Executive vice president Stephen Jones made it clear that the Dallas Cowboys are focused on keeping their coaching staff intact as much as possible, and expect to use their three-day exclusive negotiating window to accomplish that.
The Cowboys’ priorities are to reach a long-term extension with coach Jason Garrett, and then bring back his top assistants in play-caller Scott Linehan and defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.
Offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan also has an expiring contract.
“We’ll be trying to sign our guys,” Jones said. “My priority is to sign our staff.”
Day One of the exclusive negotiating window began Monday, and Jones said the Cowboys have already begun talks with Garrett.
Jones said they won’t let any of their assistants meet with other teams over the three-day period, either, unless it’s for a head coaching opportunity. He wouldn’t say whether other teams had contacted them about pursuing Garrett.
“I’m not going to get into specifics on anything,” Jones said.
Garrett, though, made it known that he wanted to stay with the Cowboys during a KRLD-FM radio interview.
“This is a great organization,” Garrett said. “I think we really built a football team that we can be proud of, and there are some really good things ahead for this team.”
Linehan is the only assistant who has been linked to a head coaching position, making the Oakland Raiders’ list. But Linehan has also stated that he has enjoyed working with the Cowboys, and has already developed a good relationship with quarterback Tony Romo.
Marinelli, meanwhile, is in an interesting spot. It’s been speculated for months that he’d likely reunite with his friend Lovie Smith in Tampa Bay, but it might be hard to leave a contending team for a rebuilding one.
The Cowboys’ defenders are hopeful Marinelli returns.
“Tell him he better stay here,” veteran defensive end Jeremy Mincey said, smiling. “Nah, I’d be happy for him. I have so much respect for Coach Rod … but we definitely want him here. We’ve got a lot of love and respect for him and he coaches the game the right way.”
Said cornerback Orlando Scandrick: “He brings a demeanor to the defense; guys love playing for him. I love playing for him and I look forward to what the future holds.”
Callahan is another prominent assistant in his final season, and it seemed to be a foregone conclusion that he’d leave after being stripped of his play-calling duties last off-season. Callahan even wanted to leave last year, but the Cowboys blocked him from interviewing with other teams.
He’s drawing interest again this off-season, but the Cowboys will at least attempt to keep him for how he’s helped develop one of the top offensive lines in the league.
“Our goal is to keep everyone together,” Jones said.
DeMarco Murray had little interest in discussing his future with the Cowboys a day after they lost to the Green Bay Packers in the NFC divisional round.
“I’m not worried about my future,” Murray said. “I just lost a big game, the biggest game of my life. Just not worried about it right now. Just relax with my family and get away from it for a little bit.”
Murray, 26, is set to become a free agent and it’s unclear if the Cowboys will have the salary cap space to sign him.
Asked how much he wanted to stay a part of this, Murray said: “I’m not going to answer that.”
Murray led the NFL and set the franchise’s single-season rushing record with 1,845 yards this season, along with 13 touchdowns. He also had a league-high 392 carries.
Outside of Murray, the Cowboys have several other free agents starting with wide receiver Dez Bryant, linebackers Rolando McClain, Bruce Carter and Justin Durant, defensive end Anthony Spencer and right tackle Doug Free.
Durant, who was placed on season-ending injured reserve after tearing his right biceps in Week 8 against Washington, hopes to re-sign with the Cowboys.
“Just let my agent take care of all that type of stuff,” said Durant, who said his arm is healing well and expects to be ready for organized team activities.
▪ As a consolation prize for being the NFC losing team with the best record last weekend, the Cowboys’ coaching staff is in line to work the Pro Bowl. However, they have yet to accept given the aforementioned contract status for several of them. Said Stephen Jones: “We’ve got to see how that goes.”
▪ The Cowboys signed the following practice squad players to the reserve/future list: wide receivers Reggie Dunn and Chris Boyd; cornerback Robert Steeples; linebackers Troy Davis and Will Smith; and tackle John Wetzel.