Seldom are NFL owners the reserved, stiff-upper-lip type. Yet even within the spectrum of splashy behavior, Dan Snyder and Jerry Jones occupy a place on the extreme that favors generating the most attention.
In pursuing championships and glamour, Jones has a long track record of going for broke, and it's undeniable his Cowboys have been successful. For Snyder, success on the football field is far more elusive. In 21 seasons as Redskins owner, his team has two playoff wins. The early years of his ownership in Washington were marked by pursuing the biggest names, even if they were players and coaches well past their primes. It was great for generating buzz, not so great for winning. For awhile, the moniker "Off-season Champs" was derisively applied by Redskins fans.
Since buying the team in 1999, Snyder has accumulated a laundry list of prominent coaches who with his team either completely flamed out or had only brief, marginal success: Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, the second coming of Joe Gibbs, and Mike Shanahan. In between, Snyder gave lesser-known Jim Zorn and Jay Gruden shots. The track record of those more obscure coaches wasn't a whole lot better, so it appears Snyder could be ready to make headlines once more.
Earlier this season, the Redskins reportedly were interested in wrestling Mike Tomlin from the Steelers, though that seems less of a possibility now that Pittsburgh’s season has rebounded back to respectability in the past two months. Still, it’s clear that making a splash is part of Snyder’s plans.
Perhaps to that end, the team had an intriguing guest at FedExField for Sunday’s game against the Eagles: former Florida and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, who played for Meyer with the Buckeyes, said the coach was his guest at Sunday’s game to watch him and Redskins rookie QB Dwayne Haskins, not necessarily to interview for the coaching vacancy. That could be a smokescreen, or at least a handy excuse to make it clear that Washington isn’t laying all its eggs in one basket. That Meyer spent the whole game in Snyder’s private suite makes it easy for media to drum up speculation and for the former college coach to have a few words about the position without doing it in any official capacity.
There’s good reason for the Redskins to be tentative in their dealings with Meyer. There’s the danger that the coach could be using their interest as a way of pressuring Dallas to come strong with an offer. And the last thing Snyder wants is to be used by someone who might soon be employed by his biggest rival. Dallas is in a trickier position because it has to play out the remainder of its season. That could take up another month or so, meaning Washington could have a head start in its negotiations with a coach.
In an appearance on Colin Cowherd’s radio show in October, Meyer talked of the possibility of current Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley making his way to Dallas. But he ended up revealing how much he prizes the Cowboys' head-coaching job.
"That's the New York Yankees," he said of the Cowboys. "... Great city, you got Dak Prescott, you got Zeke Elliott, you got a loaded team, and I can't speak for [Riley] obviously -- I hate to even speculate -- because I don't know him, that's really not fair, but to me, that's the one job in professional football that you kind of say, 'I gotta go do that.' "
For what it’s worth, NFL Network’s Jane Slater reported earlier this month that the Cowboys have a “very real interest” in Meyer, along with Riley and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott.
Despite the Cowboys' lopsided win over the Rams at home on Sunday, there is deep dissatisfaction in Dallas with longtime head coach Jason Garrett. Jones, outspoken as always, has not been shy about airing criticism about the underperformance of the Cowboys (7-7). It’s hard to know what Garrett could do, if anything, to save his job beyond this season, though it almost certainly involves not only winning the NFC East but likely at least one or two playoff games as well. Given that Sunday’s win over the Rams was the Cowboys’ first this season against a team with a winning record in seven attempts, that seems a tad unlikely.
Beyond all the backdoor machinations and signals of potential interest, there are reasons to question Meyer’s feasibility as an NFL head coach. For instance, what’s preventing the health issues that caused Meyer to resign from his past two coaching jobs to resurface, especially in the maximally stressful position as an NFL head coach?
Meyer was an excellent recruiter, an essential skill in the college ranks, but one that does not translate neatly to the pros. Sure, being a good evaluator of talent is important, but when you’re repping one of 32 NFL teams instead of a powerhouse NCAA program, you don’t have quite the same advantage. What’s more, Meyer is accustomed to motivating vulnerable college-aged kids instead of seasoned NFL veterans who generally aren’t as susceptible to a culture of intimidation.
Such questions may be moot for Snyder and Jones. Whether Meyer would be successful in the NFL matters less than who will end up with him in the coming weeks. And now that two opposing egos may have to battle for his services, the public hints of interest are only just starting to build.