Monthly Archives: February, 2014

NFL SALARY CAP RAISED: Good news for Dallas Cowboys as cap raised higher than expected

dallas cowboys salary hat - nfl salary cap - the boys are back blog

It’s no secret the Dallas Cowboys have one of the tightest salary-cap situations in the NFL. Some unexpected relief came from the league.

The NFL set the cap at $133 million, instead of the $126.3 million figure that was originally expected.

At $126.3 million, the Dallas Cowboys were projected to be a league-high $31 million over the cap. March 11 is the deadline for teams to slip under the cap.

While the new projection offers the Cowboys a couple million dollars of relief, it doesn’t save them from having to make tough decisions about key players.

The cap is primed to soar even higher in 2015, after money from the league’s new television deals enter the equation.

The cap rise is good news for both teams seeking cap maneuverability and players who now begin to taste the fruits tied to the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011. The structure of the CBA and the timing of the television deals sets the players up well from 2015 to 2020.

COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Jason Garrett’s focus shifting as Scott Linehan takes the offensive reins

COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS - Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett’s focus shifting as Scott Linehan takes the offensive reins

INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett will unquestionably have less input on offense this year, according to owner/general manager Jerry Jones.

Jones said (Watch Video | Play Audio) that was the design last year as well, but it didn’t end up working out as originally planned. The addition of Scott Linehan now means a new offense with new terminology and ideas, allowing Garrett to actually have more of a focus on defense than offense.

As Jones put it, Garrett “won’t have the last pencil down this year” the way he had last year when it comes to the offense.

“He’ll have a lot more time spent on defense than he will on offense,” Jones said. “We want his input on defense.”

Jones said he wants Garrett to work with the defensive staff and use his offensive mind to show how he’d attack a defensive plan.

“His focus on the defense I think is going to make a big difference,” Jones said. “You’ve got Linehan’s head coaching experience, you’ve got Bill (Callahan) with head coaching experience, you’ve got (Derek) Dooley with head coaching experience, you’ve got some great experience.

“And we have the need to see if there are aspects of what we can do offensively that are different than what we’ve been doing over the last six years. We have that need and we’re going to get it. We’re going to get that without throwing the baby out with the bath water.”

Jones reiterated that Linehan will come in with “completely real change” on offense, including different terminology with his scheme.

“He’s got a track record of really zeroing in and building the offense around the talent, the specific talent and qualities of the players,” Jones said. “(Tony) Romo has certain skills and talents and abilities and has very unique mental capabilities on the field. He’ll make it go.”

Jones said Garrett, who coached with Scott Linehan in Miami, has enough confidence in what the new play-caller can bring that he’s willing to step further back and essentially hand over the offensive duties.

But he wasn’t going to pass up on adding Linehan when that opportunity presented itself.

Jones said Tony Romo had “serious discussions” with Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford about Linehan and now has a great feel for Linehan’s imagination and what Linehan can do to maximize players’ skills while bringing flexibility in the scheme within the parameters of the offense.  

He said Romo and Linehan will be locked at the hip and that the most excited person in the Cowboys’ organization about the addition of Linehan was Romo, who will still have a great deal of power within the offense.

“Romo was a tremendous supporter of Bill Callahan, but was absolutely ecstatic over us getting Linehan,” Jones said.

Jones believes Garrett’s learned a great deal and is more season and knowledgeable as a coach after years with the team, but doesn’t mind the idea of having a “lame duck coach.” He said he thinks people can sometimes work stronger without knowing their future and that Garrett has a “high tolerance for ambiguity.”

Even without an extension before the year, though, Jones said the plan is for Garrett to be the coach beyond this upcoming season.

Entering his last year of his deal, Garrett has to hope the changes made pay off quickly. Jones said he believes having the experience of multiple coaches on staff who were once head coaches should benefit Garrett. He said it’s a big deal for Garrett’s future that he gets the experience of working with the coaches around him.

“You know that every time he looks in his players’ eyes that most of those guys right there if they have a bad year or mess up or take an injury, that that’s there year, too,” Jones said. “We are dealing with those kinds of what ifs. But this is the one I’m comfortable with – the status we are in right now with our staff. I like our staff. Jason should know, and I know that he knows, that the plan here has been for him to be long-term, and long-term certainly being beyond this year, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys.”


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Jerry Jones: Jason Garrett’s focus to shift

Jerry Jones spoke about why Jason Garret’s primary focus will be on the defensive side of the ball this season, and what makes him capable to take on that role.

COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Jerry Jones confirms that Jason Garrett, not Bill Callahan, was the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2013

COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS - Jerry Jones confirms that Jason Garrett, not Bill Callahan, was the Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator in 2013

INDIANAPOLIS – Owner/general manager Jerry Jones shed some light today on head coach Jason Garrett’s role in the offense last year, which was greater than expected going into the season. 

Jones said it’s a fact that Garrett was really the offensive coordinator last year, despite Bill Callahan having that title. The Dallas Cowboys entered the year with a plan to lighten Garrett’s offensive load, but that didn’t come to fruition the way they’d planned. 

“That was one of the issues,” Jones said. “It was unfair to Bill, but it was the offense that we’d had since we got there and it was very difficult. That’s why we had such a hard time articulating it early. That’s why we made some of the switches we made during the middle of the season. All of it was just manifested by the fact that it was just very difficult for Jason to get out of that role.”

Jones said Garrett ended up having “the last pencil down all the way through.” The original plan and design for Callahan to call the plays and serve as the play-caller changed, and Jones said Callahan was frustrated and should have been.

New Dallas Cowboys playcaller Scott Linehan - The Boys Are Back 2014

Jones still called Callahan “a hell of a coach” and said he’ll be involved heavily in the offense this year, although the offense will focus around incoming offensive coordinator and play-caller Scott Linehan. 

“There’s a difference when you’re sitting in the room as the head coach and you say, ‘Wait a minute, you put some salt and pepper in there,’” Jones said. “Then, after it’s already been cooked and you’re tasting it outside the room and you say it might need a little salt and pepper. There’s a big difference. One you’re involved in the cooking, and one you’re not. Jason was involved in the cooking last year. That’s just a fact, and everybody knows that, really, or should. That won’t be the case this year, and the addition of Linehan caused that. So it will be cooked.” (Translation: “Too many cooks in the kitchen” … “the main Chef was being burned”)

The explanation can get confusing, and the answers get a little more convoluted when it comes to the play-calling process between Callahan, Garrett, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, and Tony Romo. But the bottom line is Garrett had more say in the offense than originally planned (or publically disclosed), and Jones added that Romo had the final say play-calling say.

Jerry Jones reaffirms his faith in Jason Garrett; Focusing on players - Dallas Cowboys owner general manager Jerry Jones will not fire Jason Garrett

“More importantly than anything, the guy that’s ultimately calling the plays is on the football field, the quarterback, Romo,” Jones said. “He’s the one that’s got the check outs, he’s the one that’s got the ability to decide the run, pass, a lot of options and not just in the red zone and not just in hurry-up, two-minute. Not just there, although he was really predominant in the red zone and really dominant in no-back, that type thing.” (Translation: Tony Romo had veto power over Callahan that may be scaled back somewhat under Linehan)

Jones said last year Garrett felt he needed to have more of a presence on offense than originally planned. So, when did it become apparent that Callahan wasn’t going to be as involved in the play-calling as originally expected?

“That evolved as it went along,” Jones said. “Again, it evolved, but you get in situations during the season that have lesser time to sit back and say, ‘Wait, what are we doing here? How are we doing it?’ And make no mistake about it, it was something that was being discussed, which isn’t uncommon at all, vigorously in the staff rooms.”


Editors comments: Bill Callahan’s title of ‘Offensive Coordinator’ was always in “title only” used to fulfill the NFL rules in regard to hiring procedures. Callahan’s original responsibility (when he was hired) was to coach the offensive line and serve as the OL coordinator as it pertains to the passing and running phases. Last season, this was never Bill Callahan’s offense. As we’ve pointed out many times on The Boys Are Back website (last season), he was assigned the additional responsibility of ‘play-caller’ for Jason Garrett’s offensive game plans in an attempt to delegate a large portion of Garrett’s gameday focus. As the year progressed, changes were made in the way calls were delivered to Tony Romo. The chain of command was shortened (simplified) to a more fluid Box2Garrett2Romo delivery system.

All of this offseason talk about Callahan’s ‘demotion’ is ridiculous. His value to the Dallas Cowboys offense is (and has always been) his coaching of offensive linemen in the zone blocking scheme and also his input into their individual abilities as it pertains to the running and passing phases of Garrett’s system. Callahan is going back to what he does best … coach and consult. In simplified terms, looking ahead into this season, the Dallas Cowboys have a passing game coordinator, running game coordinator, and OL coordinator that help new actual offensive coordinator Scott Linehan formulate an offensive game plan. This will be Linehan’s offense. It will incorporate Jason Garrett’s offensive philosophy. You will see significant similarities (and production) to the Jason Garrett offense you’ve seen in the past. As the team moves ahead, look for a Linehan2Garrett2Romo or a direct Linehan2Romo delivery system to be utilized with this new structure.

NFL SCOUTING COMBINE REPORT: Big O-Line prospects show off amazing speed | Watch 2014 NFL Combine videos

NFL SCOUTING COMBINE REPORT - Big O-Line prospects show off amazing speed - The Boys Are Back website 2014

It’s been a long standing tradition that the offensive linemen kick off the on field workouts for the combine and today that tradition continued (Watch this Video). Of the two groups that worked, Group 2 was the headliner. First-round talents Taylor Lewan, Zack Martin, Jake Matthews, and Greg Robinson were on display for coaches and scouts to evaluate. As a group, they did not disappoint.

Coming into this combine, there were questions who would be the first tackle off the board, whether it would be Matthews or Robinson, with Lewan the third in that group. What we learned Saturday was that all three came to the workout with the intention of making these teams head back to their meetings with some other ideas of that order.

The tackle that appeared to gain the most ground when you studied his workout was Lewan. His 40 yard dash was 4.87 and throughout the drills he was able to perform with some smoothness that we had not seen on tape. You could tell that he prepared for this combine because there wasn’t that stiffness and over-extension. It was a very productive day for him.

Greg Robinson might not have the polish that you see when you watch Jake Matthews work, but you cannot deny the explosive power with which he plays. At 6-5, 332 and carrying that body down the track at 4.91 was jaw dropping. What I really like about Robinson is that despite that size, his movements are like that of a much smaller man. It is almost effortless in which the way he moves.

In watching Jake Matthews, there was no question that he was going to be the best athlete of the group. Where the questions for him are going to arise is in his strength numbers. With only benching 225 24x, there are times

where you do see him struggle with power. If you watch the Auburn game, it is clear. With all that being said, if you needed to have a tackle to come in and play right now, he would be your guy. There was not much of any wasted movement from him during the drills.

Of the centers and guards that were on the field, I thought the guy that helped himself the most was Xavier Su’a-Filo from UCLA. Here is a player that on tape you can watch him play guard as well as tackle. I feel that his best spot will be at guard and there were some athletic movements that gave me some hope that he could be a player that you could plug in there if you ran a zone scheme, he could give you a little power. If there was something that I wasn’t to impressed with him was his vertical jump was only 23″ because that might be a flag for a lack of lower body power but he doesn’t play that way.

A player that a lot of scouts have fallen in love with is David Yankey, but I just don’t see it on tape. He plays like a slow-footed guy and on Saturday, he ran like one. The times I had for him were 5.50 and 5.53. In the drills, he went through them in the same fashion.

Cyril Richardson was another disappointing player to me. I really want to like him but with each rep or game I study, I draw further away from him. He didn’t run all that well but to his credit, he did come in lighter than what he measured at the Senior Bowl where he looked not in his best condition. For a man that should play with more lower body power, his vertical jump of 23.5″ was a disappointment as well. He just didn’t go through the drills with any type of quickness. I feel like he is going to have to play in a scheme where they are a power blocking and that would be his best chance.


More NFL SCOUTING COMBINE 2014 video:

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Numbers On The Board; Fast 40’s

Take a look at the first numbers coming out of the combine with the offensive line and tight ends taking the field in Indianapolis.

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Top Bench Press Performers For OL, TE, & P

See how many bench press reps the offensive lineman, tight ends, and kickers did in Friday’s portion of the NFL Scouting Combine.

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Top D-Lineman & Dallas Cowboys Targets

See what Jadaveon Clowney, Timmy Jernigan, Aaron Donald, Kony Ealy, and Ra’sheed Hageman had to say as they took the stage at the combine.

NEW TWIST ON TEXAS-2 DEFENSE: Rod Marinelli excited about his new role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator

NEW TWIST ON TEXAS-2 DEFENSE - Rod Marinelli excited about his new role as Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator - The Boys Are Back website 2014

INDIANAPOLISRod Marinelli finds himself back in a similar spot, just with a different team.

The former Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach is now also the defensive coordinator. It’s a change he’s both familiar with and excited about, going back to the role same role he had in his previous stop in Chicago.

“I’m really looking forward to it, but it’s all football,” Marinelli said. “I’m excited about the whole thing.”

The promotion for Marinelli, who’s now in charge of the whole defense, likely means an increased role for assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett. Marinelli said he feels like Lett has grown tremendously in their year together, and he believes both Lett and Ben Bloom’s help on the line will alleviate his workload.

He also said a year under his belt in Dallas will help “big time” as he prepares for his new role.

“You’ve kind of got things in place, I think, for the most part,” Marinelli said. “Now you’ve just got to make corrections and add some people and kind of go from there.”

The first place he said he’ll look for help is on the front seven. Given that the Dallas Cowboys probably won’t have much room to add key pieces via free agency given their cap situation, it’s likely Marinelli will look to the NFL Draft to try to get that done.

“We’ve always got to look at the front seven, that kind of drives the whole thing for us,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to add some pieces. I like some of the guys still that were injured last year, Tyrone Crawford, Ben Bass, some of these other guys.”

Crawford figured to be a key piece in the defensive line rotation last year, but he ended up being the first casualty of camp and the first in a snowball effect of defensive linemen going down the rest of the year.

Marinelli said he has to see how Crawford moves coming off his injury before deciding what position the defensive lineman will play, but he still thinks Crawford has the ability to move inside or outside. It wasn’t long after Crawford’s injury that the Cowboys found out they’d lose both Anthony Spencer and Jay Ratliff the rest of the year, forcing them to cycle new linemen on and off the team.

The new defensive coordinator said he tries to look at the positive of every situation, even when it’s not always apparent.

“You have a chance to maybe really become a better teacher through the season,” Marinelli said. “It forces you to really be on the details every week, because you miss things. It’s easy to miss something when you get a guy in on Tuesday and you’ve got to get him ready for Sunday, how to condense your menu, all those things. I kind of looked at that as a positive, and I think we found a couple guys that might be able to help us continually, like George Selvie and Nick Hayden and some of those guys.”

While his focus was on the defensive line, Marinelli still had a chance to speak to and coach other players throughout the season. He said he loves talking to and teaching players, regardless of position, which should help him as he prepares for his more expansive role.

But Marinelli said mentor Monte Kiffin will still be around, helping every step of the way.

“He’ll be in there every day with us, film, working, drills, all of those things,” Marinelli said. “He’s a tremendous resource and a great coach. I’ve got great respect for him.”

It’s important to Marinelli that he’s as detailed and exact as possible in what he’s teaching over and over again to ensure his players know what he demands. When he looks back to last year’s struggles, he said it’s all about the coach and player relationship and execution, and that everyone’s involved in the team’s success, or lack thereof. 

He said another year with the roster and adding more pieces will help the defense. The Cowboys likely won’t be major players in free agency this year, but Marinelli still believes management will bring in enough pieces. He said he’s not concerned with the cap, and he’s more concerned with improving whatever he’s got.

“With me, it all goes back to fundamentals,” he said. “That’s kind of always been my base, and just getting guys to do things right and coaches got to work extremely hard. You’ve got to get more takeaways, those types of things.”

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jason Garrett on new roles throughout his coaching staff | Stephen Jones on why team retained Bill Callahan

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Jason Garrett on new roles throughout his coaching staff - The Boys Are Back blog 2014

INDIANAPOLIS – Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t expect discourse among coaches, nor does he worry about having too many voices offensively after the various changes this offseason. 

Garrett spoke at length today (Watch Video | Play Audio) at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine about the new roles throughout his coaching staff, and he said he values the input each coach can bring.

“We feel really good about that,” Garrett said. “We believe in having good coaches. We have a philosophy on offense, we have a philosophy on defense we believe in. We have good coaches to implement that. We expect them all to work together like we have. We emphasize team so much with our players, it’s the same thing with our coaches. If you have the right kind of guys, they will certainly do that.”

Bill Callahan was stripped of the play-calling duties and will move back to his original role with the team, helping out with the offensive game-plan and coaching the offensive line. The Cowboys made room for Scott Linehan, who will call the plays and move into a role similar to Garrett’s before delegating the play-calling duties last year.

Garrett said the circumstances aren’t much different from how the Cowboys or other teams have operated in the past.

“Scott’s role will probably be very similar to the role I had for a number of years – passing game coordinator, play caller, working with the run game coordinator and offensive line coach,” Garrett said. “It’s been Tony Sparano. It’s been Hudson Houck. It’s been Bill Callahan.

“The situation on offense will be probably very similar to the first year Bill Callahan was here. It’s very conventional and something our guys understand.”

Callahan wasn’t let go, despite other teams’ interest in him as an offensive coordinator and play-caller. Garrett said he values what Callahan can bring as a football coach and said he’s as good a coach as he’s been around. Callahan will move back to working more closely with assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.

Garrett said every decision is made in the best interest of the team and that everyone understands that. Callahan’s coached the offensive line for most of his career, and he thinks that’s a great role for him working alongside assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.

“We’re going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired,” Garrett said. “That’s just something we all have to embrace. It’s going to take a little time to work through that and that’s what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we’ve got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team.”

The addition of Linehan gave Garrett a coach he was familiar with from their time together in Miami in 2005. Garrett said he learned a great deal from Linehan during that time and that the two share a similar offensive philosophy. In addition to his role as play-caller and passing game coordinator, Linehan will also be asked to work with Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in putting the running game and the whole package together in preparation.

“His quarterbacks have always played well,” Garrett said. “He’s had teams where his runners…They’ve been a top five rushing team. He seems to always get a big-play receiver to play very well for him. So we feel like philosophically we are on the same page. We’ve worked together. I understand what he’s trying to get accomplished, how he works day to day, how he calls a game. So for a lot of reasons, we felt this was a really good fit for us.”

It doesn’t sound like the roles will evolve much throughout the year. Garrett said he expects the transition from Monte Kiffin to Rod Marinelli to be a smooth one, given their shared philosophies, and he believes he has the right people in the building on the coaching staff.

“We feel like we have a good idea of what we want to do. we have outlined those by title and by responsibility. We have a clear idea of that. Guys are working together throughout the spring, implementing the plan is an important thing for us. We are in midst of that plan right  now.

Here are some other notes Garrett touched on Thursday in Indianapolis.

  • Garrett still anticipates Tony Romo to be ready for the spring and be involved in “a lot of the stuff we do in the spring with OTAs and on field work.” He said Romo looks good in his rehab.
  • Most of Tony Romo’s energy and attention has gone into rehabbing his back, according to Garrett, but Romo has met with Linehan and had conversations about the season. Linehan’s spending more of his time getting acclimated with the coaches.
  • The future of Jason Hatcher remains in the balance, but Garrett’s not giving up hope in getting the defensive lineman back next year. He praised the work Hatcher did last season and said when NFL free agency starts, he wants the Cowboys to be there for him.
  • Garrett raved about the addition of Mike Pope as the tight ends coach and said he’s as good a coach he’s been around in his career after spending time with him in New York. He also said Jason Witten’s excited about the addition.
  • The head coach reiterated that he was happy with the team’s decision to move back in the first round and believes every one of their 2013 draft picks has a bright future with the team.
  • Linehan also favored the pass in his previous stops, but Garrett said Linehan’s also been around teams that have run well, particularly in Minnesota. He said the offense is stronger up front and the Cowboys have to play to that advantage, giving the team a chance to control the line of scrimmage.


RELATED: Cowboys VP Stephen Jones explains why team retained Bill Callahan

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Stephen Jones on why team retained Bill Callahan - The Boys Are Back website 2014

INDIANAPOLIS — When it was announced that Scott Linehan would be the new offensive play-caller last month, many wondered how Bill Callahan would take the news.

After all, this past season Callahan had handled the role Linehan would now assume. Outsiders saw the move as a demotion, and some wondered why the Cowboys were reluctant to allow Callahan to pursue other opportunities. Requests made by Baltimore and Cleveland to interview Callahan were denied.

“Everybody thinks the world of Bill,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that he gets caught up in the, well, he got something taken away from him or whatever it’s going to be portrayed as. But Bill Callahan is an unbelievable football coach. We just weren’t going to give him up and Jerry [Jones] and I have a great relationship and the coaches have a great relationship with him.

“Everybody wants to go sometimes and try to do what they were doing or whatever. But when we signed him, contracts are two-way streets. They are not just for us to deal with if it doesn’t work out. And Bill is a professional;. Are you kidding me? He is working his butt off. Was he disappointed? Everybody has disappointments. I have had it. I’m sure you have had disappointments. Everybody has them.”

Jones views Callahan as an asset who helped transform the offensive line — the position group he oversees — from a weakness into a strength.

“That offensive line really shaped up and came our way,” he said.

Jones now feels similarly about the staff head coach Jason Garrett has assembled, which now features three men — Garrett, Linehan and Callahan — who have been play-callers in the NFL.

“As I think Jason used the words, I think you have to make sure everybody is in the right seat on the bus to really make the team hum,” Jones said. “I think that’s what we ended up doing. I think we got everyone in the right seat. And obviously added a big one in Linehan. But I really think we have given ourselves, with our staff, a great opportunity to improve.”

2014 NFL COMBINE REPORT: Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones discusses team draft needs, salary cap, and contracts

2014 NFL COMBINE REPORT - Dallas Cowboys VP Stephen Jones discusses team draft needs, salary cap, and contracts

INDIANAPOLIS – Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones doesn’t want to focus on just one spot in the 2014 NFL Draft.

He didn’t deny the Cowboys’ obvious wants and needs on the defensive line, but he said Wednesday that teams get in a lot of trouble by narrowing their scope to just one position when it comes time to draft.

“You start targeting something and drafting for need, we all know that’ll get you in trouble,” Jones said. “It’ll be nice to come out of the draft at some point with a defensive front guy, defensive lineman or two. But no, I don’t think we can just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to take the first two picks and it’s got to be defensive linemen.’ I think you get in trouble that way.”

Jones said he wants players to be graded based on what they deserve, and he’s talked to the scouts about not grading players a certain way based entirely off team needs. He said the team has to fight that natural urge of grading by need. 

He also isn’t worried about getting under the cap, and he doesn’t believe the cap situation makes it impossible to sign Tyron Smith and Dez Bryant to longer deals.

“In some cases, it can help to do deals,” Jones said. “I’d read where someone didn’t understand it, because they said, ‘How did they do (Dan) Bailey? That hurts them this year.’ Well, it didn’t hurt us, it helped us.”

Jones talked at length Wednesday about a variety of other offseason topics as well, from possible restructures to extensions to injuries and scouting. Here’s some notes from those comments.

  • Anthony Spencer’s free agency leaves questions about his future with the Dallas Cowboys, but there’s also questions about his health going into 2014 coming off microfracture knee surgery. Jones said it still remains to be seen how healthy Spencer will be at the start of the year as he works the injury and goes through rehab, but he knows Spencer wants to play.
  • Jones said the biggest misconception about the draft room is that owner/general manager Jerry Jones just “sits up there and out of the clear blue just grabs a guy and says we’re going to take him.” He said that’s not how it works, and generally there’s a consensus about a player.

“We spend millions of dollars in our scouting department and we spend a lot of money on our coaches and everybody has tremendous input,” Stephen Jones said. “I think it’s a good system.”

  • The Dallas Cowboys got a boost earlier in the day by winning the No. 16 pick in a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens, which Jones said can be valuable when trading back based off of trade charts.
  • Jones wouldn’t go into details about specific players’ restructures this offseason, but he said every player must be looked at to see the resources being allocated. He said there are still several scenarios, but he’s comfortable with where the team’s at and knows he still has time to get everything settled.
  • The fifth-year option on Tyron Smith’s contract has to be made by the spring, but Jones said that won’t take any urgency away from potentially getting a longer deal done with the left tackle.
  • Jones said he thought Sharrif Floyd was graded right (2013 NFL Draft) based on his talent, but it’s debatable if he was graded the right way based on the team’s system. The Dallas Cowboys ended up trading back and grabbing Travis Frederick in the first round rather than taking Floyd, who had a first-round grade. Jones said it can be tricky when a team changes a system, and the Floyd circumstances won’t happen again. He knows the team got criticized by some for the move, but he believes they ended up making the right decision based on their defensive system.
  • The Dallas Cowboys are looking at their hamstring problems and how to deal with the situation. He said no one’s happy with what occurred, and the team is looking internally to see how to improve the Dallas Cowboys injury problems. They’re also looking at how past teams have stayed healthy and are considering the age of players, their work habits and the shape they’re in.

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys win coin toss for 16th pick | League’s pecking order officially set

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT - Dallas Cowboys win coin toss for 16th pick - Leagues pecking order officially set

IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys won the No. 16 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft following a coin flip with the Baltimore Ravens.

Team officials held the coin toss at the NFL Scouting Combine, which began Wednesday morning in Indianapolis, Ind. 

The decision gives Dallas a pick in the top half of the first round for the third time in four years — the Cowboys held the ninth overall selection in 2011 and the No. 14 pick in 2012 before trading up to take Morris Claiborne.

Having lost the coin toss, the Ravens will pick No. 17 overall.

Both clubs finished the 2013 season with 8-8 records, but a tiebreaker was needed to determine their draft order. In addition to owning the same records, the teams also had identical strengths of schedule.

The final draft order for the 2014 NFL Draft is now set:

Official NFL Draft 2014 Dallas Cowboys Baltimore Ravens flip coin

1. Houston

2. St. Louis (from Washington)

3. Jacksonville

4. Cleveland

5. Oakland

6. Atlanta

7. Tampa Bay

8. Minnesota

9. Buffalo

10. Detroit

11. Tennessee

12. New York Giants

13. St. Louis

14. Chicago

15. Pittsburgh

16. Dallas

17. Baltimore

18. New York Jets

19. Miami

20. Arizona

21. Green Bay

22. Philadelphia

23. Kansas City

24. Cincinnati

25. San Diego

26. Cleveland (from Indianapolis)

27. New Orleans

28. Carolina

29. New England

30. San Francisco

31. Denver

32. Seattle


RELATED: Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft coin-flip win a sign of flipping the 2013 script

Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft coin-flip win a sign of flipping the 2013 script

IRVING, Texas – Hey, maybe 2014 will be a different story, right?

We’ve already seen one trend bucked, and it happened in Indianapolis of all places: This team won a coin flip – stop the presses!

Last year the Dallas Cowboys couldn’t win a coin flip to save their lives.

For something that is supposed to be 50-50, this team was anything but average when it came to flipping a coin. The Cowboys won just three coin flips all last year. And after the Nov. 3 game against the Vikings at home when they won the toss, the Cowboys didn’t win another pregame coin toss over the last seven weeks.

It doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of the game. Not really, although sometimes it’s nice to have the decision on taking the ball now or in the second half. But if you’re better than your opponent, it doesn’t matter.

This coin toss the Cowboys won in Indianapolis is rather significant, giving the club the 16th pick in the draft over the Ravens, who will select 17th in the first round.

You might say that picking 16 or 17 doesn’t matter much because it’s still in the middle of the first round. And that’s true. However, don’t forget who is running the show and what he likes to do when he gets in that War Room. Jerry Jones becomes “Trader Jerry” when he’s in there and having the 16th pick.

Point values vary when you’re looking at draft charts. Teams often have different values but for the most part, the difference between the 16th and 17th pick is around 50 points, and that’s the equivalent of a late fourth-round pick.

But I went a little deeper into the difference of 16 vs. 17 with this scenario.

Let’s say the Cardinals (20th pick) wanted to move up a few spots. If the Cowboys picked 17, they’d get a high-fourth round pick by swapping picks with Arizona. But at 16, they’ll likely receive a mid-third round pick. Obviously the two teams would have to throw in other picks to even it out since Arizona wouldn’t have a high-fourth, but you get the picture.

Now, history shows picking 17 is better for the Dallas Cowboys, who selected both Mel Renfro and Emmitt Smith at No. 17. They also got Kevin Brooks and Kevin Smith.

The only time they’ve ever selected No. 16 occurred in 1961, when they picked lineman E.J. Holub, who never played for the Cowboys because he chose to play in the AFL with the Dallas Texans/Kansas City Chiefs franchise. Holub is now in the Chiefs’ Hall of Fame.

None of that stuff really matters now. All that matters is how the Dallas Cowboys handle this No. 16 pick.

COWBOYS OFFSEASON INJURY UPDATE: Top Injuries to Watch coming into the Dallas Cowboys 2014-2015 NFL season

DALLAS COWBOYS INJURY UPDATE - 2014 Dallas Cowboys injury report

IRVING, Texas – It’d almost be easier to list the players who stayed healthy than the ones who got hurt during the Dallas Cowboys 2013-2014 season.

The whole laundry list of injuries from last year is too great for only a top 10 list, so let’s narrow it down to the Top-10 Injuries to Watch list.

Players who didn’t make the list but should be noted are Matt Johnson (ankle), Morris Claiborne (shoulder/hamstring), George Selvie (shoulder), and Ben Bass (shoulder).

The entire register of players dealing with injuries is expansive, but these ten top the list.  

10. Doug Free (ankle) – The Dallas Cowboys right tackle had a cleanup surgery on his ankle, a procedure expected to be rather routine.

While Free should be ready for the start of training camp, if not sooner, the Cowboys need him to be as good or even better in 2014. This is the final year of his contract so it’s likely he will be determined to improve as well. But the Cowboys certainly don’t want a relapse of the 2012-version of Free.

9. Dwayne Harris (shoulder) – A cleanup surgery isn’t expected to linger for Harris, who was banged up down the stretch last year. Easily the Dallas Cowboys most versatile player, Harris is a rare triple-threat. There aren’t many players in the league, or even in NFL history who excels like Harris as a punt returner, kick returner and coverage specialist.

Harris’ surgery in January shouldn’t limit him this offseason but considering his importance to special teams, the Cowboys can’t afford any more setbacks. Harris also dealt with injuries to his hip, hamstring and abdomen last year.

2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER - Dallas RG Brian Waters is out for the season; Mackenzy Bernadeau back in lineup - Dallas Cowboys injury update

8. Brian Waters (biceps) – This is an injury to watch simply because it could affect the Dallas Cowboys guard position in 2014. Waters contract expires on March 11th and he might not ever suit up for the team again. Waters is mulling retirement, a stance he has kept since the biceps injury in mid-season last year. Even late in the season, Waters said he hadn’t decided if he was going to retire officially and/or have the biceps surgery. The guard said having the surgery didn’t automatically mean he would play again either.

The improved play of Mackenzy Bernadeau and Ronald Leary down the stretch can allow the Cowboys not to get desperate in signing Waters again. Of course, he’s an improvement over the two, but don’t be so sure he would come back and take Leary’s position. Bernadeau was good enough to keep his job, but that doesn’t mean the Cowboys would turn away Waters and his decorated experience.

7. Lance Dunbar (knee) – Just when he finally saw what Lance Dunbar can do with a few extra carries, it was gone in an instant. The second-year running back suffered a posterior lateral corner and underwent surgery following the Thanksgiving Day win over the Oakland Raiders.

Dunbar’s career-high 82 yards rushing helped the Dallas Cowboys rally for the win. But his speed and elusiveness could be a nice complement to DeMarco Murray’s style. Even despite Murray’s improved play down the stretch which led to a Pro Bowl spot, the Cowboys are counting on Dunbar’s change-of-pace in 2014. 

TOO PAINFUL TO WATCH - Dez Bryant explains why he walked off the field - Dallas Cowboys vs. Green Bay Packers - Dez Bryant remarkable TD touchdown

6. Dez Bryant (back) – Unlike some of the others on this list, Bryant didn’t have a procedure on his back and likely wouldn’t even call this an injury. But chronic back issues have plagued him at times the last two years. He couldn’t finish the 2012 season finale in Washington and his back locked up on him at least twice this past year.

He managed to play through it, which is a positive sign. But a 25-year-old with some back issues, especially considering he is emerging as the team’s best overall player, is reason enough for concern.

5. Anthony Spencer (knee microfracture surgery) – Like Waters, Spencer might have played his last snap with the Dallas Cowboys. He’s a free agent in March and hasn’t suited up since Week 2 against the Kansas City Chiefs – his only game played this past year. Spencer’s knee injury eventually needed microfracture surgery, an extensive procedure that is considered one of the toughest to recover from.

The Cowboys could certainly use some depth at defensive end and if they could get Spencer at a reasonable price, because of the injury, it’s something to heavily consider. His rehab this offseason will be closely monitored not only by the Dallas Cowboys, but other teams that might want to add a talented player, despite the injury risk.

4. Tyrone Crawford (Achilles)We still don’t know exactly where Crawford fits in the new 4-3 defense, but the prevailing logic is he should be able to compete for a starting job someone along the defensive line. He was the first of a plethora of injuries at training camp, and his Achilles’ tear started the domino effect.

Crawford has the frame to potentially work as an inside pass rusher, though they were working him in on the outside when offseason workouts began last year. The roster may dictate that he bump back inside, but wherever he ends up, he figures to be an important piece on defense in 2014.

GOOD BACK .. BAD BACK - DeMarcus Ware back on attack … Dez Bryant attacked by his back - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule Injury Practice Update

3. DeMarcus Ware (elbow) – The veteran pass rusher is scheduled to have surgery on his left elbow next Tuesday (February 18th). This latest procedure doesn’t seem to be too serious. But it’s not the fact Ware is having elbow surgery, it’s more about the volume of the injuries now. They are definitely piling up. He only has two elbows of course, and both of them have been injured.

Ware missed the first three games of his career last season with a quad tear, an injury he says is now fully healed. 

POSTGAME INJURY UPDATE - Dallas Cowboys vs. New Orleans Saints - Sean Lee and Justin Durant expected to miss 3-4 weeks with hamstring injuries

2. Sean Lee (neck)It’s always concerning when the team’s starting middle linebacker, who just earned a significant contract extension, has a neck issue.

Lee’s injury history caught up to him again toward the end of the 2013 season, as he was unable to play in the final three regular season games and still seems to be dealing with the neck pain.

The Dallas Cowboys needed Lee late on a defense that struggled throughout the majority of the season, and they can’t afford for that injury to linger into 2014. That’s an injury that’ll need to be monitored, as Lee, who didn’t get surgery on his neck after the season, continues to rehab.

dallas cowboys qb tony romo kyle orton and coach jason garrett - the boys are back blog

1. Tony Romo (back) – Nothing really comes close. Not only are we talking about the starting quarterback of the team, but also a recurring back injury to a now 34-year-old. How Romo responds from this injury is undoubtedly a major factor in the Dallas Cowboys success for 2014.

Sure, Kyle Orton proved in Week 17 he can be competitive for a game. He had the Cowboys in position to win but threw his team out of contention. Of course, that isn’t something Romo hasn’t done either, so it’s hard to put all of the blame on Orton, who actually played well up to that point in the game.

Still, the Dallas Cowboys need their franchise quarterback healthy. Tony Romo gives this team a chance to win at all times. There aren’t many quarterbacks who could play with the worst defense in franchise history, a below-average running game and still get his team to an 8-8 record.

Tony Romo has been carrying this team on his back for a while. And it finally gave out.


Dallas Cowboys Injury Update Report - NFL Injury Update Report - Dallas Cowboys Injuries update report - button

NFL WRITERS ROUNDTABLE: NFL Free Agent market and Dallas Cowboys money situation | ‘The Box’ | Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2014

Video - NFL WRITERS ROUNDTABLE: NFL Free Agent market and Dallas Cowboys money situation | 'The Box' | Dallas Cowboys Free Agency 2014

Dallas Cowboys beatwriters discuss the upcoming opening of the NFL Free Agency period. They also explain “the box“ when it comes to current players, and why the team needs to open “The Box”.


Duration: 8:07 | Watch Video | Listen Audio


OFFICIAL WEBSITE SONG: Dallas Cowboys – The Boys Are Back In Town (’92)

Official song of The Boys Are Back website–Welcome Dallas Cowboys fans

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The Dallas Cowboys song from 1992 championship season. How ‘bout them Cowboys? Enjoy!

Courtesy: YouTube | DallasCowboysAudio

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Dallas Cowboys can’t let an elite offensive lineman on their draft board slip past them | Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT - Dallas Cowboys can’t let an elite offensive lineman on their draft board slip past them - Jerry Jones

The Dallas Cowboys used a first round pick on an offensive lineman twice in the last three years and it’s possible they could make it three in four years. Yes, the defensive line is the biggest area of concern, but the Cowboys can’t let an elite guard or tackle slip past if they’re the top player on their board. The top o-linemen in this class are Auburn’s Greg Robinson, Texas A&M’s Jake Matthews and Michigan’s Taylor Lewan. All three should be gone by the time the Cowboys are on the clock. But here’s 10 offensive linemen that could be available for the Dallas Cowboys throughout the first few rounds.

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT - Dallas Cowboys can’t let an elite offensive lineman on their draft board slip past them - Zack Martin

Zack Martin, OT, Notre Dame – Doug Free could be a free agent at the end of the 2014 season. Draft Zack Martin (pictured) in May and the Dallas Cowboys could have a bookend to pair with Tyron Smith for a long time.

Morgan Moses, OT, Virginia – A solid starter for UVA over the last three seasons. The 6-6, 325-pound right tackle as seen his stock rise into the first round.

Cyrus Kouandjio, OT, Alabama – Another elite tackle option. One of the top rated prospects coming out of high school, Kouandjio has been Alabama’s full-time starter at left tackle the last two seasons.

Ja’Wuan James, OT, Tennessee – If you want experience, this is your guy. James has started a school record 49 games at Tennessee. He is projected to play right tackle in the NFL.

Antonio Richardson, OT, Tennessee – He played left tackle for the Vols but might be better suited for the right side in the NFL. Richardson has started all 24 games over the last two seasons.

Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State – He has played guard and tackle in college but projects to be a right tackle in the NFL. Mewhort played in 49 consecutive games for Ohio State, starting the final 39.

Seantrel Henderson, OT, Miami – He could be a steal in the second or third round. Henderson’s stock has slipped since telling teams at the Senior Bowl that his suspensions at Miami were because of marijuana use.

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT - Dallas Cowboys can’t let an elite offensive lineman on their draft board slip past them - Gabe Jackson

Gabe Jackson, OG, Mississippi State – He’s considered by some to be the top offensive guard available in the draft. Gabe Jackson (pictured) could quickly upgrade one of the interior line spots for the Dallas Cowboys.

Cyril Richardson, OG, Baylor – A Fort Worth kid who was a two-time All-American, Richardson was a three-year starter for the Baylor Bears. He should come off the board in the second or third round.

David Yankey, OG, Stanford – A two-time All-American that has experience playing left tackle and left guard. He projects as a guard in the NFL and should be among the first few players at that position selected in May.

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Follow the Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014 and 2014 NFL Draft Prospects right here on The Boys Are Back website …

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DALLAS COWBOYS LIVING LEGEND: Former safety Cliff Harris to have football stadium named after him

Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris –He made six Pro Bowls and was named to the All-Decade team for the 1970's. Renfro, Harris the only true safety in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

ARKADELPHIA, Ark. — Ouachita Baptist University has demolished its home football stands to make way for a new structure expected to be in place by next season.

The new stadium will be named for Cliff Harris, who attended OBU and later played in five Super Bowls for the Dallas Cowboys. Harris was present for Friday’s demolition.

The school’s sports information director, Kyle Parris, said the demolition took longer than expected when the stadium’s press box remained intact after much of the rest of the stadium came down. It eventually was dismantled.

A.U. Williams Field dates to 1912 but the seating torn down was erected in the 1960s and 1970s.

DALLAS COWBOYS LIVING LEGEND - Former safety Cliff Harris to have football stadium named after him - The Boys Are Back website 2014

PHOTO: Former NFL Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris, left, and Ouachita Baptist University President Rex Horne walk past the stands at A.U. Williams Field in Arkadelphia, Ark., Friday, Feb. 14, 2014. Part of the stands at the NCAA college football stadium were demolished Friday to make way for construction of a new facility to be named for Harris who played at the school in the 1960s.

DALLAS COWBOYS LIVING LEGEND - Former Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris to have football stadium named after him - The Boys Are Back website 2014

Former Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris drives a power shovel at A.U. Williams Field at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark. Harris, who played for the school in the 1960s, participated in the demolition of part of the stands at the field. A new stadium named for Harris is to be built in time for the 2014 season.

DALLAS COWBOYS LIVING LEGEND - Former Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris - The Boys Are Back website 2014

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Keith O’Quinn promoted to assistant special teams coach | Coaching assistants Turner West and Kyle Valero added to staff

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Keith O'Quinn promoted to assistant special teams coach - The Boys Are Back website 2014

The Dallas Cowboys are adding Turner West and Kyle Valero to the staff as coaching assistants and are moving Keith O’Quinn (pictured) from offensive quality assistant/assistant wide receivers coach to assistant special teams coach.

West is a former graduate assistant at Middle Tennessee State.

Valero was an offensive assistant with the Detroit Lions last year under then offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who is now the passing game coordinator in Dallas. Valero will have a similar role in Dallas under Scott Linehan and help with the wide receivers in place O’Quinn.

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Dallas Cowboys assistant special teams coach Keith O'Quinn - The Boys Are Back website 2014

O’Quinn came to Dallas in 2006 as a pro scout. He left in 2009 to become director of Pro Personnel with the Cleveland Browns before returning to the Cowboys in 2010 as a quality control coach. He has worked with the receivers the past three years as an offensive assistant.

O’Quinn replaces Chris Boniol as the assistant special teams coach under special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.


RIDING INTO THE SUNSET: Dallas Cowboys Special Teams assistant coach Chris Boniol moving on

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Ranking early standouts for Dallas Cowboys top pick

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ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Ranking early standouts for Dallas Cowboys top pick

IRVING, Texas – It’s never too early in today’s NFL to start making wild conjectures about the draft.

Mock drafts pop up every week after the Super Bowl ends from a variety of sources, providing different names and opinions regarding which players will end up with specific teams. It’s only February, so these will get tinkered with throughout the offseason as draft experts learn more and more about each player.

Many of those mock drafts have the Dallas Cowboys landing a defensive lineman, which is understandable given their health at the spot and the pending free agency of Jason Hatcher and Anthony Spencer.

With that in mind, here’s a compiled Top-10 list of the most common names of potential Dallas Cowboys first-round picks.

1) Aaron Donald, Pitt, DT – Probably the most popular choice for the Dallas Cowboys so far, Donald’s quickness and ability to push the pocket and get up field quickly makes him a popular choice in the middle of the first round for Dallas. His lack of height may scare some teams away, but his dominant week at the Senior Bowl and ability to play in a 4-3 defense should attract the Cowboys.

2) Kony Ealy, Missouri, DE – His size at 6-5, 275 pounds means gives him the frame to be a dominant force off the edge. His ability to move inside and outside could also give him some versatility in this 4-3 scheme. If the Cowboys take Ealy, the consensus seems to be that he hasn’t reached his potential and may need some time to develop and tap into that, but the ceiling is high here because of his athleticism. 

3) Calvin Pryor, Louisville, S – If the Cowboys don’t look to the line, Pryor could be the next best choice. He’s got a ton of range and maintains his aggression with the ball in the air. He can cover, and he could be the perfect cover safety to pair with Barry Church, whose ability near the line of scrimmage could be tapped into more fully. But Pryor can still lay the wood.

4) Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama, S – The Crimson Tide defensive back might be the best all-around safety in the class. He had two picks in 2014 and may not rack up interceptions like an Ed Reed type, but he can bring the boom as well as any safety in the class, as most Alabama safeties are known to do. The Cowboys’ shouldn’t have much of an issue with their safeties attacking the line of scrimmage if Clinton-Dix pans out.

5) Louis Nix, Notre Dame, DT – Nix may not fall into the typical mold the Cowboys use on the defensive line and may fit more as a nose tackle for a 3-4 team at 6-2, 345 pounds. He might have trouble keeping his weight down to where he can be a mobile defensive tackle that gets up the field the way Rod Marinelli likes. But the Cowboys could take the chance, in which case he’d fill in as the new 1-technique in Dallas.  

6) Timmy Jernigan, FSU, DT – The lasting image of Timmy Jernigan is going to be him watching, out of breath, on the sideline during crunch time of this year’s national championship game. It was a damning moment for what is otherwise considered one of this draft’s brightest defensive linemen. Jernigan notched 63 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks last year.

7) Ra’Shede Hageman, Minnesota, DT – Hageman certainly stands out from a physical aspect, as he tips the scale at 6-6, 311 pounds. The first-team All-Big Ten selection was one of the standout defensive tackles at this year’s Senior Bowl, along with Donald. Conventional wisdom says Hageman could fit with the Cowboys as an oversized three technique tackle, similar to Jason Hatcher.

8) Dee Ford, Auburn, DE – Ford was another Senior Bowl standout, as he followed his 10.5-sack season at Auburn with a promising showing in Mobile, Ala. Ford is a bit undersized for a 4-3 defensive end, at 6-2, 240 pounds, but he makes up for it with speed. It raises the question of whether he’ll be used in the NFL as a down lineman or a pass rushing linebacker.

9) Zack Martin, Notre Dame, OT – A somewhat surprising target, considering the Cowboys just spent a high draft pick on Travis Frederick. Martin was fantastic at the Senior Bowl as an offensive tackle, though some think he projects as a guard at the next level. Depending on who else is available, the Cowboys could opt to shore up their offensive line for the foreseeable future with another high pick.

10) C.J. Mosley, Alabama, LB – The latest in a long line of dominant Alabama linebackers, Mosley finished the 2013 season with 108 tackles and nine tackles for loss. He was the heart and soul of a dominant Crimson Tide defense, averaging eight tackles per game. One problem is that he plays middle linebacker, the same spot as Sean Lee, but the Dallas Cowboys could surely find a place to use him.

Honorable Mention:
Derek Carr, Fresno State, QB – Probably the most polished of the quarterbacks at the Senior Bowl last month, Carr is following in his brother David’s footsteps to
the NFL. Carr showed some experience and poise in working with other players and media at Senior Bowl practices that showcased his leadership potential. Most agree he isn’t the top quarterback prospect in this draft, but he still figures to be selected early.

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT: Grading game film on Missouri DE/OLB Michael Sam | NFL Draft Prospect 2014

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT - Grading game film on Missouri DE OLB Michael Sam - 2014 NFL Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014

Much has been said and made of Missouri DE/OLB Michael Sam in the past few days. This article focuses solely on what he brings to the field on gameday.

Michael Sam – Missouri – #52 – 6’ 1” – 260 lbs – 4.74

Games Studied: Oklahoma State, Auburn, Texas A&M, Georgia

Sam plays as a defensive end in their scheme and will usually line up on the left side. He worked as an outside linebacker at the Senior Bowl but played as an end during the game.

He shows some initial quickness off the snap and can be a tough guy to block on the move. That said, he doesn’t have much change of direction and is more of a straight line rusher. He will use his hands as he closes down the line and plays with outstanding effort. Sam will try and spin to free himself off blocks and can win matchups with this first move. Often, he will slap hands down to rush and work around a low block and will use his arm over a move inside.

There are times where he will lose the ball on his rush. He had game saving sack in the Cotton Bowl that caused a fumble to seal game. He beat the offensive tackle to the outside, then sharpened the corner to get there. There were also times where he gave ground in the running game. Sam would get wide and does a much better job of playing assignment to find the ball on the read option.

He can retrace his steps and work back to the ball. He fought the fullback block with his hands and worked back to the play. He can play a low block and kept his balance, but didn’t finish with a tackle.

He has trouble when he gets pinned inside and will miss tackles on the move. I have seen him get in position, then bounce off and can cause problems when he gets to the edge. If he doesn’t, then he plays like another guy. He had a sack against Georgia on an inside charge – a nice, quick move that beat the offensive tackle. On the next play, he had a move around the edge and was able to knock the ball out of Aaron Murray’s hand on the play.

He picked up a fumble and ran 20 yards for a touchdown against Georgia. He is one of those players that is not for everyone. If a 3-4 team would draft him, I believe he would be played as a strongside linebacker, but during the Senior Bowl, he didn’t look comfortable at all.

He does have the ability to rush the passer, but he might not be an every down player so you may use him just on third downs. I did not see him slide inside as a nickel rusher, and he is more disruptive when he is on the move.

He will struggle when he gets hooked on blocks in the running game. His effort is outstanding, but he needs to win on first move which at times he has shown the ability to do.


2014 NFL DRAFT PROSPECTS 2014 - 2014 Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014

As of today’s date, Michael Sam is ranked #110 overall and the #11th ranked DE available.

ROAD TO 2014 NFL DRAFT - Grading game film on Missouri DE OLB Michael Sam - 2014 NFL Dallas Cowboys Draft 2014 - The Boys Are Back Draft Ranking

OVERVIEW:

Rated as the No. 75 defensive recruit in the country by ESPN coming out of Hitchcock, Texas, Sam played on both sides of the trenches in high school.

He redshirted in 2009 before entering the rotation the following season and producing 24 tackles, including 7.0 for loss, to go with 3.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.

Sam was again a rotation player as a redshirt sophomore, finishing with 29 tackles, including 3.0 tackles for loss, and 1.5 sacks. He started nine of 12 games in 2012 and finished four on the team with 7.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Sam was named the co-SEC Defensive Player of the year as a senior after leading the conference in both sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (18.0) during the regular season. He joined Jeff Gaylord (1981) as the only Missouri Tigers to win conference defensive player of the year honors. He also was a unanimous first-team All-SEC pick by the Associated Press, and first team by the coaches.

Sam certainly has the production against top competition to intrigue scouts. He’s very quick off the snap, showing the ability to attack off the edge as well as the burst to penetrate through gaps.

At 6-feet-2, 255 pounds, Sam could earn the dreaded ‘tweener label from scouts who may see him as too short for defensive end and a project as a stand-up outside linebacker, pushing the productive defender into the second or even third round.

ANALYSIS:

STRENGTHS: Sports a compact, well-developed frame. Very good initial quickness to explode past offensive tackles and apply pressure on the quarterback.

Uses his natural leverage advantage well, keeping his legs driving to overpower much bigger opponents on the bull-rush, while also mixing in effective rip and club moves to keep blockers’ hands off his chest. Accelerates smoothly and closes in a flash, showing good power for the knockdown and technique to wrap securely.

Considering his size, Sam is surprisingly effective in run defense. Can slip gaps due to his quickness to penetrate and make a big play behind the line of scrimmage and shows good power, knee bend to anchor and create a pile when run at. Good awareness, quickness and balance to recognize and defeat cut-blocks.

Occasionally asked to drop back in this scheme, showing awareness and at least fair fluidity. Active defender who searches the ball and pursues with passion.

WEAKNESSES: Not quite the sum of his parts due to size and flexibility limitations. Does not possess ideal length and therefore, struggles to separate from blockers once engaged. Impressive burst upfield is mitigated by average core flexibility, limiting his ability to turn the corner in one fluid motion.

Only occasionally asked to drop into coverage in this scheme, making his conversion to outside linebacker a true projection, especially given his average ability to change directions.

COMPARES TO: Elvis Dumervil, OLB, Baltimore Ravens – Few undersized pass rushers are capable of beating the odds like Dumervil but he’s the model optimists will point to in projecting Sam to the NFL. Like Dumervil, Sam has an explosive burst and is more powerful than his relatively short frame might suggest.

–Rob Rang (1/7/14

BREAKING OUT OF SHADOWS: Jimmy Garoppolo wants the opportunity to live up to Tony Romo comparisons

BREAKING OUT OF SHADOWS - Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo wants the opportunity to live up to Tony Romo comparisons - 2014 2015 NFL DRAFT 2014 2015

IRVING, Texas – The comparisons will follow Jimmy Garoppolo everywhere he goes.

They started at Eastern Illinois and will undeniably continue when he gets selected in the 2014 NFL Draft out of his specific college and at his specific position. But he’s not bothered when people link or associate him with Tony Romo.

“He set the standard,” Garoppolo said. “It’s up to us and the Eastern quarterbacks and all of the guys who go through there to live to that standard, really. That’s what I tried to do when I was there. There’s a benchmark set.”

Garoppolo doesn’t shy away from that challenge. He accepts, embraces and basks in it. He wants those expectations placed upon him and doesn’t find them unfair.

“I want to live up to that. I want to surpass that, really,” Garoppolo said. “Every quarterback should have that mindset. You want to be the best. You want to go win Super Bowls.”

He’s got to get drafted before he can do any of that, and he’s putting himself in the best position to do so by being as visible as he can to as many eyes as possible. Garoppolo played in the East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 18, where he was named the Most Outstanding Offensive Player, going 9-for-14 with 100 yards and a touchdown in limited action before heading over to Mobile, Ala., for Senior Bowl practices the following week.

BREAKING OUT OF SHADOWS - Eastern Illinois QB Jimmy Garoppolo wants the opportunity to live up to Tony Romo comparisons

The most important part of that Senior Bowl week might have been the practice time, where he worked with NFL coaches (Watch short video) and fielded questions from most teams, scouts and media members. Inevitably, some involved Romo.

Garoppolo won the Walter Payton Award in 2013 after throwing for 5,050 yards and 53 touchdowns and left college with 13,156 passing yards and 118 passing touchdowns in his career. The only other player to win the esteemed award from Eastern Illinois? That would be Romo, who finished his career as the school and conference all-time leader with 85 touchdown passes.

But most of the previous school passing records, once held mostly by Romo and current Saints head coach Sean Payton, now belong to Garoppolo, who set a school record with seven touchdown passes in a win against Illinois State in 2013.

“The surprising thing is Coach Payton actually had more records than Tony Romo, so a lot of people don’t know that, but yeah, a little fun fact for you,” said Garoppolo, who still respects Romo and what the Cowboys’ quarterback’s done for the school tremendously.

He said he’s been asked about a million questions about Romo throughout his career, particularly toward the end when the NFL became more and more of a likelihood, and he continues to answer those questions similarly.

“At first it was pretty cool, now I just kind of expect it,” Garoppolo said. “It’s fun. It’s a great comparison. He’s a very successful NFL quarterback, and that’s what I’m trying to be, so it’s nice to have that kind of comparison.

“The quarterback tradition at Eastern is very well known. I’m just trying to keep it going really and take it to the next level.”

Garoppolo’s all for putting Eastern Illinois on the map, which his famous quarterback predecessors did before and he’s doing now.

“All the publicity Eastern can get – we’re in the middle of Illinois, not too much people live there – it’s nice to get that little extra publicity,” Garoppolo said. “Every little bit counts. It’s a good stepping stone for Eastern, really.”

Before Garoppolo can get anywhere near the level of a Payton or a Romo, though, he’s got a long road ahead to prove himself as an NFL quarterback. He said he’s got to get used to the NFL footwork – the three, five and seven step drops – considering his offense in college didn’t ask much of that from him. He said Eastern Illinois ran the Baylor offense with a focus on fast tempo.

Garoppolo’s open to starting immediately or waiting and getting tutored, depending on when he gets picked. Regardless of when he starts, he knows what he can provide for his future team.

“They’re getting a very passionate, hard-working quarterback – some guy who’s going to be the CEO of the company and lead by example,” Garoppolo said. “The quarterback’s always asked to set the example on and off the field, and I think I do a good job of that.”

He’s been all over the place since his record senior season ended, but he said it was an easy decision to go to the Senior Bowl and not pass that opportunity up. He wants to face the best players and get compared to the best players around him, just as he has with the star quarterbacks who previously attended his school.

Don’t expect a breather for Garoppolo any time soon as he prepares for the biggest year of his life.

“I don’t think I’m going to get one,” Garoppolo said. “After this, I’m going to go back to LA and start training again for the Combine and then the Combine comes and Pro Day comes. It’s a process, but I knew what I was getting into and I’m having fun with it.”


Keep up-to-date with the Dallas Cowboys Draft picks and NFL Draft Prospects right here, on The Boys Are Back website!

THURSDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: NFL Network and CBS will partner on TNF broadcasts in 2014

Thursday-Night-Football will be on CBS and NFL Network - button

Change is on the way to “Thursday Night Football.”

It was announced Wednesday that the NFL will partner with CBS to produce and televise 16 games under the “Thursday Night Football” banner for the 2014 season.

CBS will air eight early-season games before NFL Network takes the baton for eight late-season games leading up to the playoffs. Fourteen games will be played Thursday, with two late-season games taking place Saturday.

All 16 games will be produced by CBS with Jim Nantz and Phil Simms — the network’s No. 1 announcing team — calling Thursday night games. The first eight games on CBS will be simulcast on NFL Network. The agreement is for the 2014 season with an additional year at the NFL’s option.

“NFL Network built Thursday into a night for NFL fans,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Our goal is to bring these games to more fans on broadcast television with unprecedented promotion and visibility for ‘Thursday Night Football’ on CBS.”

What does this mean? Well, “Thursday Night Football” is about to get bigger. Airing eight games in prime time on television’s top-rated network will be a ratings bonanza. Expect to see some premium matchups in those first eight weeks as the brand is established on a new platform. The CBS ratings surge should create momentum when NFL Network takes over in the season’s back end.

Many fans also will be pleased to see the return of NFL football on Saturdays, something that slipped off the grid in recent years. The only real negative on our end? This looks like the end for the Thursday night team of NFL Network’s Brad Nessler and Mike Mayock, who have done quality work for the past three seasons.

NO EXECUTIVE DECISION: Unlikely that Troy Aikman will move into Dallas Cowboys front office any time soon

EXECUTIVE DECISIONS - Unlikely that Troy Aikman will move into Dallas Cowboys front office - The Boys Are Back 2014

IRVING, Texas – It doesn’t appear that Troy Aikman will be in the Dallas Cowboys front office any time soon.

The former Cowboys star quarterback and current television sportscaster’s interest in a front office job has been a topic lately (Super Bowl week rumor related to John Elway’s success after being hired by Denver as the Broncos General Manager), but Aikman quelled some of those notions and mentioned how Dallas would be an unlikely fit if he eventually decides to work his way into a managerial role with a team.

“I answered the question on Sunday and it’s just, ‘Oh, that’s an easy question, that’s an easy story, let’s go ask Troy about this.’ It just continues, and there’s not a story there,” Aikman said Thursday on Sportsradio 1310 and 96.7 FM The Ticket. “As it relates to Dallas, which is where everyone here in the Metroplex goes with it is, ‘Oh, OK, Dallas.’ Well that’s not going to happen in Dallas because of the structure of this organization. I think everybody knows that.”

Aikman said it’s an easy question and story to ask him about a potential move to the front office and a potential general manager job, but he said his comments on that have remained consistent the last two weeks with his thoughts the last 10 years. 

“I think some people maybe hear my comments and they think, ‘Oh, well he thinks he can just step right into a GM role after having been a broadcaster like Matt Millen did,’” Aikman said. “That’s not it at all. In fact, what I have said to many people is that if it were something I wanted to pursue – and I’m not sure that it is and I’m not sure that it’s not – but if it was something I wanted to pursue, now would be the time to start preparing myself for that and get involved with an organization, start learning what has to be learned.”

Before that can happen, he said there are steps that have to be taken. First, the timing has to be right. In addition, he wants to be able to put in the amount of time it would require for him to do his job to the best of his ability.

“I don’t believe there are any shortcuts in anything in life,” Aikman said. “Then the question becomes, well, whenever the timing is right for me to do that, how old am I going to be and how much time do I want to then serve in an apprenticeship-type situation to ultimately go on and do what I’d like to do?

“There’s a lot of factors in there, it’s just, I guess where I could have maybe handled it differently is just said, ‘No, I have zero interest in it.’ But then that’s not being honest. I’ve answered the question as honestly as I could.”

He’s not sure if anything will materialize at this point with him eventually taking a front office position. But any talk of him jumping at a specific job in the near future or him being in talks with a team right now doesn’t appear likely.

With Jerry Jones as the owner, president, and general manager of the Dallas Cowboys and him not relinquishing any of those titles in the near future, and with Jones’ son, Stephen, as the team’s executive vice president, it doesn’t appear likely Aikman’s future in the front office will be in Dallas.

“It’s a little bit like the question every year is, ‘Hey, all right, do you think Jerry the owner should fire Jerry the general manager?’ How redundant is that argument?” Aikman said. “So, it’s a little bit the same way, that nothing like that would happen in Dallas.”

ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL: What it will take for your 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys to reach Super Bowl XLIX

ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Glendale AZ

The Dallas Cowboys haven’t been to the Super Bowl in 18 years. The NFL’s parity driven league allows most franchises to feel like they’re close to the mountain top. After three consecutive .500 seasons, what would it take for the Cowboys to make it to next year’s Super Bowl? Photo: Tom Fox/DMN


Dallas Cowboys linebacker Sean Lee prepares to catch the ball during afternoon practice at Dallas Cowboys training camp - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

1.) Stay healthy. Injuries to Sean Lee, Anthony Spencer, DeMarcus Ware, and Tyrone Crawford greatly reduced the level of talent on the Dallas Cowboys defense. If Dallas can avoid those significant injuries, the defense should be an improved unit in its second year in the Texas-2 scheme.


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys NFL Draft war room

2.) Draft well. With little salary cap space, the NFL Draft will be the best way for the Dallas Cowboys to improve their roster. Gain a quality pass rusher and a playmaking safety this year and the defense should bounce back. Photo: Vernon Bryant/DMN


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys coaching staff changes

3.) Smooth coaching transition. The new job titles held by Rod Marinelli and Monte Kiffin shouldn’t be a significant adjustment, but how Scott Linehan, Bill Callahan, and Jason Garrett operate on offense will be interesting to watch. If all three work well together, Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys offense could be in for a big year. Photo: Vernon Bryant/DMN


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray

4.) Run more often. Callahan didn’t run the ball enough last season and Linehan has a history of calling a pass-heavy offense. The Dallas Cowboys need to average more rushing attempts per game. Photo: G.J. McCarthy/DMN


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys defense must improve

5.) Improve defensively. The Dallas Cowboys finished last in the league, allowing 415.3 yards per game. This group needs to get back to being a Top 15 unit. A second-year in the 4-3 scheme should help. Photo: Louis DeLuca/DMN


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys TE Gavin Escobar

6.) Improve depth. One of the Dallas Cowboys biggest problems has been a lack of roster depth. To be a contender in 2014-2015, Dallas needs major contributions from players like Gavin Escobar (pictured), B.W. Webb, J.J. Wilcox, and Kyle Wilber. The Cowboys also need to add a few key reserves in the middle rounds of the draft. Photo: Vernon Bryant/DMN


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - All NFL teams hope for a little luck

7.) A little luck. Every team needs a few breaks. A few fortunate bounces could be the difference between going 8-8 and 10-6. Photo: Tom Fox/DMN


dallas cowboys cb morris claiborne scores on a 50 yard fumble recovery vs philadelphia eagles - the boys are back blog

8.) Fit the Players. Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne, and Brandon Carr struggled at times transitioning into Monte Kiffin’s scheme. Dallas Cowboys defensive coaches need to modify the scheme to make sure these players bounce back and succeed.


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys coaching must continue to improve

9.) Coaching improvement. Jason Garrett continues to improve as the Dallas Cowboys head coach. With the recent restructuring, 2014-2015 needs to be the year that all of his experiences pay off. Photo: G.J. McCarthy/DMN


ROAD TO THE 2015 SUPER BOWL - What the 2014-2015 Dallas Cowboys need to reach Super Bowl XLIX - Dallas Cowboys distractions and drama

10.) Minimize distractions/drama. Josh Brent (pictured during his trial), Jeremiah Jay Ratliff, and a younger Dez Bryant have all had off the field issues over the past few years. It’s easier to perform well on the field when there aren’t any distractions off of it. Photo: Ron Baselice/DMN

SUPER BOWL XLVIII RECAP: Seahawks victory has feeling of the young 1990’s Dallas Cowboys team

SUPER BOWL XLVIII RECAP - Seahawks victory has feeling of the young 1990’s Dallas Cowboys team

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ — Too much of the discussion in the days leading up to this game had to do with Peyton Manning’s legacy.

Now that another NFL season has come to a close, let’s shift the focus to where it rightfully belongs.

Seattle’s rise.

A young, brash Seahawks team did more than beat Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII. Seattle’s 43-8 victory delivered a message to the rest of the league.

Beware. This isn’t a team catching fire late to win the title as Baltimore did last February. This isn’t the New York Giants or Green Bay Packers slipping into the playoffs on the final day and then beating the odds.

No, this is something different. It has the feel of Super Bowl XXVII in 1993 when the young, brash Dallas Cowboys burst on the scene with a 52-17 win over Buffalo.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII RECAP - Seahawks victory has feeling of the young 1990’s Dallas Cowboys team - Troy Aikman rollout

That was the first of three Lombardi Trophies in four years for the Cowboys. It’s premature to suggest the Seahawks will enjoy that sort of success. But their dominance was sobering.

“It’s all about making history,” Seattle safety Earl Thomas said. “This was a dominant performance from top to bottom.”

Seattle has been building for this moment ever since head coach Pete Carroll arrived four years ago. The Seahawks are young, fast, and deep on defense. They have a quarterback of poise and leadership beyond his years in Russell Wilson, a hammer for a running back in Marshawn Lynch, and a refusal to accept the limitations of inexperience.

Not one player on the Seattle roster appeared in a Super Bowl before Sunday’s game. The last team to make that claim was Buffalo in ’90.

Unlike that franchise, the Seahawks came away champions.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII RECAP - Seahawks victory has feeling of the young 1990’s Dallas Cowboys team - Metlife Stadium

“This is an amazing team,” Carroll said. “It started a long time ago, I’m talking four years ago. They never took a step sideways or backward to get to where they are now.

“These guys would not take anything other than winning this game. They didn’t think anything else would happen.”

It quickly became evident that nothing other than a Seattle win would be the outcome. The Seahawks defense came up with a safety 12 seconds into the game. Two plays later, on a crossing pattern to Demaryius Thomas, safety Kam Chancellor leveled the Denver receiver with a hit that registered on the Richter scale.

“All of my teammates came up to me and said that set the tone,” said Chancellor, the man who puts the boom in the defense’s Legion of Boom moniker.

Seattle controlled the ball for 14:41 of the first 18 minutes on its way to a 15-0 lead. The Seahawks later added a 69-yard interception return for touchdown by linebacker Malcolm Smith, the game’s Most Valuable Player, and opened the third quarter with an 87-yard kickoff return for touchdown by Percy Harvin.

About that time, the audience for Downton Abbey on PBS experienced a significant spike.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII RECAP - Seahawks victory has feeling of the young 1990’s Dallas Cowboys team - Downton Abbey

Injuries sidelined Harvin for all but 19 snaps during the regular season. The receiver rewarded the organization’s patience with that kickoff return and by leading the team in rushing with 45 yards on his two end-around runs.

“I was finally able to give my team something for four quarters,” Harvin said. “That meant a lot to me.”

This game was supposed to represent an intriguing clash of styles. It never did because Seattle’s No. 1 defense smothered Manning and the No. 1 offense of the Broncos.

The Seahawks forced four turnovers and held the Broncos’ high-octane offense to one meaningless touchdown once the lead ballooned to 36 points.

Yes, what happened Sunday was unexpected on several fronts. That doesn’t mean the Seahawks lacked faith. When the season got underway Wilson told his teammates, “Hey, why not us?”

Why not?

“We’re not sleeping tonight,” Carroll said of the impending celebration. “We’re staying up all night.”

There will be lot of sleepless nights around the NFL in the months and years to come figuring out how to compete with this young, brash Seattle team.

SUPER BOWL XLVIII RECAP - Seahawks victory has feeling of the young, brash 1990’s Dallas Cowboys team

VALLEY RANCH RESTRUCTURED: Expect Dallas Cowboys coaching changes to bring aggressive, attacking style on both sides of the ball

Here’s what to expect from the 2014 restructuring of the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff:

VALLEY RANCH RESTRUCTURED: Expect Dallas Cowboys coaching changes to bring aggressive, attacking style on both sides of the ball - Ben Bass

The differences with Rod Marinelli as the defensive coordinator

Many so-called experts believed that the switch to this 4-3 defense was going to be good for all the pieces that Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett had on this roster.

Nothing against George Selvie, Nick Hayden and what appeared to be the cast of thousands that played along the defensive line this past season. They were not what these defensive coaches believed they had before they went to Oxnard. Rod Marinelli and Leon Lett were outstanding in what they were able to do with the group that Jones and Will McClay assembled.

What you will see from Marinelli that you didn’t see from Monte Kiffin is playing more to the strengths of your personnel. Marinelli and the other coaches were not going to step on the toes of Kiffin and what he wanted to do scheme wise, that just was not their style.

You will see a more aggressive approach from Marinelli when it comes to attacking offenses. His defenses while he was with the Bears, were this way. His front seven played a huge role in how he called the game. You will still see some two deep schemes but you will see even more of the single high packages that they went to in the second half of the season in Dallas. Kiffin was more willing to sit there and play sound than he was to come after an offense. This is where Rod Marinelli was be totally different.

VALLEY RANCH RESTRUCTURED: Expect Dallas Cowboys coaching changes to bring aggressive, attacking style on both sides of the ball - Lance Dunbar

Changes with Scott Linehan as the new offensive play caller

The hiring of Scott Linehan as the offensive player caller for the Dallas Cowboys did catch many by surprise. Once Jason Garrett came out after the bye week and said that he would be the coach relaying the play call to Tony Romo, it signaled the end of Bill Callahan in that role.

At that point, some believed Garrett was coaching for his job and by taking over that role, he was trying to save it. 

What Linehan can bring to the table is a scheme that will get Dez Bryant even more involved in the offense. During his NFL career, Linehan has made it a point to make the “X” receiver the focus of the passing game. We all witnessed firsthand what Calvin Johnson was able to accomplish with Linehan as the play caller.

What Garrett and Callahan were able to do later last season was move Bryant around to create some matchup opportunities which Linehan should build on. There were times during the Lions games where you observed Johnson playing out of the slot and with effectiveness.

We should also appreciate what Linehan was able to do with Reggie Bush in the backfield. There were creative ideas of where to line him up and how to get him the ball in space. That’s not to say that Lance Dunbar is Reggie Bush but the thought of what he can do with a loose-play running back is inviting.

Scott Linehan has moved the ball wherever he has coached and with this offense at key positions, he should once again have that opportunity. 

SACKED FOR FIFTH TIME: Dallas Cowboys living legend Charles Haley again denied induction into NFL Hall of Fame

Charles Haley won’t be included in NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2014 - The Boys Are Back

IRVING, Texas – Once again, Charles Haley’s been left out of the latest Hall of Fame class.

This marked the fifth year Haley, who’s the only player in NFL history with five Super Bowl rings, was a Hall of Fame finalist without getting in. Michael Strahan, Andre Reed, Walter Jones, Derrick Brooks, Aeneas Williams, Claude Humphrey and Ray Guy all were named into the Class of 2014.

Haley ranks 12th in Cowboys history with 34 sacks and had 100.5 for his career.  He would have been the 13th former Cowboys player who accrued at least five years with the team to be named to the Hall of Fame.

Haley, who was the NFC Defensive Player of the Year twice in his career, joined the Cowboys in 1992 in a trade from San Francisco. Many believe Haley was the difference-maker on defense to put the team over the hump. Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin were already in place and leading a high-octane offense, but it was Haley’s presence that added a needed piece.

The converted defensive end had six sacks in his first season but played a big role in the Cowboys having the No. 1 ranked defense in the NFL in 1992. In Super Bowl XXVII, Haley made a game-changing play when he sacked Bills quarterback Jim Kelly and forced a fumble, which was recovered in midair by Jimmie Jones for a touchdown. The Cowboys eventually pulled away for a convincing 52-17 win.

Haley had four sacks in 1993 but his most memorable moment came after a Week 2 loss to Buffalo, which dropped the Cowboys to 0-2. Haley emphatically slammed his helmet through a locker room wall at Texas Stadium and voiced his anger in the Cowboys’ not having signed Emmitt Smith, who was two games into a contract dispute with Jerry Jones and the organization. Haley’s comment, “We can’t win with a rookie,” in reference to Smith’s backup Derrick Lassic, might have been the final straw as the Cowboys and Smith came to terms the next week. Smith went on to have an MVP season and the Cowboys won another Super Bowl.

The Cowboys went back to the No. 1 defense in 1994 and Haley had his first double-digit sack season with the club with 12.5, including four in the season opener in Pittsburgh.

Haley had 10.5 sacks in 1995, battling through a bad back all season. He had a sack against the Steelers in Super Bowl XXX, which helped him earn his league-best fifth Super Bowl ring.

In three Super Bowls with the Cowboys, Haley had 2.5 sacks and he had 4.5 sacks in his five Super Bowl games played


RELATED: Charles Haley won’t be included in NFL Hall of Fame Class of 2014

SACKED FOR FIFTH TIME - Dallas Cowboys living legend Charles Haley denied his induction into NFL Hall of Fame - The Boys Are Back 2014

NEW YORK – Charles Haley’s wait continues.

The fifth time was not the charm for the former Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman, who again was denied entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Derrick Brooks, Walter Jones, Andre Reed, Michael Strahan, Aeneas Williams, Ray Guy and Claude Humphrey form the Class of 2014, announced Saturday night. Brooks and Jones earned enshrinement as first-year eligible candidates, and Strahan made it after missing last year in his first year of eligibility.

Williams and Reed have waited longer, with Reed in his ninth year of eligibility and Williams in his fifth. Guy, the first punter to earn induction and only the second true specialist, and Humphrey were seniors nominees.

The seven-man class will be enshrined in Canton this summer.

The 46 selectors met for a record 8 hours, 59 minutes, with Haley’s discussion taking 25 minutes. Discussion on Tony Dungy lasted 47 minutes, the longest of the day, with Brooks taking only 10 minutes.

Haley made the cut to 10, but he, Jerome Bettis, Kevin Greene, Marvin Harrison and Will Shields were eliminated in the reduction to five. Morten Andersen, Tim Brown, Eddie DeBartolo Jr., Tony Dungy and John Lynch were eliminated from consideration in the first reduction ballot from 15 to 10.

Haley, whose final retirement came following the 1999 season, has been eligible for enshrinement for 10 years. In that time, he has watched seven teammates inducted into the Hall of Fame.

It had seemed this might be Haley’s year.

He remains the only player with five Super Bowl rings, winning two with the San Francisco 49ers and three with the Cowboys.

Haley’s teams went 153-66, including 19-6 in the postseason. Only once in 12 regular seasons did his team have a losing record. That was in 1999 after he had retired and then unretired.

His teams won 10 division titles, and he played in seven NFC Championship Games. His teams missed the playoffs only twice.

LOOKING FOR SOUTHERN COMFORT: Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips | The NFL’s fine line between success and failure

Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl XXX ring - closeup

IRVING, Texas – Here is the downside of the needle on this record getting stuck … 8-8 … 8-8 … 8-8 … or having now gone four consecutive years without a playoff appearance; or 18 straight seasons without a Super Bowl appearance, five longer than the previous longest 13-year drought in franchise history, between the 1979 season and 1991; or now also 18 consecutive seasons without having appeared in at least an NFC Championship Game, twice as long as the previous longest drought in franchise history, between 1983 and 1991:

No matter what you do, what decisions you make, you automatically are dead wrong in the court of public opinion until proven right, especially when you’ve been such a proud and successful franchise for the majority of these 54 seasons.

Parody brings disparity

Ask Denver. The Broncos are returning to the Super Bowl for the first time in 15 seasons after going back to back in 1997-98. Miami hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since 1984. Chicago finally returned after the 2006 season, its first appearance since the Bears won their only Super Bowl in 1985. The 49ers went back to the Super Bowl last year for the first time since 1994. Washington? Geesh, don’t even ask, 23 seasons ago. Minnesota, not since the 1976 season.

And this might be the saddest of all, Kansas City, the franchise playing in Super Bowl I, losing to the Green Bay Packers, hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since the Chiefs won their lone Super Bowl following the 1969 season.

No, this is not meant for you to find a little southern comfort in other people’s misery, seeing that this will be yet another miserable Super Bowl Sunday for Dallas Cowboys fans, having to watch Seattle take on the Broncos at MetLife Stadium.

This is to provide you some facts to those seemingly pulling their hair out over the Cowboys promoting Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and hiring Scott Linehan as the pass-game coordinator/offensive play-caller, moves being panned and mocked because of this purported “dysfunction” crippling these Cowboys.

Now, this is not to say every move the Cowboys have made over these past 18 years has been right, far from it. But to just point out past failures doesn’t automatically deem every move they now make dead wrong. So, lets throw out some facts, just pure facts, as you are out shopping for chips and dip, and ordering your chicken wings for Super Sunday.

Defense brings Championship hope

Defense first, and this probably comes with less contention. The Dallas Cowboys finished dead last in total defense this 2013 season, meaning 32nd, and this is the first time in franchise history they have finished dead last defensively since that 13th-place finish in the 13-team NFL of 1960, their inaugural season, and the absolute worst finish since landing 13th out of what was then a 14-team NFL in 1963.

This, though, comes on the heels of last year’s 19th finish, which had matched the second-lowest defensive ranking since finishing 20th during the 1-15 season of 1989 – the Cowboys finishing 23rd during the 6-10 season of 2010 that got Wade Phillips fired after a 1-7 start.

Look, defense matters – a lot. Ask Seattle, right, and the Seahawks will be in big trouble if they don’t hold Denver to no more than, oh, 20 points come Sunday. And to further illustrate just how poorly the Cowboys have performed defensively over the past two seasons, think about this: From 1964 through the 1979 season, that is 16 consecutive years, the Cowboys finished in the top 10 defensively … every single season. Top 10!

This, too, is overshadowed with memories of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith et al: From 1992-1997, the Cowboys owned Top 10 defenses, and were No. 1 in 1992 and 1994.

Understood that injuries do matter, and injuries ravaged the Dallas Cowboys defense the past two seasons. I mean, come on, having to play 20 different defensive linemen in the same season while trying to figure out how to compensate for the injury losses of Anthony Spencer, Tyrone Crawford, Jay Ratliff, and Ben Bass, and then the combined four games missed by DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher, not to mention their limited ability in several more.

The pitiful run defense surely illustrates these losses, the Cowboys finishing 24th against the run after being 23rd in 2012. Those two years are the absolute worst rankings since finishing 31st against the run in 2000. And get this, the absolute worst back-to-back seasons playing the run since … 1960 and 1961, finishing last in ’60 and 12th out of 14 in ’61.

Still, face it, putting Rod Marinelli in charge is the right move, yet not sure why everyone wants to just throw Monte Kiffin to the curb. His experience won’t hurt anything having him still around, especially since he would have gotten paid for this 2014 season anyway. Might as well get what you can out of him.

Defense of the Offense

OK, now the offense, and again just the facts.

The Dallas Cowboys finished 16th offensively this season, their lowest ranking since checking in at No. 30 during the third consecutive 5-11 season of 2002 (29th and 25th were the offensive rankings those other two 5-11 years). This after finishing an impressive sixth in 2012.

In fact, since Jason Garrett took over the offense and play-calling in 2007, simultaneously with Tony Romo becoming the fulltime starting quarterback, the Cowboys offensive rankings had been 3rd, 13th (but 2nd rushing), 2nd, 7th, 11th and 6th. And a passing game that was third last season fell to 14th in 2013.

Oh, there is this argument in defense of this offense: But the running game was much better. Well, feint praise since the Cowboys would have been hard-pressed to be worse than last year, the 1,265 yards (31st) the franchise’s absolute worst since the 1,049 gained in the 12-game inaugural 1960 season. So, yes, rushing for 1,507 yards in 2013 is an improvement.

Yet, that too comes with a but: But the 1,507 rushing yards then became the second-lowest rushing total since rushing for 1,500 yards in 1990, and that got offensive coordinator David Shula fired after two seasons. In fact, since the NFL went to a 16-game season in 1978, only three times have the Cowboys rushed for fewer than 1,507 yards in a season: Of course in 2012 and 1990, along with 1,409 in 1989, again that 1-15 season.

Making the ball balance

Funny how there have been complaints all season long about the Cowboys’ inability to create offensive balance, how the Dallas Cowboys didn’t get the ball to Dez Bryant enough and how the Cowboys didn’t throw down the field enough. But then Garrett makes a change in play-caller and it’s as if he’s lost his ever-lovin’ mind.

Also, if you remember, when the Cowboys hired Bill Callahan in 2012 as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach, it was not to call plays but to improve a struggling offensive line, which he and Frank Pollack have done wonderfully over this two-year span. And that the Cowboys have retained Callahan with at least a year left on his contract, while not allowing him to leave for a lateral move with another team, is not unprecedented.

Remember, back in 2006 Bill Parcells kept offensive line coach Tony Sparano as the run-game coordinator when Sean Payton tried to take him to New Orleans as his offensive coordinator. And you know what, that same year Miami blocked Jason Garrett, its quarterbacks coach, from going with Scott Linehan to St. Louis as his offensive coordinator.

Oh, and as for the “too many cooks in the kitchen” argument, do you remember back to 2005 when Payton was the pass-game coordinator and Sparano was the run-game coordinator, but were you ever sure if they were calling the plays or if Bill Parcells was? In fact, Parcells did the same thing in 2006 after Payton left for New Orleans, Sparano the run-game coordinator and Todd Haley the pass-game coordinator, yet it still seemed as if Bill was calling the plays.

Or as Cowboys COO Stephen Jones told Chris Mortensen of ESPN the other day, “Half the time, you couldn’t tell who was going to call plays under Bill any particular week – it could be Tony Sparano, it could be Sean Payton or it could be Bill himself,” with most of us taking Door No. 3 in that scenario.

“In this instance, Linehan and Garrett have a good history together, they’ll be on the same page, and it will still allow Jason to grow where we want him to grow as a head coach.”

The fine line between success and failure

You know the weird thing about all this? You would have thought a team with an epically poor defense and declining offense, one changing defensive coordinators and bringing in a new offensive play-caller, would have finished like 4-12 or worse. Yet the Cowboys finished 8-8, losing five of those eight games by a grand total of eight points, though that probably doesn’t make a whole lot of folks – especially the Cowboys themselves – feel any better.

It’s not always in the math

This probably won’t either. But if you combine the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive rankings – 16 and 32 – they total 48. Only one other team had a higher combined total, Jacksonville coming in at 58 (31 and 27). And yes, the Jags finished 4-12. The Cowboys then tied Miami for the second-highest total.

Tops? That was New Orleans at 8, fourth offensively, fourth defensively. Next Cincinnati at 13, then Seattle, Arizona and Houston (go figure) tied at 18. Denver’s combined number by the way was 20, (1st and 19th).

Again, as promised, just the facts, no compounded hysteria over past failures, or hollow criticism of these recent coaching moves because, well, that’s what you’re supposed to do with these Dallas Cowboys until …the math works in their favor!

Chips and dips instead of Super Bowl trips

So just maybe give some pause to any or all of this come tomorrow … Super Sunday … while chomping on your nachos.

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