IRVING, Texas — If the Dallas Cowboys dismiss offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, would the third time in flirting with Norv Turner be the charm to bring him back to Valley Ranch?
Legendary quarterback Troy Aikman – who maintains ties with both the Cowboys and his longtime friend and mentor Turner — wonders if Dallas’ dysfunction presents an obstacle to a reunion.
"I don’t think there’s anybody better than Norv Turner because I know what he meant to my career and I’ve seen what he’s done elsewhere with far lesser talent,” Aikman told me. "But I don’t think it’s quite as simple as what some might think even though he and Jason (Garrett) are close. The reason I say that is the Cowboys had an opportunity to hire Norv as head coach before they hired Wade Phillips (in 2007) and at the 11th hour they decided to hire Wade.
"I’m not speaking for Norv because we’ve had no conversations as it relates to this,” Aikman continued. "But if it were me and that had happened to me, I’d say "Hey, I’m not real sure that I want to come be a part of this now."
In fact, that’s only one of the two times in recent years that Turner’s been involved in an "11th-hour” decision at Valley Ranch. As I reported last year, the Cowboys considered bringing Turner back into the fold as offensive coordinator before opting to stick with incumbent Bill Callahan.
Therefore, regarding a third flirtation, Aikman said, "I don’t think it’s quite as simple as what some might think even though he and Jason are close.”
There are other complications here, including the fact that Turner is technically under contract in Cleveland even as Browns ownership performs what is eventually expected to be a clean sweep of the staff. And of course, Dallas has to make a decision on Callahan, who is still under contract with Dallas.
The biggest obstacle, though, might be the zig-zaggy organizational chart at Valley Ranch. I suggested to Aikman that maybe it’s time moving forward for the head coach to be given more authority by owner Jerry Jones in picking his offensive and defensive coordinators.
"Are you saying that’s not the way it’s been?” joked Aikman.
"I’ve owned businesses and I’ve been in the position of ownership to hire people to do jobs,” Aikman said. "When I was in the car business, the first GM I had I wasn’t real crazy about and I replaced him. Then I hired another GM who I held responsible for making the dealership profitable and bringing in the right salesmen and the right staff and mechanics and everything else we needed. I think you have to empower those people. That’s why you hire them. I’ve never quite understood whatever the situation is or has been in Dallas or elsewhere. But if you hire a head coach and don’t allow him to hire his staff, I think that’s problematic.”
There is a history of crossing the wires under Jones, with existing staffers staying on to work for new head coaches.
"I felt that (was problematic) when I was playing,” Aikman said, "even as much as I liked a number of our assistant coaches who were with me while I was playing for the Cowboys. We replaced head coaches but the assistants never left. A number of those guys stayed and I never agreed with it then. You don’t empower a head coach if you don’t allow him to hire his staff and allow him to really hold the players accountable. I think within every organization that I’ve seen as a broadcaster that has been successful, or those teams I was a part of that were successful, that’s the way it was operated. The head coach is the voice of the franchise, the voice of the football team, and coaches and players are accountable to him and when that chain of command (isn’t followed), then in my opinion it’s very difficult to overcome those things.”
I reported earlier this week that Garrett might have the desire to express that view to Jones, and that it might be fueling a change from Monte Kiffin on defense and from Callahan on offense. This would mean ownership doing something it rarely does. It would mean a shift toward convention. And, oddly, it would mean authority for a head coach on the final year of his contract.
But it still doesn’t mean Norv Turner — Aikman’s Super Bowl offensive coordinator, a 30-year NFL coach with 14 years as a head coach with the Redskins, Chargers and Raiders) and a hero inside of Valley Ranch – automatically returns.
"Even though I think Norv would do everything that he could to help Jason and his situation,” Aikman told me, "I don’t think it’s as big of a slam dunk as some may think.”