DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jason Garrett on new roles throughout his coaching staff | Stephen Jones on why team retained Bill Callahan
INDIANAPOLIS – Head coach Jason Garrett doesn’t expect discourse among coaches, nor does he worry about having too many voices offensively after the various changes this offseason.
“We feel really good about that,” Garrett said. “We believe in having good coaches. We have a philosophy on offense, we have a philosophy on defense we believe in. We have good coaches to implement that. We expect them all to work together like we have. We emphasize team so much with our players, it’s the same thing with our coaches. If you have the right kind of guys, they will certainly do that.”
Bill Callahan was stripped of the play-calling duties and will move back to his original role with the team, helping out with the offensive game-plan and coaching the offensive line. The Cowboys made room for Scott Linehan, who will call the plays and move into a role similar to Garrett’s before delegating the play-calling duties last year.
Garrett said the circumstances aren’t much different from how the Cowboys or other teams have operated in the past.
“Scott’s role will probably be very similar to the role I had for a number of years – passing game coordinator, play caller, working with the run game coordinator and offensive line coach,” Garrett said. “It’s been Tony Sparano. It’s been Hudson Houck. It’s been Bill Callahan.
“The situation on offense will be probably very similar to the first year Bill Callahan was here. It’s very conventional and something our guys understand.”
Callahan wasn’t let go, despite other teams’ interest in him as an offensive coordinator and play-caller. Garrett said he values what Callahan can bring as a football coach and said he’s as good a coach as he’s been around. Callahan will move back to working more closely with assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
Garrett said every decision is made in the best interest of the team and that everyone understands that. Callahan’s coached the offensive line for most of his career, and he thinks that’s a great role for him working alongside assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack.
“We’re going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired,” Garrett said. “That’s just something we all have to embrace. It’s going to take a little time to work through that and that’s what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we’ve got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team.”
The addition of Linehan gave Garrett a coach he was familiar with from their time together in Miami in 2005. Garrett said he learned a great deal from Linehan during that time and that the two share a similar offensive philosophy. In addition to his role as play-caller and passing game coordinator, Linehan will also be asked to work with Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in putting the running game and the whole package together in preparation.
“His quarterbacks have always played well,” Garrett said. “He’s had teams where his runners…They’ve been a top five rushing team. He seems to always get a big-play receiver to play very well for him. So we feel like philosophically we are on the same page. We’ve worked together. I understand what he’s trying to get accomplished, how he works day to day, how he calls a game. So for a lot of reasons, we felt this was a really good fit for us.”
It doesn’t sound like the roles will evolve much throughout the year. Garrett said he expects the transition from Monte Kiffin to Rod Marinelli to be a smooth one, given their shared philosophies, and he believes he has the right people in the building on the coaching staff.
“We feel like we have a good idea of what we want to do. we have outlined those by title and by responsibility. We have a clear idea of that. Guys are working together throughout the spring, implementing the plan is an important thing for us. We are in midst of that plan right now.
Here are some other notes Garrett touched on Thursday in Indianapolis.
- Garrett still anticipates Tony Romo to be ready for the spring and be involved in “a lot of the stuff we do in the spring with OTAs and on field work.” He said Romo looks good in his rehab.
- Most of Tony Romo’s energy and attention has gone into rehabbing his back, according to Garrett, but Romo has met with Linehan and had conversations about the season. Linehan’s spending more of his time getting acclimated with the coaches.
- The future of Jason Hatcher remains in the balance, but Garrett’s not giving up hope in getting the defensive lineman back next year. He praised the work Hatcher did last season and said when NFL free agency starts, he wants the Cowboys to be there for him.
- Garrett raved about the addition of Mike Pope as the tight ends coach and said he’s as good a coach he’s been around in his career after spending time with him in New York. He also said Jason Witten’s excited about the addition.
- The head coach reiterated that he was happy with the team’s decision to move back in the first round and believes every one of their 2013 draft picks has a bright future with the team.
- Linehan also favored the pass in his previous stops, but Garrett said Linehan’s also been around teams that have run well, particularly in Minnesota. He said the offense is stronger up front and the Cowboys have to play to that advantage, giving the team a chance to control the line of scrimmage.
RELATED: Cowboys VP Stephen Jones explains why team retained Bill Callahan
INDIANAPOLIS — When it was announced that Scott Linehan would be the new offensive play-caller last month, many wondered how Bill Callahan would take the news.
After all, this past season Callahan had handled the role Linehan would now assume. Outsiders saw the move as a demotion, and some wondered why the Cowboys were reluctant to allow Callahan to pursue other opportunities. Requests made by Baltimore and Cleveland to interview Callahan were denied.
“Everybody thinks the world of Bill,” Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said. “It’s an unfortunate situation that he gets caught up in the, well, he got something taken away from him or whatever it’s going to be portrayed as. But Bill Callahan is an unbelievable football coach. We just weren’t going to give him up and Jerry [Jones] and I have a great relationship and the coaches have a great relationship with him.
“Everybody wants to go sometimes and try to do what they were doing or whatever. But when we signed him, contracts are two-way streets. They are not just for us to deal with if it doesn’t work out. And Bill is a professional;. Are you kidding me? He is working his butt off. Was he disappointed? Everybody has disappointments. I have had it. I’m sure you have had disappointments. Everybody has them.”
Jones views Callahan as an asset who helped transform the offensive line — the position group he oversees — from a weakness into a strength.
“That offensive line really shaped up and came our way,” he said.
Jones now feels similarly about the staff head coach Jason Garrett has assembled, which now features three men — Garrett, Linehan and Callahan — who have been play-callers in the NFL.
“As I think Jason used the words, I think you have to make sure everybody is in the right seat on the bus to really make the team hum,” Jones said. “I think that’s what we ended up doing. I think we got everyone in the right seat. And obviously added a big one in Linehan. But I really think we have given ourselves, with our staff, a great opportunity to improve.”
COACHES REALIGNED AND DEFINED: Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett provides insight into 2014 coaching changes
IRVING, Texas – So the Dallas Cowboys will make major staff changes after all, especially on defense.
Through a press release sent last night, the Cowboys announced several coaching moves, including the switch at defensive coordinator. Rod Marinelli, who served as defensive line coach, will replace Monte Kiffin as the DC. Kiffin has been moved to the assistant head coach/defense. The Cowboys finished with the worst statistical season in franchise history, allowing 415.3 yards per game, the fourth-worst season total in NFL history.
Marinelli served as defensive coordinator in Chicago under Lovie Smith for three seasons. The Bears ranked ninth, seventeenth, and fifth in total defense during his three years.
“Rod’s responsibilities will be those typical for a defensive coordinator,” Garrett said Tuesday evening. “He’ll be the point person on defense all throughout the offseason and game-planning and certainly on game plan when he calls the defense.”
While Kiffin’s role has changed, Garrett said the veteran coach will take on a larger role as the assistant head coach and remains a big part of the team’s transition in defenses.
“Kiff has been such an instrumental piece for us transitioning from the 3-4 to the 4-3 defense,” Garrett said. “No better guy than Monte Kiffin to help us do that and spearhead that transition. And that transition continues. He’ll oversee the coaches coach and providing a different perspective than he had last year. He has invaluable experience as our defense continues to grow.”
As for the offense, the Dallas Cowboys officially hired Scott Linehan as the team’s passing game coordinator. Linehan, who coached one season with Garrett in Miami in 2005, will be the third play-caller in three seasons, replacing Bill Callahan in that capacity.
However, Callahan will remain as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach. Callahan reportedly has received offers from Baltimore to become the OC and perhaps Cleveland, although the Cowboys decided not to grant those teams permission to interview Callahan, who is under contract another season.
“We’re excited about Scott Linehan,” Garrett said. “He’s one of the best coordinators in this league and has been for a number of years. I had the good fortune of working with him in 2005 in Miami. He was our coordinator and I was the quarterback coach. I worked very closely with him and have a great deal of respect for him. His track record speaks for itself. We think he’s a great addition to our staff.”
The Dallas Cowboys are no strangers to having a passing game coordinator. In fact, Garrett said he sees this current setup as very similar to what was in place two seasons ago when Garrett called the plays and Callahan remained the OC and coached the line. Now, Linehan will be the play-caller but will work alongside.
“The roles and responsibilities will be similar to what we had a couple of years ago with Scott being in the role I was in,” Garrett explained. “As passing game coordinator, he will call the plays and work closely with Bill Callahan and the rest of the offensive staff in a role we’re comfortable with. He has a comfort level with our system and the language and terminology of our system. That transition we think will be fairly smooth. The perspective and ideas he brings, we think will be a positive thing for our team.”
While in Detroit, Linehan directed an offensive unit that finished the past three seasons ranked sixth, third, and fifth respectively in the NFL in total offense. The Lions ranked 17th in rushing as Reggie Bush had 1,006 rushing yards.
Linehan also served as head coach of the Rams from 2006-08, making him the third assistant with NFL head coaching experience along with Marinelli and Callahan.
While there is a natural perception that both Callahan and Kiffin have been demoted, yet remain on staff, Garrett said it will be his responsibility to make sure every coach is on the same page and has the same goal.
“Embracing your role is a critical piece to this,” Garrett said. ”As coaches and players, we do that all the time. We’re excited to get going and build on positive things we’ve done. You’re always trying to build chemistry on your football team. Every day is an opportunity to do that.”
In other coaching staff news, Garrett said Marinelli is expected to oversee the defensive line but Leon Lett and Ben Bloom will also work closely with that position.
COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: With Scott Linehan hiring, the Dallas Cowboys have a proven play-caller more compatible with Jason Garrett’s offensive philosophy
The Dallas Cowboys apparently have hired a play-caller that Jason Garrett trusts.
Sure, other teams hire general managers, who hire head coaches, who hire assistants. There’s usually not much intrigue. If they win, they stay. If they lose, they get fired. You don’t need an MBA to figure out the business model.
Here, the GM has a lifetime contract. He can do whatever he wants. He can hire assistants before he hires the coach, or he can hire assistants after he hires the coach. The head coach must be flexible.
Jason Garrett is slowly asserting himself as head coach.
Consider the evolution of Garrett’s staff. Last year, Jerry gave him his second defensive coordinator and first play-caller. Midway through the season, Garrett asserted himself. With the offense struggling, he could have fired Callahan or stripped him of his title. Instead, he inserted himself in the Romo relay. He made his point without contradicting his boss.
Make no mistake: Jerry hired Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin, and he wanted both back this year. Frankly, it’s OK. Change either or both, and it means three coaches in three years in those roles. Constant change is rarely the trademark of excellence.
You could argue that Kiffin did a lousy job with the defense. But you may also remember that Tony Dungy, who won a lot of games with the defense Kiffin employs, said it would take two or three years before the Dallas Cowboys had the proper personnel to run the Tampa Cover-2. And that was before so many players got hurt that Kiffin should have resorted to police tape and barricades.
The offense had its moments, too, even with the dysfunctional chain of command on play-calling and an apparent lack of understanding that, in football, you run the ball 1.) until somebody stops you, and 2.) when you’re trying to burn some clock. The offensive line was better than it’s been in years, no doubt contributing to Jerry’s desire to keep Bill Callahan under contract.
Jason Garrett knows the ground rules by now. If he didn’t learn them when he played for Jerry, or when Jerry hired him as offensive coordinator (even before hiring Wade Phillips), he learned every time his boss reupholstered his staff.
Slowly but surely, though, Jason Garrett is asserting himself. Derek Dooley, the wide receivers coach hired last year, is a Garrett guy. So is Mike Pope, the new tight ends coach. And Scott Linehan, too.
COORDINATING THE COORDINATORS: Veteran Scott Linehan added to Dallas Cowboys coaching staff | Coaches role’s realigned and defined
The Dallas Cowboys elevated Monte Kiffin to position of assistant head coach/defense, elevated Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator, hired Scott Linehan to be passing game coordinator/play-caller, and announced that Bill Callahan will remain as offensive coordinator/offensive line coach.
The team made the official announcement in an emailed press release tonight.
It provided this statement from Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett:
“Our responsibility is to bring quality people into our organization and find the best fit for them. That applies to players, and it applies to coaches. Rod Marinelli’s production in terms of creating turnovers and changing field position as a defensive coordinator is well documented. Monte Kiffin’s overall knowledge and understanding of this defensive scheme will be put to use in mentoring all of the players and coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Monte was brought here to direct a transition in philosophy to the 4-3 scheme, and he will continue to oversee the development of our defense in this scheme.
“The opportunity to add someone of Scott Linehan’s expertise and experience will benefit our offensive unit, and we believe the combination of him and Bill Callahan working closely together will give us a great chance to build upon the strides we made offensively last year.”
Scott Linehan is a former head coach in the NFL, with the St. Louis Rams in 2006-08, and was the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions for the past five seasons. Linehan will take on the role of the Dallas Cowboys offensive play caller for the 2014 season. While in Detroit, Linehan directed an offensive unit that finished the past three seasons ranked sixth, third, and fifth respectively in the NFL in total offense.
Rod Marinelli, the Dallas Cowboys defensive line coach in 2013, was most recently the Chicago Bears defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith from 2010 to 2012 where the Bears units finished ninth, 17th, and fifth, respectively. In 2012, the Chicago Bears led the NFL in interceptions (24), takeaways (44), and were third in points allowed (17.3 points per game).
UNCOMFORTABLE VALLEY RANCH VIBE: Former Detroit Lions OC Scott Linehan’s role with Dallas Cowboys publically undefined
IRVING, Texas – After weeks of speculation, it appears some type of change may be coming to the Dallas Cowboys’ coaching staff.
One week after affirming the job security of offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, the Dallas Cowboys look set to add former Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to their coaching staff. Linehan was at the Dallas Cowboys Valley Ranch facility this morning and took part in staff meetings.
|Coach Scott Linehan||Coach Bill Callahan|
It’s been suggested that Linehan may serve as a passing game coordinator for Tony Romo and a Dallas passing offense that finished No. 14 in the NFL last year. Coach Bill Callahan’s role in the new hierarchy remains to be seen.
If hired, this will be the second time Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan have worked together. Linehan was the offensive coordinator for the Dolphins in 2005, when Garrett was hired as the team’s quarterback coach. Current receivers coach Derek Dooley was also on that staff as the tight ends coach, all under then-head coach Nick Saban. Linehan was hired as the head coach of the Rams after that season and went 11-25 in three years with St. Louis.
He joined the Lions in 2009 as the offensive coordinator. Linehan’s offense in Detroit finished No. 6 in the league overall and No. 3 in passing in 2013, before coach Jim Schwartz’s staff was released following a 7-9 finish. Linehan looks likely to take over as play caller for Callahan, who assumed that duty last season.
The development falls more or less in line with what Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett hinted at from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., last week. Jones confirmed then that both Callahan and Monte Kiffin, widely speculated to be fired after a disappointing season, would stay on staff in 2014. What the two coaches’ roles would be going forward wasn’t so clearly defined, though.
“Those guys are under contract, and we feel good about that,” Garrett said last week. “We’re always going to try to do things that are in the best interest of our football team, so we’ll keep looking at how we can be better as a staff and what roles everybody is in and what we’re asking them to do.”
If Linehan does in fact take over playcalling duties, it would be the Cowboys’ third play caller in as many seasons. Garrett managed that responsibility from his initial hiring as offensive coordinator in 2007 up until last season, when he ceded the job to Callahan.
Halfway through the 2013 season, Garrett changed the organization of his staff to give himself a role in the process. Rather than Callahan calling plays to quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, who then relayed the call to Romo, Garrett moved Wilson into the coaches booth and relayed the calls himself.
Despite that change, Garrett maintained that Callahan held playcalling responsibilities for the duration of the 2013 season.
Linehan served as offensive coordinator for Detroit from 2009 until this past season. The Lions finished 26th in overall offense in 2009, Matthew Stafford’s rookie season, and subsequently improved to 17th in 2010, fifth in 2011 and third in 2012.
The Dallas Cowboys plan to retain play caller/line coach Bill Callahan. Callahan is considered one of the better offensive line coaches in the NFL, and the improvement of Cowboys’ blocking front has improved since his arrival in 2012.
Recently, the Baltimore Ravens requested to speak with Callahan but were denied permission by the Cowboys. Similarly, the Cleveland Browns have been told they won’t be allowed to speak with Callahan either.
FLASHBACK 2005: Troy Aikman’s hand in Jason Garrett-Scott Linehan relationship
You may know that Scott Linehan was the first person to hire Jason Garrett as a coach in the NFL, selecting him to be Miami’s quarterbacks coach when he was the Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2005.
Did you know a call from former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman preceded the hire?
“Jason was looking for a job and hadn’t coached yet,’’ Aikman said. “I called Scott and left him a voicemail and told him if I was starting a business, no matter what the business was, Jason would be one of the first guys I would call to be a part of it. I talked about how smart he was.
“I don’t recommend very many people for anything, but I told him if he made the hire that he would probably be thanking me in a short period of time.’’
Linehan hired Garrett 10 hours after meeting him.
Later, when Linehan was the head coach of the St. Louis Rams, Aikman asked him if he ever saw Garrett moving on to be a head coach.
“You know,’’ Linehan replied, “several years ago I got a call from a guy who strongly recommended him.’’
Troy Aikman relayed that story Tuesday afternoon as he other Fox analysts were made available at the media headquarters for Super Bowl XLVIII. Now Garrett has returned the favor, adding Linehan to the Dallas Cowboys staff.
Does Aikman believe that Garrett and Linehan will be on the same page more than Garrett and Callahan?
“I don’t know,’’ Aikman said. “I’d like to think he and Bill were on the same page. They had been together already. I’d like to believe that they were in agreement in what they were doing on the offensive side of the ball. I couldn’t say if they will be more on the same page.
“But I think Scott has been doing it longer, he’s been calling plays for a long time and has had a lot of success doing it.’’
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER: Jerry Jones moving forward with both coordinators in 2014 | Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty coaching staff positions
MOBILE, Ala. – The Dallas Cowboys coaching staff roaming the sidelines at the Senior Bowl will look familiar.
Team owner/general manager Jerry Jones said nothing has changed with his coordinators and “there’s nothing there at all” regarding potential changes. He added that he plans on all the coaches still under contract staying aboard.
“The status of it is nothing,” Jones said. “The status is the contracts that are there, everybody’s here. That’s the way you ought to read it, not anticipate anything. I wouldn’t anticipate a thing.”
Jones stuck by Jason Garrett throughout the 2013 season and even after the end of a third straight 8-8 season, but the Cowboys’ head coach is entering the final year of his contract and it doesn’t appear that deal will be extended hastily. Jones said he hasn’t had any thought about that at this point in the year.
“I don’t pay any attention to lame duck status, what you call lame duck status,” Jones said. “I don’t have that term, because I don’t know that there’s such a thing. We’ve got huge, a lifetime, of work ahead of us over the next few weeks. To even consider that needs anything more than an agreement to do this year is not a big thing to me. It’s just too much takeaway from what we’re trying to do right now, which is just get cranked up for 2014.”
Then again, that doesn’t mean he’s lost belief in his head coach or that the pay day won’t come. He said he wants to be there when it does happen.
He gave, and has continued to give, Garrett multiple years to develop his system and get it in place. The same may be going for his coordinators with another year to make adjustments.
“I had a guy tell me one time how to be successful, that no human can be right over 50 percent of the time on any decision, but it’s the ones that cut their bad ones off quick and let their good ones run long (that work out),” Jones said. “That’s hard to do. That’s hard to accept quickly to cut a bad decision off quick.
“We all know the adage of the gold miner that walked away and the other one that took one more swing and hit the pick and found the gold stream. So, you don’t want to quit. It’s easier said than done to let your mistakes go short and your good decisions long.”
It’s getting close to decision time with many veteran Cowboys players and staff members. Most of the focus this offseason has centered on defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, who don’t appear to be going anywhere.
Jones said he doesn’t have to convince people on staff that it’s a good decision to keep Kiffin. He only had to convince “the man in the mirror.”
“Did we discuss and get input on a lot of things? Absolutely,” Jones said. “But what we did not do is have a big debate or management session regarding Monte Kiffin. We didn’t do that. That decision was made last year.
“When you look at the fundamentals of a Monte Kiffin and you look at the fundamentals of his work and you look at what he is and you look at the fact that you decided scheme wise that you liked that competing in the NFL today, then that weighs you from cutting that short. The answer is I didn’t want to cut it short over on defense and some of the same principles are true with cutting it short on Jason, on going on when I talk about I want to be here for the pay day, and this is pay day time for Jason.”
Everything appears to be status quo regarding the coaches still under contract in Dallas, from the head coach down to the assistants.
At some point this offseason, the focus will begin to turn to the contracts of players. But Jones said the team isn’t working on any restructures yet and it’s too early at this point in the year to focus on that.
RELATED: Jason Garrett focusing on filling empty staff positions
MOBILE, Ala. – The Dallas Cowboys coaching situation seems to be clearer.
Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett spoke about the job security of Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin today, just one day after team owner/general manager Jerry Jones affirmed that the offensive and defensive coordinator were still under contract for 2014.
Garrett, who is beginning his fourth year as head coach, reiterated Jones’ stance from Monday afternoon, though he added that staff evaluations are still ongoing following the 2013 season.
“Like he said, those guys are under contract. We’re always trying to figure out ways to do better, and that starts with us as a coaching staff,” Garrett said. “We’ll keep looking at what everyone’s roles are and how everything settles down.”
Whether or not those roles would change going forward, though, Garrett declined to say. There has been some (media) speculation that Kiffin and Callahan’s positions could change despite remaining with the Cowboys, but Garrett did not add to it.
“Those guys are under contract, and we feel good about that,” he said. “We’re always going to try to do things that are in the best interest of our football team, so we’ll keep looking at how we can be better as a staff and what roles everybody is in and what we’re asking them to do. But those guys are really good football coaches.”
Instead, Garrett said the current focus was on filling the empty positions on his staff. The Cowboys lost tight ends coach Wes Phillips to the Redskins last week, and they parted ways with assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol after the season.
“We do have some coaches who are out of contract, and we’re trying to get those things settled,” he said. “We’re just in the process of those conversations right now.”
Reports indicated earlier in the week that the Cowboys would replace Boniol with Carlos Polk, who served as an intern under special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia last season. Polk, who also worked with Bisaccia on the Chargers’ coaching staff, confirmed Tuesday that looks to be the case – though his contract isn’t finalized.
“It has not been finalized, but he’s someone who really was a good addition to our team this year. Bisaccia has some history with him in San Diego, and he really came in and played a very prominent role for us on that special teams unit,” Garrett said.
Former Giants tight ends coach Mike Pope has also come up as a potential replacement for Phillips. Pope coached in New York for 23 seasons and was a member of all four of the team’s Super Bowl staffs before the Giants fired him last week.
Pope was coaching in New York when Garrett was a quarterback with the Giants from 2000-03, providing a logical connection.
“There are a number of guys that we’ve talked about in that situation. Mike is a good friend of mine and obviously a very good coach,” Garrett said.
IRVING, Texas — Maybe there is a different way to look at Jerry Jones’ decision to keep Jason Garrett as the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach for a fourth season.
Maybe the owner is aware the general manager has not delivered enough for the head coach to have more than an 8-8 record. Bill Parcells used to say the goal was to get his team to play to the level that he perceived it to be.
Jerry Jones must allow Jason Garrett more control of his own fate.
Could Jones be conceding he has not done enough for Garrett, despite his statements that the Dallas Cowboys had a chance to not only make the playoffs but make a run to the Super Bowl as well? It requires you to believe Jones separates the owner job description from the general manager job description, but it is not that far-fetched.
Late in the season, Jones mentioned the team lacked the personnel in some key spots because of injuries. Of the 12 regulars — including the nickel corner — on defense, seven were in their projected spots when training camp began in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles. Orlando Scandrick and Morris Claiborne essentially flipped roles. George Selvie, Nick Hayden, DeVonte Holloman, Kyle Wilber, and Jeff Heath were starters.
Perhaps Garrett maximized the 8-8 finish this year and last year because of injuries.
In his address to the media Monday, Garrett repeated the statement he made after the 2012 season ended in a Week 17 loss in an NFC East title game: it takes time to build a program. While he acknowledged wins and losses matter most, he failed to recognize the guy he lost to last week, Chip Kelly, was in his first year and took over a 4-12 team. Mike McCoy brought the San Diego Chargers to the playoffs in his first year. Andy Reid took the Kansas City Chiefs to the postseason after they had the No. 1 pick in the 2013 draft.
Jerry Jones has a lot invested in Garrett beyond money. He believes in how Garrett is building the team and how he prepares the team. Quibble about the execution, but players’ effort has not been an issue with Garrett as coach. Jones wants Garrett to be his long-term coach. If Garrett finishes out 2014, only Jimmy Johnson will have coached the Cowboys longer under Jones.
Jones is right to bring back Garrett in 2014.
What he needs to do now is allow Garrett more control of his own fate. If Garrett wants to call plays, then let Garrett call plays. If Garrett wants to change the defensive coordinator, then let him, and if he doesn’t want to replace Monte Kiffin, Garrett will only be hurting himself.
Jones made sure everybody was “uncomfortable” in 2013 and it produced the same 8-8 record. He wanted Bill Callahan to call plays. He wanted Kiffin. He wanted Tony Romo more involved in the offense. He wanted Garrett to become a walk-around head coach.
Much will be made of Garrett’s lame-duck status in 2014 but if he doesn’t win, then he shouldn’t get an extension.
The pressure will be good.
It’s time Jones is “uncomfortable.” At least a little bit anyway.
With quarterback Tony Romo sidelined with a back injury and backup Kyle Orton set to start in his place, there is no question the Dallas Cowboys will lean heavily on the running game in Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Running back DeMarco Murray, who is in the midst of the best stretch in what has already been the best season of his career, said he is ready and willing to carry a bigger load.
“If they do, then great,” Murray said. “If they don’t, then so be it. I’m preparing like I do any other week. I’m working hard, making sure I know my assignments and knowing my keys and things of that nature, so I’ll be ready.”
Murray has 1,073 yards in 13 games, becoming the first Dallas Cowboys running back to top 1,000-yard mark since 2006.
He has rushed for 376 yards the past three games combined, averaging a whopping 6.4 yards carry during those contests.
“We’ve been really jelling together,” Murray said. “I think the offensive line, they’re doing a great job of blocking and I’m doing a great job of running and making guys miss …. Since I’ve been here this is the best [it’s been].”
Coach Jason Garrett and Bill Callahan are both on record saying they are not going to change up the offense much with Orton at helm. But both acknowledge that balance is important and being successful on the ground would be a great help to a new quarterback, especially one with only five pass attempts this season and just 15 the past two seasons combined.
Again Murray said he is ready for whatever. His only goal is a successful game plan to win the game and reach the playoffs.
“I just want to win, run the ball or not,” Murray said. “I just want to win the game.”
IRVING, Texas – While the Dallas Cowboys will be playing in cold weather on Monday night, they were forced indoors yesterday because of heavy frozen rain and sleet in the Dallas area that left a blanket of ice on the Cowboys’ practice fields at Valley Ranch.
The Cowboys attempted to get the ice removed before practice but instead opted to bus the team to Highland Park High School in Dallas, where the Cowboys practiced in the school’s indoor facility.
While some of the coaches stayed overnight at Valley Ranch, a few of the players had to be picked up by staff members and team officials to get them in the facility for practice and meetings.
The practice, which was closed to the media, was like a normal Thursday practice on a normal week. With the Cowboys playing on Monday night, head coach Jason Garrett has tried to simulate a regular routine, even moving the normal Tuesday day off to Wednesday. The Cowboys are leaving on Sunday afternoon for the Monday night game.
“Ideally you’d like to be out today and simulate the elements we’re going to play in Monday night,” Garrett said. “But we couldn’t get that done. The field is ice. You have to get the ice off the field. Rather than wait 3-4 hours to get that done, we thought we should go to Plan B. This was a good alternative for us. We’re hopeful to be out there (Saturday).”
As for yesterday’s practice, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan said the change of venue didn’t have a negative effect.
“I thought practice was great. When you get into an environment where it’s enclosed and you’re on a Field Turf, it lends itself to a fast practice. Because of the travel, we cut down on the number of reps we had today. I thought the players did a great job of executing. More than that, the tempo of practice compared to (Thursday), coming off the long break, we came up a few notches. It was encouraging to see.”
The expected temperatures for kickoff Monday night in Chicago have actually gone up, but will still be treacherous. The low on Monday is 13 degrees with a high of only 27. With the winds gusting around 20 mph, the wind chill could be around zero or below-zero by kickoff.
When asked about the double-edged sword of wanting to practice in the elements of the game, but also having a practice environment that isn’t distracting to the flow of practice, Callahan said coaches can’t always have it both ways.
“We’ve had some good outside work done in the last few weeks,” said Callahan, who coached in Oakland and Nebraska in his career. “I remember being with the Raiders, we’d practice in the 85 degree weather and then fly from sunny California to the cold northeast and you’d have to play the elements or even in Denver. Players adapt pretty quickly.”
Whether they practice in the elements or not, some players don’t think the preparation matters much on game day.
“I’m not a believer that it helps at all,” cornerback Orlando Scandrick said. “Whether you practice in it or you play in it, you’re going to be cold. You’ve got to have the mental toughness and the focus and the will to go out and do it. I don’t like being cold, period.”
The weather doesn’t seem to bother tight end Jason Witten, who said he won’t be wearing any sleeves come Monday night.
“Football ain’t meant to be played like that,” Witten said with a smile. “But I do bundle up there on the bench. But no, I don’t allow that to get in the way. When you’re out there playing, you can’t worry about the elements. It’s always tough. Both teams have to play in it.”
As for the guy throwing the ball to Witten, he doesn’t seem too concerned about cold-weather games either.
Tony Romo, who grew up in Burlington, Wisconsin and played at Eastern Illinois said if he sticks to his mechanics, the cold air and high winds will have no factor in his performance.
“I’ve played a lot of our games in cold weather. I think you become comfortable with it over time. The more technically sound and fundamental you are with your throwing motion, you can neutralize that stuff and take advantage of it.”
Overall, Garrett said there won’t be a lot of discussions about the weather come Monday night, other than making sure the players are prepared.
“Certainly we’ll try to make sure we’re wearing the right gear and making sure our cleats are right so we can be most effective,” Garrett said. “I don’t think you want to overdo that, but you certainly want to make sure what you’re wearing on your feet is right for those conditions.”
Dallas Cowboys move practice inside: Locker room reacts
Bill Callahan said coach Jason Garrett wanted to return to the relationship he used to have with Tony Romo on the sideline, one reason the Dallas Cowboys changed their play-calling mechanism.
“He’s had that relationship with him on the sideline in his career, and he wanted to get back to that a little bit more,” Callahan said Wednesday in his weekly meeting with reporters. “And he should, and rightfully so, as the head coach.”
Callahan, the offensive coordinator and play-caller, was joined in the coaches box by quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson last week. Wilson used to be on the sideline, receiving the play calls from Callahan and sending them to Romo. Now Garrett receives the calls and passes them to Romo.
But Callahan said that does not mean Garrett changes the calls.
“We’re all on the same page. Nothing’s changed in terms of the play-calling, whatsoever,” he said. “There’s not changes of plays, or anything like that. Here is what I think everyone needs to understand: that there’s great communication among the offensive coaches. Jason’s a part of this process, of game-planning, and being on the sideline during the game, I think he’s just become more active with Tony in that regard.”
Callahan said the changes wait until halftime.
“Then we’ll tweak it or we’ll look at what we want to amend or maybe bring up or possibly showcase a little bit more,” he said. “But really, there’s no changing of plays. There’s no power struggle or anything like that. I have this responsibility, and we communicate, I think, really well, as we have been. But anything that gets us going is always positive. If Coach feels it was a good change, we’re all for it. I was all for it.”
Asked for specifics on what Garrett communicates to him, Callahan said, “It’s more like, ‘What are you thinking on this series, Bill? What are your thoughts going into this next drive? What do you have going?’ He just wants to know, and that’s communicated. ‘We’re gong to do this, we’re going to try to get to this personnel grouping, we’re going to try to get to this run or this group of passes.’ That’s what’s communicated, essentially, on the headset during the course of the game.”
BOYS BYE-WEEK BREAKDOWN: All tight ends, including James Hanna should be more involved in the offense
Dallas Cowboys Tight Ends Breakdown
This article is part of a series. To see all related posts, click HERE. Enjoy!
Top Performer: Jason Witten
It’s no surprise that Jason Witten continues to play at the level that he has. Despite all the battles that this veteran has seen, there still is that skill when it comes to route running and securing the ball when it is thrown in his direction. What all these seasons in the league has done for Witten, it has allowed him to become crafty of a player. When it comes to the ins and outs of offensive football, Jason Witten would be that guy to ask. He has such an outstanding working knowledge of what teams are trying to do to him and how he needs to combat them.
Jason Garrett has told us many times, there is nothing new of Witten having to fight through these defensive schemes that are trying to take him out of the game. Where Witten has been at his best, is when he does get those opportunities to work against single coverage and find that space. These offensive coaches, are working the ball to Witten in the red zone. It’s never a bad situation to put your best player in when it comes to catching the ball in tight spaces. Jason Witten has proven, he can consistently deliver in that role, which he has all season.
Need More From: James Hanna
Offensive coaches need to get James Hanna more involved in the offense but doesn’t appear that will be the case. Like Lance Dunbar, there are things that Hanna can do to help this offense in the passing game. For example, more routes up the field, instead of those chances that he just gets in the flat. If Hanna is not going to be used in the passing game, then expect more from him at the point of attack in the running game.
On DeMarco Murray’s 35-yard run against the Saints, Hanna had an outstanding kick-out block on Kenny Vacarro that allowed Murray to sneak inside of him. Jason Witten sealed the edge that got Murray to the 2nd level and off to the races. Where Hanna has had his struggles is when he hasn’t been as powerful as he needed to be and he gets compressed into the backfield causing the ball to be stopped for no gain or even for a loss. Where this offense needs to take advantage of Hanna is allowing him to block on the move like he did in the Saints game. He is a much better player when he can attack a defense this way because of his athletic ability to stay on his feet and run with his man. Regardless, this offense needs more from James Hanna on the edge.
Six-Game Forecast: Tight ends are a safe, high percentage tool for extending drives
These games down the stretch are going to be tough and tight which requires your players to be at their absolute best when it comes to executing plays. The safest route when trying to control or finish games is how you use your tight ends in certain situations.
Despite the fact that we have really only seen Jason Witten as that go to guy. James Hanna and even Gavin Escobar are going to have to make some tough plays down the stretch. All three of these tight ends have the ability to get down the field and secure the ball when it is thrown in their direction. You use your tight ends, when you want to make simple, easy throws. We understand that their “11” and “01” personnel groups might be their best packages when it comes to moving the ball, but there will be a game or two where this “12” personnel group will be the difference in the outcome in the game.
There is just too much talent with these tight ends not to fully take advantage of their ability. These final six games will prove that to be the case.
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was emphatic this morning when asked if he could return to calling the team’s offense if he so chose.
“Absolutely,” he responded.
Despite that, Garrett echoed Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones’ message from earlier in the day that, struggles aside, the team isn’t considering a change of play caller.
“That’s not something we’re really talking about,” he said. “I just think the biggest thing we have to do is evaluate what we have done in all three phases and what’s been good, what hasn’t been good, build and emphasize the things that have been good and correct the other stuff.”
The question was bound to be asked after the Cowboys tallied just 193 yards of offense in Sunday night’s loss to the Saints. With offensive coordinator Bill Callahan serving as the unit’s play caller this season, the Cowboys are No. 19 in the NFL in yards per game.
“We don’t want to overanalyze and overreact to certain situations. We’ve done some good things on offense and we like the structure that we have in place,” he said. “We have to, as a coaching staff, simply do a better job – that’s everybody.”
Since exploding for 522 total yards in the Oct. 6 loss to Denver, the Cowboys have cracked 350 yards just twice in five games and have failed to reach 300 yards in the other three.
Jones said that the team’s struggles, both offensively and defensively, didn’t call for any major changes during the bye week.
“We’re 5-5, we’re tied for the lead in our division. We’ve got players coming back,” Jones said. “We’ve got one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. We’re off a rough loss. That doesn’t call for major changes out here at all.”
Garrett said as much himself, although he faced more than one question about reclaiming play calling duties. With the league’s No. 4 scoring offense and No. 1 turnover differential, he said the offense needs to focus simply on execution.
“We just need to play better on offense,” he said. “The thing you got to remember is we’re among the better scoring teams in the league right now and that’s been a positive thing for our team.”
With Garrett calling plays from 2007 until 2012, the Cowboys’ offense never finished worse than No. 13 in the league, and it finished among the NFL’s 10 best offenses in four of six seasons.
He added that it’s on every member of the offensive coaching staff, from the top down, to improve whatever ails their production – particularly with a week off to closer evaluate the issues.
“Everyone’s a part of that – I’m a part of that, Coach Callahan is a part of that, every coach on the offensive staff, every player,” he said. “We just have to do a better job. We’re going to look at what we’re doing and try to do it better.”
Jason Garrett press conference: Preparing for the bye week (20:53)
- Was Sunday’s game out of character or a schematic problem
- Thoughts on young players confidence levels after the Saints defeat
- Jeff Heath bounce back and confidence playing for J.J. Wilcox; Special Teams
- Other than injury recovery, what else can be done during the bye week
- After evaluation of first ten games, should he be involved more in play calling
- Offense struggle since Denver game, why he’s not taking over playcalling
- How much new emphasis is being put on getting Dez Bryant the football more
- Is he satisfied with the number of targets Dez Bryant is getting
- When going into the bye in such a shocking way, are major changes necessary
- Decision to go into more man-coverage for the remaining games
- Can players loose belief in coaches and system when it’s been this bad
- Did the defense unravel when Sean Lee went out; impact on team; his takeaways
- Who will be playing middle linebacker until Sean Lee can return
- Are drastic scheme changes needed to give team chance to win
- Other than takeaways, what has the defense done well
- Which key players are due back in time for road game with New York Giants
- DeMarcus Ware tweaking injury
- Impact of missing Miles Austin during significant number of games; mismatch
- How having Miles Austin the mix helps Dez Bryant and Jason Witten
- Team in position going into last six games to accomplish what they want
- Thoughts on leaving Romo (and other starters) in for last few minutes of Saints game
- Concerns about the mental health of the team after close losses and Saints blowout
- What lead to the final decision to let Romo and others starters finish game
- Assessment of Tony Romo’s first five games compared to last five games
- Is Tony Romo being too careful regarding deep balls and avoiding turnovers
- Defining why Tony Romo’s completion percentage has declined
- Sports Illustrated report that Sam Hurd distributed marijuana to 20-25 players
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The Dallas Cowboys finished with single-digit rushing attempts for the first time in team history.
They ran just nine rushing plays Sunday against the Vikings, despite never trailing by more than a touchdown. It marked the least amount of rushing attempts by the Dallas Cowboys since running 10 times in a playing from behind 34-7 loss to the Eagles on Oct. 30, 2011.
“Oftentimes when you look at the stat sheet, when you throw it the last 18 times in a game because of what the game situation is, that can skew those numbers,” said head coach Jason Garrett. “But having said all that, we need to run it more.”
The Dallas Cowboys actually ran the ball well in the first quarter, rushing four times for 25 yards, including two carries for 25 yards by DeMarco Murray in the running back’s return from a knee injury. But they only ran five more rushing plays the rest of the game, as Tony Romo threw the ball 51 times. The Cowboys finished with 36 yards on the ground.
“You’d certainly like to have more balance than that, obviously,” Garrett said. “We’ll keep striving for that. We did run the ball a little bit fairly well early on. DeMarco looked like he was going to have a good day, but as it wore on there were some minus runs that happened that got us behind the sticks a little bit.”
Interesting historical reference:
During Bill Callahan’s tenure as head coach/offensive coordinator for the Oakland Raiders, his Raider offense led the NFL in rushing (in 2000) and led the league in passing (in 2002). In 2002, the Raiders became the first team to win games in the same season while rushing at least 60 times (against Kansas City in a 24–0 win) and passing at least 60 times (against Pittsburgh in a 30–17 win). His 11-5 Raiders faced the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the end of their 2002 season. The Bucs were coached by his former boss, Jon Gruden. Bill Callahan kept Gruden’s old playbook more or less intact. The Bucs had so much information about the Raiders’ offensive scheme that they knew exactly what plays were coming. Oakland suffered a lopsided defeat in Super Bowl XXXVII, losing 48–21, to Gruden’s new team. In 2003, the Oakland Raiders finished 4-12. Callahan was fired by Al Davis, replaced with Norv Turner
Three points immediately come to mind regarding Dallas Cowboys playcaller Bill Callahan. One, he does not necessarily believe balance is necessary to win. As you can see (above), he’s won games with both extremes. The question remains, how many games did he lose with that imbalance. The answer is 7 times in his 2003 season, when he went 4-12.
Second, the Dallas Cowboys offense is wildly inconsistent. Callahan shows a tendency to completely dismiss successful plays executed one week, when oftentimes, they would be appropriate the following week. Players that show a spark and hot-hand during a game are frequently overlooked during the remaining portion of the game. As a fan, how many times have you honestly believed the Cowboys would be participating in a blowout or shootout, because of mismatch opportunities provided by opponents? More often than not, what we see is a low scoring, mostly defensive or special teams standout plays that keep the Cowboys in games.
Third, opponents know what’s coming. These are still largely Jason Garrett’s plays … without Romo’s ‘out of the box’ sparks. No designed rollouts for Romo to speak of. Predictable plays called during pivotal moments in games. Four running backs, four tight ends on the roster … each with unique skills and characteristics. Yet, no multi-back sets to base run and pass plays off of. No multi-back sets to provide forward momentum against an advancing pass rush or blitz. No multi-back sets to provide the vision advantage a blocker can use to bang open a running hole, or slip out to become an eligible receiver. There are reasons why the I-formation, split-back, and multi-back sets are predominate in all levels of football. With a total of eight players (nine including FB/LB Kyle Bosworth) built for blocking, the Dallas offense can’t establish a run? Why aren’t formations being designed with this in mind? You blame the offensive line for any of this? If so, Callahan has nine players (running backs, tight ends, and Bosworth) to bolster them until they mesh on their own. Use them. Put a wide receiver, tight end, or running back in motion … to help create a lane or stop a penetrating defender.
Romo standing alone the new 5-wide spread formation does little if he doesn’t have blockers behind him to allow for that obvious pass play. Not to mention, your telegraphing pass because there is no running back in the box. This is a great idea if you stay with it on a scripted drive and/or use it in a hurry-up situation. You can rotate players (edge) to keep fresh legs on sustained drives. For example, after the play is run, swap out Harris for Dunbar before you snap the ball again. Any number of combination hot swaps could make this formation scary for defensive coordinators.
My contention is this. If you’re imbalanced on offense, you put yourself in come from behind situations. If you’re balanced, you’re scoring. Their defense is guessing. If you show an imbalanced look (scheme), you’re telegraphing. Their defense is not guessing. Run multiple plays off of a base scheme (formation) that can be used for run or pass … or screen or end around … or reverse or draw … or play-action or rollouts. From that base formation, move Romo behind center … use him some in the pistol … or back in the shotgun occasionally.
The 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys has more star-power (a subsequent salary cap dollars) on offense than on the defense or special teams. With very few exceptions, through nine games, it’s not the offensive stars producing the excitement and scoring … especially lately. The defense and special teams are providing ample sparks and opportunities.
With strong arm Tony Romo, freak Dez Bryant, dasher DeMarco Murray, future famer Jason Witten, hands James Hanna, developing Gavin Escobar, elusive (when healthy) Miles Austin, emerging Terrance Williams, clutch Cole Beasley, sprinter Dwayne Harris, speedy Lance Dunbar, pounder Phillip Tanner, and workhorse Joseph Randle … this offense is underperforming. They should be scoring in the forties … consistently. Can you imagine what other offensive minded coaches could do, and would do, with these weapons? If Bill Callahan doesn’t figure out a way, someone else will. The Denver game showed the potential. Nearly every other game exposed the flaws.
CALLAHANDOFF QUESTION: Why does the Dallas Cowboys stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game?
Why do the Dallas Cowboys abandon the run? DeMarco Murray looks healthy, and he got 4 carries in the game. They stopped trying to run before they could even establish a run game.
Nick: Did they abandon the run or could they simply not run the ball and so they scrapped it? I think it’s somewhere in the middle. This team hasn’t been able to run it effectively for about two years. I think Brian Waters’ injury was bigger than we thought it’d be. All of a sudden Doug Free looked bad? I think Waters has helped him just by being in the lineup. But yes, there are times the Cowboys don’t run it enough. I think this was one of these games.
Rowan: I was all for spreading it out and tossing the ball around, but I’ll admit nine runs in a game that was this tight throughout is kind of shocking. More than that, the backs never really had a chance to get going as they took a whole lot of delayed runs in shotgun and were met in the backfield. The backs actually had some success with four runs for 25 yards in the first quarter. Then, we never really saw them again.
David: I don’t mind that the Cowboys don’t commit to the run in a strict sense. But I do mind that they talk often about balance and controlling the game, and then they throw 51 times compared to nine total runs. Either accept that you can’t or don’t want to run, or actually make the effort to run. Murray was averaging eight yards per carry, but he disappeared.
SAN DIEGO– Seven days ago, the Dallas Cowboys had one of the better games we’ve seen them play in quite a while. Offense and defense both dominated, prompting Jason Garrett, Jerry Jones and Tony Romo to describe it a team win.
Sunday afternoon in San Diego, this was equally … a team loss.
Everyone played a part in this 30-21 setback. And yeah, without a doubt this game – against that team and that environment with you-know-who coming to town next week – is a major setback for a Cowboys team that has lived in mediocrity for two years.
But we’ve got more time to get into the big picture. Let’s focus on Sunday’s meltdown in San Diego, where the Cowboys weren’t even facing a normal road environment. Considering the thousands among thousands of Dallas Cowboys fans in attendance, which seemingly gave the crowd a 50-50 split.
The Cowboys made a nice run in the second quarter. And when Jason Hatcher smashed Philip Rivers, forcing an interception to Sean Lee, who sprinted to the end zone for a 21-10 lead, I think most of us all thought this had the makings of a rout.
In a way, the rout was on. We just didn’t think it would be Rivers and his patched-together offensive that were about to do the routing. Yes, they have a future Hall of Famer in Antonio Gates, who certainly was the best tight end on the field Sunday, but Rivers was making Danny Woodhead and Keenan Allen into household names.
A slow start on offense to open the game, coupled with a slow start on offense in the third quarter isn’t a good combination.
Add this all up and the Cowboys left San Diego with a 2-2 record and a butt-kicking that we really didn’t see coming.
Like all games, you can point the finger at something or someone. But in this case, we’ll need both hands to do it.
- Let’s start with the defense, because that is where this team was supposed to be the spot the Cowboys would dominate. The Chargers had three starters missing on the offensive line – both guards and a starting tackle. And then, another backup guard who started the game left with an injury. This team was down to playing a guy named Stephen Schilling at guard who was signed just this week. And still, the Cowboys couldn’t win that battle. Dallas had occasional pressure, but only one sack. The biggest shock was the second half and how Rivers and the Chargers were able to keep the pressure at bay with short, dink-and-dunk stuff that kept the Cowboys on their toes.
- How about the linebackers in coverage? Sean Lee had a great interception return on a deflected pass that went straight to him. Other than that, the linebackers had trouble keeping up with Gates and Woodhead. In fact, although defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin said it was not the case, Bruce Carter appeared to be gassed after he allowed the second touchdown pass to Woodhead. Ernie Sims played most of the second half in the nickel defense. But everyone knows Rivers likes to go to Gates. He went to him 10 times and Gates called 10 passes. They had no answer for him, especially on the deep ball for the back-breaking score.
- Sticking with defense, Morris Claiborne just didn’t get the job done. Last year, he was solid, which makes you think he’d be closer to really good this year. And he looks worse, so far. Sunday, he gave up several big plays and just doesn’t seem to be playing with any confidence right now. He looks out of position too many times. It’s fair to wonder about his health, but if that shoulder is too much of a hindrance than it’s time to try something else. Makes you wonder if the move to start Scandrick wasn’t really about Claiborne’s injury but more about playing the better player.
- We’ve been giving plenty of praise to the defensive coaches – Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli lately. They should take some of the blame, too. And Kiffin admitted that after the game, saying the defense didn’t get off the field as much as they should have. Without a doubt, credit the coaches overall to the development of guys like Nick Hayden, George Selvie and Jason Hatcher’s improved play. But, on Sunday, the Chargers just seemed to have a better game plan. They exploited the mismatches of Woodhead against the linebackers and Gates against anyone who was on him. San Diego offset the pressure with a great mixture of runs, short passes and the occasional deep ball.
- On offense, you have to wonder – once again – why they didn’t stick to the running game. DeMarco Murray had 14 carries for 70 yards. You’ll take that 5.0-yard average all day. 13 first-down runs – 12 by Murray and one by Lance Dunbar – and the Cowboys were averaging 4.6 yards a carry on first down. Think about that, Murray had 12 of his 14 carries on first downs and picked up about four yards on average, yet they didn’t go back to him very often. Once again, that’s an issue. They went away from the run on second down, forcing too many third-downs and the Cowboys were just 3-of-9 on third-down efficiency. Who knows who to blame about that anymore – Bill Callahan for the calls or Tony Romo for checking out, or maybe Jason Garrett for not overseeing it better. Either way, you can’t make the argument the Cowboys weren’t running it effectively.
- This team missed Miles Austin. The Chargers did a nice job of blanket coverage on Dez Bryant and the combination of safeties and linebacker on Jason Witten was also great. When that happens, they go to Miles Austin. Rookie Terrance Williams isn’t ready for that role. Williams did a nice job bouncing back from the early drop to get some confidence going. He finished with seven catches for 71 yards, but that costly fumble near the goal line will ultimately be his most memorable play of the game.
- Frankly, you can pretty much put a dropped pass on all of the receivers at some point in the game. Dwayne Harris had one early, as did Williams. Jason Witten had one over the middle and Dez Bryant couldn’t come up with one near the sideline, which of course would’ve been a great play. The ball hit both hands as he’s trying to get his feet in bounds. Like the rest of them, that was a drop. If the Cowboys are going to be a team that consistently has a pass-run ratio of 37-16, then the receivers can’t be having costly drops.
- The offensive line struggled early, picked it up later on, but then had costly mistakes. Travis Frederick and both guards had trouble with Corey Liuget. He was a beast inside for the Chargers. Romo was sacked three times overall and had constant pressure. Overall, you need better play from the line.
- Since we’re doling out some blame, let’s put some on the kicking game. And no, I’m not referring to Dan Bailey’s miss, although that will fall on other shoulders in a moment. But punter Chris Jones didn’t have his best game at all. His five punts averaged just 40.6 yards with a 34.2 net. His first punt traveled just 33 yards when the Cowboys were in need of flipping the field position. And his drop-kick punts that turn end-over-end aren’t consistently getting to the 10-yard line range, but closer to the 20, where punt returners have no problem fielding. He wasn’t horrible, but they need him to be better.
- And lastly, you have to put some blame on the entire coaching staff, which goes to Garrett. The one decision that potentially hurt this team was attempting the 56-yarder by Bailey. Sure, he had a wind to his back but that’s a long way to split the uprights. The Cowboys had the momentum again and finally some good field position after Dwayne Harris’ nice return. But they gave it right back with that missed kick. It allowed the Chargers to play the next possession downhill and they got a field goal. The fact the team started out sluggish in the first and third quarter usually shows a lack of preparation, focus or intensity or just something missing.
So if you’re playing the blame game after this one, there’s plenty to go around.
The Cowboys lost to a team that just out-played them on Sunday. It wasn’t one key play that did them in. It wasn’t one player that hurt them. Chalk this one up as a team loss. That’s pretty demoralizing considering you’ve got a lot of things to fix and only the NFL’s best team and hottest quarterback coming into town this week.
IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys play coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan didn’t want to rush Brian Waters into the lineup.
Now, after three weeks to settle into the Cowboys’ offense after a year off from football, the veteran guard and his coaches feel like he’s ready to start for the first time this year after rotating with Mackenzy Bernadeau the first three games.
“We think so,” Callahan said. “We’ll see how it goes. We’ll adjust it accordingly. We’ve got a lot of confidence in both he and Mackenzy. We’ll see how it plays out, but I think there’s been good communication along the lines of where he’s at from a strength and conditioning standpoint, also in terms of where his stamina is out. We’ll watch that carefully.”
Callahan said he wouldn’t have given Waters more than he was physically capable of handling, but he can tell the quality of play the veteran still brings to the game. The 36-year-old will continue to be monitored, but it sounds like the coaches are preparing him for a more permanent role.
That would mean Bernadeau’s role could shift around.
“I have a lot of respect for Bernadeau, in terms of what he can do,” Callahan said. “Of course, if he has to step in and play and start, he’s very capable. He’s a starter anywhere in this league. We’re utilizing him at a lot of different spots. He could be in a position to help backup at center just like he did a year ago when we lost a few guys, and of course he could play the left side as well if he needed to.”
Not every player can take more than a year off in the NFL and return and play at a high level, but if anyone’s seen it work on the line, it’s Callahan. He believes Waters, a former six-time Pro Bowler, is ready to do the same.
“Steve Wisniewski did it in Oakland, and when he came back, he was in great shape,” Callahan said. “Those guys know how to take care of their bodies. They’re Pro Bowlers for a reason. They know what their limitations are, they know that their body needs, they know how to train, they know how to prepare. They wouldn’t get to the level that they’re at as a player if they don’t have an understanding and awareness of all those other factors.”
He expected Waters’ progression to be gradual as the season began, and Bernadeau seemed to pick his play up from last year to allow the veteran guard to ease his way in. Callahan compared Waters’ situation to a lineman entering training camp.
“For the veteran lineman playing that first preseason game of 10 to 12 snaps or 14 snaps and then playing a quarter or playing a half, we believe that progression has helped him,” Callahan said. “We just didn’t want to throw him out there and force him into a situation that he wasn’t physically ready for. Now, is he mentally tough enough to do that? Sure, he could do that. But I think in all fairness to him and our team, we want him to be in the best possible condition so he can play at the highest level.”
Video | Audio
Bill Callahan talks about improving their play on the road, and why the feel the offense left some yards on the field in the first three weeks.
ARLINGTON, Texas – Only the Saints are geographically closer to the Dallas Cowboys among NFC teams than are the Rams, who based on the NFL’s conference logic, reside in the West, while the Cowboys have long been in the East.
And there are no plans to change that to put the Rams in the Cowboys’ division. Sorry, DeMarco, that would be convenient for you.
Maybe the Rams were the exact cure for DeMarco Murray and this running game. No, he didn’t challenge his franchise single-game record of 253 yards he set as a rookie. But his 175 yards are now the second-highest total of his career.
In need of some rushing relief, call on the Rams. Yeah, it doesn’t matter if Jeff Fisher has changed the culture there in St. Louis, the holes looked the same. Unlike that game against the Rams two years ago, Murray didn’t have a 91-yarder to get him going.
And that’s actually even better. For this game was much more workmanlike for Murray and the Cowboys offense. It’s amazing how efficient Tony Romo can be when he’s got a running game like he did Sunday.
Romo wasn’t flashy at all, and that’s perfect. Quarterbacks don’t have to be flashy in a 31-7 win at home. Romo was really good: 17-of-24 for 210 yards and three touchdowns with no picks for a 137.2 passer rating.
When your quarterback can be good, and your running back is great, that’s a recipe for success. Throw in the fact that the Cowboys were downright dominant on defense and that’s your 24-point blowout. And yes, in the NFL, winning by 24 is a complete blowout.
But again, it all started with the running game, and that all starts with the mindset.
You could sense earlier in the week that the Cowboys would indeed focus more on the run. Romo said they needed to run more. Play-caller Bill Callahan said he needed to call more runs. Head coach Jason Garrett said the running game needed to improve and even owner Jerry Jones not only echoed all of that, but also predicted much more success running the ball.
So you knew they would focus on running the rock.
First play – DeMarco Murray left side for 14 yards.
Did anyone else think, just for a moment, Murray might take it the distance just like he did for 91 yards on his first carry against the Rams two years ago, a run also to the left side? He obviously didn’t make it that far, but to that point, it was still his longest rush of the season. That would change later in the day, but he would also get another 14-yarder on that first drive.
Murray for 14, 7, 2, 14, 6 and then no gain. The drive ended with a Dez Bryant touchdown pass, but the message was set. The Cowboys were indeed focused on toting the rock on this day. Hey, those 43 yards on the first drive far exceeded last week’s total of 25 yards in the entire game.
By the end of the first quarter, Murray had 86 yards on 10 attempts. He was at 96 by halftime and then in the third quarter is when he really poured it in, eventually finishing the day with 175.
So what did Murray have to say about this performance?
Well, nothing actually. He spent all day dipping and dodging Rams defenders, that he continued that trend in the locker room after the game. Murray chose not to speak to reporters, later citing that he needed to attend to a family matter. Make no mistake, he ran the ball so well inside AT&T Stadium that he made sure to rush out of the building, too.
Maybe he felt like he did his talking on the field. Whether or not he talked to reporters, Murray’s performance was not only stellar, but was also needed for a Cowboys team that is striving to be balanced.
Yes, Romo is a good quarterback. He has moments when he’s great and he’s had some not-so-great moments, too. That’s Romo. But all quarterbacks need some help. John Elway got a little better when Terrell Davis showed up. Not comparing Romo to Elway, or even Murray to Davis, who coincidentally ripped Murray this week on NFL Network, saying he struggles with his vision and leaves yards on the field.
He didn’t leave much of anything out there on Sunday. And saw things pretty clear from start to finish.
When he’s running well, the entire offense just looks better. It’s amazing how well the play-fake can work when the defense has to respect the run. The line looks better. The receivers are open more, and the quarterback has more time to find the right targets.
This result right here is why every coach in the NFL, college, high school and probably junior high will continue to stress the importance of a good ground game. Even with all of these wide-open, spread attacks that we’re seeing everywhere, it’s still important to run the ball. You have to be able to run it. You have to run it near the goal line. You have to run it on third-and-short, and you have to run the ball when you need to run out the clock and protect a lead.
Say what you want about the NFL becoming a passing league – and clearly it’s changed dramatically over the years – but even a decent running game can open up so many things.
The Dallas Cowboys Texas-2 Defense surely appreciates the rest.
Offensive Game Ball: Offensive Line
It would be real easy to hand the ball to DeMarco Murray for his effort in this game, but without those guys up front, Murray would not have had the day that he did. Murray received his share of blame for his lack of production last week against the Chiefs, but he alone should not have shouldered the criticism. This Cowboys offensive line was outstanding today both in the run and pass. Murray had more than enough room to operate and Tony Romo was hardly touched as he sat in the pocket. Head coach Jason Garrett and his offensive staff have strived for balance, and they got it today from a line that hasn’t always been given the credit that it deserves.
Defensive Game Ball: Jason Hatcher
Going into this game, the Rams offensive line was expected to have problems handling the Cowboys defensive tackles. For the third straight game, Jason Hatcher was outstanding. For a player who had questions about staying consistent in this scheme, he has more than proved himself. Hatcher played with explosive quickness and power. He was disruptive on the move and was relentless in the way he attacked the pocket. His play did not allow Rams quarterback Sam Bradford any room to step up and make a throw. Hatcher was quick to shed blocks, and he was technique-sound the entire day. His play overall caused this Rams’ offensive scheme huge issues.
Coaches Game Ball: Rod Marinelli
The Rams were going to have trouble running the ball, which meant that defensive line coach Rod Marinelli and his troops were going to have to play the majority of the game rushing the passer. Bradford put the ball up 49 times for St. Louis with an average gain of only 3.6 yards per completion. Bradford was never comfortable in the pocket, and it started on the opening series and did not end until the final whistle. Despite playing shorthanded without Anthony Spencer, Marinelli’s group put on quite a show. There was a slot blitz or two mixed in from Orlando Scandrick, but the majority of the pressure came from a four-man rush. Marinelli has always preached quickness off the snap and to get up the field as quickly as you can. He did an outstanding job of rotating his defensive line, and they rewarded him with a dominating performance against a Rams club that has some explosive offensive weapons, totally holding them in check. Today, it started up front with his guys.
IRVING, Texas – However prepared Bill Callahan is to call Sunday’s gameplan against the Rams, he’s certainly prepared to answer the inevitable questions about it.
The whirlwind of questioning about the Dallas Cowboys offense – from playcalling to the ineffectiveness of the running game – turned its attention to Callahan on Thursday after moving past Jason Garrett and Tony Romo earlier in the week.
In his first season as the Cowboys’ playcaller, Callahan seemed well-prepared for the second-guessing that comes with a head-scratching loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
“We just felt like there were some real matchups that we liked in that game, and we wanted to go with that. That’s the way it played out, and when it doesn’t play out, that’s a part of the job. I shoulder that, and I don’t shun that responsibility whatsoever,” he said. “Going forward, we’re trying to put together a run gameplan we can all be proud of and we all like, and we can hopefully get to that balance that we’re looking for.”
Most of the expectation to fix the Dallas running game, which ranks 26th in the league with just 62 yards per game, is going to fall on Callahan. It’s a line that has been repeated around Valley Ranch to this point in the season, but Callahan said the offense can’t get too caught up in meeting quotas as opposed to doing what works.
“By and large it’s circumstantial – we just took advantage of some opportunities that existed and we went after coverage and honestly some coverages that we liked,” Callahan said. “It’s not that we didn’t want to run it, it’s just that during the course of a game, you’re going to go ahead and attack a defense in a certain way and a certain manner.”
Garrett fielded the question earlier on Thursday, and Romo faced it when he talked to reporters Wednesday: at what point do you decide between taking what the defense gives you and running purely for the sake of the running game.
“Sometimes you’ve got to be able to run when they’re playing the run, and you’ve got to be able to pass when they’re playing the pass,” Garrett said.
Callahan added on to that Thursday afternoon with the thought that the running game doesn’t always have to look like a running game – an idea that might explain the prevalence for short passes in the first two weeks of the season.
“There’s so many aspects of running the football – there’s play action, there’s run action, there’s movement passes. There are numerous things that can equate to a run as well,” he said. “It could be the screen game, it could be the check down system, whatever that may be – in the passing game, that it really becomes like a run. Sometimes I think that gets kind of lost in translation.”
He did stress that he didn’t mean that as an excuse, however. With 39 attempts through two games, Dallas ranks 27th in the league in rushes – a stat he conceded isn’t good enough even if the Cowboys are using other means of moving the ball.
“We’ve got to do a better job — I’ve got to do a better job calling more runs,” he said. “So that’s something that we’re working hard on.”
He added: “No excuses, but we have to run it more and we’ve got to put it in DeMarco’s hands, because he’s capable of doing a lot of great things.”
As has widely been speculated, the return of Brian Waters to a large in-game role may help rejuvenate the rushing attack. Callahan said Waters has adapted quickly – an impressive accomplishment, given the required cohesion between offensive linemen — because he is familiar with the Cowboys’ system.
That said, the Cowboys’ playcaller seemed to embrace the responsibility for the offense’s success or failure, as he avoided calling out the offensive line. Callahan said the playcalling needs to improve – something there’s still plenty of time for, he added.
“We like our line — our line is physical. But we’ve got to do a better job calling it, and I’ve got to do a better job personally, and that’s my responsibility – one that I own up to and one that we all want to get better at,” he said. “But we’re working hard, our guys still believe and it’s still early on in this season to build our run game and get to where we want to go. But as we all know, talk is cheap and we’ve got to put it into action.”
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan wasn’t thrilled with his last play call Sunday. He called for a screen to running back DeMarco Murray with 16 seconds remaining with the Cowboys at their own 4. Murray gained 10 yards and time expired before they got off another play.
“Yeah, I’ve got to do better with that,” Callahan agreed Sunday. “I’ve got to do a better job of making a better call in that situation. Yeah.”
The chances were slim the Cowboys were going to get in field-goal range anyway, needing 50-plus yards and without a timeout. But quarterback Tony Romo said the Cowboys were trying to get in position for a jump ball for the final play.
“Ninety-five percent of the teams are going to be really soft in that situation,” Romo said. “You think you can get a good 30 to 40 yards to throw a jump ball. With that much time, you can get out of bounds to the 40, to the 50 and have a chance at it, so I thought that was a good call, and it gives you a chance, an opportunity to do that. They played a little bit of an aggressive defense, two-man, at that point, which you don’t normally see.”
POSTGAME PRESS CONFERENCE: Jason Garrett and Tony Romo’s reaction to Kansas City Chiefs loss; Dez highlights
First Take – Dallas Cowboys vs. Kansas City Chiefs wrap up
Nick Eatman, Rowan Kavner, and Bryan Broaddus from Kansas City for First Take immediately following the Dallas Cowboys loss to the Chiefs.
Coach Jason Garrett & Tony Romo Postgame Press Conference
Jason Garrett and Tony Romo react following the Dallas Cowboys 17-16 loss at Kansas City.
Dez Bryant highlights at Kansas City (Must-see video!)
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Dez Bryant finishes finishes with 9 receptions for 141 yards and a touchdown in the team’s 17-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Regular readers already know that The Boys Are Back blog features the ALMOST WORLD FAMOUS predictions from The GREAT Robbini. Last season, the predictor disappeared for several weeks. While the exact age of The Great Robbini is unknown, it’s widely believed that he was experiencing some kind of midlife crisis.
It has been a very productive offseason. As promised, it became ‘uncomfortable’ for last years Dallas Cowboys. Jason Garrett delegated offensive play-calling duties to Callahan, new defensive coaches and scheme (the Texas 2 defense), more gameday planning from quarterback Tony Romo, and Cowboys Stadium has been renamed. Jerry Jones is younger, Stephen Jones has secret sauce, and Jay Ratliff isn’t playing (ooooh, that’s the same). The Great Robbini is geeked! He has tuned his crystal ball directly to the AT&T network! We expect that his apparatus is beaming signals loud and clear!
The GREAT Robbini is psyched about the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys incoming vibe… and ready to share his prognostications that we all count on from week-to-week. Without further delay, it’s time for The GREAT Robbini’s predictions. I’m sure you’ll agree … a lot of these will come true. OK, here we go …
The GREAT Robbini’s – 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys week #1 predictions:
Cowboys roll over the Giants! Dallas Cowboys start it off right in newly named AT&T Stadium.
It seems that “in the Garrett era” that consistently, the top division rival has been the uhhhh …New Jersey Giants. Mostly for the way they’ve taken a W out of the past four Cowboys Stadium contests. Usually a close game leaving bitterness in the mouths of us all. This time around the ‘Boys take Eli & Co. out in an execution style massacre in Arlington.
Predictions for the Texas 2 Defense …
- 4 sacks on Eli Manning
Sean Lee forced fumble
JJ Wilcox INT
DeMarcus Ware 2 sacks
Victor Cruz Injured
Bruce Carter/Barry Church lead tackles
Predictions for the offense …
- Tony Romo 3 TDs
Dez Bryant 2 TDs
Gavin Escobar TD
DeMarco Murray TD
RB committee 130 yds. +
Dan Bailey 2 FGs
Miles Austin 60 yds.
Dez Bryant 100 yds.
Cole Beasley 30 yds.
Terrence Williams 30 yds.
Jason Witten 45 yds.
Gavin Escobar 25 yds.
Tony Romo sacked twice
The GREAT Robbini
Remember, you read it here! The Great Robbini predictions for week #1. Leave your final score or predictions in the comment section.
IRVING, Texas – There’s been talk for six months about Tony Romo’s increased role in the Cowboys’ game week preparation.
Well, game week is finally here.
Romo was never likely to discuss the finer points of the Cowboys’ season opener strategy against the Giants. But with the days dwindling down until the start of the season, he did acknowledge the amount of work put into the Cowboys gameplan along with offensive coordinator Bill Callahan and the coaching staff.
“We’ve had a lot of meetings, a lot of meeting time. I don’t want to get into detail about what it is, I don’t know if it’s an advantage for us to be communicating all this stuff,” Romo said. “But I have a great rapport with Bill – he’s got a great understanding through his experience about football and what it takes to win games. On top of it, we have great communication as to the things I like to see and the things we’re going to put together.”
That has been a common line from Romo about the input of his personal preferences into the gameplan. But the extent of that is yet to be seen this year – Romo did not play in preseason games against Miami and Houston, and he combined to throw just 36 passes in the other three exhibitions.
When Romo did have the chance to throw, though, he looked strong with a completion percentage of 72 percent for 367 yards with two touchowns and, more importantly, no interceptions.
“We’re really not going to do anything different than what we did at training camp and preseason games. We’re going to run, probably, some plays that are similar, some different plays — some things like that,” Romo said. “But as far as the rest of it, I’m going to treat it the same way I’ve treated every day I walk out there: the ball is important, moving the team, getting us in and out of the right plays and finding the right guys and letting them go do what they do best.”
It will be interesting to see how that changes against live opposition. Despite their lofty reputation, the Giants’ defensive line was among the 10 worst in the NFL in both rushing defense and sacks. New faces such as veteran defensive tackles Cullen Jenkins and Shaun Rogers have been added to the rotation along with familiar names like Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul.
“If you look at them, they might actually be better up front than they were – that’s saying a lot, because they’ve always had a pretty good front,” Romo said. “They’ve added some guys inside that allow them to do some things. Getting Pierre-Paul back, and getting the rest of those guys going – they’re going to be tough to handle.”
That’s a lot of variables for Romo to handle, especially with his expanded role in the gameplan. As has been the case this offseason, he downplayed that thought. Regardless of Romo’s role in the gameplanning, the job on the field remains the same.
“I’m going to do the job that this team needs to win the football game, and that’s what we’re trying to do every week we play. That’s my job when I step out there,” he said. “Obviously the number one thing for me will be not having anything negatively happen – and when I say that, it’s not just turnovers. It’s negative plays, getting us into the right plays, doing little things that will get us out of other things. A lot of that stuff falls on the quarterback’s plate, and that’s a good thing – especially when you’ve been in a system for an extended period of time.”
2013-2014 COWBOYS ROSTER: Veteran guard Brian Waters officially signs; injured Eric Frampton waived by Dallas
IRVING, Texas – More than 14 years after he signed with his hometown as an undrafted rookie fullback, Brian Waters as returned home … again.
Waters has officially signed a one-year deal with the Dallas Cowboys, the team he grew up idolizing as a native of nearby Waxahachie and later a standout at North Texas in Denton.
To make room for Waters, the Cowboys will put safety Eric Frampton on the waived/injured list and likely give the veteran an injury settlement for his calf injury. The Cowboys initially kept Frampton as one of six safeties but he wasn’t expected to play this week against the Giants.
Waters, who hasn’t played a snap since 2011 with the Patriots, officially signed his contract late tonight at Valley Ranch. The deal is worth 1.5 million in base salary. However, Waters can earn up to $3 million total based on play-time incentives.
Wearing a T-shirt and gym shorts, Waters arrived to the Cowboys’ complex to sign the deal, then immediately went to the coaching offices, where he met with assistants Bill Callahan and Frank Pollard for what was expected to be a long night of film session.
However, Waters is not expected to play Sunday night against the Giants, and that appears to be the Cowboys’ call. However, he’s no stranger to quick turnarounds. When he signed in New England, Waters joined the team on Sept. 3 and played in 85 percent of the Patriots’ offensive snaps in a win over Miami.
A six-time Pro Bowler who spent the first 10 years of his career in Kansas City, Waters is still expected to practice with the Cowboys on Wednesday. While he likely won’t play Sunday, count on Waters being ready for the Sept. 14 game with the Chiefs, a team he spent a full decade with.
So what does this mean for the Cowboys’ offensive line this season, or even this week against the Giants?
It seems like that could be two different answers.
The Cowboys will likely prepare to get both Ron Leary and Mackenzy Bernadeau ready to start. Leary hasn’t practiced since early August when he underwent a minor knee scope that kept him out of the final three preseason games.
Leary is expected to practice Wednesday at left guard.
Assuming Waters won’t be ready, Bernadeau will likely start. But after that is up in the air. Leary has never started an NFL game so it’s not a given he would keep his role. The Cowboys would obviously prefer for Leary to win the job, but it will have to be earned.
This move also allows the Cowboys to keep veteran Doug Free at right tackle. The club experimented with Free at guard the last few weeks when they were unsure about the status of Leary.