Could Josh McDaniels Be Jason Garrett's Replacement in Dallas?

A story shared on Wednesday morning suggests that Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels could be the next targeted head coach candidate for the Dallas Cowboys if Jason Garrett is fired.

The New England Patriots are historically known for putting teams into "crisis mode," after losing to the defending Super Bowl champions, who are 10-1 and seemingly headed to a showdown with the Baltimore Ravens in the playoffs. The most recent team to fall victim  is the Dallas Cowboys, who lost to the Patriots in a 13-9 messy weather game at Gillette Stadium in Week 12. 

The most criticism was directed at Cowboys coach Jason Garrett, whose conservative game plan, especially late in the fourth quarter, may have cost the Cowboys their best chance to win the game.  The  Cowboys dropped to 6-5 going into their Thanksgiving Day late afternoon game against the Buffalo Bills. Thanks to a weak NFC East and  the struggles of the Eagles, the Cowboys have a one-game lead on Philadelphia heading into the home stretch.

Garrett has a regular season record of 78-61 since his first full season in 2011 as the Dallas Cowboys head coach. Since then, the Cowboys have only made the playoffs three times, and have not made it past the divisional round. 

This Cowboys roster might be the most talented Garrett's had, which explains the frustration and criticism of Jerry Jones and the prevailing feeling that Garrett, who is in the last year of his contract, will not be offered a new one barring a deep playoff run. 

Mike Freeman of Bleacher Report shared a story Wednesday morning that hints at the possibility of New England's offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels being a potential coaching candidate in Dallas. Here is what Freeman said about McDaniels and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, who is another speculated candidate for the Cowboys: 

"Second, there is increasing belief around the league that owner Jerry Jones is focusing on two primary candidates as replacements (for Jason Garrett)—former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

"Meyer would be a Jones kind of hire. He's high-profile, known as a football savant, and to Jones he'd bring instant credibility to the job.

"He'd also be a risky choice. He's never been a head coach in the NFL, and getting respect from a professional locker room is a vastly different enterprise than getting respect in a college one.

"McDaniels would be different, safer in a lot of ways. He's a longtime Patriots assistant, and coaching under Bill Belichick (not to mention coaching Tom Brady) brings a universe of clout. Plus, he's been a head coach in the league before, so he knows the drill to an extent."

Freeman also mentioned while Meyer and McDaniels are the "front-runners" in the event that Garrett is fired, other believed on an eventual Jones wish list are Saints coach Sean Payton, Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh, and 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh. 

While this news is certainly going to spark conversation, it's important to look at what would need to play out in order for McDaniels to leave the Patriots and pursue another head coaching job: 1) The Cowboys job would have to be open, 2) McDaniels would have to have an interest in joining the Cowboys and 3) Jones would have to want him.

Bill Belichick and Jones have a mutual admiration society and if Jones is serious about McDaniels, he would surely get Belichick's endorsement and blessing. The stench from two years ago when McDaniels accepted and then changed his mind about the Colts job has left. If he remained in New England to be the successor to Belichick, well, there's no indication when The Hoodie plans to retire. If he stayed to continue to work with Tom Brady, then he might  be there awhile if Brady sticks to his plan to play until he is 45. If he's offered the Cowboys job, that's going to tough to turn down, particularly with a healthy and improving Dak Prescott.

The likelihood of Garrett being gone after 2019 is picking up momentum. Jones talked about Garrett's standing on NFL Network's morning show "Good Morning Football" on Wednesday: 

"Let me tell you, no one in this country has earned the right to say 'I'm a Jason Garrett man' more than me. I am his man," Jones said. "And we want the very same thing. And that's for our players to play at their very best and we want his staff to coach at their very best. The bottom line is we get graded. I'm in business. I don't have to win the Super Bowl in business every year. I can come in sixth and have a hell of a year. But in this case, you've got to come in first. You've got to come in first. So fundamentally, you've asked for something that's a very narrow window to begin with. I want Jason to get it done."

It's beeb quite literally a win-or-go-home scenario for Garrett in 2019. If what Jones is saying is true, then Garrett needs to win it all this year, or at least get to the NFC Championship Game, or else he will be looking for another job. 

Now what about McDaniels' interest in joining the Cowboys?

While we can't read McDaniels' mind, and he sure as heck won't talk about the potential of joining Dallas at any point during the season, we can look at the roster in Dallas. 

The Cowboys will have a projected $89 million in cap space in 2020, which is 5th-best in the league. If they franchise/transition tag the pair of Amari Cooper and Dak Prescott, the team will have those two players along with Ezekiel Elliott, a strong offensive line, and a young, stout defense that is one of the top units in the league. However, with a hands-on owner like Jones, McDaniels needs to get a clear picture of how the operation runs in Dallas and the freedom he will have to operate the team his way. 

For now, McDaniels has a lot on his plate in New England. He's got five games to fix the Patriots offense, which has been inconsistent this season. If he can get it up and running, then New England will have a much stronger chance of making yet another Super Bowl appearance. 

The idea of McDaniels leaving in 2020 for a head coaching opportunity will be one of the most intriguing stories line beginning on Black Monday on Dec. 30