IRVING, Texas – Head coach Jason Garrett went to Baltimore one week ago to face a team he nearly coached. This week, the coach of the opposing team will face a Cowboys squad he nearly coached.
Panthers head coach Ron Rivera interviewed for the same position with the Cowboys in 2007, before owner Jerry Jones elected to go with Wade Phillips.
"My flight was a little bit late getting out, and then once I got in there, we went right into it," Rivera said. "I want to say I got there early afternoon and I caught the last flight out to Chicago that night. What happened was Mr. Jones had dinner brought in, and it was really the only real opportunity that I had to eat all night, or all day, I should say, and it was great. When you get an opportunity to sit down and visit with people and you really get to express yourself, I think that's really a good thing."
Rivera was the defensive coordinator of a vaunted Bears defense from 2004-06 and a prime candidate for the Cowboys job. Eventually, Jones decided on Phillips, the defensive coordinator in San Diego.
Rivera, who eventually took a job as the linebackers coach for the Chargers in 2007, said he had a great discussion with Jones. They spent so long talking, they almost forgot to eat.
"His insights into how he runs a team and what he's expecting I thought were outstanding," Rivera said. "I really enjoyed it, and his son, Stephen, I thought the two of them really make a dynamic pair as far as what they're trying to do and what they want accomplished. Believe me, he wants the Cowboys to be great. He really does, and that was one of the things I took away from my interview with them."
Rivera was eventually promoted to defensive coordinator in San Diego before taking the head-coaching job in Carolina last season. He now works for majority owner Jerry Richardson, who had a brief playing career with the Baltimore Colts. Rivera said Jones and Richardson both possess similarities in the way they run a team, beginning with their zealous desires to make their organizations among the best.
"But then, there're some things that are different, obviously, with Mr. Richardson's experience, having not just played in this league, but played on a championship team," Rivera said. "There are certain things that he sees and understands, I think, that as a player, they give you a different perspective. It doesn't mean you're any better than anybody, it just gives you a different perspective, and he has a different perspective, I think, which is great. When I talk about him with things, he sees things from a players' perspective, as well as an owner's perspective."