Did Urban Meyer rebuff USC because he wants Cowboys job?

Urban Meyer, Ohio State Buckeyes. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Urban Meyer, Ohio State Buckeyes. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Everybody thought Urban Meyer was going to USC until he wasn’t. Did he rebuff the Trojans gig in favor of something possibly better in the Dallas Cowboys?

It seemed like a perfect fit until it didn’t happen. After going 8-4 in 2019, the University of Southern California opted to keep head coach Clay Helton for another year. Helton will be entering his fifth season as the head coach of the USC Trojans in 2020. Everybody knew that Urban Meyer was going to take the USC job if Helton was fired. Apparently, that’s not happening anymore.

In truth, it’s probably in Meyer’s best interest to not enter the chaotic mess that is USC football. Rarely does the university empower its head football coach. It hasn’t done so since Pete Carroll was in Los Angeles a decade ago. Sure, USC is an alluring job, but maybe not one Meyer wanted to take. Perhaps there was a better one out there for him, good enough to pry him out of retirement?

According to Jane Slater of The NFL Network, “Jerry Jones says Jason Garrett will remain the coach but I can confirm a very real interest in Urban Meyer. In fact, I’m told Stephen Jones spoke with him recently. Lincoln Riley remains a strong candidate and file this name as a possibility Clemson [Tigers offensive coordinator] Tony Elliott, per sources.”

Slater reported this after the Cowboys’ Thursday Night Football loss on the road to the Chicago Bears to fall to a lackluster 6-7 on the season. Dallas can still reach the NFC Playoffs, as the NFC East is putrid this year. However, it would take nothing short of an NFC Championship Game appearance for the Cowboys for Garrett to get another year on the job in Dallas.

Though Meyer has never been a head coach in the NFL before, he did say on The Herd with Colin Cowherd a few months back that the Cowboys would be the job he would pick up the phone and hear what ownership has to say. Meyer compared this theoretical head coaching vacancy on par with that of the New York Yankees in the MLB. You’d be foolish not listen to what Jones has to say.

We have heard Riley’s name attached to the Cowboys job for a year or so now, as he’s the next hot up-and-coming offensive coach from the college ranks who could make it work in the NFL. However, he’s got a great thing going as the head coach of the Oklahoma Sooners. You don’t walk away from a top-10 college football job unless you’re 100 percent sure you’re done with that gig.

As for Tony Elliott’s inclusion, that’s a name to keep an eye on. While he might be looking for a bigger role beyond being Dabo Swinney‘s defensive coordinator at Clemson, you don’t fire Garrett for a college offensive coordinator. You fire Garrett to get a college football coaching star such as Meyer or Riley. This has worked out well before in Dallas with Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer.

Overall, it does seem that Meyer clearly thinks the Cowboys job is better than the USC job at this time. Of course, he did retire from coaching last year due to health concerns. He does have a pretty sweet gig on FOX’s Big Noon Kickoff these days. That being said, this is now twice Meyer has retired for health reasons after coaching a college team this decade. He did it in 2010 with Florida.

At the end of the day, if Meyer wants to leave the FOX desk for the Cowboys’ sidelines, Jones will find a way to pull the trigger and get this deal done. Jones made his money in the oil industry. He is willing to go all-in for a guy or an idea he believes in. Jones did it in buying the Cowboys, negotiating TV contracts with FOX and maybe once again to pry Meyer out of retirement.

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