Daily Archives: January 23rd, 2013

NO GROWING PAINS: Monte Kiffin, Jerry Jones not worried about 4-3 switch

MOBILE, Ala. – The switch from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense will come into effect next season for the Cowboys.

Now the challenge becomes fitting the current personnel into that scheme, but defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and owner/GM Jerry Jones aren’t concerned about growing pains or the subsequent changes that alteration could cause for the Dallas defenders.

monte kiffin - dallas cowboys defensive coordinator - the boys are back blog

“I think the personnel, looking at it, we looked at some things that might fit a 4-3,” Kiffin said. “I don’t believe we were going to hire a 4-3 coach. I don’t think that was ever the plans for Coach (Jason) Garrett. He just wanted to get the coach he thought would fit.”

That coach would be Kiffin, and now the job of fitting people into place belongs in large part to the defensive coordinator. He must figure out which players are suited best for a move to the 4-3, the same way he did masterfully in his 13 seasons as Tampa Bay’s defensive coordinator. The head coach for the Bucs at that time was Tony Dungy, who said he thought it might take a couple years and drafts before Kiffin gets the right personnel for his scheme in Dallas.

Kiffin isn’t planning to wait that long for his defense to work.

“We were starting from scratch there at Tampa Bay,” Kiffin said. “It’s a process, but we want to hit it running. This isn’t a rebuilding four or five-year plan type deal. So hopefully we can get the process, speed it up a little bit.”

It’s possible Kiffin slightly tweaks his schemes to fit the Cowboys’ defense, which isn’t completely foreign to using four down linemen. As Jones mentioned, this defense has utilized more of a hybrid scheme in recent seasons than a straight 3-4.

“In training camp last year, I was asking some of the coaches, I said, ‘OK, let’s identify what we are,’ and they just wouldn’t go there,” Jones said. “They said, ‘We’re a combination of 4-3 and 3-4.”

Kiffin said it’s the coaches’ job to be able to fit his players into whatever defense he wants to call. He said a good coach should be able to lead any scheme.

“I totally believe that,” Kiffin said. “You could run a 4-4. As long as you’ve got 11 guys. Just make sure you don’t have 12. If you have 10, you’re not very smart.”

dallas cowboys owner jerry jones, stephen jones, and bill parcells - the boys are back blog

The Cowboys have utilized the 3-4 defense since Bill Parcells made the switch during his coaching tenure. Jones said he’s known “for some time” that he’s had the personnel to switch to the 4-3 defense, and the down linemen and linebackers have gone into a 4-3 defense “a reasonably good percentage of the time” in recent years.

He indicated there could be changes in technique and how the new defense is implemented, but he remains confident his current personnel can handle the switch.

“When we drafted (Tyrone) Crawford last year, we knew he could be an outstanding 4-3 lineman, not just handling the 3-4,” Jones said. “I look at who we drafted over the last several years, and we don’t have anyone that doesn’t fit in both schemes. (Kyle) Wilber, our linebacker, could easily be a Sam linebacker in the 4-3. We’ve always tried where we can to keep our options open there.”

dallas cowboys defensive end tyrone crawford (70) applies pressure to tampa bay buccaneers quarterback josh freeman - the boys are back blog

The Cowboys hope a change in defensive philosophy might help stop division rivals in Washington and Philadelphia, both of which now have the personnel or coaching staff to implement fast-paced rushing schemes.

Kiffin said the read option is “making a name for itself,” but he’s more concerned with his own team’s staff and players than he is about his NFC East competitors at the moment. He said he’s in the process of figuring out where his front seven can play, and he emphasized the importance of finding the right fit for each player. But he doesn’t want to rush that decision.

If he doesn’t like a certain fit with his current personnel, he said the Senior Bowl offers a few prospects that could properly fit into the 4-3 scheme he wants to implement.

“To tell you the truth, we’re just trying to get our staff together and get the players in the right place,” Kiffin said. “We’ll run a 4-3, and we’re not going to make any quick decisions. We want to make sure we get the right people, the right place, and of course down there at the Senior Bowl, we’ve got some good players there. You’re always looking to upgrade, so we’re kind of busy with that right now.”

COACHES ROSTER: Meet the 2013-14 Dallas Cowboys coaching staff

There have been a number of changes in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff over the offseason. Here’s an updated list of the assistant coaches and links for more detailed information on each of them. This page will be updated if any other changes are made.

DALLAS COWBOYS HEAD COACH

Jason Garrett

Jason Garrett was named the eighth head coach in Dallas Cowboys history on January 5, 2011. Garrett, who played for or worked alongside four of his predecessors, became the first former Dallas Cowboys player to become the team’s head coach.

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHING STAFF

Offensive Coaches Defensive Coaches Specialty Coaches
Jimmy Robinson
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Monte Kiffin
Defensive Coordinator
Mike Woicik
Strength and Conditioning
To Be Determined
Tight Ends/Passing Game Coord.
Jerome Henderson
Secondary
Chris Boniol
Assistant Special Teams/ Kickers
Wade Wilson
Quarterbacks
Matt Eberflus
Linebackers
Brett Bech
Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Bill Callahan
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
Rod Marinelli
Defensive Line
Rich Bisaccia

Special Teams

Wes Phillips
Assistant Offensive Line
Ben Bloom
Quality Control/Linebackers
Keith O’Quinn
Off. Quality Control/Wide Receivers
Joe Baker
Assistant Secondary

OFFICIAL NFL WEBSITE: Jerry Jones putting pressure on Jason Garrett, Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones making changes for 2013-2014 season - The Boys Are Back blog

MOBILE, Ala. — Jerry Jones wanted uncomfortable. He openly spoke about an offseason with everyone being on edge.

Wish granted. This is what it feels like.

NFL personnel people pulling friends aside and wondering, “What’s going on with the Dallas Cowboys?” The team’s owner speaking with reporters for 30 minutes to address the issue of who will take over as offensive play caller, only to leave those listening with merely an indication of the team’s direction. Jones and head coach Jason Garrett both embracing a reality neither has supported in the past.

Oh, and the Cowboys still trying to climb out of a ditch, as Jones put it.

Yup. These are the Dallas Cowboys of 2013. The reality is, these circumstances are setting Garrett up for a make-or-break season, which of course is better than not having the opportunity to return in the first place.

“We’ve got a lot of things about our team — the problem is a deal called 8-8,” Jones said while sitting on the NFL Network set following a Senior Bowl practice Tuesday. “When you’re 8-8 and the rules say, ‘We want everybody to be equal,’ you’ve got to break out of the ditch that we’re in at 8-8. That’s promoting some of the changes we’re making. To step this thing up.”

What have the Cowboys done this offseason, which began abruptly after Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins took Dallas’ playoff spot in a de facto NFC East title game? Plenty of restructuring.

Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan likely will call plays, taking over the role from Garrett. Soon-to-be 73-year-old Monte Kiffin, back in the NFL after a lackluster stint in the college game, will be the team’s defensive coordinator. Former Chicago Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli is the defensive line coach. Jason Garrett’s brother, John, was re-routed to Tampa Bay to become the Buccaneers’ receivers coach. There will be more tinkering.

NFL people raised their eyebrows about the move to hire the master of the Tampa 2. Could be genius. Could be … not. For his part, Kiffin laughed about his age.

“I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think I could do it,” Kiffin said. “I’m excited. I know before the game, they don’t say, ‘How tall are you, how much do you weigh, how old are you?’ They don’t as a player. It’s, ‘Let’s go play.’ So, ‘Let’s go coach.’ “

As Kiffin slowly morphs the defense, installing the 4-3 scheme for which he believes the personnel is better suited, Garrett will watch the offensive adjustments from not quite as close. In his new role, Garrett will be free to focus on in-game situations, time management and other head-coaching duties he had no choice but to short-change while simultaneously serving as offensive play caller. Jones says Garrett encouraged this shift. Perhaps that’s true. But on Tuesday, while speaking with local reporters before Jones had officially announced the news, Garrett simultaneously supported a move away from calling plays while pointing out that there’s nothing that says a coach can’t call plays and master in-game situations. Um, OK then.

“I’ve been on teams where it’s worked a lot of different ways,” Garrett told reporters. “This idea that there’s no way you can call plays and handle the game situations … We’ve come back in a lot of games and handled game situations really well, and sometimes we haven’t handled them as well.”

The Cowboys love Garrett as a leader. The brass was especially pleased with his delicate and masterful handling of the off-the-field drama that followed the death of practice squad linebacker Jerry Brown and the related DWI incarceration of defensive tackle Josh Brent. And it was noted that Garrett somehow managed to sidestep a PR disaster when Brent appeared on the sidelines for a game after the incident by making sure it wouldn’t happen again while also refusing to treat Brent as an outcast. The doors of the facility were always open to Brent. Players noticed. Everyone did.

In an unfortunate coincidence, Garrett and the Cowboys suddenly found themselves facing another drunk-driving issue: Starting nose tackle Jay Ratliff was arrested and charged with DWI early Tuesday after his pickup truck struck an 18-wheeler. The coach’s handling of this situation will be closely monitored.

But the fight the Cowboys showed in 2012 when they were down in games — which happened frequently — demanded attention. Oh, and Garrett also helped the ‘Boys overcome a slow start to win five of their first six in the second half of the season, putting them in position to … lose their final two games and come up short for the playoffs.

Now, it seems, he has one more year to make it happen. Is it playoffs or bust? It might not be so simple. What if the Cowboys start out slow and look anemic, as they did this past season? Could Garrett withstand a limp out of the gate?

What if they make the playoffs and lose? Does he have enough job security to handle that?

The Cowboys believe in Garrett. They have since they sunk millions into him as an offensive play caller. They’ve believed in the process. It took them to the brink of the playoffs, but no further.

And now? They have stripped away the foundation and rebuilt. New defense. New offensive play caller. A new focus for the head coach. And a new view of the timetable facing Garrett going into his third full season at the helm.

Only time will tell if the new approach yields different results.

Courtesy: Ian Rapoport | Reporter, NFL.com and NFL Network

Editors comments; Pardon the negativity from the official National Football League’s website, much of which (NOT ALL) was edited out. The interpretation of the Valley Ranch changes should be one of optimism and one of an owner (and general manager) searching for answers …and a turnaround. Listen to the actual words from Jerry Jones in the video to get a sense of what the real intention are here. Try to overlook the NFL websites attempt to kill the golden goose (Dallas Cowboys). Without the Dallas Cowboys, what is the NFL? The irresponsible reporting from Ian Rapoport and Gregg Rosenthal (editor) are beyond contempt. It’s beyond me how the official website of the National Football League can justify bias reporting and pandering against the Dallas Cowboys. You’d expect a balanced, factual based account of all 32 teams … not idiotic statements from these two jackass yahoo’s in a suit. Publish facts as responsible journalists and let the readers decide.

I published this post to make several points. Namely, listen to the actual voices (in there entirety) of role-players (and decision makers) that matter … Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones, Jason Garrett, coaches, staff, and players … and rely on this blog if you want ACTUAL factual coverage of the Dallas Cowboys and their quest to remain America’s Team. 99% of the time you’ll find articulate and accurate representations of facts from skilled and informed sports journalists … the ones that have earned trust.

NEW COACHING GAMEPLAN: Jason Garrett stepping back from play-calling provides a more objective look at the team

dallas cowboys coach jason garrett calling plays - the boys are back blog

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said a step back away from play-calling provides a more objective look at the team. But whether it makes a head coach a better game manager is not settled in his mind.

“If you watch football every week, there are game situations that are handled by coaches that call plays, there are situations that are handled by coaches who don’t call plays. Sometimes they’re handled well, sometimes they’re not,” Garrett said Tuesday at the Senior Bowl. “This idea that there’s no way you can call plays and handle the game situations – we’ve come back in a lot of games and handled game situations really well. Sometimes we haven’t handled it as well. That’s my responsibility. I have to make sure we do it better. That’s independent of whether I call ball plays or not.

“Coaches who don’t call plays don’t have the corner on handling game situations the right way. But having said that, when you are calling plays, that’s an added responsibility you have during the game that you have to work through.”

Garrett and the Cowboys are considering using another play-caller next season. Owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday back-to-back 8-8 seasons have him open to changing his mind that the head coach should be calling the plays on one side of the ball or the other.

Garrett said he can coach either way and that he has seen the benefits and drawbacks of both methods.

“It’s been done both ways,” Garrett said. “There are a handful of coaches in the league who call offensive plays, or defense, probably more on offense. But obviously, my role as the head coach, if I’m not the play caller, will be significant. It gives you an opportunity to step back a little bit and really get yourself engaged in the other two aspects of the team. And I’ve always tried to do that. I’ve always sat in on defensive meetings. I’ve always had good communication with other coaches. When you remove yourself  a little bit more from one side of the ball or the other, that opportunity to do that is even greater.”

RELATED VIDEO: Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joins NFL Network at Senior Bowl

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joins NFL Network at the Senior Bowl - The Boys Are Back blog

Jerry Jones: ‘You gotta get out of the ditch that we’re in’

06:54 – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones joins NFL Network at the Senior Bowl to talk personnel changes and coach Jason Garrett role as the teams play-caller. Click HERE to watch video.

ROSTER REVIEW: Final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys

america's team - dallas cowboys helmet 2012 - the boys are back blog

No more whistles, no more playbooks, no more coach’s dirty looks. Sure, not quite as catchy as the iconic “no more pencils, no more books, no more teacher’s dirty looks,” but we’re talking football grades here, not math, science and social studies.

The biggest difference in grading pupils and players is expectations. All students are created equal; not so much for a professional football team. Just doesn’t make sense to hold Miles Austin, one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the game and a two-time Pro Bowl selection, and Cole Beasley, an undrafted free agent rookie, to the same standard. Ditto for DeMarcus Ware, headed for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and some dude signed off his couch midseason. Not even Batman.

Without further ado, here are our final grades for the 2012 Dallas Cowboys:

QUARTERBACKS

Tony Romo – B

This one is difficult, because for 80-plus percent of the season, 13-of-16 games, Romo played as well as any quarterback in franchise history. Yes, including Roger Staubach and Troy Aikman. His numbers for those contests include 303.1 yards per game, 24 touchdown passes, seven picks and a 100.2 rating. Even with the other three games – vs. the Bears and Giants and at the Redskins – Romo had the league’s sixth-highest rating by Football Outsiders, behind only Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan.

He threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and on many occasions was his own best pass protector in terms of finding an extra second or two. There were times when he was brilliant, and never before has he shown the leadership he did this season. Still, in the end, Romo flunked his final. Again. That’s not easy to write. Romo has been sort of the teacher’s pet these last five years, but there is no excuse for those final two picks at Washington.

Kyle Orton – I

He broke Clint Longley’s 38-year-old mark for highest passer rating (minimum 10 attempts) with a ridiculous 137.1. Played just the one game, though, giving him an incomplete.

RUNNING BACKS

DeMarco Murray – C

A disappointing season for the second-year back who was expected to anchor the offensive load. Didn’t rush for 100 yards after Week 1 at the Giants and rarely showed the explosiveness from his rookie season with just five 20-plus carries. Finished tied for 21st in the league with 2.5 yards per attempt after contact. He also picked the worst of times for his first two NFL fumbles. His durability has also become a concern as he has missed nine of the team’s last 19 games with injuries.

Felix Jones – C

Finished with more offensive touches than expected, was much improved in picking up the blitz, caught the ball well, and for the most part, maximized his rushing yards with the gaps provided. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry after entering the year at 5.1 for his career.

Lance Dunbar – B

Was impressed with the free agent rookie from North Texas from the first preseason game through Week 17. Finished with eight special teams tackles, was solid if unspectacular on kick returns and showed a little burst on offense. Should play a bigger role in 2013.

Phillip Tanner – C

Solid on special teams with 10 tackles, although he didn’t show much in limited action carrying the ball.

Lawrence Vickers – C

Showed promise catching passes, that little dump-off was seemingly always available. But his blocking was average and his four penalties in 305 snaps was the highest percentage of any fullback playing 25 percent of his team’s snaps.

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SUPER BOWL SABATAGE DRAMA: Bill Callahan denies Tim Brown’s allegations

MOBILE, Ala.As Bill Callahan’s name gets brought up as a possibility for the new Cowboys’ play-caller, his calling of plays for a previous team 10 years ago has been brought to the forefront. 

Dec 2, 2012; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan talks with tackle Doug Free (68) during the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Cowboys Stadium. The Cowboys beat the Eagles 38-33. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Callahan said he was “shocked, saddened and outraged” in a statement released Tuesday night regarding the allegations made by former Oakland receiver Tim Brown that the former Raiders head coach tried to sabotage the team by changing the game-plan on the Friday prior to Super Bowl XXXVII.

Former Oakland receiver Jerry Rice later came forward on ESPN and sided with Brown, stating that Callahan disliked players on the team and wanted the Buccaneers to win the game. Tampa Bay beat Oakland, 48-21, in one of the more lopsided Super Bowls.    

Here is Callahan’s full response:

“There are many people who are disappointed by the outcome of Super Bowl XXVII, but none more than me. While I fully understand a competitive professional football player’s disappointment when a game’s outcome doesn’t go his team’s way, I am shocked, saddened and outraged by Tim Brown’s allegations and Jerry Rice’s support of those allegations made through various media outlets over the last twenty four hours. To leave no doubt, I categorically and unequivocally deny the sum and substance of their allegations. Like every game I ever coached on the professional or collegiate level, I endeavor to the best of my professional ability to position my team to win. To suggest otherwise, especially at this time when it involved the Super Bowl, is ludicrous and defamatory. I have always honored the spirit of competition that drives us to sport as children and, for the luck few, sustains us in adulthood. Any suggestion that I would undermine the integrity of the sport that I love and dedicate my life to, or dishonor the commitment I made to our players, coaches and fans, is flat out wrong. I think it would be in the best interests of all including the game America loves that these allegations be retracted immediately. I want to extend my personal and my family’s deep appreciation to the coaches, players and fans who have come forward and thoughtfully spoken out against these ill-conceived allegations.”

Brown said on SiriusXM NFL Radio that Callahan changed the game-plan from a run-heavy attack to a pass-heavy attack late in the week, taking away from the Raiders’ advantage on the offensive line. He said Callahan did it because of his disdain for the organization and his friendship with Bucs head coach Jon Gruden.

The comments that Oakland lost simply because of Callahan’s late switches and not because of Tampa Bay’s defense essentially ripped both current coordinators for the Cowboys, as Monte Kiffin led the Bucs’ defense in that game. The Tampa Bay defense led the league in total defense and interceptions that season, picking off Raiders quarterback Rich Gannon five times in the Super Bowl.

The Raiders entered the game with the top total offense in the league, averaging 67.5 more passing yards per game than the rest of the NFL. They didn’t have a 1,000-yard rusher that season and averaged six fewer rushing yards per game than the rest of the league.

Oakland rushed 10 times and passed 17 times in the first half of the Super Bowl game, entering the second half trailing, 20-3, while averaging just 1.8 yards per rush. The Raiders ran just one more time the rest of the game, as they played catch up the rest of the way.

MORE NOSE WOES: Jay Ratliff arrested for suspicion of DWI

Dallas Cowboys NT Jay Ratliff arrrested - The Boys Are Back blog

MOBILE, Ala. – For the second time in two months, a Cowboys defensive tackle has been arrested for a DWI-related incident.

This time, there were no serious injuries, but it’s definitely a serious situation for Jay Ratliff, who spent Tuesday morning in jail in Grapevine. Ratliff was released on bond later that morning.

Soon after midnight, Ratliff was reportedly involved in a crash with his Ford pickup truck and an 18-wheeler on Highway 114.

Cowboys officials said Ratliff did not sustain any major injuries, nor did the driver of the 18-wheeler. However, Ratliff was arrested at the scene for suspicion of driving while intoxicated after reportedly refusing to take a breathalyzer test.

This comes less than two months after the Dec. 8 accident that killed linebacker Jerry Brown. Defensive tackle Josh Brent was driving and arrested for vehicular manslaughter.

At the funeral for Brown, Ratliff was seen hugging Brent, a close friend, for several minutes.

Ironically, the two play the same position and were both missed on the playing field toward the end of the season. Ratliff suffered from a groin injury that required sports hernia surgery and Brent was placed on the non-football injury reserved list following the accident.

Ratliff had a season to forget in 2012, which included a foot injury that forced him to miss most of training camp, followed by a high-ankle sprain in the third preseason game. That kept Ratliff out until the sixth week of the season, and while he played well for a few games, it wasn’t long before the groin injury occurred that ultimately ended his season.

And along the way, there was a locker-room incident with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones on Dec. 2 following the Eagles game at Cowboys Stadium. Eyewitnesses said Ratliff and Jones had a face-to-face shouting match that occurred after Jones confronted the defensive tackle and inquired about his injury.

Ratliff has not been available for comment since before the groin injury. On Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. at the Senior Bowl, Jones was asked about the incident and his relationship with Ratliff.

It’s expected that Jones was fully aware of the incident when he made this comments about Ratliff:

“As far as I’m concerned, he is outstanding. He has given everything he’s ever had to the Dallas Cowboys,” Jones said. “With me, any of that emotion that was involved between us is only reflected back on many times that we’ve had in our own way some emotional time with each other. 

“And it in no way before was it ever contentious, so when you’ve got the kind of background we’ve got together, then if you have a moment that you might not have been on the same page, that’s like father-son, that’s like family, that’s like all that. That’s forgotten when you know each other has your best interests at heart. We both know that.”

With or without this latest incident, Ratliff was a player who could be released for salary-cap reasons. If Ratliff is waived before June 1, the Cowboys would save about $1 million on the cap. If they cut him after June 1 or at least designated him as a June 1 cut, meaning he could be cut after the Super Bowl but his roster spot wouldn’t come off the books until June 1, the Cowboys could save about $5 million on the cap this year, but then would get a $4 million hit next season.

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