COWBOYS CALENDAR COUNTDOWN: 2014-2015 NFL season officially begins on March 11th | Tough decisions looming with Dallas’ free agents
IRVING, Texas – In other sports, this is the month where pen goes to paper for a bracket, or teams are playing sunny practice games at spring training.
In the NFL, the month of March has its own madness with the upcoming start of the new league year, which is the beginning of free agency. That officially takes place on March 11 this year, but this is also the time when things start happening around the league. High-profile guys will get cut, possibly sign new deals or in some cases, both.
The franchise tag deadline passed on Monday with the Cowboys, to no one’s surprise, choosing not to tag any of their players. Anthony Spencer had been tagged in each of the last two years, but after undergoing microfracture surgery, he’s just hoping to get back healthy enough to play football this season, whether it’s with the Cowboys or another team that signs the unrestricted free agent-to-be.
What to do with Spencer is one of many decisions the Dallas Cowboys have to make here in the next few days. In fact, Spencer might be the last guy the Cowboys decide about, considering he will be a free agent on March 11 but far from healthy. If teams, including the Cowboys, choose to pay big bucks to Spencer, it’ll be with a hope that he can return to form.
But there are plenty of other guys on whom the Cowboys must decide. Let’s break down the team’s free agents and other players who could be cut or have their salaries restructured and/or lowered this month.
Miles Austin – The most likely offseason scenario involves Austin, an eight-year veteran who was once a fan favorite when he burst onto the scene in 2009. A two-time Pro Bowler, Austin’s career has spiraled downward as hamstring injuries have taken their toll. It’s not really about if the Cowboys cut Austin, but when. If they make him a June 1 cut, it can’t happen until March 11. They can save about $5.5 million on the cap, which won’t come off the books until June. That will still be plenty for the Cowboys to sign their draft picks and maybe other cap-casualties that occur in the summer.
DeMarcus Ware – Probably the biggest decision the Cowboys have to make this year, and perhaps in the last several years. Ware has been one of the more consistent and dominant players in franchise history, but injuries have slowed him down the last two seasons. Ware is coming off elbow surgery this offseason, and it’s clear the Cowboys don’t want him to count $16 million on the cap. If the two sides can come to an agreement for a lower base salary, Ware will probably agree to that and stay. But if the Cowboys try to trim too much off his $12.25 million base, Ware could decide against that and be released. That move saves the Cowboys $7.5 million on the cap this year. And there wouldn’t be a reason to make him a June 1, considering they would need to use that extra cap space in free agency now.
Justin Durant – The veteran linebacker was a solid player last season, but with DeVonte Holloman and Kyle Wilber both showing enough promise late last year, coupled with the $1.2 million the Dallas Cowboys save by cutting Durant, it seems likely he will not return in 2014 – at least not at that price.
Phil Costa – Like Durant, here’s another player that will probably be on his way out. Costa backed up Travis Frederick and is scheduled to make $1.5 in base salary. Perhaps they could restructure that and lower his base but at that price, a $1.725 million cap charge, it’s likely Costa will be released.
Key Unrestricted Free Agents:
Jason Hatcher – One of the top defensive linemen on the free-agent market, he’ll be 32 when the season starts and that could affect his payday. Don’t rule out the Cowboys getting back into the mix if Hatcher doesn’t get the early-market cash he’s seeking.
Anthony Spencer – This will be interesting because of the nature of his injury. Microfracture surgery won’t be an easy rehab for any player, but Spencer has enough time to get ready for the start of the season. The Cowboys will know his rehab process better than anyone, so they should be the favorites to re-sign him. The key will be how much risk teams like the Cowboys will take by paying him and how much of a pay cut or below-market price will Spencer be willing to accept.
Danny McCray – The Cowboys’ best special teams player over the last four years has been beat up here of late. Injuries have been tough to overcome for McCray, who has proven he is more of a special teams ace only. Likely to sign somewhere else, look for the Bears to have interest with former special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis in Chicago.
Ernie Sims – He filled some voids for this team, but with the development of Wilber and Holloman, don’t expect Sims back in the mix anytime soon. The Cowboys tried to go in another direction last year, but he played too well in training camp to get released.
Brian Waters – The veteran guard hasn’t publicly made a decision on his future, which could include retirement. Waters has not undergone biceps surgery and might not at all if he decides to retire. If he does choose to play, he will likely time it out right so he’ll miss camp but be ready for the season. The Cowboys have to move on mentally, but if he chooses to play, Waters could end up back in Dallas for the right price.
Jarius Wynn – He could be back in 2014, but probably for nothing more than the veteran minimum. But he played well at times last season and since defensive end is a need, Wynn could be a solid option, considering his development last year and his current knowledge of the system.
DALLAS COWBOYS NFL SALARY CAP: Tony Romo contract restructured | Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick help team move closer to 2014 budget
That time is now, and so it’s no surprise the club has exercised a restructure clause that was placed in the deal that frees up about $10 million in cap space. It reverts his scheduled $21.7 million base salary down to $11.7 million, and more importantly for the club, helps the Cowboys get closer to the projected $134 million salary cap.
Romo becomes the third player in two days to have his contract restructured for salary-cap relief (see below). The Cowboys did the same with cornerback Orlando Scandrick and linebacker Sean Lee. Those moves saved about $7.5 million.
With free agency set to begin on March 11, which is the start of the new league calendar year, the Dallas Cowboys and all teams must be under the cap.
Last year, the Cowboys found a way to shave about $30 million in cap space to not only get under the cap, but also clear enough room to pay Anthony Spencer his $10.63 million franchise tag. The Cowboys did not issue the franchise tag this year and Spencer is one of nine unrestricted free agents, along with defensive tackle Jason Hatcher.
To try and sign either player, the Cowboys will need to get more room under the cap, but they can do that by cutting a few more veterans.
Wide receiver Miles Austin is expected to be one of them, but it likely won’t happen until March 11. If the Cowboys make Austin a post-June 1 cut, they cannot do that before the new league year. Cutting him now only saves the team about $450,000 in cap space but they can save $5.5 million by designating him a June 1 cut. However, while Austin would be released and free to sign with any team, that money won’t be off the Cowboys’ books until June 1.
Of course, DeMarcus Ware’s future has been cloudy as team owner and GM Jerry Jones said a decision needs to be made on the club’s all-time sack leader. If Ware is released, the Cowboys would save about $7.5 million, but it appears the two sides will first attempt to either restructure his deal or come to an agreement on a lower base salary, possibly one with incentives that can get Ware close to his scheduled $12 million base salary if he performs at a high level. Ware, who underwent elbow surgery last month, has battled through various injuries the last two years, but the three games he missed in 2013 with a quad injury are the only three he’s missed in his career.
Other veterans who could be waived for salary-cap reasons are linebacker Justin Durant, which would save $1.2 million, and center Phil Costa, which would free up about $1.5 million.
RELATED: Defenders Sean Lee and Orlando Scandrick provide salary-cap relief
IRVING, Texas – As expected, the Dallas Cowboys have started the process to get themselves under the salary cap, which is now projected to be around $133 million.
The increased cap of nearly $10 million will help the Cowboys, but they’ve still get work to do. It has started with the scheduled restructures of both linebacker Sean Lee and cornerback Orlando Scandrick. Both players signed new deals and/or extensions last season. But the Cowboys put these scheduled restructures in the language of the contract, knowing they could and likely would, be utilized this offseason.
The moves save the Cowboys nearly $7.8 million in space, by turning the base salaries into signing bonuses and pushing back the bulk of the contract into later years. The same procedure will likely be done with Tony Romo, who also signed a new deal last March. The restructure will probably net another $10 million in cap room, which would put them close to the $133 million.
The Cowboys can still create more room by cutting veteran players such as Miles Austin ($5.5 million if he’s a post June 1 cut) and center Phil Costa, who will save them about $1.5 million. Justin Durant could get released and save the team another $1.2 million.
And it’s likely DeMarcus Ware won’t be playing for that $16 million cap charge. Either he agrees to a lower base or simply a new contract, or Ware could be outright released, in a move that saves the team about $7.5 million.
Restructuring Brandon Carr’s contact is another option but the team did the same last year and after a down season from the veteran cornerback, it’s not a procedure the Dallas Cowboys will be comfortable in making. Pushing back money only makes him tougher to release should he have another season in 2014 similar to last year, when he gave up too many big plays, including a 329-yard performance to Detroit wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
The Cowboys need to get under the cap by March 11 and will certainly get there in time, like they’ve done every year.
BEHIND THE STALLS AND WALLS: Getting to know Dallas’ ADPP Will McClay, and how he can help the Dallas Cowboys this offseason
True Blue Dallas Cowboy fans want to know more about Will McClay, and they should.
He’s the assistant director of player personnel for the Dallas Cowboys, a role that he took on before the team left for Oxnard before the 2013 season.
It was a nice promotion for a guy that is extremely hard working and prepared. What is different about McClay from the other guys that have sat in that chair, is that his background is more on the pro side of the ball. Guys like Larry Lacewell, Jeff Ireland, and Tom Ciskowski were guys that went on the road to scout the college players.
What’s to like about this change for the front office and coaches, is that McClay knows this league backwards and forwards. One of the key component in building your 53 man roster is knowing who you are playing. College scouts are outstanding at telling you about that safety at Florida State but very few of them can tell you who is lining up there for the Washington Redskins.
His strengths are an old school belief in the toughness of your team, along with speed but his best trait is understanding how this league is about matchups. He has a keen understanding of how you find players that can handle the quickness out of the slot against the Giants or the edge rushers in Seattle or the offensive power of the 49ers.
To McClay it’s about winning your division first, then working from there. With McClay, you will not have a mixed matched squad. Each player will have a specific role and assignment on why they are part of the roster and he’s able to merge that with the other members of the front office. Communication is extremely important to him.
A few articles related to Will McClay in the past few years …
EDITORS NOTE: Will McClay has been in Jerry Jones’ ear for a few years now. He’s one of the people that Jones listens too (regarding personnel issues). You’ve seen McClay mentioned on The Boys Are Back website many times in the past … primarily because he helped staff Marinelli’s Misfits (and many other players) due to rash of injuries during the past two seasons. He’s also a part of the improved production we’ve been seeing from recent draft picks. His promotion during last years offseason is clearly justified. He’s done a great job evaluating the market and the talent available. Some people around Valley Ranch (including Bryan Broaddus) think he’s the best personnel guy in the building. Examples, he’s the person credited with bringing in Laurent Robinson in 2012 … and two starters along the 2013 Dallas Cowboys defensive line. Click HERE to read more about Will McClay.
THE KYLE ORTON FACTOR: The offseason buzz (media boredom) around Valley Ranch concerning the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys backup QB questions
Adding a backup quarterback didn’t seem like a significant need a month ago. But in the last couple weeks it has been revealed that Kyle Orton has yet to decide if he’ll return for the 2014 season. If Orton chooses to retire, the Dallas Cowboys could draft Tony Romo’s backup or add a QB through free agency. Even if the Cowboys draft a quarterback, they could still sign another veteran arm. Here’s a list, courtesy of DMN’s writer John Machota, of 10 quarterbacks he thinks the Cowboys could/should target when free agency begins next Tuesday (March 11).
1.) Shaun Hill.(pictured) The 34-year-old has spent the last four seasons in Detroit, playing in 15 games behind Matthew Stafford. His experience working with Scott Linehan, could make Hill the perfect fit to backup Tony Romo.
2.) Colt McCoy. Could the former Texas Longhorn standout make a return to the Lone Star State? McCoy hasn’t started a game the last two seasons and he attempted only one pass in 2013.
3.) John Skelton. The Dallas Cowboys worked him out in December after Tony Romo was injured. Skelton started 17 games for the Cardinals during his first three years in the league. He spent the previous two seasons in San Francisco and Tennessee.
4.) David Carr. The first overall pick in the 2002 draft also worked out for the Dallas Cowboys in December. Dallas chose to go with Jon Kitna, a journeyman who has played for Houston, Carolina, New York (Giants) and San Francisco.
5.) Tyler Thigpen. He also worked out for the Cowboys after Romo went down. Thigpen has played six seasons in the NFL, bouncing around from Kansas City, Miami and Buffalo.
6.) Caleb Hanie. The fourth member of QBs to work out for the Cowboys in December. Hanie started four games for the Bears in 2011 but hasn’t appeared in a game since.
7.) Jimmy Clausen. The former Notre Dame standout was a second-round pick in 2010. But Carolina drafted Cam Newton in 2011 and Clausen hasn’t played in a game since.
8.) Jonathan Crompton. The 26-year-old spent last season playing for Edmonton in the CFL. He was a fifth-round pick by the Chargers in 2010. Crompton had success his senior year at Tennessee while he was coached by Monte Kiffin’s son, Lane.
9.) Matt Flynn. He started five games last season, which included leading Green Bay to a 37-36 comeback victory over the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium. In that game, the Tyler native threw for 299 yards and four touchdowns.
10.) Tim Tebow. Jerry Jones probably won’t kick the tires on Tebow but you never really can be sure. Tebow does have 16 regular season starts and a playoff victory under his belt.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys backup QB options if Kyle Orton retires
IRVING, Texas — With free agency starting in about a week, the Dallas Cowboys still don’t know if Kyle Orton wants to play in 2014.
At the NFL scouting combine, owner and general manager Jerry Jones assumed Orton would want to play basically because of the money. Orton is set to make $3.25 million in 2014 and Jones wonders how anybody could walk away from that kind of money, especially a backup quarterback. And if Orton does retire, he would have to repay $3 million of the $5 million signing bonus he received in 2012.
Since Jones is assuming, let’s go with the assumption that Orton won’t play in 2014. That leaves the Dallas Cowboys with a pretty big hole behind Tony Romo, who is coming off a second back surgery in eight months.
With head coach Jason Garrett at the controls of the team’s offense since 2007 (initially as offensive coordinator), the Cowboys have invested in their backups to Romo: Brad Johnson, Jon Kitna and Orton have filled the role. Dallas values the backup quarterback position more than other teams in the NFL.
Jones has said that the Cowboys will not look at a quarterback early in the draft, so that rules out the top-shelf prospects. They interviewed Jimmy Garoppolo and David Fales (among others) at the combine, so there’s at least some interest in those two.
But could the Cowboys trust their backup job to a rookie or inexperienced player? History says no.
So who could be available when free agency begins? Options include Matt Cassel, Shaun Hill, Brady Quinn, Charlie Whitehurst, Derek Anderson and David Garrard. Do they do anything for you?
They have started games in the NFL, which is a plus. Some of them have won at different times, if not for long stretches.
One thing to consider: Cassel and Anderson are represented by David Dunn, who also is the agent for Garrett and passing game coordinator Scott Linehan. One more thing to consider: Hill played for Linehan with the Detroit Lions.
Linehan will be bringing in new terminology to the offense. It would make sense to look at a guy like Hill to help with the process because of his experience. Hill is 34, but he has thrown just 12 passes in the past three years behind Matthew Stafford. Hill’s career stats include a 13-13 record, 41 touchdown passes and 23 interceptions.
Courtesy: Todd Archer | ESPN Dallas Cowboys reporter | Covered NFL since 1997, Cowboys since 2003 | Previously covered Bengals and Dolphins | Lives in Dallas area with his wife and two children
EDITORS NOTE: Personally, I think Kyle Orton will stay and this is a big waste of offseason brainpower (or lack of). Nevertheless, it’s a storyline around Dallas today. What do you think? Any of these guys worth seriously considering?
DALLAS COWBOYS FOOTBALL CLUB: Looking back at Jerry Jones’ 25 year ownership of America’s Team | Special Feature
IRVING, Texas – Man, 25 wild and crazy years, zigging and zagging, laughing and crying, running and running faster, trying to keep up with the Joneses.
Never, ever – ever – a dull moment, from the one win of 1989 that kept the Dallas Cowboys from an unprecedentedly poor 16-game NFL season to the eight wins – again – of 2013, one short of acceptable for the third straight year.
Who knew 25 years ago this past Tuesday, Feb. 25, 1989, sitting in the Dallas Cowboys team meeting room out here at what we then were referring to as Cowboys Ranch late that Saturday night, that so many lives would irrevocably change when the then-Arkansas stranger Jerral Wayne Jones was being introduced as just the third owner of the world-renowned Dallas Cowboys.
His life, along with those of his wife Gene’s and their three kids: Stephen, Charlotte and Jerry Jr.
The lives of so many who had worked for the Cowboys – made the Dallas Cowboys – from Day One or for the majority of those first 29 years of the NFL’s first expansion franchise’s existence.
The lives of those who would follow the Joneses to Dallas.
And our lives, too, those of us in the media crammed into a room big enough to house a team of football players but bursting at the seams with nearly everyone already on deadline when the long-awaited announcement began sometime after 8 p.m.
Me, I have mental snapshots of that evening, seeing on one hand the pure joy and excitement laced with some anxiety of the Jones Family and all of Jerry’s partners when he was introduced as the next owner of the Dallas Cowboys. But on the other hand, there was basically the team’s godfather, Tex Schramm, standing off to the side, with the glum look of a man attending his own funeral, realizing then the fact he no longer had a seat on center stage was symbolic of what was to come.
Hey, if Tom Landry was no longer needed, and he wasn’t since Jimmy Johnson was coming along with Jones in a package deal and had already been told by Jones what previous owner Bum Bright should have since he more or less resented Landry, surely the appropriately named Tex was not long for his world of 29 years either.
There was Jones, with almost preacher-like enthusiasm, rapidly talking of immediately winning with the 3-13 team he was inheriting, emphasizing his positivity with a fist pounding the air.
There were the arched eyebrows of the skeptical media, wondering what in the world … realizing the 29 years of Cowboys stability was being rattled as if the ground beneath an Apollo capsule launching into space.
A new day was dawning at dusk.
The last snapshot: After the final 30 was put on however many stories we could pound out by midnight, several writers gathered in Tex’s office, soon to be Jerry’s and still is. Sitting-on-the-floor room only. Again, a day of celebration on one hand, and rightfully so when you pledge $140 million you didn’t really have for an NFL franchise and accompanying stadium that were losing money hand over fist, and on this other hand a somber gathering, reminiscing about the good old days that were mostly great but now suddenly just good and old, growing more feint by the minute in the rearview mirror.
It was as if with these stories Tex was giving away his final possessions over drinks – stiff ones I might add – with the very people he had heartily laughed with yet angrily sparred with oh the many years.
“This is a very sad night for me,” Tex said needlessly.
And I distinctly remember this too: My Dallas Times Herald teammate, Frank Luksa, who had covered the Cowboys and Tom and Tex from nearly their 1960 inception, a man who thought he had seen it all, sitting on the floor next to me. He began to rise, held up his near-empty drink in a toast, saying unbeknownst to the rest of us, “Well, time to go home to celebrate what remains of my birthday.”
Will never forget his birthdate, singed into my mind.
And this, too, I’ll never forget, ever. A few days later, March 1, my life, as I perceived at the time, was turned upside down. A guy who was the sports department’s general assignment writer, handling an assortment of jobs, from helping out on the Cowboys to the Rangers to the Mavericks, college football, basketball and baseball, writing lengthy features and having just come off the previous year of covering the Olympics in Calgary and then Seoul, was told the Dallas Cowboys and Jerry Jones were your beat, buddy.
You have been chosen to inherit the tradition set by such esteemed writers as Sherrod, Perkins, Luksa and Dent. No way, I said, not me. I’m not cut out for this. They told me I was perfectly fit, having helped out since the middle of the 1984 season and having covered nearly every game over what turned out to be the final four and a half seasons of Landry’s coaching career.
So there I went kicking and screaming, into what seemingly was a daily towering inferno. Every day – every day – there was something, starting with Jimmy Johnson’s introductory press conference on Monday, the Port Arthur native apologizing with hat in hand if he somehow had danced on Landry’s coaching grave, saying to those who had perceived so, “I’m sorry,” and me finishing my story that night with one line:
And so the Cowboys new era begins apologetically.
Then there came all the coaching changes. Jimmy’s new assistants being hired. Tom’s old assistants being fired.
Then there was Jerry, armed with the first pick in the NFL Draft saying, “Troy Aikman should play for half the price” just to get to be a part of the Dallas Cowboys organization. Oh my.
Next day having to do a long profile on Jimmy.
Next day Cowboys lower ticket prices for end-zone seats.
Then the start of Plan B free agency.
Then the owners meetings, along with the start of implementing instant replay and the league’s initial crackdown on steroids.
Then there was no vote on approving the Dallas Cowboys sale to Jones, leaving the deal hanging.
Then 29-year NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle’s retirement, he having just compared Landry’s dismissal with “the death of Lombardi.”
Then Jimmy’s first minicamp, along with the real possibility of Randy White and Danny White not being back with the team, which eventually came to fruition a few months later. Then the contract struggle with quarterback Steve Pelluer.
Let’s see, then Too Tall staying, Doug Cosbie leaving, Jimmy playing coy on Aikman being their No. 1 pick, Mike Sherrard leaving, Nate showing up at 358 pounds for offseason workouts, Barry Sanders challenging the NFL’s draft rules, petitioning as an unheard of underclassman for the draft. Landry throwing out the first pitch at a Rangers game. A Landry parade downtown Dallas. The schedule released, at New Orleans becoming the new era’s opener.
Tex Schramm resigning to head up the NFL’s Worldwide American Football League. Cowboys vice president Joe Bailey resigning to join him. Then eventually business manager Billy Hicks, too, to head across the pond. Then the NFL at a meeting in New York finally approving the sale to Jones. Then negotiations began with Aikman’s agent Leigh Steinberg. Then Aikman signing a six-year, $11 million deal, the richest contract for an NFL rookie to date as the Cowboys No. 1 pick. Then the draft.
Oh, we’re just getting started, and these moves were expected, Jerry wanting to get his own people in place, people he could trust not relying solely on those with allegiances to Tex and Tom. Sort of like if you’ve ever been to an Italian wedding or seen an old-day Italian restaurant run. Only the immediate family handles the money, you know, and immediate means wife, husband, kids, mother, father or grandparents. Seriously.
Then longtime Cowboys employees being let go: Day-Oner Gil Brandt, treasurer of 18 years Don Wilson, public relations man of 18 years Doug Todd, 22-year ticket manager Ann Lloyd. All hard to watch.
Gosh, and it wasn’t even May yet.
And remember, back in those days there were three daily newspapers in the Metroplex: ours, The Dallas Morning News and Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The competition was fierce. And remember, too, no internet. Ha, internet. No social media. No cell phones. Dimes and quarters were important commodities for payphones. You had one shot to get every story every night. And if you were a competitor you wanted the impossibility of every story every night, so that meant working to 11 nearly every night. Anxiety filled your sleep.
Then, well, mornings were hell. You were scared to death to grab those other papers for fear of getting beat in black and white. Remember, too, no updating if you didn’t have it all until the next day. Trying to keep up with Jerry and Jimmy was exhausting. They weren’t letting any grass grow under their feet. Blowin’ and goin’ was the slogan. Theirs was an immediate program, not some three-year plan.
By the first of June, felt as if my head was being centrifuged. We had a meeting of sorts, me and the sports editor, who told me I was doing a fine job. Maybe, I said, but I want out. I want my old job back. This is going to kill me. He said no way. I said I can’t. He said we’re eliminating your old position anyway.
I said, well, of course I’ll cover the Dallas Cowboys. Who wouldn’t want to, right? But again, not before agreeing kicking and screaming, having wanted desperately to run for cover.
So here it is 25 years later, and still covering the Cowboys in some form or fashion every single day since, and well, let’s see. By my count, the last game I missed was the season finale in 1988, 23-7 loss to Philadelphia. And swear, I’ve never done this before, so hang with me, that’s 25 seasons times 16 regular-season games a season, equaling, no way, an even 400 straight, along with the majority, but not every preseason game during that span of time.
Seen 1-15 and 13-3. Seen three Super Bowl victories and three consecutive seasons of 5-11. Seen a plane ride home from Philadelphia in 1991 after the Cowboys clinched their first playoff berth in six seasons – first winning season, too, in those six – that barely needed jet fuel to get off the ground, and now three consecutive seasons of 8-8.
Seen a losing franchise, both financially and athletically, become the richest in the United States and first to win three Super Bowls in a four-year span. Seen Hall of Fame coronations and the Jerry-Jimmy spat. Seen Switzer make me laugh until I thought I’d cry and Bill leave me in stitches even when he wasn’t trying to be funny. Seen Jimmy cry How ‘bout dem Cowboys! and smack those lips hard as he could losing those opening two games in 1993.
Seen triplets born to Bill Bates and Triplets land in the Ring of Honor. Seen Dave Campo come and go, and then come back again. Seen a free-agent quarterback rise into becoming the head coach and another rookie free-agent quarterback rise out of nowhere to become the franchise’s all-time leading passer. Seen Texas Stadium come crumbling down and AT&T Stadium rise from that gigantic hole in the ground.
Watched every carry of the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. Saw Michael Irvin the day he arrived hugging the life-sized cardboard cutout of Tom Landry and similarly hugging Jerry Jones the day he retired. Seen tragedies and attended funerals.
Seen it all for 25 years, every step of the way only because someone forced me to take that first step running after a guy I had never met until 25 years ago this past Tuesday. Exhausting, yes. Exhilarating, you bet.
And maybe the best part: 25 years is but a milestone. Got a feeling there’s still much more to come.
Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist
RELATED: 25th Anniversary of Jerry Jones’ ownership of the Dallas Cowboys
25 Years – Jerry Jones reflects on buying Dallas Cowboys; Replacing Tom Landry
This day, 25 years ago, Jerry Jones purchased the Dallas Cowboys. Listen to the Jerry Jones himself talk about the trials of the purchase, and the journey through the last twenty-five years.
Tuesday, Feb. 25 marked the 25th anniversary of Jerry Jones franchise purchase of the Dallas Cowboys from Bum Bright in 1989.
Jones spent more than an hour Sunday on the Cowboys bus outside Lucus Oil Stadium in Indianapolis reminiscing about the historic transaction and the days leading up to it _ the nervousness and excitement that caused him to develop a heart condition called Arrhythmia and the huge risk he took, considering the Cowboys were not only a mess on the field at the time but where swimming in debt, losing $1 million per month.
“It was quite a trying time for me. I get emotional talking about it and I’ve asked a professional about why I get emotional talking about it in public or private and they said, well, that was a traumatic time for you. It was a pretty significant reach risk-wise and I didn’t know how it was going to turn out, so it was a nervous time for me. I developed arrhythmia, and I had never had an unhealthy day in my life. Arrhythmia is called by a lot of people and a lot of med students get it. It was from not resting and never sleeping and then getting up just after you lay your head down. So that kind of describes for me that period of time.”
On the warning his father told him about what would happen if he failed:
“I didn’t know, but I quickly found out the visibility that was involved there. My father called me about 10 days, two weeks into this thing and he said, ‘Jerry, I had no idea this thing would have the visibility it’s got and he said, I don’t care you are a young guy, and he said, ‘I don’t care whether you do it by mirrors, smoke or what, if you are not successful, you’ve got to make it look successful or you will be known by a loser and you won’t be able to do anything else for the rest of your life in terms of getting people to go along with you.’ “
On his biggest regret:
“If I had a chance to do it over again I would’ve waited a year and just got my feet on the ground a little bit more and probably just gone with the staff that we had and then later made the ultimate changes that I made. If I had to do that over again, I probably would do it because probably it was the urgency with how fast we had to move. That got a lot of the criticism that the changes that were made with the staff.”
So you regret hiring Jimmy Johnson and firing Tom Landry so callously:
“I don’t regret what I said was looking back because that contributed to the seemingly insensitive way that coach Landry was changed out and that contributed to it, the fact that it was done at the same time that we made the announcement there 25 years ago, that we made the announcement that I was buying the team, that I was going to be the general manager and all of that was done almost the same night. As a matter of fact, that was done the same night. So if I look back at the criticism, that’s one where you might have taken more time.”
Was Jimmy Johnson always going to be the guy to replace Landry:
“I thought of Barry (Switzer). I did think of Barry. But Jimmy is, of course, more active. He probably had more proximity. I kept up with Jimmy. My oil and gas partners were in Oklahoma City and I spent a lot of time around them. They were very prominent in OSU, Oklahoma State’s athletic department. So that all fit real good. When I called Jimmy to tell him that I was looking at it, that I was interested — what would you think about joining me? His quote was: ‘I always wanted to be with you, work with you. If you called me to sell insurance, I’d sell insurance.’ So actually Jimmy came on and we officially – not officially – but we announced he was going to be the head coach and it was a significant period of time after that before we every got around to doing an agreement about money, before we even talked about money. He committed and left Miami and came to the Cowboys before we even talked about money.”
Jones on the nervousness of the financial risk because of the state of the Cowboys and NFL:
“I was excited. I was very nervous. I knew I had huge financial obligations. I knew they were ahead of me and I didn’t have all the answers as to how we were going to address them. I knew there were a lot of pitfalls in just the buying of the Cowboys, not necessarily clean. I bought 13 percent of the Cowboys from the FDIC. They had been foreclosed on. And so it was not in a nice complete operational routine. The franchise was not. All that made me extremely nervous. But had I not had the just sheer positiveness of just getting to be involved in the NFL, knowing that when I got up in the morning I would be in the NFL, knowing that I would be part of the Cowboys then those would have been issues in normal business that might have buckled my knees. But because it was so exciting to me to be part of the Cowboys I give that a lot of credit for working through those things. That was 25 years ago.”
Is the passion and excitement still there:
“Yes, of course. It is. Its actually there more than it was because I’m able to think more offense. I’m not as concerned as I was financially about the state of the franchise, about the NFL, about the game. The future is significantly brighter than it was in 1989 for the NFL, for pro football and for that matter pro sports today. I never thought Gene (his wife) would be waiting tables over this deal. But I did think it had the potential to really knock my stuff in the dirt. I knew that it did. Lamar Hunt got up at one of our NFL owners meetings maybe 12 to 13 years ago. He got up and told the entire ownership that the greatest risk I have ever seen taken in sports was the one the Jerry took when he bought the Cowboys, financial risk. He was well aware of the situation with Cowboys. He was well aware of the lay of the land”
Jones blames his reputation as an owner who only cares about making money on his aggressiveness of being an agent of change in the NFL because of the poor financial state of the Dallas Cowboys organization and the league at time.
“That’ll motivate you to be an agent of change. That’ll motivate you to want to change some things, and that was a part of the driving thing that early on in the NFL that I wanted to change for the benefit of everyone, but for the benefit of the clubs, for the benefit of the fans, I felt that we could do some things that would create more strength, more energy, and that was one of the reasons that I initially was as aggressive, and the other things was timing. I didn’t have time to sit there and wait on some of these changes 15 years or 10 years, you know the days and the time was burning, and so it had to be really, you had to move on it. So that’s one of the reasons that the perception of aggressiveness, or the perception of, for that matter, one of the things that I regret is that the perception about financial, the facts are I had financial security and gave it up to buy the Cowboys, and I didn’t buy the Cowboys to go make money. But once you get in the chair, once you get in the position, then you want to be as good and do as good as you can do. So that’s kind of how things have evolved over the years.”
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DALLAS COWBOYS ROSTER 2014: Team waives four players as Free Agency nears | Defensive End Everette Brown released
IRVING, Texas - After a quiet few weeks of the offseason, the Dallas Cowboys made a few roster moves, cutting four players from the roster.
The most notable was defensive end Everette Brown, who played in seven games during the second half of the season.
The team also waived defensive tackle Corvey Irvin, guard Ray Dominguez and guard Jeff Olson, who was only with the team for a week in training camp and suffered a concussion. He was on the team’s reserved/injured list. Dominguez was on the practice squad all last season, while Irvin was a late-season addition at defensive tackle.
Brown garnered more attention about where he came from than when he was actually in uniform. The defensive end was just a few days away from opening up a Smoothie shop in Charlotte when he got the call to come help the Cowboys’ injury-plagued defensive line.
Brown finished the year with seven tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and four pressures. His sack and forced fumble against the Vikings helped the Cowboys halt a late-Minnesota rally.
Free agency officially begins March 11 although teams can negotiate with their own unrestricted and restricted free agents. Some of the key free agents for the Dallas Cowboys include defensive tackle Jason Hatcher and defensive end Anthony Spencer.
2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys Free Agents
Jon Kitna, QB
Brian Waters, OL
Ryan Cook, OL
Anthony Spencer, DE/LB
Jarius Wynn, DE
Jason Hatcher, DT
Edgar Jones, LB
Ernie Sims, LB
Danny McCray, S
It’s no secret the Dallas Cowboys have one of the tightest salary-cap situations in the NFL. Some unexpected relief came from the league.
The NFL set the cap at $133 million, instead of the $126.3 million figure that was originally expected.
At $126.3 million, the Dallas Cowboys were projected to be a league-high $31 million over the cap. March 11 is the deadline for teams to slip under the cap.
While the new projection offers the Cowboys a couple million dollars of relief, it doesn’t save them from having to make tough decisions about key players.
The cap is primed to soar even higher in 2015, after money from the league’s new television deals enter the equation.
The cap rise is good news for both teams seeking cap maneuverability and players who now begin to taste the fruits tied to the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The structure of the CBA and the timing of the television deals sets the players up well from 2015 to 2020.
COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Jason Garrett’s focus shifting as Scott Linehan takes the offensive reins
Jones said (Watch Video | Play Audio) that was the design last year as well, but it didn’t end up working out as originally planned. The addition of Scott Linehan now means a new offense with new terminology and ideas, allowing Garrett to actually have more of a focus on defense than offense.
As Jones put it, Garrett “won’t have the last pencil down this year” the way he had last year when it comes to the offense.
“He’ll have a lot more time spent on defense than he will on offense,” Jones said. “We want his input on defense.”
Jones said he wants Garrett to work with the defensive staff and use his offensive mind to show how he’d attack a defensive plan.
“His focus on the defense I think is going to make a big difference,” Jones said. “You’ve got Linehan’s head coaching experience, you’ve got Bill (Callahan) with head coaching experience, you’ve got (Derek) Dooley with head coaching experience, you’ve got some great experience.
“And we have the need to see if there are aspects of what we can do offensively that are different than what we’ve been doing over the last six years. We have that need and we’re going to get it. We’re going to get that without throwing the baby out with the bath water.”
Jones reiterated that Linehan will come in with “completely real change” on offense, including different terminology with his scheme.
“He’s got a track record of really zeroing in and building the offense around the talent, the specific talent and qualities of the players,” Jones said. “(Tony) Romo has certain skills and talents and abilities and has very unique mental capabilities on the field. He’ll make it go.”
Jones said Garrett, who coached with Scott Linehan in Miami, has enough confidence in what the new play-caller can bring that he’s willing to step further back and essentially hand over the offensive duties.
But he wasn’t going to pass up on adding Linehan when that opportunity presented itself.
Jones said Tony Romo had “serious discussions” with Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford about Linehan and now has a great feel for Linehan’s imagination and what Linehan can do to maximize players’ skills while bringing flexibility in the scheme within the parameters of the offense.
He said Romo and Linehan will be locked at the hip and that the most excited person in the Cowboys’ organization about the addition of Linehan was Romo, who will still have a great deal of power within the offense.
“Romo was a tremendous supporter of Bill Callahan, but was absolutely ecstatic over us getting Linehan,” Jones said.
Jones believes Garrett’s learned a great deal and is more season and knowledgeable as a coach after years with the team, but doesn’t mind the idea of having a “lame duck coach.” He said he thinks people can sometimes work stronger without knowing their future and that Garrett has a “high tolerance for ambiguity.”
Even without an extension before the year, though, Jones said the plan is for Garrett to be the coach beyond this upcoming season.
Entering his last year of his deal, Garrett has to hope the changes made pay off quickly. Jones said he believes having the experience of multiple coaches on staff who were once head coaches should benefit Garrett. He said it’s a big deal for Garrett’s future that he gets the experience of working with the coaches around him.
“You know that every time he looks in his players’ eyes that most of those guys right there if they have a bad year or mess up or take an injury, that that’s there year, too,” Jones said. “We are dealing with those kinds of what ifs. But this is the one I’m comfortable with – the status we are in right now with our staff. I like our staff. Jason should know, and I know that he knows, that the plan here has been for him to be long-term, and long-term certainly being beyond this year, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.”
Jerry Jones: Jason Garrett’s focus to shift
Jerry Jones spoke about why Jason Garret’s primary focus will be on the defensive side of the ball this season, and what makes him capable to take on that role.
COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Jerry Jones confirms that Jason Garrett, not Bill Callahan, was the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2013
INDIANAPOLIS – Owner/general manager Jerry Jones shed some light today on head coach Jason Garrett’s role in the offense last year, which was greater than expected going into the season.
Jones said it’s a fact that Garrett was really the offensive coordinator last year, despite Bill Callahan having that title. The Dallas Cowboys entered the year with a plan to lighten Garrett’s offensive load, but that didn’t come to fruition the way they’d planned.
“That was one of the issues,” Jones said. “It was unfair to Bill, but it was the offense that we’d had since we got there and it was very difficult. That’s why we had such a hard time articulating it early. That’s why we made some of the switches we made during the middle of the season. All of it was just manifested by the fact that it was just very difficult for Jason to get out of that role.”
Jones said Garrett ended up having “the last pencil down all the way through.” The original plan and design for Callahan to call the plays and serve as the play-caller changed, and Jones said Callahan was frustrated and should have been.
Jones still called Callahan “a hell of a coach” and said he’ll be involved heavily in the offense this year, although the offense will focus around incoming offensive coordinator and play-caller Scott Linehan.
“There’s a difference when you’re sitting in the room as the head coach and you say, ‘Wait a minute, you put some salt and pepper in there,’” Jones said. “Then, after it’s already been cooked and you’re tasting it outside the room and you say it might need a little salt and pepper. There’s a big difference. One you’re involved in the cooking, and one you’re not. Jason was involved in the cooking last year. That’s just a fact, and everybody knows that, really, or should. That won’t be the case this year, and the addition of Linehan caused that. So it will be cooked.” (Translation: “Too many cooks in the kitchen” … “the main Chef was being burned”)
The explanation can get confusing, and the answers get a little more convoluted when it comes to the play-calling process between Callahan, Garrett, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, and Tony Romo. But the bottom line is Garrett had more say in the offense than originally planned (or publically disclosed), and Jones added that Romo had the final say play-calling say.
“More importantly than anything, the guy that’s ultimately calling the plays is on the football field, the quarterback, Romo,” Jones said. “He’s the one that’s got the check outs, he’s the one that’s got the ability to decide the run, pass, a lot of options and not just in the red zone and not just in hurry-up, two-minute. Not just there, although he was really predominant in the red zone and really dominant in no-back, that type thing.” (Translation: Tony Romo had veto power over Callahan that may be scaled back somewhat under Linehan)
Jones said last year Garrett felt he needed to have more of a presence on offense than originally planned. So, when did it become apparent that Callahan wasn’t going to be as involved in the play-calling as originally expected?
“That evolved as it went along,” Jones said. “Again, it evolved, but you get in situations during the season that have lesser time to sit back and say, ‘Wait, what are we doing here? How are we doing it?’ And make no mistake about it, it was something that was being discussed, which isn’t uncommon at all, vigorously in the staff rooms.”
Editors comments: Bill Callahan’s title of ‘Offensive Coordinator’ was always in “title only” used to fulfill the NFL rules in regard to hiring procedures. Callahan’s original responsibility (when he was hired) was to coach the offensive line and serve as the OL coordinator as it pertains to the passing and running phases. Last season, this was never Bill Callahan’s offense. As we’ve pointed out many times on The Boys Are Back website (last season), he was assigned the additional responsibility of ‘play-caller’ for Jason Garrett’s offensive game plans in an attempt to delegate a large portion of Garrett’s gameday focus. As the year progressed, changes were made in the way calls were delivered to Tony Romo. The chain of command was shortened (simplified) to a more fluid Box2Garrett2Romo delivery system.
All of this offseason talk about Callahan’s ‘demotion’ is ridiculous. His value to the Dallas Cowboys offense is (and has always been) his coaching of offensive linemen in the zone blocking scheme and also his input into their individual abilities as it pertains to the running and passing phases of Garrett’s system. Callahan is going back to what he does best … coach and consult. In simplified terms, looking ahead into this season, the Dallas Cowboys have a passing game coordinator, running game coordinator, and OL coordinator that help new actual offensive coordinator Scott Linehan formulate an offensive game plan. This will be Linehan’s offense. It will incorporate Jason Garrett’s offensive philosophy. You will see significant similarities (and production) to the Jason Garrett offense you’ve seen in the past. As the team moves ahead, look for a Linehan2Garrett2Romo or a direct Linehan2Romo delivery system to be utilized with this new structure.
NFL SCOUTING COMBINE REPORT: Big O-Line prospects show off amazing speed | Watch 2014 NFL Combine videos
It’s been a long standing tradition that the offensive linemen kick off the on field workouts for the combine and today that tradition continued (Watch this Video). Of the two groups that worked, Group 2 was the headliner. First-round talents Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Jake Matthews, and Greg Robinson were on display for coaches and scouts to evaluate. As a group, they did not disappoint.
Coming into this combine, there were questions who would be the first tackle off the board, whether it would be Matthews or Robinson, with Lewan the third in that group. What we learned Saturday was that all three came to the workout with the intention of making these teams head back to their meetings with some other ideas of that order.
The tackle that appeared to gain the most ground when you studied his workout was Lewan. His 40 yard dash was 4.87 and throughout the drills he was able to perform with some smoothness that we had not seen on tape. You could tell that he prepared for this combine because there wasn’t that stiffness and over-extension. It was a very productive day for him.
Greg Robinson might not have the polish that you see when you watch Jake Matthews work, but you cannot deny the explosive power with which he plays. At 6-5, 332 and carrying that body down the track at 4.91 was jaw dropping. What I really like about Robinson is that despite that size, his movements are like that of a much smaller man. It is almost effortless in which the way he moves.
In watching Jake Matthews, there was no question that he was going to be the best athlete of the group. Where the questions for him are going to arise is in his strength numbers. With only benching 225 24x, there are times
where you do see him struggle with power. If you watch the Auburn game, it is clear. With all that being said, if you needed to have a tackle to come in and play right now, he would be your guy. There was not much of any wasted movement from him during the drills.
Of the centers and guards that were on the field, I thought the guy that helped himself the most was Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA. Here is a player that on tape you can watch him play guard as well as tackle. I feel that his best spot will be at guard and there were some athletic movements that gave me some hope that he could be a player that you could plug in there if you ran a zone scheme, he could give you a little power. If there was something that I wasn’t to impressed with him was his vertical jump was only 23″ because that might be a flag for a lack of lower body power but he doesn’t play that way.
A player that a lot of scouts have fallen in love with is David Yankey, but I just don’t see it on tape. He plays like a slow-footed guy and on Saturday, he ran like one. The times I had for him were 5.50 and 5.53. In the drills, he went through them in the same fashion.
Cyril Richardson was another disappointing player to me. I really want to like him but with each rep or game I study, I draw further away from him. He didn’t run all that well but to his credit, he did come in lighter than what he measured at the Senior Bowl where he looked not in his best condition. For a man that should play with more lower body power, his vertical jump of 23.5″ was a disappointment as well. He just didn’t go through the drills with any type of quickness. I feel like he is going to have to play in a scheme where they are a power blocking and that would be his best chance.
More NFL SCOUTING COMBINE 2014 video:
NEW TWIST ON TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: Rod Marinelli excited about his new role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator
INDIANAPOLIS – Rod Marinelli finds himself back in a similar spot, just with a different team.
The former Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach is now also the defensive coordinator. It’s a change he’s both familiar with and excited about, going back to the role same role he had in his previous stop in Chicago.
“I’m really looking forward to it, but it’s all football,” Marinelli said. “I’m excited about the whole thing.”
The promotion for Marinelli, who’s now in charge of the whole defense, likely means an increased role for assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett. Marinelli said he feels like Lett has grown tremendously in their year together, and he believes both Lett and Ben Bloom’s help on the line will alleviate his workload.
He also said a year under his belt in Dallas will help “big time” as he prepares for his new role.
“You’ve kind of got things in place, I think, for the most part,” Marinelli said. “Now you’ve just got to make corrections and add some people and kind of go from there.”
The first place he said he’ll look for help is on the front seven. Given that the Dallas Cowboys probably won’t have much room to add key pieces via free agency given their cap situation, it’s likely Marinelli will look to the NFL Draft to try to get that done.
“We’ve always got to look at the front seven, that kind of drives the whole thing for us,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to add some pieces. I like some of the guys still that were injured last year, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass, some of these other guys.”
Crawford figured to be a key piece in the defensive line rotation last year, but he ended up being the first casualty of camp and the first in a snowball effect of defensive linemen going down the rest of the year.
Marinelli said he has to see how Crawford moves coming off his injury before deciding what position the defensive lineman will play, but he still thinks Crawford has the ability to move inside or outside. It wasn’t long after Crawford’s injury that the Cowboys found out they’d lose both Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff the rest of the year, forcing them to cycle new linemen on and off the team.
The new defensive coordinator said he tries to look at the positive of every situation, even when it’s not always apparent.
“You have a chance to maybe really become a better teacher through the season,” Marinelli said. “It forces you to really be on the details every week, because you miss things. It’s easy to miss something when you get a guy in on Tuesday and you’ve got to get him ready for Sunday, how to condense your menu, all those things. I kind of looked at that as a positive, and I think we found a couple guys that might be able to help us continually, like George Selvie and Nick Hayden and some of those guys.”
While his focus was on the defensive line, Marinelli still had a chance to speak to and coach other players throughout the season. He said he loves talking to and teaching players, regardless of position, which should help him as he prepares for his more expansive role.
But Marinelli said mentor Monte Kiffin will still be around, helping every step of the way.
“He’ll be in there every day with us, film, working, drills, all of those things,” Marinelli said. “He’s a tremendous resource and a great coach. I’ve got great respect for him.”
It’s important to Marinelli that he’s as detailed and exact as possible in what he’s teaching over and over again to ensure his players know what he demands. When he looks back to last year’s struggles, he said it’s all about the coach and player relationship and execution, and that everyone’s involved in the team’s success, or lack thereof.
He said another year with the roster and adding more pieces will help the defense. The Cowboys likely won’t be major players in free agency this year, but Marinelli still believes management will bring in enough pieces. He said he’s not concerned with the cap, and he’s more concerned with improving whatever he’s got.
“With me, it all goes back to fundamentals,” he said. “That’s kind of always been my base, and just getting guys to do things right and coaches got to work extremely hard. You’ve got to get more takeaways, those types of things.”
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jason Garrett on new roles throughout his coaching staff | Stephen Jones on why team retained Bill Callahan
INDIANAPOLIS – Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t expect discourse among coaches, nor does he worry about having too many voices offensively after the various changes this offseason.
“We feel really good about that,” Garrett said. “We believe in having good coaches. We have a philosophy on offense, we have a philosophy on defense we believe in. We have good coaches to implement that. We expect them all to work together like we have. We emphasize team so much with our players, it’s the same thing with our coaches. If you have the right kind of guys, they will certainly do that.”
Bill Callahan was stripped of the play-calling duties and will move back to his original role with the team, helping out with the offensive game-plan and coaching the offensive line. The Cowboys made room for Scott Linehan, who will call the plays and move into a role similar to Garrett’s before delegating the play-calling duties last year.
Garrett said the circumstances aren’t much different from how the Cowboys or other teams have operated in the past.
“Scott’s role will probably be very similar to the role I had for a number of years – passing game coordinator, play caller, working with the run game coordinator and offensive line coach,” Garrett said. “It’s been Tony Sparano. It’s been Hudson Houck. It’s been Bill Callahan.
“The situation on offense will be probably very similar to the first year Bill Callahan was here. It’s very conventional and something our guys understand.”
Callahan wasn’t let go, despite other teams’ interest in him as an offensive coordinator and play-caller. Garrett said he values what Callahan can bring as a football coach and said he’s as good a coach as he’s been around. Callahan will move back to working more closely with assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
Garrett said every decision is made in the best interest of the team and that everyone understands that. Callahan’s coached the offensive line for most of his career, and he thinks that’s a great role for him working alongside assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
“We’re going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired,” Garrett said. “That’s just something we all have to embrace. It’s going to take a little time to work through that and that’s what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we’ve got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team.”
The addition of Linehan gave Garrett a coach he was familiar with from their time together in Miami in 2005. Garrett said he learned a great deal from Linehan during that time and that the two share a similar offensive philosophy. In addition to his role as play-caller and passing game coordinator, Linehan will also be asked to work with Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in putting the running game and the whole package together in preparation.
“His quarterbacks have always played well,” Garrett said. “He’s had teams where his runners…They’ve been a top five rushing team. He seems to always get a big-play receiver to play very well for him. So we feel like philosophically we are on the same page. We’ve worked together. I understand what he’s trying to get accomplished, how he works day to day, how he calls a game. So for a lot of reasons, we felt this was a really good fit for us.”
It doesn’t sound like the roles will evolve much throughout the year. Garrett said he expects the transition from Monte Kiffin to Rod Marinelli to be a smooth one, given their shared philosophies, and he believes he has the right people in the building on the coaching staff.
“We feel like we have a good idea of what we want to do. we have outlined those by title and by responsibility. We have a clear idea of that. Guys are working together throughout the spring, implementing the plan is an important thing for us. We are in midst of that plan right now.
Here are some other notes Garrett touched on Thursday in Indianapolis.
- Garrett still anticipates Tony Romo to be ready for the spring and be involved in “a lot of the stuff we do in the spring with OTAs and on field work.” He said Romo looks good in his rehab.
- Most of Tony Romo’s energy and attention has gone into rehabbing his back, according to Garrett, but Romo has met with Linehan and had conversations about the season. Linehan’s spending more of his time getting acclimated with the coaches.
- The future of Jason Hatcher remains in the balance, but Garrett’s not giving up hope in getting the defensive lineman back next year. He praised the work Hatcher did last season and said when NFL free agency starts, he wants the Cowboys to be there for him.
- Garrett raved about the addition of Mike Pope as the tight ends coach and said he’s as good a coach he’s been around in his career after spending time with him in New York. He also said Jason Witten’s excited about the addition.
- The head coach reiterated that he was happy with the team’s decision to move back in the first round and believes every one of their 2013 draft picks has a bright future with the team.
- Linehan also favored the pass in his previous stops, but Garrett said Linehan’s also been around teams that have run well, particularly in Minnesota. He said the offense is stronger up front and the Cowboys have to play to that advantage, giving the team a chance to control the line of scrimmage.
RELATED: Cowboys VP Stephen Jones explains why team retained Bill Callahan
INDIANAPOLIS — When it was announced that Scott Linehan would be the new offensive play-caller last month, many wondered how Bill Callahan would take the news.
After all, this past season Callahan had handled the role Linehan would now assume. Outsiders saw the move as a demotion, and some wondered why the Cowboys were reluctant to allow Callahan to pursue other opportunities. Requests made by Baltimore and Cleveland to interview Callahan were denied.
“Everybody thinks the world of Bill,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that he gets caught up in the, well, he got something taken away from him or whatever it’s going to be portrayed as. But Bill Callahan is an unbelievable football coach. We just weren’t going to give him up and Jerry [Jones] and I have a great relationship and the coaches have a great relationship with him.
“Everybody wants to go sometimes and try to do what they were doing or whatever. But when we signed him, contracts are two-way streets. They are not just for us to deal with if it doesn’t work out. And Bill is a professional;. Are you kidding me? He is working his butt off. Was he disappointed? Everybody has disappointments. I have had it. I’m sure you have had disappointments. Everybody has them.”
Jones views Callahan as an asset who helped transform the offensive line — the position group he oversees — from a weakness into a strength.
“That offensive line really shaped up and came our way,” he said.
Jones now feels similarly about the staff head coach Jason Garrett has assembled, which now features three men — Garrett, Linehan and Callahan — who have been play-callers in the NFL.
“As I think Jason used the words, I think you have to make sure everybody is in the right seat on the bus to really make the team hum,” Jones said. “I think that’s what we ended up doing. I think we got everyone in the right seat. And obviously added a big one in Linehan. But I really think we have given ourselves, with our staff, a great opportunity to improve.”
2014 NFL COMBINE REPORT: Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones discusses team draft needs, salary cap, and contracts
INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones doesn’t want to focus on just one spot in the 2014 NFL Draft.
He didn’t deny the Cowboys’ obvious wants and needs on the defensive line, but he said Wednesday that teams get in a lot of trouble by narrowing their scope to just one position when it comes time to draft.
“You start targeting something and drafting for need, we all know that’ll get you in trouble,” Jones said. “It’ll be nice to come out of the draft at some point with a defensive front guy, defensive lineman or two. But no, I don’t think we can just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take the first two picks and it’s got to be defensive linemen.’ I think you get in trouble that way.”
Jones said he wants players to be graded based on what they deserve, and he’s talked to the scouts about not grading players a certain way based entirely off team needs. He said the team has to fight that natural urge of grading by need.
“In some cases, it can help to do deals,” Jones said. “I’d read where someone didn’t understand it, because they said, ‘How did they do (Dan) Bailey? That hurts them this year.’ Well, it didn’t hurt us, it helped us.”
Jones talked at length Wednesday about a variety of other offseason topics as well, from possible restructures to extensions to injuries and scouting. Here’s some notes from those comments.
- Anthony Spencer’s free agency leaves questions about his future with the Dallas Cowboys, but there’s also questions about his health going into 2014 coming off microfracture knee surgery. Jones said it still remains to be seen how healthy Spencer will be at the start of the year as he works the injury and goes through rehab, but he knows Spencer wants to play.
- Jones said the biggest misconception about the draft room is that owner/general manager Jerry Jones just “sits up there and out of the clear blue just grabs a guy and says we’re going to take him.” He said that’s not how it works, and generally there’s a consensus about a player.
“We spend millions of dollars in our scouting department and we spend a lot of money on our coaches and everybody has tremendous input,” Stephen Jones said. “I think it’s a good system.”
- The Dallas Cowboys got a boost earlier in the day by winning the No. 16 pick in a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens, which Jones said can be valuable when trading back based off of trade charts.
- Jones wouldn’t go into details about specific players’ restructures this offseason, but he said every player must be looked at to see the resources being allocated. He said there are still several scenarios, but he’s comfortable with where the team’s at and knows he still has time to get everything settled.
- The fifth-year option on Tyron Smith’s contract has to be made by the spring, but Jones said that won’t take any urgency away from potentially getting a longer deal done with the left tackle.
- Jones said he thought Sharrif Floyd was graded right (2013 NFL Draft) based on his talent, but it’s debatable if he was graded the right way based on the team’s system. The Dallas Cowboys ended up trading back and grabbing Travis Frederick in the first round rather than taking Floyd, who had a first-round grade. Jones said it can be tricky when a team changes a system, and the Floyd circumstances won’t happen again. He knows the team got criticized by some for the move, but he believes they ended up making the right decision based on their defensive system.
- The Dallas Cowboys are looking at their hamstring problems and how to deal with the situation. He said no one’s happy with what occurred, and the team is looking internally to see how to improve the Dallas Cowboys injury problems. They’re also looking at how past teams have stayed healthy and are considering the age of players, their work habits and the shape they’re in.
ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys win coin toss for 16th pick | League’s pecking order officially set
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys won the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft following a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens.
Team officials held the coin toss at the NFL Scouting Combine, which began Wednesday morning in Indianapolis, Ind.
The decision gives Dallas a pick in the top half of the first round for the third time in four years — the Cowboys held the ninth overall selection in 2011 and the No. 14 pick in 2012 before trading up to take Morris Claiborne.
Having lost the coin toss, the Ravens will pick No. 17 overall.
Both clubs finished the 2013 season with 8-8 records, but a tiebreaker was needed to determine their draft order. In addition to owning the same records, the teams also had identical strengths of schedule.
The final draft order for the 2014 NFL Draft is now set:
2. St. Louis (from Washington)
7. Tampa Bay
12. New York Giants
13. St. Louis
18. New York Jets
21. Green Bay
23. Kansas City
25. San Diego
26. Cleveland (from Indianapolis)
27. New Orleans
29. New England
30. San Francisco
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft coin-flip win a sign of flipping the 2013 script
IRVING, Texas – Hey, maybe 2014 will be a different story, right?
We’ve already seen one trend bucked, and it happened in Indianapolis of all places: This team won a coin flip – stop the presses!
Last year the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t win a coin flip to save their lives.
For something that is supposed to be 50-50, this team was anything but average when it came to flipping a coin. The Cowboys won just three coin flips all last year. And after the Nov. 3 game against the Vikings at home when they won the toss, the Cowboys didn’t win another pregame coin toss over the last seven weeks.
It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the game. Not really, although sometimes it’s nice to have the decision on taking the ball now or in the second half. But if you’re better than your opponent, it doesn’t matter.
This coin toss the Cowboys won in Indianapolis is rather significant, giving the club the 16th pick in the draft over the Ravens, who will select 17th in the first round.
You might say that picking 16 or 17 doesn’t matter much because it’s still in the middle of the first round. And that’s true. However, don’t forget who is running the show and what he likes to do when he gets in that War Room. Jerry Jones becomes “Trader Jerry” when he’s in there and having the 16th pick.
Point values vary when you’re looking at draft charts. Teams often have different values but for the most part, the difference between the 16th and 17th pick is around 50 points, and that’s the equivalent of a late fourth-round pick.
But I went a little deeper into the difference of 16 vs. 17 with this scenario.
Let’s say the Cardinals (20th pick) wanted to move up a few spots. If the Cowboys picked 17, they’d get a high-fourth round pick by swapping picks with Arizona. But at 16, they’ll likely receive a mid-third round pick. Obviously the two teams would have to throw in other picks to even it out since Arizona wouldn’t have a high-fourth, but you get the picture.
Now, history shows picking 17 is better for the Dallas Cowboys, who selected both Mel Renfro and Emmitt Smith at No. 17. They also got Kevin Brooks and Kevin Smith.
The only time they’ve ever selected No. 16 occurred in 1961, when they picked lineman E.J. Holub, who never played for the Cowboys because he chose to play in the AFL with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs franchise. Holub is now in the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.
None of that stuff really matters now. All that matters is how the Dallas Cowboys handle this No. 16 pick.
COWBOYS OFFSEASON INJURY UPDATE: Top Injuries to Watch coming into the Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 NFL season
IRVING, Texas – It’d almost be easier to list the players who stayed healthy than the ones who got hurt during the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 season.
The whole laundry list of injuries from last year is too great for only a top 10 list, so let’s narrow it down to the Top-10 Injuries to Watch list.
The entire register of players dealing with injuries is expansive, but these ten top the list.
10. Doug Free (ankle) – The Dallas Cowboys right tackle had a cleanup surgery on his ankle, a procedure expected to be rather routine.
While Free should be ready for the start of training camp, if not sooner, the Cowboys need him to be as good or even better in 2014. This is the final year of his contract so it’s likely he will be determined to improve as well. But the Cowboys certainly don’t want a relapse of the 2012-version of Free.
9. Dwayne Harris (shoulder) – A cleanup surgery isn’t expected to linger for Harris, who was banged up down the stretch last year. Easily the Dallas Cowboys most versatile player, Harris is a rare triple-threat. There aren’t many players in the league, or even in NFL history who excels like Harris as a punt returner, kick returner and coverage specialist.
Harris’ surgery in January shouldn’t limit him this offseason but considering his importance to special teams, the Cowboys can’t afford any more setbacks. Harris also dealt with injuries to his hip, hamstring and abdomen last year.
8. Brian Waters (biceps) – This is an injury to watch simply because it could affect the Dallas Cowboys guard position in 2014. Waters contract expires on March 11th and he might not ever suit up for the team again. Waters is mulling retirement, a stance he has kept since the biceps injury in mid-season last year. Even late in the season, Waters said he hadn’t decided if he was going to retire officially and/or have the biceps surgery. The guard said having the surgery didn’t automatically mean he would play again either.
The improved play of Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary down the stretch can allow the Cowboys not to get desperate in signing Waters again. Of course, he’s an improvement over the two, but don’t be so sure he would come back and take Leary’s position. Bernadeau was good enough to keep his job, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys would turn away Waters and his decorated experience.
7. Lance Dunbar (knee) – Just when he finally saw what Lance Dunbar can do with a few extra carries, it was gone in an instant. The second-year running back suffered a posterior lateral corner and underwent surgery following the Thanksgiving Day win over the Oakland Raiders.
Dunbar’s career-high 82 yards rushing helped the Dallas Cowboys rally for the win. But his speed and elusiveness could be a nice complement to DeMarco Murray’s style. Even despite Murray’s improved play down the stretch which led to a Pro Bowl spot, the Cowboys are counting on Dunbar’s change-of-pace in 2014.
6. Dez Bryant (back) – Unlike some of the others on this list, Bryant didn’t have a procedure on his back and likely wouldn’t even call this an injury. But chronic back issues have plagued him at times the last two years. He couldn’t finish the 2012 season finale in Washington and his back locked up on him at least twice this past year.
He managed to play through it, which is a positive sign. But a 25-year-old with some back issues, especially considering he is emerging as the team’s best overall player, is reason enough for concern.
5. Anthony Spencer (knee microfracture surgery) – Like Waters, Spencer might have played his last snap with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a free agent in March and hasn’t suited up since Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs – his only game played this past year. Spencer’s knee injury eventually needed microfracture surgery, an extensive procedure that is considered one of the toughest to recover from.
The Cowboys could certainly use some depth at defensive end and if they could get Spencer at a reasonable price, because of the injury, it’s something to heavily consider. His rehab this offseason will be closely monitored not only by the Dallas Cowboys, but other teams that might want to add a talented player, despite the injury risk.
4. Tyrone Crawford (Achilles) – We still don’t know exactly where Crawford fits in the new 4-3 defense, but the prevailing logic is he should be able to compete for a starting job someone along the defensive line. He was the first of a plethora of injuries at training camp, and his Achilles’ tear started the domino effect.
Crawford has the frame to potentially work as an inside pass rusher, though they were working him in on the outside when offseason workouts began last year. The roster may dictate that he bump back inside, but wherever he ends up, he figures to be an important piece on defense in 2014.
3. DeMarcus Ware (elbow) – The veteran pass rusher is scheduled to have surgery on his left elbow next Tuesday (February 18th). This latest procedure doesn’t seem to be too serious. But it’s not the fact Ware is having elbow surgery, it’s more about the volume of the injuries now. They are definitely piling up. He only has two elbows of course, and both of them have been injured.
Ware missed the first three games of his career last season with a quad tear, an injury he says is now fully healed.
2. Sean Lee (neck) – It’s always concerning when the team’s starting middle linebacker, who just earned a significant contract extension, has a neck issue.
Lee’s injury history caught up to him again toward the end of the 2013 season, as he was unable to play in the final three regular season games and still seems to be dealing with the neck pain.
The Dallas Cowboys needed Lee late on a defense that struggled throughout the majority of the season, and they can’t afford for that injury to linger into 2014. That’s an injury that’ll need to be monitored, as Lee, who didn’t get surgery on his neck after the season, continues to rehab.
1. Tony Romo (back) – Nothing really comes close. Not only are we talking about the starting quarterback of the team, but also a recurring back injury to a now 34-year-old. How Romo responds from this injury is undoubtedly a major factor in the Dallas Cowboys success for 2014.
Sure, Kyle Orton proved in Week 17 he can be competitive for a game. He had the Cowboys in position to win but threw his team out of contention. Of course, that isn’t something Romo hasn’t done either, so it’s hard to put all of the blame on Orton, who actually played well up to that point in the game.
Still, the Dallas Cowboys need their franchise quarterback healthy. Tony Romo gives this team a chance to win at all times. There aren’t many quarterbacks who could play with the worst defense in franchise history, a below-average running game and still get his team to an 8-8 record.
Tony Romo has been carrying this team on his back for a while. And it finally gave out.