IRVING, Texas – Derek Dooley wasn’t actively searching for work when the Cowboys got his attention and eventually made him the new wide receivers coach.
The former head coach at the University of Tennessee was still getting himself right in December and January, after getting fired in November, when he and the Cowboys began talking.
“I wasn’t looking to get a job, and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think it was just a tremendous opportunity and if I didn’t feel like I could help,” Dooley said. “There were a lot of opportunities in December and January, but when you went through what I did, I wasn’t going to just take any opportunity, and this was certainly a special one.”
Dooley said particularly in December he wasn’t looking for any coaching openings. He said there’s typically a manual as a coach for how to handle situations that arise, but there’s none for what he went through.
His career was largely filled with successes. Dooley consistently found work as a position coach, from teaching wide receivers at SMU to moving around to different positions at LSU and coaching alongside Jason Garrett with the Dolphins.
After getting his first head-coaching job with Louisiana Tech, he went straight to Tennessee to become the head coach there for three seasons. He was fired on Nov. 18 after a loss to Vanderbilt, compiling a 32-41 record with the Volunteers.
“I felt like that I couldn’t do a good job to whoever I went until I got cleansed, so to speak,” Dooley said. “You have so many emotions when things like that happen, from disappointment to anger to frustration to blame, and it’s important to really cleanse all that out and start looking forward. The train’s passed, you can’t look back.”
Dooley, one of the coaching candidates Garrett interviewed at the Senior Bowl (along with a host of others, as can be read in the latest edition of the Star Magazine), said he needed to get himself right after experiencing the gamut of emotions after his work at Tennessee ended more abruptly than expected.
“Really the month of December, that’s what I was doing,” he said. “Then in January, I wasn’t really looking for anything, and quite frankly this opportunity was one that really excited me and I couldn’t turn down, because of not only the amount of respect I have in Coach Garrett, but also in the Dallas Cowboys.”