After talking with a couple embedded folks I trust out at Valley Ranch, this is how I see it all going down:
The next permanent head coach of the Dallas Cowboys will come from one of four corners.
Owner Jerry Jones is as conflicted, confused and confounded as at any time during his 22-year ownership. Of course, aren't we all? No one -- especially the eternally optimistic Jones -- saw this debacle coming.
A season with Super Bowl aspirations has soured by mid-season. Instead of plans of Super Bowl 45 in February in their own stadium, the Cowboys are 1-7, without Wade Phillips and grudgingly more interested in April's NFL Draft.
The next eight games will prove if Jason Garrett is a duct-tape temporary fix or a long-term brick-and-mortar foundation.
The Cowboys' four corners ...
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1. The Parcells Corner -- No, the biggest a-hole in the history of Cowboys' coaches isn't returning. But a guy from his mold might be. I'm told that one of Jerry's solutions -- in fact, the most likely one -- is again flip-flopping philosophies. Phillips and his approach of cuddling players failed, so why not go back to a strict, hard-edged disciplinarian? If Jerry truly wants to change cultures, he has to be willing to step back, relinquish some authority and let someone else do it. Bill Cowher is at the top of this list. Followed by Jon Gruden.
2. The Garrett Corner -- Yes Jones has lost some confidence in the offensive coordinator because -- like all of us -- he's tired of seeing stats not translate into scores. But Jason has the first swing at this thing. If he gets the Cowboys playing hard, paying attention to detail and even winning a couple of games there is indeed a scenario where he's named permanent coach.
3. The Jimmy Corner -- This is the toughest of Jerry's choices because it would set back the Cowboys' competitiveness a couple of years and jeopardize the sweet spot of Tony Romo's career. (Not that it hasn't happened already.) This path would be a tear-down/rebuilding model, founded upon hiring a college coach such as Jimmy Johnson in 1989. New assistants. New philosophies. An almost entirely new roster. At the top of this list are LSU's Les Miles (former Cowboys' tight ends coach), OU's Bob Stoops, Stanford's Jim Harbaugh and even Arkansas' Bobby Petrino.
4. The Cowboy Corner -- In times of adversity we often retreat to what we know. Our comfort zones. If Garrett doesn't dazzle, Jerry would consider familiar blankies such as Mike Zimmer, Dave Wannstedt, Butch Davis or, if he gets axed in San Diego, Norv Turner. I can hear the groans already.