The Dallas Cowboys ultimately hired Mike McCarthy to be the team’s head coach in 2020, but ownership also explored flashier options. According to Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer, the Cowboys explored the possibility of hiring then-Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley, who just accepted the USC position, prior to landing McCarthy.

“Second, NFL teams have flocked to Norman, Okla. the last few years to learn more about what the innovative Riley was doing, and that made him a sort of white whale for the pros to pursue, in the same way Chip Kelly once was,” Breer detailed on November 29. “Rumors were rampant that the Cowboys had interest a couple of years back, and others have kicked the tires since, and this at least should put the idea of his landing in the NFL on hold for a while.”

The Jones Family Believed There Was ‘Something Special’ About Riley

Prior to the firing of Jason Garrett, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that Riley was a name to watch if the team switched coaches. Rapoport noted that the Jones family had a relationship with Riley and believed there was “something special” about the college coach.