MOBILE, Ala. – Jerry Jones has long been comfortable living in the spotlight that is trained on the Dallas Cowboys, and he clearly expects the same from his head coach.
That's the conclusion one comes to when listening to the Cowboys' owner and general manager discuss his coaching staff, as they attempt to keep their high-profile trio of Mike McCarthy, Dan Quinn and Kellen Moore intact for 2022.
Moore is still the unknown part of that equation as the Cowboys work through Senior Bowl week. The 33-year-old is a candidate for at least one NFL head coaching vacancy and is scheduled to interview with the Miami Dolphins sometime this week.
The more pertinent point is Quinn, who decided to return as defensive coordinator last week after being considered for several openings.
Jones was clearly thrilled about that decision when he announced it last week, and he followed up that enthusiasm on Wednesday, calling it "a major coup" that the Cowboys were able to keep Quinn in the fold.
"All of us wanted Dan to stay, that was a key to our continuity here," Jones said.
It's perfectly reasonable to want to retain the coach who engineered one of the best defensive turnarounds in recent team history. The more interesting part comes when Jones discussed the factors that make a promising assistant want to stay – a situation he noted he has now worked through three times, with Quinn joining Sean Payton and Jason Garrett in that category.
"He stays here because there always has been, with every coach, every one of those three coaches, have said they'd love to be the head coach of the Cowboys. Every one. Every one," Jones said. "So my point is that has, in my mind, a lot of logic as to why they might not take a job now rather than one or wait and see how the cards go in the future."
That's an eyebrow raising statement, however you want to decipher it. And it became even more so when Jones was asked if he considered Quinn a potential head coaching candidate.
"He's certainly qualified. He's very qualified," he said. "Yes, I would consider. If I didn't have a coach, I would have been interviewing him for coach."
Of course, Jones was sure to emphasize – as he did last week – that McCarthy had an active role in bringing Quinn back to Dallas. McCarthy has always been vocal about supporting the members of his staff, and there has never seemed to be much friction in that regard.
Even still, it's not exactly common to sell a coordinator job based on the attractiveness of the seat above it – a seat that is presently occupied by McCarthy himself. And yet, when pressed on whether that tactic might bother his head coach, Jones was once again startlingly blunt.
"Mike knows that someday, somebody other than him will be coach of the Cowboys," he said.
Again, that's true. And again, at the same time, it's a strange thing to say about a coach who just guided his team to a 12-5 record and a playoff appearance. Parsing through the information, it's hard not to feel some kind of implication – a reminder that, as Jones noted, head coach of the Dallas Cowboys is quite an appealing job listing.
This comes with the territory of coaching the most visible football team in the world, a team that is still searching for that elusive, much-discussed sixth championship. But asked if he was worried about putting added pressure on his coach, Jones smiled.
"I don't at all," he said. "Mike's good in his skin. I'm good in his skin with where we are."
At the end of the day, you have to admit the strategy worked. Jones acknowledged that he wanted other NFL clubs to think they were competing against him for Quinn's services.
"I wanted them to be thinking that they were talking to a guy who could be head coach of the Cowboys," he said.
Regardless of whether or not anyone took the bait, Jones managed to keep the guy who turned his defense into a powerhouse. The Cowboys have to feel better about their chances with Quinn sticking around.
That said, these types of narratives don't typically fade away just because they aren't useful anymore. For better or for worse, this is something that will follow the Cowboys – and McCarthy, specifically – as they move forward. For a team that is already speculated about endlessly, this is plenty of material.
It's surreal to say about this particular franchise, but the spotlight is looking awfully bright in 2022.