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Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Garrett considering whether to leave Cowboys for head job

ESPN.com

ATLANTA -- Having concluded his second round of interviews with the Baltimore Ravens and Atlanta Falcons, and presumed to be the front-runner for both vacancies, Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett returned to Dallas on Wednesday evening to mull his future.

Jason Garrett

Garrett

Sources told ESPN.com that Garrett, who spent several hours meeting with Atlanta officials earlier in the day, was huddling with Dallas owner Jerry Jones on Wednesday night. Garrett met with the Ravens on Monday night and part of the day Tuesday before flying to Atlanta for a follow-up session.

Jones is expected to be very persuasive in attempting to convince Garrett, who has been an assistant coach in the league for only three seasons, to remain on the Cowboys' staff. There have been reports that Jones has vowed to match any offer from another team. But that will probably be impractical if either Baltimore or Atlanta offers a deal in the range of $3 million annually, which is more than the Cowboys are paying incumbent head coach Wade Phillips.

The Cowboys could offer Garrett a substantial raise and the tacit promise that he will eventually succeed Phillips within the next couple years.

In 2004, Jones convinced both his coordinators at the time, Sean Payton on offense and Mike Zimmer on defense, to bypass head coaching opportunities and stay with the Cowboys. Payton had been offered the Oakland Raiders' head coaching position and Zimmer the job at the University of Nebraska.

It is believed the Ravens formally offered Garrett their head coach job, at a salary of less than $3 million annually. Sources told ESPN.com's Matt Mosley that the Falcons' job is Garrett's if he wants it. The Falcons have also been seriously considering former Baltimore defensive coordinator Rex Ryan, who met with club executives on Monday for a second time, and who is held in high regard.

There were rumblings around the league on Wednesday that the Ravens were growing impatient with Garrett and might turn to another candidate, perhaps Philadelphia secondary coach John Harbaugh. But a club source said late Wednesday that Ravens officials still believe they have a solid shot of landing Garrett if he decides to depart Dallas for his first head coach job.

Both the Falcons and Ravens lost a candidate on Wednesday when Indianapolis assistant head coach Jim Caldwell withdrew his name from consideration for the vacancies. The move, first reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen, fueled immediate speculation that Caldwell removed himself because he is about to be named the successor to Colts' coach Tony Dungy.

But Dungy told Mortensen that he has not yet made a decision on his future and likely will not before the weekend. League sources said Caldwell's action was motivated more by the reality that he was probably not viewed as more than the No. 3 candidate by both Atlanta and Baltimore officials.

One reason for a second interview between Garrett and Atlanta executives is that the Falcons did not have a general manager when they huddled with him for the first time on Jan. 4. On Saturday, however, Atlanta hired New England college scouting director Thomas Dimitroff as its new general manager, and he will have considerable input into the selection of the head coach. The Falcons' vacancy was created when Bobby Petrino resigned with three games remaining in his first season as an NFL head coach, to fill the vacancy at the University of Arkansas.

Atlanta has interviewed five other candidates for the position. If the team is still without a new coach by the weekend, and New York loses at Green Bay in Sunday's NFC Championship Game, the Falcons probably will seek permission to interview Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. The Falcons made such a request earlier, but the Giants rebuffed it because of the team's status in the playoffs.

Even as he faced the specter of losing Garrett as his coordinator, Jones was attempting on Wednesday to retain several assistant coaches whose contracts are about to expire, and who are rumored to be candidates for staff positions in Miami, where Cowboys assistant head coach Tony Sparano on Wednesday was hired as the Dolphins' new coach.

Jones has offered contract extensions to secondary coach Todd Bowles, linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni, and defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers.

ESPN.com senior NFL writer Len Pasquarelli and ESPN.com columnist Matt Mosley contributed to this report.