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Finally, Cowboys Choose A Coach

One month later, the Dallas Cowboys finally found their man and he has this dream of making the team the king of the NFL again.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive coordinator Chan Gailey today was hired to succeed Barry Switzer in one of the highest-profile coaching positions in professional sports.

``This is the beginning of the dream,'' said Gailey, who signed a five-year contract. ``Another part of that dream ... is that we get to stand on that podium some late January afternoon and have a hand on that Lombardi Trophy. ...

``The end of the dream, the final dream, will be that ... we're champions with class, dignity and character. That's what I'm about.''

Owner Jerry Jones had never met Gailey before Sunday, but they clicked quickly. Within days he had moved past bigger names such as former San Francisco coach George Seifert, former UCLA coach Terry Donahue and Green Bay offensive coordinator Sherm Lewis.

``Everybody I interviewed was in the running until I made up my mind around 10 o'clock last night,'' Jones said.

The 46-year-old coach takes over a team coming off a 6-10 season, its worst since 1-15 in 1989. Dallas missed the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons and lost its five-year grip on the NFC East title.

But that doesn't give him much leeway. His three predecessors Switzer, Jimmy Johnson and Tom Landry each won at least one Super Bowl, making this job among the most pressurized in the NFL.

``I am very focused about what has to be done and where we have to go,'' said Gailey, who has been to four Super Bowls in 10 years as an NFL assistant.

Jones, who had been looking for a coach since announcing Switzer's resignation Jan. 9, said several things about Gailey convinced him he was right for the job.

``He's a highly innovative, creative mind on the offensive side of the ball,'' Jones said. ``He's a proven play-caller and someone who has done it in big games.''

He added that Gailey has head coaching experience, although not at this level. Jones also said that as a former quarterback Gailey should be able to relate to his own quarterback and he's ``in tune with today's NFL athlete and today's NFL game.''

Gailey does have one thing in common with the first three Cowboys coaches: no previous NFL head coaching experience.

Gailey has been a head coach for only two seasons at Troy State, one season at Samford University and for two seasons with the World League's Birmingham Fire.

Gailey seemed anything but intimidated by the job, noting he's been primed for such a challenge by working under the likes of Bill Cowher, Dan Reeves and Mike Shanahan.

``I'm very fortunate to have been around a great number of winners,'' Gailey said. ``I feel like I've been able to take something from each of those.''

While Gailey said he will be in charge of the offense, he didn't give many specifics.

``I'm not ready to get into changes,'' he sid.

By hiring Gailey, Jones has gone outside his ``football family'' for the first time. He had known his previous hires, Johnson and Switzer, since college.

Clearly, Gailey will have to get along with Jones, and he said he's looking forward to ``a working-together relationship.''

``It's been shown to me that he's nothing but very interested, very involved,'' he said. ``I don't expect any change in that.''

The relationship between Jones and Johnson dissolved because Jones wanted credit for the team's success. Gailey said ``the key is not necessarily who is right, but what is right.''

The early returns from the locker room was positive.

``We definitely can use any help we can get,'' offensive lineman Nate Newton said.

``It's exciting that we know who it's going to be and we can ... get going,'' defensive lineman Chad Hennings said.

Linebacker Randall Godfrey admitted he ``didn't have the slightest idea'' about his new coach. "But I look forward to meeting him,'' Godfrey said. ``We need a spark."

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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