Jones Returns the Favor

It's no secret that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones consulted with Oakland owner Al Davis before hiring Bill Parcells as coach last year. Well, it seems a little role reversal is going on with Davis now searching for a head coach.

Davis asked and received permission from Jones to interview assistant head coach/quarterbacks coach Sean Payton and offensive coordinator Maurice Carthon as possible replacements for the fired Bill Callahan.

Payton, 40, flew to Oakland on Sunday to meet with Davis, while Carthon, 42, interviewed with him on Tuesday.

Raiders spokesman Mike Taylor said both interviews went well but cautioned that the process to replace the fired Bill Callahan is far from over.

"We are not in a rush and we will be thorough," Taylor said. Davis has already interviewed former Vikings coach Dennis Green and former 49ers offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp. Green accepted the Cardinals head coaching job and Knapp is now the offensive coordinator with the Falcons. The Raiders have also already conducted a phone interview with Chiefs offensive coordinator Al Saunders. They are expected to bring in Saunders for a face to face interview.

While neither Payton nor Carthon have previous head coaching experience, their candidacies are in keeping with Raiders tradition. John Madden, Tom Flores, Art Shell, Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden and Callahan are among the assistant coaches given their first head-coaching opportunities by Davis.

It also doesn't hurt that Davis has a strong relationship with Jones and Parcells. There's no question that Parcells likes Payton's offensive mind, rescuing the former Giants offensive coordinator last spring after he had his play calling duties taken away from him by then coach Jim Fassel.

Parcells' relationship with Carthon has been well documented. Carthon played for Parcells with Giants and has coached under him with Patriots, Jets and Cowboys. Carthon also served as the Lions offensive coordinator for two years.

What stands out most is the work Payton and Carthon did together in turning around the Cowboys offense in 2003, most notably quarterback Quincy Carter.

The Cowboys had the league's 15th best offense this year after finishing 25th, 29th and 30th the previous three years respectively with pretty much the same talent. And Carter, who was benched in 2002, was one of the league's best comeback stories.

Last week, Jones granted Nebraska permission to speak with defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who flew to Lincoln for an interview on Monday. On Tuesday he declined an offer to become to coach the Cornhuskers, instead accepting a three-year, $3 million contract extension to remain the Cowboys defensive coordinator.

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