Cowboys vice president of player personnel Will McClay is widely regarded as a top GM candidate, but with owner Jerry Jones and son Stephen Jones at the top of the team’s unique hierarchy, McClay will never get a shot as a general manager in Dallas. However, his actions over the past few years have made it clear that he is happy right where he is, and he confirmed as much in a recent interview with Clarence E. Hill, Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
McClay, 55, joined the Cowboys as a scout in 2002. He took over the team’s scouting department as Assistant Director of Player Personnel in 2013, ran his first draft in 2014, and landed his current title in 2017. Since 2014, Dallas has drafted 10 Pro Bowlers, and while the Cowboys are generally restrained in free agency, McClay has had some success in finding contributors on modest FA contracts.
McClay, who is Black, has appeared on the Fritz Pollard Alliance’s list of recommended GM hires on multiple occasions, but he turned down interview requests in the 2016-18 hiring cycles. Though there have been no public reports of interview requests since 2018, that could be because other teams are aware of how difficult it would be to pry McClay from Dallas.
“I realize what my role and my structure is, what we do here,” McClay said. “I feel good about what we are doing. That is the job I am happy with now. If an opportunity comes up that makes sense, sure I will look at it. But I am happy where I am now. I am happy with the job, the role and how we do things.”
While McClay does not currently have the full range of authority that he would as GM, his voice carries a great deal of weight in the club’s collaborative personnel process, which also includes input from both Joneses and head coach Mike McCarthy. “I’m happy with the job and the role and the way it is here because of the way we work and do things together,” McClay said.
When asked if he feels pressure to accept a GM job in order to continue paving the way for other minority candidates, he replied, “I’m a grown man. I know I’m black. The pressure is from the outside saying, ‘oh, you have to do’…I don’t have to do anything. The thing that I have to do for any African-American person who is trying to get into personnel, what I’ve got to do is be the best at my job, then they can see. You’ve got to do your job first, so I’m doing my job to the best of my availability first.”
As noted above, McClay left open the possibility of taking a GM position if the right opportunity presents himself. When asked what such an opportunity would look like, he responded, “you want to make sure the top structure is right. How many picks do they have? What’s there? What’s the team? Got to have a quarterback. … So many different things you would consider. So when the time comes and I have the time to look at it and put that foot forward that I want to do that, then I will look at all the different factors. I don’t consider it because it’s here right now that’s most important.”
The Cowboys and McClay agreed to a three-year extension earlier this year, and Jerry Jones, who said he considers McClay as qualified as anyone he has ever been around in terms of GM potential, is happy to have one of his top lieutenants in the fold during the team’s current window of contention.