TIPPING THE BALANCING ACT: New playcaller Scott Linehan was pass heavy in Detroit because he had to be | Dallas Cowboys roster may allow Linehan to attack all parts of the field

POINT AND COUNTERPOINT - Dallas Cowboys playcaller Scott Linehan was pass heavy in Detroit because he had to be - Video

Former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl ‘Moose’ Johnston commented on the team’s recent coaching change regarding playcaller Scott Linehan …

Daryl Johnston: When Scott was in Detroit, Scott had a tendency to be very, very pass heavy with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson. But I think you go back and watch them this year. When he had Reggie Bush and when he had Joique Bell – we did a Detroit game late in the year – it was fun to see him starting to come back. He just didn’t have the running game there. I think people have to be careful – when you go back and look at the history of how Scott called the games in Detroit – understand that they didn’t have to running game to lean on. They were very, very one dimensional because they had to. I think it’s going to be fun seeing how he transitions in now, having a team that has a good running back behind him. I think the offensive line is going to take another step next year.

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TIPPING THE BALANCING ACT: Now, Linehan can truly attack all parts of the field

TIPPING THE BALANCING ACT - Now, as the Dallas Cowboys playcaller, Scott Linehan can truly attack all parts of the field

In 2012, the Dallas Cowboys offense was out of whack. The rushing attack had no teeth, accounting for 1,265 yards, the lowest total recorded during a 16-game season in franchise history. To move the ball, Dallas relied predominantly on Tony Romo. He attempted the most passes and threw for the most yards in team history.

Still, Dallas didn’t feature the most unbalanced offense in the league that season. Detroit, under the direction of offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, did.

Less than two years later, Linehan has been hired by the Dallas Cowboys. He will take over the play-calling role that offensive coordinator Bill Callahan assumed last season. The Cowboys have retained Callahan, who often faced criticism for cramming pass plays into his game plans while ignoring the ground game.

Callahan was ripped in the aftermath of a close victory over a dreadful Minnesota team last November, when Romo threw 51 times and the Dallas Cowboys executed eight called running plays. A month later, Callahan was identified as scapegoat after Dallas managed to surrender a 23-point advantage and lose to Green Bay. The historic collapse happened, in part, because the Cowboys attempted three times as many throws as runs in the second half, allowing for time to be preserved as its lead disappeared.

“We have to be more balanced,” Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said last year.

It was a common refrain — one that he repeated in September, November and December.

But will Linehan help restore equilibrium to the Dallas Cowboys offense?

During any of his five seasons in Detroit, the Lions never ran the ball more than 40.4 percent of the time. Former Highland Park standout Matthew Stafford and All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson were the primary engines of the Lions’ offense. In nine of the 16 games he started in 2013, Stafford threw 40 or more passes. Johnson, meanwhile, was targeted 156 times — the ninth-highest total in the league. Leaning on Stafford and Johnson, Linehan proved aggressive in his play-calling. Stafford attempted 56 passes of 21 or more air yards last season. Romo, meanwhile, threw 42.

Under Callahan’s supervision, the Dallas Cowboys were reluctant to stretch the field vertically. Linehan has never been hesitant to do that. When he was hired as the offensive coordinator in Miami and served on Nick Saban’s staff with Jason Garrett in 2005, Linehan proclaimed he wanted the Dolphins to throw downfield.

“It’s fair to say there’s going to be some deep threat incorporated into every read,” Linehan told the Palm Beach Post then. “The coverage will dictate where the ball goes. But we’re going to attack all parts of the field.”

A quarterback at Idaho, Linehan’s allegiance to the pass was established under Dennis Erickson, who popularized the one-back offense. In his first NFL stop, with Minnesota, Linehan showed his commitment to throwing the ball by maintaining the strong connection between Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss. From 2002-04, when he was the offensive coordinator, the Vikings finished in the top 10 in offensive points scored. During Linehan’s first NFL campaign, Minnesota also had the top rushing attack in the NFL.

The Lions’ best running game during his tenure was ranked 17 in the league as Linehan presided over an offense that, at times, was more unbalanced than the Dallas Cowboys.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Scott Linehan’s offenses

At each of his coaching stops as offensive coordinator (OC) or head coach, Scott Linehan’s offenses have passed more than they ran. The rundown:

Year

Team

Job Title

Run pct.

Rank

Pass pct.

Rank 

2002

Minnesota

OC/QBs

43.8

15

56.2

18

2003

Minnesota

OC/QBs

46.7

12

53.3

21

2004

Minnesota

OC/ QBs

39.3

28

60.7

5

2005

Miami

OC

43.3

19

56.7

14

2006

St. Louis

Head coach

39.8

28

60.2

5

2007

St. Louis

Head coach

39.4

26

60.6

7

2008

St. Louis

Head coach*

42.5

21

57.5 

12

2009

Detroit

OC

39.4

27

60.6

6

2010

Detroit

OC

38.0

28

62.0

5

2011

Detroit

OC

33.6

32

66.4

1

2012

Detroit

OC

33.7

32

66.3

1

2013

Detroit

OC

40.4

19

59.6

14


Editors comment: Yes, historically Scott Linehan leans towards the pass. With Tony Romo, and this core of Dallas Cowboys receivers, this is not necessarily a bad thing. The ratios above are not as important as Linehan’s aggressive style and philosophical compatibility with Jason Garrett regarding attacking all parts of the field. Garrett repeated stated his desire to establish and maintain a run threat during the 2013 season. If Linehan can build 25-30 runs into each 2014-2015 gameplan, the Cowboys can achieve 20 or so runs per game. This allows for Romo audibles and pre-snap kills … based on coverage shown by opposing defenses. The key, is remaining in a run threat formation … regardless of Romo’s preconceived, intended, or emerging target during each snap. With DeMarco Murray and this young emerging offensive line, it’s fair to expect more balance in the upcoming season.

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