Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones reacted to a second straight disappointing season yesterday by firing Coach Chan Gailey and beginning a search for a successor. NFL sources indicated Jones has a list of candidates that includes Washington Redskins Coach Norv Turner and a pair of prominent college head coaches--Texas's Mack Brown and Miami's Butch Davis.
Turner said yesterday that he has no interest in leaving the Redskins. Even if Turner was interested, he couldn't leave because Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder said he would not release him from a contract that has two years remaining on it.
"He's the coach of the Redskins," Snyder said.
Gailey, who was hired to replace Barry Switzer only two seasons ago, got the Cowboys into the playoffs in both seasons but was only 18-14 in the regular season. The Cowboys led the NFL in penalties this season, let six fourth-quarter leads slip away and were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer.
They also ended both Gailey's seasons with first-round defeats--to Arizona last season and to the Minnesota Vikings last weekend. Gailey, who was one of the NFL's lowest-paid head coaches at $550,000 per season, has three seasons remaining on his contract.
"This decision I had to make is about football," Jones said. "It wasn't about egos. It wasn't about contentiousness."
Jones did not give a specific reason for firing Gailey, but said it would take too much time and energy to get "everyone on the same page" for next season.
"Chan Gailey, relative to when he accepted this job, burned the midnight oil," Jones said. "He worked hard, he was diligent, he was honest. He did everything I imagined."
Gailey's fate probably was sealed by the 27-10 loss to Minnesota as well as an embarrassing late-season loss to the New Orleans Saints. Jones left little doubt that Gailey was in trouble after the New Orleans defeat, emphasizing that he believed the team's general manager had assembled enough talent to get the Cowboys to another Super Bowl.
However, several NFL personnel strongly disagree with that assessment. They agree with criticism by Jones and some Dallas players that Gailey's offense could have been more imaginative. But they quickly add that the Cowboys probably aren't as talented as Jones thinks, pointing to problems at wide receiver, the offensive line and a defense that has been decimated by age and free agency.
Staff writer George Solomon contributed to this report.