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Urban Meyer will be a perennial coaching candidate, even in retirement

Urban Meyer could be a hot commodity this offseason. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)
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Urban Meyer barely had time to announce his decision to retire from coaching last December when someone asked him if he really meant it this time. After all, he already had stepped down once during his career, at Florida after the 2010 season, only to return to the sideline in 2012. Reporters were in the right to ask if this retirement, from Ohio State, would stick, and Meyer only fueled the fire once again by calling it a “complicated” question.

“I believe I will not coach again,” he said.

Since then, the questions about Meyer’s future haven’t stopped, and his answers always seem to fall just short of firm.

“I think it is,” Meyer told ESPN in August when asked if his coaching career was over. “I know people get tired of hearing that, but I think it is.

“I knew when I stepped away [from Florida] pretty quickly that I had made a mistake, that I wasn’t ready to step away, but I think this one’s different.”

About a month later, Meyer left the door open even wider in a chat with Cleveland.com.

“I’m not there at the moment,” he said of a possible return. “Like you said, next year can I say that? We’ll talk again next year and we’ll see.”

But even though it’s only October and most coaching openings have yet to reveal themselves, next year is upon us, at least in terms of Meyer speculation. And once again, it’s Meyer himself who seems to be pouring gasoline on it, at least in terms of one possible opening, this one perhaps the biggest coaching job in the NFL.

Jason Garrett’s future with the Dallas Cowboys has long been seen as cloudy, especially because his contract ends after this season, and much of the speculation has centered around owner Jerry Jones’s alleged interest in bringing Oklahoma Coach Lincoln Riley and his zippy offense to the NFL. On Friday, Fox’s Colin Cowherd asked Meyer about that particular job and whether Riley would take it.

“Pure speculation because I know him, but I don’t know him like that, but that’s the one [job],” Meyer responded. “That’s New York Yankees, that’s the Dallas Cowboys. That’s the one. Great city. They got Dak Prescott, Zeke Elliott. You got a loaded team. And I can’t speak for him 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 say, ‘I got to go do that.’ ”

Would Meyer have considered taking the Cowboys job if Jones ever had contacted him in the past?

“Sure,” he said. “Absolutely. Absolutely. That one? Yes.”

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Jones has long played coy about Garrett’s future, and his answers seem to depend on the result of the team’s most recent game. Dallas won handily against the Eagles on Sunday night, so he declined to comment on Meyer’s remarks in the immediate aftermath. But on Tuesday morning, Jones seemed to appreciate what Meyer said.

“For Urban Meyer to say that is a compliment. Period. I really know that,” he said during his weekly appearance on Dallas sports-talk radio. “The job is a great job. Now, that’s not implying that I made it that way or I don’t make it that way. It’s just the place to be.”

The Cowboys, if they split with Garrett and if they’re interested in Meyer, almost certainly will have company from any NCAA program that can afford to pay the price Meyer will command. One school that fits the bill is Florida State, which does not seem to be improving in Year Two of the Willie Taggart era. According to usually plugged-in Football Scoop, the school “has engaged its donor class about making a change at the head coaching position,” namely getting its moneyed supporters to pay Taggart’s $17 million buyout. And should Taggart depart, the school will target Meyer, Football Scoop’s Zach Barnett reports.

Meyer, 55, will have health concerns to consider. A cyst in his brain — Meyer has compared it to the size of a fist — caused him to suffer debilitating headaches throughout his coaching career and remains a concern, even if he’s currently pain-free. But if the Cowboys, Florida State or anyone else with enough pedigree and financial clout comes calling, it sounds as if Meyer will at least listen.

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