Derek Dooley enters his fourth season as the Dallas Cowboys wide receivers coach after being named to the position on February 4, 2013. Dooley came to Dallas with 15-plus years of coaching experience, including six years as a head coach at the collegiate level and three years as an NFL assistant.
In Dallas, Dooley re-united with Head Coach Jason Garrett after the two served on the same coaching staff with the Miami Dolphins (2005-06).
The 2015 season got off to a rocky start, with All-Pro receiver Dez Bryant fracturing his foot in the second game - missing seven games - and Dallas starting four different quarterbacks after Tony Romo twice fractured his clavicle. Bryant finished with 31 catches and three touchdowns - including the 50th touchdown connection between he and Tony Romo, breaking the all-time franchise record of 49 set by Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin. With a young group of receivers eager to learn, Dooley coaxed big seasons from Terrance Williams and Cole Beasley. Williams continued to be a big play threat, averaging 16.2 yards-per-catch on 52 catches with a team-leading 840 yards, finishing 2015 as one-of-three receivers to average at least 16 yards in each season since 2013 (Michael Floyd, Malcolm Floyd). Beasley set career-bests with 52 catches for 536 yards and a team-leading five touchdown receptions. Newly acquired Brice Butler provided the offense with an explosive deep threat, averaging 21.5 yards-per-catch on his 12 catches, while second-year receiver Devin Street and rookie Lucky Whitehead provided glimpses of their raw talent with seven and six catches, respectively. Under Dooley’s watch, the receiving group accounted for 12 of Dallas’ 16 touchdowns through the air.
In 2014 - his second season in Dallas - Dooley continued working with Bryant, who is one of the top receiving threats in the league. Bryant established a club single-season record with a league-best 16 touchdown catches while tallying his third consecutive 1,000-yard season with 1,320 yards (second in his career and tied for seventh in team history) on a team-best 88 catches. Bryant’s production accounted for 27% of the club’s receptions, 33% of the receiving yards and 43% of its receiving touchdowns en route to his second straight Pro Bowl nod. Bryant also became the third Cowboy (Bob Hayes, 4, and Terrell Owens, 3,) with at least three straight 10-touchdown seasons. Not limited to the prowess of Bryant, Dooley continued the mentorship of second-year receiver Williams, helping the wideout finish second on the team in touchdown catches (eight), third in yards (621) and tied for fourth in receptions (37). In the postseason, Williams’ knack for the big play was evident as his three touchdown catches averaged 40.7 yards. Beasley also emerged as a clutch receiver, especially on third down, as 26 (fourth on the team) of his 37 catches went for first downs, including 11 (third) on third or fourth down. He also finished with career-highs with 420 yards and four touchdowns.
Dooley’s first season with the Cowboys coincided with the mercurial rise of Dallas’ top receiver, Bryant. Under Dooley’s guidance, Bryant built upon another successful campaign in his third season, leading the team with career-highs in receptions (93) and touchdowns (13) along with 1,233 receiving yards - his second consecutive 1,000-yard season - en route to being named to his first career Pro Bowl. Bryant’s 13 touchdowns marked his second straight 10-touchdown season, becoming only one-of-four players in team history to do so.
Dooley was also responsible for teaching the pro game to rookie Williams, who successfully made the transition as the club’s third receiver, finishing third on the team with 736 yards and five touchdowns and fourth with 44 receptions. For his efforts, Williams’ totals tied for fourth in a season in club rookie annals in receptions and touchdowns and ranked fourth in receiving yards. Miles Austin struggled with hamstring injuries most of the season while missing five games, and was limited to 24 catches for 244 yards. Austin’s injury opened the door for Beasley (39 receptions for 368 yards and two touchdowns) and Dwayne Harris (nine receptions for 80 yards and two touchdowns) to earn more playing time with the offense. As a whole, the receiving group was responsible for 22 of the team’s 33 receiving touchdowns, while also logging 137 of the 213 total receiving first downs in 2013, including 42 on third-down.
Prior to joining the Dallas Cowboys, Dooley served as the head coach for the Tennessee Volunteers through three seasons (2010-12), earning a bowl berth in his first year at the helm. In 2012 Dooley’s offense broke multiple records, including the second-most yards in a season (5,711), a school-record combined 1,303 yards in consecutive games (2012) and the fourth-most points in UT history (2012). Dooley was named Tennessee’s 22nd football coach in 2010, and his first two recruiting classes included the SEC’s leading receiver in 2011 and a first-team All-SEC selection, six Freshman All-Americans, and nine players who were named Freshman All-SEC.
Also during Dooley’s tenure, quarterback Tyler Bray threw 69 touchdown passes and set the school record for most passing yards in a game with 530. Wide receiver Justin Hunter also set a Tennessee freshman record with seven receiving touchdowns and averaged a team-best 25.9 yards-per-catch in 2010. Another wideout, Cordarrelle Patterson, set numerous records, including the school’s all-purpose yards single season (2012) record with 1,873 while also becoming only the second player in UT history to score four different ways during a single season (rushing, receiving, kick return and punt return).
Before his arrival in Knoxville, Dooley served as the head coach at Louisiana Tech from 2007-09 and also doubled as the school’s athletic director for the last two years of his tenure in Ruston. As the head coach of the football team, Dooley led the Bulldogs to an 8-5 mark in 2008, including the school’s first postseason victory in 30 years at the Independence Bowl. Tech finished second in the WAC that season and played in a bowl game for only the third time since joining the major college ranks in 1989. For his efforts, the Louisiana Sports Writers’ Association named him 2008 Coach of the Year.
Dooley first joined the professional ranks as the tight ends coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2005-06 under head coach Nick Saban. During his two years in Miami, Dooley oversaw the continued development of tight end Randy McMichael, who ended his Dolphins career as the team’s all-time leader in receptions by a tight end.
Dooley served on Saban’s LSU staff as the recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach from 2000-02 and then running backs coach and special teams coordinator from 2003-04. He helped the Tigers land No. 1 classes in 2001 and 2003. The Tigers won SEC championships both of those seasons, claimed the BCS national championship in 2003, and Saban promoted Dooley to assistant head coach for the 2004 campaign.
He began his coaching career in 1996 as a graduate assistant at Georgia under defensive coordinator Joe Kines. He then served from 1997-99 as wide receivers coach and co-recruiting coordinator at SMU, where Dooley helped the Mustangs to the school’s only winning season over a 20-year stretch.
The youngest son of Georgia legend Vince Dooley, who coached the Bulldogs for 25 seasons and claimed six league titles and the 1980 national championship, Dooley never accepted the predetermined path to success. He played his college football at Virginia, turning down scholarship offers elsewhere to walk on and later earn his own scholarship from Cavaliers head coach George Welsh.
He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in government and foreign affairs, and then went on to earn his law degree from the University of Georgia in 1994. Before embarking on his coaching career, Dooley practiced law at a private law firm in Atlanta for two years.
Dooley is married to Dr. Allison Jeffers Dooley, an OB/GYN and Fort Worth, Texas, native. They have two sons, John Taylor and Peyton, and a daughter, Julianna.
While at Tennessee, the Dooley’s hosted the Big Orange Experience, an annual fundraising event for Variety, an organization that provides financial support for numerous children’s charities. In 2012 the proceeds from the event funded the Dooley-Witten Learning Center at the Halls/Powell Boys and Girls Club of the Tennessee Valley, a project on which Dooley teamed up with former Vol and Dallas Cowboys All-Pro tight end Jason Witten.