IRVING, Texas -- Chan Gailey became the fourth and least-heralded coach in Dallas Cowboys history on Thursday, impressing owner Jerry Jones with enthusiasm and expertise in a whirlwind, four-day courtship.
"I sat on the front of my seat when I saw his energy level," said Jones, who had never met Gailey before they got together Sunday at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. "He'll put fire into the players when they see his skill level."
Gailey, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator the last two years, beat out such big names as former San Francisco coach George Seifert and Green Bay offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis.
Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue almost had the job, but lost it in a battle with Jones over money and control.
"Jerry's long search might have been the best thing that happened," said quarterback Troy Aikman. "I think Chan can put his stamp on the team and give it a sense of direction. I like what I've heard him say."
Jones gave a laundry list of things he liked about Gailey. Some of the highlights were previous head coaching experience, albeit at small colleges and in the World League, and the fact he's a former quarterback.
Jones also liked the fact Gailey has spent 10 years as an NFL assistant. Four of those teams reached the Super Bowl and seven were division winners, while enduring only one losing season.
This past season, his play-calling helped the Steelers reach the AFC championship game, although some of his decisions were criticized for the 24-21 loss to Denver.
"With each stop along the coaching road, he's made a very vivid and lasting impression," Jones said.
Gailey, 46, was given a five-year contract. His salary was expected to be about $500,000 per year -- the same amount Donahue was offered.
"This is the beginning of the dream," Gailey said. "Another part of that dream ... is that we get to stand on that podium some late January afternoon and have a hand on that Lombardi Trophy. ...
"The end of the dream, the final dream, will be that ... we're champions with class, dignity and character. That's what I'm about."
Gailey said he was eager to begin retooling a team that crumbled to a 6-10 record last year under Barry Switzer, who announced his resignation Jan. 9.
"I plan to work hard and get the guys organized to play," Gailey said. "I don't plan to run around here with a whip, but I'm focused on what has to be done. The goal is to win the Super Bowl and I'm fortunate to get a nucleus of players to get that done."
Gailey said he wasn't going to be a puppet for Jones.
"Our relationship will be good, don't worry about it," Gailey said.
Denver quarterback John Elway, who worked with Gailey when he was offensive coordinator for the Broncos, said the Cowboys have a treat coming.
"The Cowboys are going to be delighted with him," Elway said. "Troy is going to enjoy working with him as I did during his days here in Denver. He is a great coach and a quality person. I think you'll see he is going to be one of the great coaches of this league."
Winning with Elway is one thing. But being successful with Neil O'Donnell, then helping turn Kordell Stewart into an NFL success at quarterback shows that he can adapt his coaching style to his talent.
Gailey will try doing that again in Dallas, as he proclaimed himself in charge of the offense. Jones called him a "highly innovative, creative mind on the offensive side of the ball."
Wide receiver Michael Irvin, who had been a vocal backer of Lewis, said: "I'm totally excited about Gailey. We needed somebody with a creative head for the game. The way Pittsburgh plays says a lot about his ability."
Irvin said he backed Lewis because "he deserves to be head coach. I thought it was important to let Jerry know that."
Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher said: "I'm happy for Chan. People will find out soon enough that he is a good coach. We all were no-names at one time."
In fact, all four coaches in Dallas history had never been NFL head coaches. Tom Landry went on to win two Super Bowls, Jimmy Johnson won two and Switzer won one.
However, the Cowboys are coming off their worst season since going 1-15 in 1989. They ended a five-year run atop the NFC East and missed the playoffs for the first time in seven years.
"I am very focused about what has to be done," Gailey said, "and where we have to go."