negotiations.

La Canfora adds that there has been no communication between the Cowboys and Jones, and no talks are expected before the end of the season. With Jones, like Cooper, poised for a big payday, it seems increasingly likely that the team will lose both players.

With respect to Jason Garrett, we have already heard that the Cowboys will not be firing their head coach before the end of the season, but we also heard that Garrett may need to capture the Lombardi Trophy in order to remain in Dallas beyond 2019, and Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network confirms earlier rumors that the Cowboys will have interest in Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley if they elect to move on from Garrett (video link). Owner Jerry Jones and his family already have a relationship with Riley stemming from Riley’s recruitment of Jones’ grandson, John Stephen Jones, who ultimately elected to play his collegiate ball at Arkansas.

Riley has been a hot name in NFL coaching rumors in the past, and if he elects to jump to the professional ranks, Rapoport suggests the Cowboys could be appealing to him.

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Cowboys Could Consider Coaching Change In 2020

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has insisted that head coach Jason Garrett is not in danger of losing his job this year, but as Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports writes, Garrett’s future in Dallas beyond 2019 is still very much in doubt.

Of course, that isn’t a huge surprise given that Garrett’s contract expires at the end of the current campaign. Jones was perfectly content to let Garrett coach through a lame-duck season and revisit the situation next year, and he is fully expecting a strong playoff run.

Jones apparently views the Cowboys, who have lost two straight after running off three consecutive wins to start the season, as a legitimate championship contender. As such, Garrett may have to win at least one playoff game to land a new contract with the Cowboys.

Garrett has been on the hot seat several times during his Cowboys tenure, but he has still managed to hold onto his post since he was given the permanent HC title in 2011. And, now that Sean Payton has signed an extension with the Saints, one of the biggest threats to his job is off the market.

However, Jones is intrigued by Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who has seen his name come up in plenty of NFL coaching rumors before. Riley, though, is reportedly willing to seriously consider opportunities in the professional ranks in 2020, and obviously the Dallas gig is one of the most high-profile jobs around.

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Oklahoma HC Lincoln Riley’s Buyout Set At $4.6MM

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley hasn’t completely ruled out an eventual jump to the NFL, and if he ever decides to go pro, his contract won’t be prohibitive. Riley’s pricey new contract with the university calls for a $4.6MM buyout price, according to Eric Bailey of Tulsa World

The $4.6MM figure isn’t exactly chump change, but it’s probably not enough to dissuade an interested team from hiring the energetic coach, who turns 36 in September. Many teams were said to have interest in Riley before he inked his five-year, $32.5MM extension with OU and it’s not hard to see him being at the top of the heap in future offseasons. For reference, $4.6MM is less than the average NFL head coach earns on an annual basis.

It’s also worth noting that Riley’s buyout will decrease with time. The $4.6MM figure represents 22.5% of Riley’s remaining guaranteed compensation, but that number dips by about $1MM every year leading up to the contract’s expiration after the 2023 season. And, in March of 2022, the buyout becomes non-existent.

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Peter King On Riley, Murray, Haskins

Towards the end of the 2018 season, there was a lot of buzz surrounding Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley and a potential jump to the pros. Ultimately, Riley opted to stay put with the Sooners.

Recently, Peter King of NBC Sports had the opportunity to catch up with Riley and ask him about the possibility of moving to the NFL at some point down the line.

I certainly wasn’t tempted at all this year. I would say right now it wouldn’t surprise me at all if I am a college lifer,” Riley said. “I think it’ll be interesting how a lot of things go on from here … if there’s a lot of changes in both games. Football is evolving; there’s a lot of changes obviously at the NFL level right now. There’s a lot of changes with all the transfers and recruiting and all the different things going on at the college level. You never know how those games are going to evolve. I might’ve been tempted honestly had I not been at a place like Oklahoma. But this is one of the best jobs there is in football. Like I’ve said before, I’ll never say never. I never want to promise things that I can’t 1,000% guarantee. It’s not something that really tempts me at all right now.”

After coaching Heisman Trophy winners in back-to-back seasons, Riley is certainly in a great position at Oklahoma. He also recently inked a lucrative extension with OU, so his comfort in Norman, Oklahoma is certainly understandable.

Here’s more from King:

  • There has been a lot of talk about Kyler Murray and his lack of bulk, but King hears the quarterback has bulked up to 206 pounds, a significant jump from his playing weight of 190 pounds at Oklahoma.His added size may give teams confidence that he’s ready to withstand bigger hits at the next level.
  • Murray and Ohio State QB Dwayne Haskins are solid top 10 picks, based on what King is hearing. Meanwhile, King doesn’t put a lot of stock into the will-they-won’t-they talk about whether the QBs will throw at the combine. In King’s experience, he’s never heard post-draft chatter of a team executive having downgraded a QB because he did not throw at Indianapolis.
  • King gets the sense that the Rams are hoping that left tackle Andrew Whitworth will come back for one more season, even though he’ll earn a substantial $10.7MM in the final year of his three-year pact. Right now, the 37-year-old is wrestling with the idea of retirement, but the Rams could use his skill and experience, especially since the Rams could lose free agent left guard Rodger Saffold in March. Rising sophomore Joseph Noteboom could take over for Saffold, but the 2018 third-rounder may be forced to fill even bigger shoes at left tackle if Whitworth hangs ’em up.

Cardinals, Jets Expected To Interview Kliff Kingsbury

While the Lincoln Riley avenue appears closed for NFL teams, they continue to explore what a college-level offensive innovator could bring to the table.

The Cardinals and Jets are expected to meet with former Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury about their head coach vacancies, Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com reports.

Two other teams with HC openings said Kingsbury was on their radar but that no interviews were as of yet scheduled. The 39-year-old coach is also being monitored for NFL offensive coordinator jobs, Robinson adds. The Rams contacted Kingsbury about an assistant job late last year.

The Red Raiders fired Kingsbury after this season, but NFL teams took notice of the job he did leading the Big 12 program’s explosive offenses. Kingsbury brought both Patrick Mahomes and Baker Mayfield to Lubbock, Texas, and steered the former to becoming a top-10 pick.

Kingsbury declined a chance to become the University of Houston’s head coach and is on USC’s staff as the program’s OC and quarterbacks coach. While Texas Tech only went 35-40 under Kingsbury, his offenses have obviously attracted NFL franchises — especially given the successes of younger, offensively oriented coaches in recent years. Case Keenum also set NCAA passing records under Kingsbury when they were at Houston together.

A former Red Raiders quarterback, Kingsbury was briefly on the Jets’ roster, in 2005, before transitioning to the CFL and then going into coaching. The Jets attempted to bring Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell in for an interview, but the Cyclones’ coach declined.

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Lincoln Riley Signs Extension To Stay At Oklahoma

The Lincoln Riley-to-NFL speculation stirred for several weeks, but on New Year’s Day, it will officially stop.

Riley agreed to an extension to stay at Oklahoma, keeping the 35-year-old offensive guru at the college level for the time being.

Amazingly 2-for-2 in coaching Heisman trophy winners in his two seasons succeeding Bob Stoops, Riley was connected to the Browns’ opening — largely because of what he did for Baker Mayfield‘s career in 2017. But he was loosely linked to other teams’ potential searches, as the demand for offensive innovation rapidly increases. Riley has won more games (24) in his first two seasons as a college head coach than anyone since Penn’s George Woodruff in the 1890s.

With Riley agreeing to an extension, Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald again indicating he’s happy where he is and Matt Campbell having turned down a Jets interview request, the 2019 coaching carousel as of now features NFL-based candidates.

Lincoln Riley Says He Isn’t Leaving Oklahoma

It doesn’t sound like Lincoln Riley will be “going pro” anytime soon. The Oklahoma head coach told Howie Kussoy of the New York Post that he has no plans of joining the NFL.

“I can’t tell you how I’m gonna feel in 10 years, but no, not right now,” Riley said. “If I wasn’t at one of the elite programs in the country, maybe, but no, I’m very happy where I’m at right now.

“If it was 20, 30 years ago, where there were some major differences, maybe. … The way the college game has evolved, financially it’s a lot better situation now when you compare it to NFL teams. We’re at a place where we’re happy, and we don’t take that for granted. I love coaching at Oklahoma, love coaching college football.”

Riley’s name has continually been connected with potential head coaching vacancies, and the Oklahoma coach recently led a Yahoo! Sports list of collegiate coaches who could make the jump to the NFL. However, Riley has been adamant that he’s staying put, and he’s even told recruits that he’ll be sticking with Oklahoma.

“I was very upfront, said what I’ve said the 15 times I’ve been asked about it since,” Riley said. “I told them the truth. I told them I love where I’m at right now, and I don’t have that itch right now, and I fully plan on being at Oklahoma.”

Even if Riley wasn’t being entirely truthful, it’s not surprising that he’s rejecting the notion of joining the NFL. The Sooners are set to play in the College Football Playoff semifinals against Alabama on Saturday. Eliminating distractions is surely one of his top priorities, and definitively stating that he’s sticking with Oklahoma could only be perceived as a good thing.

Of course, even with his public statements, NFL teams will still be eyeing Riley this offseason. The 35-year-old has led Oklahoma to two straight CFP appearances, and he’s been touted for helping to develop quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray. Riley has a 24-3 record and a pair of Big 12 championships during his two seasons as head coach, and he served as the team’s offensive coordinator in 2015 and 2016.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.