The Dallas Cowboys’ move back to the 4-3 defense is music to Leon Lett’s ears. He’s going to get a chance to teach what he knows.
“In a 3-4 you did more of a read-and-react. This is more of a react-on-the-run – rush the quarterback and then react to the run on the way to the quarterback,” he said last week as the Cowboys’ assistant coaches met with reporters. “Kind of the same thing I did as a football player, so I’m kind of used to it, and I’m looking forward to teaching it and coaching it.”
Lett collected 22.5 sacks and 229 tackles in a 10-year career with the Cowboys, twice making the Pro Bowl. He played at 6-foot-6, 290 pounds.
“I think we have players all across the board that have the instinct for that defense,” Lett said. “DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, Jason Hatcher, Sean Lissemore – I think all our guys can adapt and play this 4-3 scheme. They’re fast, they’re quick, they’re big, they’re athletic, and that’s what you need.”
Lett was retained as assistant defensive line coach, and he’ll get a chance to work with respected NFL veteran Rod Marinelli, who is now in charge of the Cowboys’ defensive line.
“We just have to get them to adjust to a different technique,” Lett said. “In a 3-4 scheme, you were a little bit more two-gap, head-up. We’re going to get them to shade on the shoulder and penetrate and get up field. So I’ve been talking to Coach Marinelli about that, and we’re looking forward to retraining the guys in that scheme.”
Lett said it was the focus on penetrating into the backfield that made the position fun for him when he played.
“Some guys just love to play the 3-4, head up, but the 4-3 is more about a penetrating, we-get-to-eat-first type of deal. That’s what we’re calling it. We’re at the front of the food chain.”
Jason Garrett might give up play-calling duties to Bill Callahan. Then, again, maybe he won’t. Both Garrett and Callahan spoke to the media this week, but it remains a mystery about who will actually call the plays for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas tight end Jason Witten said it’s not about who calls the plays, but how they are executed. The Cowboys were sixth in total offense last season, but they were only 15th in scoring.
“I think more’s been made of that than probably needs to be as far as a player’s perspective just because it’s all about execution for us,” Witten said Friday night in Fort Worth. “We’ve got to execute those plans better. We’ve got good plays, and we’ve got some good players, but we’ve got to do a good enough job of executing time and time again. That’s where I focus is on as players, I think, and that’s where it needs to be moving forward.”
The Cowboys offense is expected to look much the same as it has since Garrett became the offensive coordinator in 2007 regardless whether he or Callahan is calling the plays.
The Cowboys hope to run the ball better. They were 31st in rushing, with a franchise-low 1,265 yards for a 16-game season. They need to protect it better, too, having turned it over 29 times, and they want to score more points in the red zone (25 touchdowns in 49 red-zone trips, ranking 20th in the league).
“We just need to do a better job of scoring and taking care of the ball collectively and not putting ourselves in those situations where we’re having to come from behind,” Witten said.
Witten will have a new position coach after six seasons with John Garrett. Witten had 554 catches for 6,110 yards and 30 touchdowns the past six seasons, an average of 92 receptions for 1,018 yards and five touchdowns. He set an NFL record for a tight end with 110 catches in 2012.
But John Garrett departed for Tampa Bay to become the Bucs receivers coach, and Wes Phillips was promoted from assistant offensive line coach. Phillips is the son of former Dallas head coach Wade Phillips and was retained by the Cowboys after Wade Phillips was fired.
“I am excited for Wes,” Witten said. “I think Wes breaks that label of ‘I got in because of my dad.’ He’s proven he’s a good football coach. He’s a young, fiery guy. John was a guy was near and dear to me. I think what we were able to accomplish over the last six years is special. He pushed me every day, and as good as he was as a coach, he was a better man. But Wes has been in the receiving end. He’s also been on the line. I think he’ll be a perfect mix. I’ve enjoyed working with him. I think we share a lot of the same beliefs as far as how you prepare and attack a game plan. So I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”
The Dallas Cowboys have hitched their wagon to Tony Romo. Owner Jerry Jones has made that abundantly clear.
Romo, however, will be 33 years old in April and is in the latter half of his career. That fact brings a sense of urgency to Dallas to win sooner than later. It also forces the team to think about the future.
“You would like to have a young guy to try to bring along, certainly,” quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson told ESPN Dallas/Fort Worth’s Calvin Watkins.
The Cowboys last selected a quarterback in the 2009 draft when they took Stephen McGee in the fourth round. Isaiah Steinback was a fourth-round pick in 2007. Those are the only two quarterbacks drafted since Romo joined the team in 2003. McGee is gone.Kyle Orton is the No. 2, but he isn’t in the long-term picture. Nick Stephens is a practice-squad player and isn’t in the mix either.
The early talk of the 2013 draft is how it offers a weak quarterback class. We’ll see how that plays out, but there aren’t many high-end prospects worth the risk of an early pick. But a middle-round quarterback could certainly develop in the time it takes Romo to play out the extension he’ll get soon.
By comparison, the Packers drafted five quarterbacks between 2002 to 2008 when Brett Favre had entered the latter stage of his career. Craig Nall, Ingle Martin and Brian Brohm didn’t pan out. Matt Flynn didn’t play much, but he earned a big free-agent deal from Seattle. They hit on Aaron Rodgers.
Tom Brady is example No. 1 of how a late-round pick can mature. The time to search for those guys isn’t when you’re desperate for a quarterback; it’s when you’re secure in the position.
Say what you will about Jerry Jones, but the Dallas Cowboys owner didn’t lie when he promised it would get “very uncomfortable” at Valley Ranch after a second straight 8-8 season. Rob Ryan was sent packing as defensive coordinator and replaced by 72-year-old Monte Kiffin, who will switch the Cowboys to a 4-3 scheme. Offensive coordinator Bill Callahan likely will inherit play-calling duties from coach Jason Garrett. Running backs coach Skip Peete was fired and replaced by Gary Brown.
Biggest free agents
» OLB/DE Anthony Spencer: With Kiffin moving to a 4-3, the Cowboys need another strong presence on the edge opposite DeMarcus Ware. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones has great respect for Spencer, and the team has the option of using the franchise tag.
» RB Felix Jones: A former first-round pick, Jones had a shot at Dallas redemption when DeMarco Murray went down for six games with a foot injury. Jones (playing on two bad knees) couldn’t fill the void, one reason why the Cowboys set a franchise low for rushing yards in a 16-game season.
» CB Mike Jenkins: The additions of Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne put Jenkins in limbo last season, and a slow recovery from shoulder surgery didn’t help. He worked in the slot after Orlando Scandrick went down, making little impact. He’s expected to look for a starting job on the open market.
Other key free agents: C Phil Costa, SS Danny McCray, WR Kevin Ogletree.
What they need
The Cowboys are overdue for a makeover along their offensive line. It was a problem all season, and quarterback Tony Romo’s mobility is the only thing that kept this unit from total embarrassment. Tyron Smith is a good fit at left tackle, but upgrades should be sought elsewhere. If Jones has run out of chances, the Cowboys would be wise to find a capable backup for Murray, a supremely talented but seemingly injury-prone starter. The Cowboys must protect themselves at strong safety, where Barry Church is attempting to come back from a torn Achilles tendon.
Offseason crystal ball
The Cowboys are currently $20 million over the cap and will need to restructure contracts with several players to get under. In other words, don’t expect a big fish to land in Big D next month. Improving the offensive and defensive line likely will be a focus during the NFL Draft. With Romo turning 33 before Week 1, don’t be surprised if the Cowboys draft a developmental quarterback in the mid-to-late rounds.
Take a look at some of the best images from the 2012 Philadelphia Eagles season.
Andy Reid was the longest-tenured head coach in the NFL and winningest coach in Eagles history. He’s been replaced by former-Oregon coach Chip Kelly, renowned for his outside-the-box creativity and up-tempo spread offense. Kelly quickly turned to ex-Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator, replacing Marty Mornhinweg. Former Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers coordinator Billy Davis will be charged with turning around a defense that imploded under Todd Bowles and “wide-9” specialist Jim Washburn in the second half of the 2012 season.
Biggest free agents
» CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie: Rodgers-Cromartie started the season severely outplaying Nnamdi Asomugha as the Eagles’ top cover cornerback, but fell apart with the rest of the secondary after Juan Castillo was fired as defensive coordinator in October. DRC does possess the youth, size and athleticism to draw a contract offer that will likely be too rich for the Eagles.
» OT King Dunlap: Dunlap held his own when pressed into service last season, but he won’t be viewed as a starter with left tackle Jason Peterson due back from Achilles surgery and Todd Herremans holding down right tackle.
» DT Derek Landri: While Landri does provide a disruptive interior pass-rushing presence, he proved too soft against the run in a disappointing 2012 season. With a new defensive system in place, he’s unlikely to be brought back.
Other key free agents: S Colt Anderson, LB Akeem Jordan, DE Darryl Tapp, OG Jake Scott
What they need
The secondary will require an overhaul as opposed to a band-aid after surrendering big plays at an alarming rate down the stretch. The Eagles could have new starters at all four secondary positions next season. Davis will be on the lookout for a run-plugging nose tackle as the defense transitions to a 3-4 scheme. Although Michael Vick was brought back under an adjusted contract, Kelly will be under pressure to find his quarterback of the future.
Offseason crystal ball
Highly regarded new vice president of player personnel Tom Gamble will be a busy man in March. The Eagles will field offers for quarterback Nick Foles, with a trade to the Kansas City Chiefs as a likely scenario. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is expected to be a cap casualty after a disastrous two-year stint in Philadelphia. Gamble and Kelly could use the No. 4 overall pick on Utah’s Star Lotulelei to fill the nose-tackle void while targeting a developmental quarterback in the second or third round
The major pieces are back: General manager Jerry Reese, coach Tom Coughlin, quarterback Eli Manning, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, both coordinators and (probably) receiver Victor Cruz. The Giants did release veterans Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley and Chris Canty, but there is young depth at those positions. The David Wilson-Andre Brown combination looks ready to carry the load at running back. Plus, Reese has earned a level of faith throughout the years to keep the team in the hunt without a complete rebuild.
Biggest free agents
WR Victor Cruz: Cruz is restricted, but it’s hard to believe some team wouldn’t be willing to give up a second-round draft pick for the young Pro Bowler. The two sides sound like they are far apart in negotiations, but there’s no way the Giants will let him walk after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
LB Chase Blackburn: Led the team with 93 tackles and added three sacks, an interception and four forced fumbles. He was a full-time starter for the first time in 2012, but will turn 30 years old in June.
LT Will Beatty: Pro Football Focus rated him the No. 4 free-agent tackle based on his performance last season. The 2009 second-round draft pick will turn 28 in March and has his entire career ahead of him.
TE Martellus Bennett: Broke out in his first year as a Giant with career-highs in receptions (55), yards (626) and touchdowns (five) after four disappointing years with the Dallas Cowboys.
Other key free agents: LG Kevin Boothe, SS Stevie Brown (restricted), DE Osi Umenyiora, WR Domenik Hixon, LB Keith Rivers, CB Kenny Phillips.
What they need
Consistency, especially on defense. The Giants looked like the best team in the NFL at times and didn’t make the playoffs in 2012. The defense allowed the second-most yards per game, but had the No. 12-ranked scoring defense. That often means too many big plays. The run defense ranked No. 25 and the pass defense was No. 28. That’s very un-Giant-like. Injuries haven’t helped the offense, but Manning needs to live up to that elite status on a weekly basis. They’ll also need some offensive line help if Beatty and Boothe leave via free agency.
Offseason crystal ball
The Giants remain a championship contender that will make smallish tweaks without a disruption of their core. The organization has missed the playoffs just three times in the last eight seasons. The Giants will continue to have a puncher’s chance with Manning under center, but their defense was the problem in 2012 and that’s something Coughlin won’t accept.
The biggest change in Washington is that the team finally has a winner again. It was a tale of two seasons in 2012; after a 3-6 start, the Redskins were all but done. Then, they reeled off a seven-game winning streak and won the NFC East — the NFL’s biggest rivalry division — for the first time since 1999.
In 2013, the team’s fortunes hinge squarely on whether Robert Griffin III can be the same player he was before tearing his ACL for a second time and injuring his LCL. Griffin, 23, should be ready for Week 1, but it’s anyone’s guess at this point. Kirk Cousins has proven to be a fine backup in his stead, but Cousins isn’t going to put up 4,015 total yards and 27 overall touchdowns like Griffin did in 2012. The coaching staff remains largely unchanged outside of new special teams coordinator Keith Burns, who played on the Broncos’ two Super Bowl-winning teams, coached by Mike Shanahan, and later coached under him after his playing days ended.
Biggest Free Agents
» TE Fred Davis: Coming off a season-ending Achilles tear on the field and being one strike away from feeling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s wrath off the field, questions abound regarding Davis. Fewer teams will have an interest in pursuing Davis, but he’s proven to be an important piece in the franchise’s young offense. Will the Redskins ink him to a long-term deal?
» LB Lorenzo Alexander: You would think that Alexander would be rewarded for his Pro Bowl season as a special teamer with a new contract. He strengthened his case for a bigger deal by handling the transition to inside linebacker well.
» DT/DE Kedric Golston: Golston played in every game last season as a backup, and his durability provides the defensive line with needed consistency. Plus, he’s versatile enough to play both the end and tackle spots. I don’t see any reason why the team wouldn’t keep him.
» Other key free agents: LB Rob Jackson, TE Logan Paulsen, S Madieu Williams, P Sav Rocca, CB Cedric Griffin, LB Chris Wilson.
What They Need
The Redskins need to fix the defense. Their pass defense ranked 30th in the NFL and 31st overall in touchdowns allowed. On third downs, they struggled to stop anybody. While defensive line is the Redskins’ deepest position right now, their biggest offseason need is at safety. Sitting at roughly $4.7 million over the cap and without a first-round pick after giving up the farm to take Griffin at No. 2 in last year’s draft, GM Bruce Allen and Shanahan will have to get creative in addressing that position.
The Redskins have long needed a true No. 1 receiver. Last season’s combined production of Pierre Garcon, who had injury problems, and Santana Moss makes for a nice No. 1 wideout, but individually, they’re not among the league leaders. Fans are clamoring for a big playmaker at receiver who can attract double teams and take the pressure off Griffin. The defensive backfield needs big-time help and talent, especially at safety, as does a thin offensive line.
Protecting RG3 is paramount. Look for the Redskins to draft an offensive lineman or two to shore up depth and versatility. The Redskins led the league in rushing at 169.3 yards per game, a high bar to set in year one of this new-look offense.
Offseason Crystal Ball
As they enter the second offseason of an $18 million cap hit hindering their plans, it’s up to Allen and Shanahan to get resourceful with the roster. An interesting subplot to follow is whether the team extends a long-term offer to Brian Orakpo, who went down with a season-ending pectoral injury in Week 2. Orakpo’s absence was noticeable, but given his injury history, the team likely has doubts about his long-term future.
Combine the team being $4.7 million over the cap with the league’s $18 million reduction plus the lack of a first-round pick, and it’s easy to say the Redskins won’t be their typically aggressive selves this offseason. Still, this is Dan Snyder’s team, and as long as he’s running it, the Redskins are liable to make a big splash in free agency.
James Hanna began to deliver on the Dallas Cowboys’ investment in him late last season, and one person they can thank is backup quarterback Kyle Orton.
He stayed on the rookie tight end’s case, and it paid off, said new tight ends coach Wes Phillips.
“People saw the end result where he started making plays, but we also saw when he was running scout team at the beginning of the year and Kyle Orton is on him every single day about how to practice, how to be a pro, how to work,” Phillips said Thursday in meeting reporters for the first time in his new job. “He really made some strides.”
Hanna, drafted in the sixth round out of Oklahoma last year, caught a pass in the season opener – his only catch for the first 12 games – but had seven catches in the last four games.
“He really impressed us as far as his work ethic and how he went about his job,” Phillips said. “Learning how to finish, learning how to go about meetings and study and prepare, all those sort of things. He’s a very intelligent guy, and we’re looking forward to continuing his development.”
Another change to the NFL Scouting Combine’s testing is on the way.
The combine’s testing has been tweaked over the years, and a significant adaptation is coming. The league plans to implement a second aptitude test to the itinerary for players this week, according to National Football Scouting president Jeff Foster.
An NFL source confirmed that the test will be part of this year’s combine.
Foster said the test is not a replacement for, but rather a counterpart to, the much-criticized Wonderlic test. The Wonderlic has been used at the combines for decades since its origination as an intelligence test in the 1970s by legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry. The Wonderlic’s usefulness and the ethics of relying on it have been sources of debate over the years.
According to Foster, the league spent time developing the new test with a university professor. The hope is that “it’s something that’s a little more evolved than the Wonderlic.”
Clubs have long expressed the importance of years of data built up on tried-and-true testing and measurements, enabling balanced comparisons, so Foster and other combine officials always have been reluctant to eliminate elements from the combine. A recent example is the addition of wingspan to measurements. Some people voiced concerns that wingspan is a more illuminating measurement than arm length, so it was added to the combine, but arm length wasn’t eliminated.
NO LOVIE IN CHICAGO: Rod Marinelli gave up a chance to be Bears defensive coordinator to reunite with Monte Kiffin
Monte Kiffin’s first hire when he arrived in Dallas was Rob Marinelli as his defensive line coach. The two are reunited after a seven-year separation to try to return glory to the Cowboys.
Kiffin and Marinelli were together 10 seasons in Tampa. During their time there, the Bucs defense was in the top 10 in points allowed every year and in the top 10 in yards allowed in all but their first season of 2006 when Tampa ranked 11th. The Bucs went 89-71 from 1996-2005, allowing an average of 281.4 yards and 16.7 points per game. They generated an average of 32 turnovers a season.
“I think what we did there, and a lot of other guys were there with us, [gave us] a bond and… a belief [in the system],” Marinelli said. “There are things maybe you do differently here and there over the course of the year. But that foundation, the fundamentals of what we do, is the core belief for us. That kind of unites us. That’s why I wanted to be a part of this and be back with him.”
Marinelli left the Bucs in 2006 to become head coach of the Detroit Lions. He lasted only three seasons, going 10-38. He spent the past three seasons as defensive coordinator in Chicago, working for Lovie Smith, who was the Bucs linebackers coach from 1996-2000.
The Bears wanted to retain Marinelli as defensive coordinator, but he chose to leave.
“There’s no doubt [it was hard to leave],” Marinelli said. “But my No. 1 relationship is with Lovie Smith. Yeah, he’s probably one of my best friends in life, and I believe in him and I went there because of him and it’s not the right place for me without him.”
Marinelli: Coaching With A Sense Of Urgency (Click HERE to watch)
Defensive line coach Rod Marinelli speaks about his principles on defense and what he hopes to bring to the Cowboys.
RELATED: When One Friend Was Ousted, Marinelli Joined Another
IRVING, Texas – Most people would consider a move from defensive coordinator to defensive line coach a demotion. Rod Marinelli isn’t one of those people.
The Cowboys’ defensive line coach gladly accepted his new position in Dallas. The title wasn’t as important as being around coaches that shared a similar knowledge and passion for the game. He has that in Dallas with Monte Kiffin.
CARRYING THE TORCH: Monte Kiffin says Cowboys organization ‘reeks with tradition’, he and Marinelli soaked it in
Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli made sure they walked into Valley Ranch the right way -– by soaking it all in.
“You walk through this, I mean, it just reeks with tradition here,” Kiffin said Thursday as he met with reporters at Valley Ranch for the first time since being named the team’s new defensive coordinator, and since bringing along former colleague Rod Marinelli to be defensive line coach.
“And you see all these pictures. And Rod Marinelli came in and we were so – we just went out to the front and walked … we just pretended we were coming in for the first time,” Kiffin said. “I said, ‘You’ve got to see this, Rod.’ We went outside and walked back in. I said, ‘Look at this.’ ”
Marinelli said he saw plenty of history up close in Chicago, too, as defensive coordinator with the Bears.
“I just love the history of the game of football,” he said. “I was in Chicago. The history is there. Then, you come here and wow, the history is fabulous. It’s something as a coach you’ve got to relate back to the players, how fortunate we are to be where we are, and there is a history here. We’ve got to understand that and there are standards we’ve got to match up to.”
Kiffin also appreciates NFL history, so he had an idea what it meant to join the Cowboys, one of the most followed teams in the NFL. But he said it was confirmed to him without a doubt when he went to pick up his wife at the airport just a few days after he got into town.
“I’m flipping around the radio stations, and it isn’t just like sports talk, or this or that, it’s the Dallas Cowboys,” he said. “Believe it or not, I hit a button, hit another, and they are still talking Dallas Cowboys. But anyway, you are all fired up down here. It is what it is. That’s why it’s the Dallas Cowboys. That’s why it’s the dream team. I’m just a young pup, or whatever, but you heard about the Dallas Cowboys back in those days.”
Kiffin: I’m Seventy-Two Going On Fifty-Two (Click HERE to play)
Monte Kiffin talks about his excitement in joining the Dallas Cowboys this offseason, and what his plans for the defense are going forward.
NFL analyst Bryan Broaddus was one of many attendees for Jason Garrett’s near-hour-long press conference at Valley Ranch yesterday. The coach discussed the new faces on his staff but the tone of the press conference centered more on the play-calling aspect with Garrett suggesting a change could occur with Bill Callahan perhaps calling the plays in 2013 but a decision hasn’t been made.
With Jason Garrett saying a decision hasn’t been made on the play-calling, do you think it’s important to get that finalized sooner than later?
Broaddus: I thought that Garrett gave an interesting answer today when he spoke about how this process has been going on for a couple of seasons now and how it continues to evolve from year to year. From my experience in the NFL, the coaches as a collective group have always put the game plans together and the play caller relies on their input throughout the week but in the game as well. I remember in Green Bay how Andy Reid, Jon Gruden and Sherman Lewis would not only get the plan together but would install it during the week but on game day, Mike Holmgren took the play card and called the plays but I also do remember times where Holmgren would get in a rut and he would let Lewis take a series or two. There were even times in the preseason where Holmgren would let Lewis or Reid call the entire game. I think you will see Garrett take the same approach this summer in training camp and allow Callahan to calls these games and they will make their adjustments from there. As long as things are ironed out before the season starts that’s all that really matters.
If Bill Callahan ends up calling the plays, what do you know about his offensive philosophy?
Broaddus: I have worked with Bill Callahan before in Philadelphia and I have known him since he was a college coach at Wisconsin. Garrett was right when he said that Bill had been exposed to several different kinds of schemes. At Wisconsin they were a tough, physical smash you in the mouth offense under Barry Alvarez. He moved on to Philadelphia where Jon Gruden was taking the West Coast approach that he learned from Bill Walsh and Mike Holmgren but also screen packages that he copied from Bob Schnelker from the Vikings but also thoughts from Paul Hackett while Gruden was at Pittsburgh as a receiver coach. There is no doubt that Callahan was most influenced by Gruden and you could see that with their teams in Oakland. Not only did they have to deal with Al Davis in his desire to get the ball down the field in the passing game but they were able to come up with a physical running game with an offensive line with size but backs like Tyrone Wheatley, Jon Ritchie and Zack Crockett that could hammer the ball at you. If Callahan in fact does get the play calling duties, I believe that you will not only see things that Jason Garrett has brought to this offense but a mixture of some of the schemes that he and Gruden had success with in Oakland.
What are your thoughts on Garrett saying part of the decision to change to a 4-3 scheme centered on the ability to learn it quickly?
Broaddus: I worked in this scheme before as a pro scout in 2000-2003 so I have a decent understand of what it takes to have some success in it. When you watched those old Buccaneers squads under Kiffin, the one thing you noticed is how much they gave you the same look with some variations but it was more about the players playing the same scheme over and over but doing it really well. Sure there were some talented defensive players for Tampa but you didn’t see their defense give up huge plays or busts in coverage. It was sound and solid, sure you saw Kiffin adjusting his fronts and creating blitzes but to generate pressure but it wasn’t to the point where it was down after down. It is a simple scheme to play front and coverage wise because you don’t line up all over the place. You play with speed and you make the offense work to have to move the ball on you. There were plenty of moving parts to Rob Ryan’s scheme but that was the way he coached and that is okay but it puts a great deal of pressure on your defense to have to make adjustments even up until the time the ball is snapped and that at times put the players in bad positions. This defense doesn’t require all the bells and whistles, it just requires you to play in coverage and run to the ball which makes it easier to play.
Courtesy: Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | NFL Analyst/Scout
While he was able to do that, the focus shifted quickly to the issue of play-calling and the possible change next season involving Bill Callahan’s role on the sidelines.
Whether or not Callahan’s situation will be different, many faces surrounding him certainly will be.
Garrett shared some stories about the new coaches, including his involvement with the former Buccaneers assistants Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli and Rich Bisaccia when Garrett played for Tampa Bay in 2004.
Here’s a short briefing from Garrett on each of his new assistants, including Wes Phillips who has been here for six seasons but is now the new tight ends coach.
Garrett on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin: Early on, I think he was on to me because every day
after practice I would walk up to him and ask him a football question. He’s a very generous and gracious guy. I learned not only from watching him and how he handled himself and meetings, but just being around him. He’s very gracious and generous. We developed a relationship back then. My respect level for him is really off the charts. We’re fortunate to have him here to coordinate this defense. He’s done it better than anyone else has.
Garrett on defensive line coach Rod Marinelli: He’s one of those guys who talks about the greatness of
the game of football. He talks about preparing the right way. There’s great honor about playing and coaching this game and doing it the right way. The way he conducted himself that year I was around him, was really, really impressive to me. As impressive as a football coach as I’ve ever been around.
Garrett on special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia: He’s been one of the premier teams guys in the league. He just has an infectious personality. It’s particularly important for a special teams coach.
He’s got a great demeanor. The players play as hard for him as I’ve ever seen players play for any coach. He’s a great teacher, loves the game. He’ll be a great resource for us. He’ll make this team better.
Garrett on wide receiver coach Derek Dooley: When I was a player here in the 90’s, he was coaching receivers at SMU. Our relationship goes back that far. We coached together on Nick Saban’s staff with the Dolphins in 2005-06. We’ve known each other well. He played receiver at Virginia and has a great receiver background. He and I know each other well. He knows our system and I think that transition will be really good for us.
Garrett on tight end coach Wes Phillips: He’s really someone who is my right-hand man. We spent some time together putting the offense in a number of years ago. He’s really been a great asset and resource for me. Wes was a quarterback himself and coached receivers earlier in his career.
Garrett on running back coach Gary Brown: He’s really a guy I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I’ve known him for afar and competed against him. This is really a football guy. I’m excited about him. Often times, guys that play in the NFL don’t have a willingness to do what’s necessary to coach at this level. He’s a really bright guy. He’s someone who is a really, really good teacher. I know him the least of the guys we hired but I might be as excited about him as anybody else.
Garrett on asst. offensive line coach Frank Pollack: Frank played for Bill Callahan at Northern Arizona in the late 80’s and they go way back. Some of the contributions he can make, along with his relationship with Bill, can make us a really good football team.
Editors comment: As you know, as Dallas Cowboys fans, we are in the offseason ‘dead zone’ period between the Super Bowl and the NFL Combine (and subsequent NFL Draft). This time of year is always a letdown for those of us with NFL (and particularly Dallas Cowboys) fever. Like you, I’m constantly in search of relevant news and information about America’s Team from leading sports authorities and trusted insiders. Today, Jason Garrett spent nearly an hour discussing a myriad of subjects regarding the evolution of the team going into the 2013-2014 season. I strongly advise you to listen to the video below. Over 50 articles (and speculation) have been published based on this press conference. As you would expect (and appreciate), there are a wide range of topics covered, including:
- Offseason coaching changes and insight
- Offensive delegation and evolution since 2010
- Advantages of returning to the 4-3 defense
- Monte Kiffin, Rod Marinelli defensive philosophy
- Upcoming play-calling changes and mechanics
- Anticipated turnovers and the game impact
- Fitting Dallas’ top-tier CBs into the new 4-3 scheme
- Jay Ratliff and Josh Brent legal issues
- Bill Callahan and Jimmy Robinson’s influence and role
- Ongoing collaborative relationship with Jerry Jones, Stephen Jones
Take the time to listen to the actual press conference and you’ll learn what changes are in store and what went into the decision-making process. Feed the fever!
Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media after a flurry of offseason coaching moves.
Editors note: The new coaches will have a press conference with the Dallas media on Thursday, February 14th at 11:00 am. The Boys Are Back blog will provide a post and link to that event when it becomes available.
If you enjoyed this special feature, please use the ‘like’ and share buttons below. Thanks for spreading the word about The Boys Are Back blog!
Jason Garrett likes where the Cowboys are offensively, but he also thinks they can be even better.
The Dallas Cowboys coach said they have evaluated the offense over the past six seasons since he arrived in Dallas as offensive coordinator. The past six seasons combined, the Cowboys rank fourth in total offense (370.7 yards per game), seventh in scoring (24.1), fourth in passing (262.0) and 22nd in rushing (108.6).
“You look at those things, and you say, ‘Boy, a lot of that stuff is pretty good,'” Garrett said. “You say, ‘OK, we want to build on that stuff. We want to continue down that track with our offensive football team.'”
Garrett, however, will give up play-calling duties for 2013. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan likely will take over that role. The Cowboys made four changes to their offensive coaching staff, with Wes Phillips moving from assistant line coach to tight ends coach, newcomer Frank Pollack taking over as assistant offensive line coach, Derek Dooley being hired as receivers coach and Gary Brown coming in as running backs coach.
The Cowboys will see some changes in personnel, too, though maybe not many with Felix Jones, Kevin Ogletree and John Phillips as the only unrestricted free agents on offense. None of those three is a starter. Center Phil Costa is a restricted free agent. Dallas again might be looking to shore up its offensive line after adding a pair of free agent guards in Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau last off-season.
“This is an opportunity to add some people, add some influence to our offense,” Garrett said, “and hopefully it’s a tweak for us that can help us get a little bit better and help us break through as a football team. So that’s really the approach right now. We want to stay on the same track, but also we want to add coaches to our staff that can really help us break through.”
Despite being one of the league’s best offenses, the Cowboys are 55-41 over the past six years with only two playoff berths. They are 1-2 in postseason games in that stretch.
07:44 – Former Dallas Cowboy Ed “Too Tall” Jones discusses his induction into the Black College Football Hall of Fame, NFL Hall of Fame, current defensive ends, the Rooney Rule, and the Dallas Cowboys.
Forty-nine years ago, Clint Murchison Jr. proved how much faith he had in a Dallas Cowboys head coach despite a poor overall record. The Cowboys owner gave Tom Landry, who had posted a 9-38-3 record during the previous four seasons, a 10-year contract extension.
If Jerry Jones truly believes in Jason Garrett, he should make a similar bold commitment. Jones should give Garrett, who is under contract through the 2014 season, an additional 3-5 years.
Throughout the coaching staff changes that have taken place over the last month, Jones has praised the foundation that Garrett has built over the past two and a half seasons as head coach, saying things like: “I’m excited. Boy, we’ve got a good man in Jason Garrett putting this together for us.”
On the day Murchison announced Landry’s new deal, the Cowboys owner said: “This is in line with my philosophy that once you get a good man, hold on to him.”
If Jones believes what he says, that he has a “good man” and the “right man,” then he should lock Garrett up for the foreseeable future. A move like that would show that Garrett is in charge and Jon Gruden isn’t walking through the Valley Ranch doors as anything more than a TV analyst.
Following Landry’s extension in 1964 the Cowboys went 12-15-1 the next two seasons. They followed that up by reaching the playoffs 17 of the next 18 seasons.
Jones, who has admitted regret over getting rid of Chan Gailey so quickly, has compared Garrett’s brief coaching tenure to that of Bill Belichick. The New England Patriots coach, who has won three Super Bowls since 2001, was fired from his first head-coaching gig with the Cleveland Browns after only one winning season in five years.
Jones has also compared Garrett to Landry.
“I know that when I first got in the NFL, I could dream that maybe in 29 more years we could have the coach that we had with Coach Landry,” Jones said at the press conference announcing Garrett as the team’s new head coach. “Those are different times, different days, but you can dream that this thing is in place long term because of (Garrett’s) age and frankly, his background and experience growing up in NFL football.”
If Jones still feels that way, a contract extension would be the perfect way to prove it.
It’s official, Rob Ryan is heading to New Orleans. The Saints have hired Ryan to fill their defensive coordinator opening.
“In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature,” Saints coach Sean Payton said in a press release.
Ryan was the favorite after things didn’t work out with the St. Louis Rams. University of Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham interviewed Thursday, but withdrew his name from consideration.
It’s been an odd offseason for the former Dallas Cowboys coordinator. He was unceremoniously fired in Dallas, then hired/not hired in St. Louis. Now he lands in New Orleans, which might be the best spot of the three. Ryan won’t have to win games with his defense, since Drew Brees runs one of the most dangerous offenses in the NFL (Editors note: So did Dallas!) . The 2012 season for the Saints broke a three-year run of playoff berths, and was more of a fluke as a result of of the bounty suspensions.
“I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team,” Ryan said. “I have a ton of respect for (owner Tom) Benson, (general manager) Mikey (Loomis) and the organization and I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.”
Payton is back and wants Ryan to install his 3-4 scheme. The changeover shouldn’t be that difficult, considering they didn’t play the 4-3 all that well. The defense only has to be average for the Saints to become one of the league’s top teams again. They won seven games with the worst total defense in 2012.
The defense ran some 3-4 looks, but Ryan will need a few new bodies to fit the system full-time — a pass rusher, cornerback and safety are first on the list.
The New Orleans Saints have announced two coaching staff additions. The club has hired Rob Ryan as defensive coordinator and Stan Kwan as assistant special teams coach.
“I’m pleased the opportunity has presented itself for us to be able to add both Rob Ryan and Stan Kwan to our coaching staff,” said Head Coach Sean Payton. “In regards to Rob, we have experience in preparing and playing against his defenses and they’ve always been challenging in terms of the different looks and pressures that they feature. We’ve had the chance to visit with each other and talk about our visions for our team and I’m excited about moving forward as we prepare for the 2013 season. Rob is enthusiastic about joining our team and getting right to work. Stan is a veteran coach that understands all nuances of the special teams games and will work closely with Greg McMahon. He has a wealth of knowledge and I believe he will be a good fit on our staff.”
“I am excited and thrilled to be joining the New Orleans Saints,” Ryan said. “I have had the opportunity to get to know Sean Payton and his staff a bit better recently and I am excited about joining the team. I have a ton of respect for Mr. Benson, Mickey (Loomis) and the organization and I’m ready to get to work on all facets of the game. This is a great opportunity and we’re getting started right away.”
A nine-year veteran as a defensive coordinator, Ryan joins New Orleans after spending the last two seasons running the defense of the Dallas Cowboys. Under his tutelage in 2011, Dallas’ team defense improved to 14th overall in the NFL after finishing 23rd in 2010, ranking seventh against the run. In 2012, the Cowboys were one of only three teams in the NFL to have two players with 11 or more sacks, as LB DeMarcus Ware led the team with 11.5 and LB Anthony Spencer posted a career-high 11 takedowns. Both players were selected to the Pro Bowl. Cowboys opponents were held to a 43.9 % third down conversion rate, ranked tenth in the NFL, despite an influx of injuries at several key positions throughout the course of the season. In Ryan’s first season with the Cowboys, Ware finished second in the NFL with 19.5 sacks.
Prior to joining the Cowboys staff, Ryan served as the defensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns from 2009-10. In 2010, the Browns defense tied for eighth in the NFL with 19 interceptions, as six different players posted multiple picks to tie for the third-most players with two-or-more interceptions on a team that season. Ryan guided a pair of standout rookie defensive backs in Joe Haden who led the team in interceptions (5) and T.J. Ward, who led the Browns in tackles (105). On the ground, Cleveland allowed just seven rushing touchdowns, tied for fourth-fewest in the league. In Ryan’s first season in Cleveland, the defense did not allow a touchdown in three games and the Browns posted 40 sacks, tied for eighth in the league.
Prior to Cleveland, Ryan served five years as Oakland’s defensive coordinator from 2004-08. In 2006, the Raiders led the league in pass defense (150.8 yards-per-game) and finished third in total defense (284.8 yards-per-game). CB Nnamdi Asomugha and DE Derrick Burgess were each selected to the Pro Bowl twice during his tenure. Ryan also spent four seasons (2000-03) as the linebackers coach for the New England Patriots. In his time with the Patriots, Ryan was a part of two Super Bowl championship teams – XXXVI and XXXVIII – while working with two of the league’s top linebackers in Teddy Bruschi and Willie McGinest.
Ryan’s NFL coaching career began when he spent two seasons (1994-95) as the defensive backs coach under his father, Buddy Ryan, for the Arizona Cardinals, where they had the NFL’s third ranked defense in 1994 and led the league with 42 takeaways in 1995.
After playing three years at outside linebacker at Southwestern Oklahoma State, Ryan broke into the coaching ranks with graduate assistant jobs at Western Kentucky (1987) and Ohio State (1988). He then landed his first full-time coaching position at Tennessee State where he spent five seasons tutoring running backs, linebackers and the defensive line. Following his NFL stint with the Cardinals, Ryan spent three seasons as defensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.
Kwan comes to New Orleans for his 23rd year as an NFL assistant. He spent the past three seasons (2010-12) as the assistant special teams coach for the Buffalo Bills, where they ranked first in the NFL last season (2012) in punt return average (17.1 avg.) with two touchdowns and were fourth-best in the league in kick-off return average (27.0 avg.). He spent ten years with the Detroit Lions (1997-2000, 2004-09), including his final three seasons in charge of the club’s special teams units and also had stints with the San Diego Chargers (1991-96) and Arizona Cardinals (2001-03). Under his guidance, the special teams units of each team Kwan has helped guide have been consistently well schooled and prepared. The Phoenix native played baseball at San Diego State for three years prior to joining the Chargers after graduation.
The Dallas Cowboys filled their final coaching staff vacancy with the hiring of former Houston Oiler Gary Brown to oversee the running backs.
Brown spent the past four seasons in Cleveland, where his backs included Trent Richardson, who rushed for 950 yards and scored 11 touchdowns this past season.
A Penn State alum, Brown played eight seasons in the NFL after the Oilers drafted him in the eighth round in 1991, finishing his career with 4,300 yards and 21 TDs. He replaces Skip Peete, who was fired after six seasons with the Cowboys.
RELATED: Dallas Cowboys hire Gary Brown as RBs coach
The Cowboys have completed their coaching staff with the hiring of a running backs coach. Dallas has hired Gary Brown.
Brown has spent the past four seasons in Cleveland. Browns running back Trent Richardson was the league’s 18th-ranked rusher and third among rookies, with 950 yards. Richardson also scored 11 touchdowns. Peyton Hillis was Brown’s only 1,000-yard rusher in four seasons, as Hillis gained 1,177 yards in 2010.
Brown replaces Skip Peete, who was not retained after six seasons in Dallas. Peete now is the Bears running backs coach.
Brown played eight seasons in the NFL after being an eighth-round pick of the Houston Oilers in 1991. He rushed for 4,300 yards and 21 touchdowns on 1,023 carries. He started coaching immediately after his playing career ended, starting at Williamsport (Pa.) Area High School in 2000. His first college job was at Lycoming College. He also coached at Susquehanna University and Rutgers before joining the Browns.
DALLAS COWBOYS 2013-2014 ROSTER: Team counting on Barry Church’s recovery and return from Achilles injury
Bryan Broaddus takes a closer look at Dallas Cowboys safety Barry Church and how he fits into the team’s 2013 plans.
Name: Barry Church
Experience: 3 seasons
Key stat: In less than two games, Church didn’t accumulate many stats, garnering just eight tackles, including five solo stops.
Contract Status: Signed through 2016.
How he played in 2012: There were three players that really had a chance to have outstanding seasons in 2012: Dez Bryant, Dwayne Harris and Barry Church. They physically looked like different players and they were playing the game must faster than what I had seen the previous season.
I have to give Church a lot of credit for stepping up and taking the starting job away from those that were in competition with him, but I also have to give secondary coaches Jerome Henderson and Joe Baker that same credit for getting him ready to play. There was never a question about the toughness of Church, but there were concerns about his ability to play in coverage. His size is ideal but was his quickness or speed?
There were times early in camp where you saw him matched up with Jason Witten and he was in good position throughout the route and you knew he had a chance. During the preseason games and the practices with the Chargers, it became even clearer that he could handle the job. His awareness and understanding of the scheme really showed, and it was rare that you saw him out of position or not around the ball.
On opening night against the Giants he had a big fumble recovery, but in Week 3 against the Buccaneers he suffered a freak injury to his Achilles and was done for the year. I know that the injuries to DeMarco Murray and Sean Lee were devastating during the season, but I would argue the loss of Church caused just as many problems because the position became unsettled. There were clearly times when the Cowboys missed his physical presence, matching up against some of the tight ends they were having to deal with in Baltimore, Carolina, Atlanta and Pittsburgh. It was a tough break not only for Church, but the defense as well.
How he fits: There is no doubt that Church will have a long road back from this Achilles injury, but the fact that it happened so early in the season will give him the best chance to rehab it to get himself ready for training camp and beyond. His fit in this new scheme will be that of what John Lynch was but only with better cover skills.
Head coach Jason Garrett spoke about this recently. He talked about how in this scheme you do see some two deep safety play, but you also see some single high, which means Church can play down in the box and offer help there. Even in the two deep look, Church can handle those inside routes, but when Sean Lee drops out of the middle, it will allow Church to cheat to the outside to help the corners, which he showed the ability to handle some last Fall. I really believed that he was on his way to being a special player before the injury, so hopefully he can get himself back into his 2012 form.
Nick Eatman: I thought the Dallas Cowboys did a nice thing by signing Church to an extension even though he was in the middle of a difficult injury. It wasn’t a lot of money, so if he comes back 100 percent and plays like they think he will, then it’ll be a bargain for the team. I think seeing LaRon Landry in the Pro Bowl was an encouraging sign for Church. Landry is coming off two torn Achilles and made it back to the Pro Bowl this past year with the Jets. I’ve liked Church from his rookie season, and thought the Cowboys should just let him play and start and see how it goes.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
Bryan Broaddus takes a closer look at Dallas Cowboys punter Chris Jones and how he fits into the team’s 2013 plans.
Name: Chris Jones
Height/Weight: 6-0 / 208
Experience: 2 seasons
College: Carson Newman
Key stat: Chris Jones had just 12 punts last season, averaging 45.2 yards per punt with a 40.0 yard net average.
Contract status: Signed through 2013.
How he played in 2012: Chris Jones was one of those question marks in training camp that no one really wanted to talk about. Jones burst onto the scene replacing the injured Mat McBriar in 2011 and punted well enough to allow the front office to not extend McBriar in 2012 thus making him a free agent. To be honest there were days in Oxnard where it looked like that decision was a poor one because of what a weapon that McBriar had become over his years in Dallas and Jones just wasn’t punting consistent enough but he managed to make it to the start of the 2012 and really did a nice job opening night against the Giants. The next week against the Seahawks, Jones had a punt blocked when Dan Connor missed an assignment and the following week against the Buccaneers somehow managed to get a punt off that should have been blocked but it resulted in an injury to his left knee. In his final game of the 2012 season Jones was able to gut out the game against the Ravens after not practicing all week. Fortunately for Jones, he was only called on one time that day but the knee was too damaged to continue the rest of the season and Brian Moorman took over the punting and holding duties for the club. In four games Jones averaged 45 yards on 12 punts and was on his way to the type of season that the front office and coaches believed he was capable of having.
Where he fits in 2013: Gone is special teams coach Joe DeCamillis and Rich Bisaccia now takes over in that role. Jones had a big supporter in DeCamillis but there is no reason to believe that Bisaccia will feel different about Jones and what talent he has. What will also help Jones is that Chris Boniol is still on the staff and will be able to paint a pretty accurate picture of what Jones is to Bisaccia. I fully expect Jones to be the punter for this club in 2013 but the scouts might have seen someone in their travels this Fall that could compete for the job so we will see after the 2013 NFL Draft when we get into mini camps.
Nick Eatman: He’s one of the injured players people forget about but he was missed. Sure, Brian Moorman has more experience but Jones was better at angling his punts with height and direction. He’s also a good holder for kicks so I would expect Jones should be the punter for this team next year.
Courtesy: Bryan Broaddus | Football Analyst/Scout
The Dallas Cowboys announced today (Tuesday) that Wes Phillips will coach tight ends next season after spending the last two seasons as the offensive line assistant.
Phillips, son of Houston Texans defensive coordinator and former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips, has been with the Cowboys since 2007.
The club also announced the hiring of Frank Pollack as the assistant offensive line coach. Before spending last season as the Oakland Raiders offensive line coach, Pollack spent five seasons with the Houston Texans as assistant offensive line coach.
The hiring of Pollack immediately sparked speculation that the Cowboys will soon assign play-calling duties to offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who coached Pollack at Northern Arizona in 1987-88.
RELATED: Cowboys lighten Bill Callahan’s load with new hires
The Dallas Cowboys announced two more additions to the coaching staff, naming Wes Phillips tight ends coach and former 49ers lineman Frank Pollack assistant offensive line coach.
The hiring of Pollack is presumably part of an effort to free up offensive line coach Bill Callahan for more duties. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and head coach Jason Garrett have talked about Callahan’s role in play-calling next season.
Phillips’ addition is no surprise. He is the son of former Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips and has been with the organization for six years, starting in 2007 as an offensive quality control coach.
Pollack, 45, joins the Cowboys after spending last year as the Raiders’ offensive line coach. He spent the previous five seasons as the Texans’ assistant offensive line coach, working with All-Pro left tackle Duane Brown and Pro Bowl center Chris Myers.
Pollack began coaching at his alma mater, Northern Arizona, in 2006 as the co-offensive line coach. He is a former sixth-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers (1990) and played for the team for two years and Denver for two years before returning to the 49ers for his final five seasons, including a Super Bowl championship.
The Dallas Cowboys announced the hiring of former University of Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley as receivers coach, making official a move reported two weeks ago.
Dooley, 44, replaces Jimmy Robinson, who spent the last two years as receiving coach for the Cowboys and will remain in the organization as a “senior coaching consultant.” Robinson got credit last year for the development of third-year receiver Dez Bryant.
Dooley coached the last three years at Tennessee, going 15-21, and the previous three years at Louisiana Tech, going 17-20. He coached with Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett with the Miami Dolphins in 2005 and 2006, when Garrett was the quarterbacks coach and Dooley was the receivers coach.
Dooley’s time at Tennessee was highlighted by quarterback Tyler Bray’s 69 touchdown passes and school record for highest completion percentage in a game.
At Louisiana Tech, Dooley took the Bulldogs to their first bowl victory in 30 years when they won the Independence Bowl in 2008.
Dooley was part of Nick Saban’s staff at LSU, serving as recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach for two years and then running backs coach and special teams coordinator.
Dooley started his coaching career in 1996 as a graduate assistant at Georgia. He was a receivers coach and co-recruiting coordinator at SMU for two years after that.
Dooley is the youngest son of former Georgia coach Vince Dooley. He played college football at Virginia, walking on as a receiver and then earning a scholarship. He caught 41 passes for 604 yards and three touchdowns for the Cavaliers.
He has a law degree from Georgia and practiced law for two years in Atlanta before beginning to coach. He is married to Dr. Allison Jeffers Dooley, a Fort Worth native, and they have three children.
Dooley will be the fourth Cowboys assistant coach with head coaching experience. New defensive line coach Rod Marinelli was the head coach of the Detroit Lions (2006-08), new defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was the head coach at North Carolina State (1980-82) and offensive line coach Bill Callahan was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders (2002-03) and the University of Nebraska (2004-07).
NFL MAN OF THE YEAR: Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten wins prestigious Walter Payton and Bart Starr awards
Jason Witten’s offseason of recognition continues.
The veteran Dallas Cowboys tight end was named the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year on Saturday. The award recognizes community service and playing excellence.
The announcement was made during the NFL Honors presentation, which will air on CBS at 9 p.m. Saturday.
Also this week, Witten was presented the Bart Starr Award for outstanding character and leadership in the community, at home and on the field. Last weekend, he made his eighth Pro Bowl game appearance.
“I am extremely flattered to be chosen the 2012 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year from such an esteemed group of nominees,” Witten said in a statement released by the Cowboys. “I work hard every day not only to be a success on the football field and a credit to my team – but to be a good husband, father, son, grandson, teammate, to be the kind of man that is as respected as Walter Payton was.
“Like others before me, I have a great opportunity as an NFL player to make a difference in the lives of others. It is honestly humbling to be recognized in such a manner for simply doing what I feel is right and human. I am fortunate to have a great support system in my family, the Dallas Cowboys and the NFL which allows me to make an impact in the communities and with people who love our game.”
Jarrett and Brittney Payton, the son and daughter of the late Payton, will recognize Witten’s award on the field before the kickoff of Super Bowl XLVII.
Witten, who finished his 10th season last year with the Cowboys, set an NFL record for catches in a season by a tight end last year. Off the field, he has served as the Cowboys’ spokesman for NFL Play 60 and has his own charity, Jason Witten’s SCORE Foundation, which has started many programs and funded building projects in Texas and his native Tennessee.
The Witten SCORE Foundation’s SCOREkeepers program has placed full-time, trained male mentors in six battered women’s shelters throughout Texas in an attempt to stop a cycle of family violence. The foundation’s latest domestic violence prevention program, “Coaching Boys Into Men,” trains high school coaches to educate their players on the dangers of dating violence.
The Witten’s also involve their children in serving a Thanksgiving meal to the clients at the Salvation Army in Dallas, underwrite the Dallas Cowboys Women’s Association’s Christmas of Giving, and Witten’s free football camp in Tennessee draws some 1,200 campers each year.
Recent winners of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award include Matt Birk of the Baltimore Ravens, Madieu Williams of the Minnesota Vikings (2010) and Brian Waters of the Kansas City Chiefs (2009). Seventeen Hall of Fame players have won the award.
All 32 team nominees received a $1,000 donation from NFL Foundation to the charity of their choice. The three Man of the Year finalists received an additional $5,000 donation in their name. As the winner, Witten receives an additional $20,000 donation.
The selection panel was comprised of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, Connie Payton, Pro Football Hall of Fame members Frank Gifford and Anthony Munoz, 2011 winner Matt Birk and Sports Illustrated football writer Peter King.