MOBILE, Ala. — Jerry Jones deflected the first couple of questions.
Has he talked to Bill Belichick this month?
“I don’t want to get into, for reasons of talking about anybody that I may have talked to that’s been bantered around about coaching,” the Dallas Cowboys team owner and general manager said Tuesday. “But I didn’t talk to anybody. I haven’t talked to anybody that is a head-coaching candidate other than my own.”
Does he think the six-time Super Bowl champion will get another opportunity in the NFL?
“I don’t know,” Jones said. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t speculate.”
But as he considered the state of his team from the Cowboys’ designated suite overlooking Senior Bowl practices on Tuesday, Jones eventually connected the dots.
The question on which he ultimately changed his tune was not about Belichick’s candidacy nor his compatibility with the Cowboys.
Yahoo Sports asked Jones what he respected generally about Belichick. Jones’ response quickly veered away from Belichick’s merits.
“I know him personally and I like him,” Jones said. “There’s no doubt in my mind we could work together. None. None.”
It’s a hypothetical that is not currently applicable.
The Cowboys enter the 2024 season with one year left on head coach Mike McCarthy’s contract. Jones said in a Jan. 17 statement that he’s “100 percent supportive” of McCarthy, who has led Dallas to three straight 12-5 seasons but exited the playoffs earlier than expected in each of those years.
Jerry Jones on retaining Mike McCarthy as Cowboys coach: “While we’re all disappointed with the result on Sunday and with our playoff record, I am 100 percent supportive of him as our head coach and ability to reach our goals.”
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) January 18, 2024
Jones reiterated praise for McCarthy’s regular-season guidance Tuesday. He praised, too, McCarthy’s role in the Cowboys' offense that led the league in scoring and ranked fifth in yardage. Prescott was named to the All-Pro second team, as he led the league in touchdowns (36) and ranked second in passer rating, his 105.9 the best mark in his eight years as a pro.
“His work with Dak, his work in the offense was really good,” Jones said of McCarthy. “I feel and he feels, we all feel, that there’s notable more to do improving with Dak.
“Best way to get the meat that’s on the bone is continuity.”
So does Jones’ consideration of his working relationship with Belichick mean anything this year? It does not.
Could it mean something in a year or two? That, too, is no done deal.
But Jones seemed well aware of the narratives that his desire for power and control could conflict with the vast personnel control Belichick seeks, a level of control that, Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson reported, derailed his candidacy for the Atlanta Falcons’ head-coaching role.
None of six other teams interviewed Belichick for their openings this cycle. Four jobs have been filled, while the Washington Commanders and Seattle Seahawks’ top spots remain open.
Collaborative coaches who work with, rather than above, personnel staff have dominated this cycle’s hirings. Multiple front-office executives told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday at Senior Bowl practices that front offices will only continue to expand across the league as the potential for integrating analytics and technology explodes.
Jones is the only team owner in the league who holds the title of general manager of his organization. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones and vice president of player personnel Will McClay have long had heavy hands in constructing the roster and evaluating talent. Does Jones agree that the league is trending toward keeping personnel power out of coaches’ hands?
“I think it’s an individual situation,” Jones said. “I don’t view it through the eyes of personnel power. I view it through the eyes of coordinated activity, year-round activity, using all assets that are available to use.
“I’ve never had to deal with [negotiating] personnel power. … At the end of the day, who writes the check on all this is how it works.”
The Cowboys’ check-writer in two, three or five years is far less of a question than their head coach. Could that check-writer opt to take arguably the best coach in NFL history off the market?
“We all know that he’s certainly excellent, maybe at the top of his profession,” Jones said. “To say that any one person automatically assures you a Super Bowl is ridiculous. That’s too high [an] expectation for him. But is he maybe the greatest pro football coach of all time? Could very well be.
“He is a friend and I like him and I want to make real clear: I wouldn’t have any problem working with him.”