Sports Outside the Beltway

Norv Turner ‘Leading Candidate’ for Cowboys Job

Wade Phillips interviewed yesterday and Norv Turner interview Sunday for the head coaching opening with the Dallas Cowboys created with the retirement of Bill Parcells.

While Phillips said his interview went “good,” FWST beat writer Mac Engel says Turner “appears to be the leading candidate to replace Bill Parcells.”

The San Francisco 49ers reportedly have made a substantial offer to keep Turner, the team’s offensive coordinator, from even interviewing with the Cowboys. But Turner, who is in Mobile, Ala., as a coach in the Senior Bowl today, will still interview with the Cowboys and has emerged as the favorite to coach the team, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.

Turner has a history with Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and has been a head coach twice previously in the NFL, with Washington (1994-2000) and Oakland (2004-05).

He was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys in their Super Bowl-winning seasons of 1992 and 1993 and groomed Troy Aikman. He also coached Jason Garrett as one of the backup quarterbacks in 1993, and Garrett on Thursday was named to the Cowboys’ staff, presumably as the offensive coordinator.

Based on their prior record as head coaches, neither Phillips nor Turner are exactly exciting choices. Still, both are solid coaches with a relationship with Jones and who know what they are getting into.

Engel’s colleague, Jim Reeves, thinks hiring Turner is simply “a no-brainer.”

Everyone knows the knock on Norv. He’s a two-time loser. He couldn’t win in Washington or Oakland. Why would anyone think he could win here, in Dallas?

The question, of course, provides its own answer. Dallas isn’t Washington or Oakland. Jones isn’t, thank heavens, Little Danny Snyder or even Al Davis.

There really are a multitude of reasons why Jones should pick Turner.

They already have a strong relationship. This really is important. Jerry needs to know whom he’s dealing with, and there has to be a mutual trust and respect. Turner has to be able to stand firm against Jerry when the owner/GM wants to do something stupid (like bringing Terrell Owens back, for instance).

Turner isn’t Jimmy, but he is a link to the Cowboys’ heyday of the mid-’90s.

There are no sexy hires to be had out there. Jimmy’s still fishing and isn’t coming back. Bill Cowher is home with the family for a year. Not even Jones will pay to ransom Charlie Weis from Notre Dame. Bob Stoops has vowed to stay at OU, and besides, there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t take him a year or two to get up to speed in the NFL.

Turner, though, at least evokes pleasant thoughts of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, of great offenses and Super Bowls. Nothing wrong with that picture.

Turner already has a great relationship with Jason Garrett, the Cowboys’ brilliant but raw offensive coordinator. Norv can take Garrett under his wing and school him in the nuances of the job, while also prepping him to be an NFL head coach. The owner stepping in to hire the offensive coordinator before hiring his head coach, who should then hire his own staff, is absolutely backward and typical Jerry, but it works if Turner comes in as Garrett’s boss.

Tony Romo. This is pretty self-explanatory. Turner developed one Hall of Fame quarterback already, and don’t you know that Aikman would happily drop by Valley Ranch for a little one-on-one work with Romo if either Turner or Garrett asked him to do it. With Turner and Garrett right there and Aikman available, Romo couldn’t have a better support system.

It’s time to think offense. Jones hinted at philosophical changes to come late in the season as he expressed his disgust at the waste of time, money, draft picks and effort the Cowboys have put in to build what was supposed to a championship-caliber defense. You have to score points in today’s NFL. Turner knows how to do that.

The window of opportunity is now. Perhaps the most important reason of all to hire Turner is that this is a Cowboys team that’s on the brink. It can go one of two ways. Up, to the next level as a championship contender. Down, as the window closes and age begins to catch up with its wide receivers, etc.

That’s why Jones doesn’t want a college coach here and why he shouldn’t give the job to Garrett, either. This team needs a cool, veteran hand on the throttle. It needs to win now.

A relaxed and confident Turner will bring a breath of fresh air to a tense locker room, where players had the life sucked out of them by the dour Bill Parcells each December.

Jones needs to follow his gut. He needs to hire Norv as the head coach and then allow him to go get the best and brightest young defensive coordinator he can find to put some juice into this Cowboys defense.

It’s not sexy. It’s not complicated. It’s almost too easy.

But it’s the right thing to do.

I’ve got to admit, that makes a lot of sense.

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