Originally created 01/12/00

Dallas' Gailey loses job

IRVING, Texas -- Chan is no longer the man running the Dallas Cowboys.

Chan Gailey was fired as the Cowboys' coach Tuesday, two days after his second season ended just like the first: with a blowout loss in the first round of the playoffs.

Team owner Jerry Jones praised Gailey as a man and coach, but said the offensive philosophy Gailey installed two years ago simply wasn't a good fit.

"He did everything that was asked of him. We just aren't as productive offensively as we needed to be," said Jones, adding that he consulted with people throughout the organization before making his decision.

Gailey, the fourth coach in the team's 40-year history and the third Jones has hired, leaves with the dubious distinction of being the first without a Super Bowl victory. His tenure also was the shortest.

Jones spent more than a month trying to find a creative offensive coach who also could be a disciplinarian when he hired Gailey to replace Barry Switzer in February 1998. At the news conference announcing the hiring, Jones announced "Chan's the man!"

In two seasons, Gailey went 18-14 with an NFC East title in his first year. His 0-2 playoff record was his undoing.

"I understand it's part of the process," Gailey said. "I don't agree with it, but I understand it. I would've liked to have had more of a chance."

Jones refused to discuss his coaching search, but he said enough to make it obvious he wants someone with a strong offensive background.

This time, Jones likely will want someone who can revive the system Norv Turner installed, which led to Super Bowl championships in 1992, '93 and '95. Turner became Washington's head coach after being the offensive coordinator for the first two titles; Ernie Zampese ran the offense for the third.

Turner remains a favorite of many Dallas players -- especially quarterback Troy Aikman -- but he's still under contract with the Redskins. Zampese is an unlikely choice.

Other hot commodities this off-season include St. Louis offensive coordinator Mike Martz and Gary Kubiak, Denver's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Martz could not be interviewed until the Rams' season is over.

Should Jones be willing to hire a defensive coach who would bring in an offensive coordinator, possibly choices are Cowboys defensive coordinator Dave Campo and his two predecessors: University of Miami coach Butch Davis and Miami Dolphins assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt.

The 48-year-old Gailey fit Jones' profile the last time around, but he ended up not being the answer.

Gailey, who also was the offensive coordinator, believed in mixing things up to keep defenses guessing. It was in his contract that he call the plays, and his choices wavered between too radical and too conservative.

Rather than build around the strengths of Aikman and running back Emmitt Smith, Gailey tried getting them to adjust to his plans.

Aikman often was frustrated, and he resorted to way too many dump-off passes. The biggest example of Smith being misused is the fact Dallas went 4-5 in his 100-yard games this season after being 53-9 in them the previous nine years.

"When you take over a veteran team that's had a great deal of success, they believe very strong in what they've been doing," Gailey said. "Unless you do a supreme job of winning them over immediately, then there's always in the back of their mind the idea that there might be another way to do something.

"That probably was the case why everybody wasn't on the same page."

The Cowboys went 10-6 in Gailey's first season, winning the NFC East and becoming the first team to go 8-0 in division play. But division rival Arizona got even by winning a first-round playoff game 20-7 in Texas Stadium. It was Dallas' first home playoff loss since 1983.

This past season opened with three wins followed by losses in nine of the next 14. Four teams beat Dallas by scoring just 13 points; all four were on the road, where the Cowboys lost eight straight, including a 27-10 loss to Minnesota in a wild-card game.

The Cowboys wasted six fourth-quarter leads and were within a touchdown in the final quarter of two more. They were 1-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer, including 0-3 in games decided by three or fewer.

Dallas also led the NFL in penalties and penalty yards.

To Gailey's credit, the team never gave up on the field or became divided in the locker room. If players didn't like the offense, none of them said so publicly.

"Chan Gailey, relative to when he accepted this job, burned the midnight oil," Jones said. "He worked hard, he was diligent, he was honest. He did everything I imagined."

Jones' support began to waver after December losses to the New York Jets and New Orleans Saints. He said after the playoff loss that it would be inappropriate to comment on his coach's future.

The pair met for an hour the day after Minnesota knocked Dallas out of the playoffs, yet Gailey's job status never was discussed. Jones pulled the plug during a shorter meeting Tuesday.

"We didn't make it," Gailey said. "I'm disappointed we didn't. I understand it's my responsibility."

When hired, the soft-spoken, even-tempered Gailey seemed like the perfect antidote to the stormy Switzer.

Although he'd never been an NFL head coach, Gailey had been an assistant for 10 years, the last two as Pittsburgh's offensive coordinator. He'd also been a head coach in the World League and he'd won an NCAA Division II championship at Troy State.

However, he may have been too laid back. Jones tried inspiring the team before its season finale by calling about 20 veterans into his office for a fiery pep talk.

In his 11 years as the Cowboys' owner, Jones has turned one of the most stable positions in pro sports -- and one of the most high-profile -- into one with a quick turnover.

The next coach will be the fourth in eight seasons; Tom Landry was coach for 29 years until Jones fired him the day he bought the team.

Gailey, who was believed to be among the NFL's lowest-paid coaches at $500,000 per season, has three years left on his contract.

The Cowboys are the fifth team to change coaches this offseason, joining New Orleans, Green Bay, New England and the New York Jets. All continue to have head-coaching vacancies.


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