After starting high school as a wide receiver playing six-man football, James Hanna has since faced a steady diet of adjusting and learning.
A Cowboys fan growing up in the Dallas suburbs, Hanna transferred from Coram Deo Academy to Flower Mound for his last two years of high school and thrived in the more intricate 11-man game. Despite outstanding success at the position, though, his large body seemed to make him a better fit at tight end, a position he converted to as a college freshman at Oklahoma.
Hanna gradually made the transition, and after a big senior year with the Sooners that saw him accumulate 27 receptions for 381 yards and two touchdowns, the Cowboys made him their sixth-round draft choice (186th overall) back in April.
Now the highly athletic 6-4, 249-pound Hanna wrapped up perhaps his most challenging task, adapting to the more complex duties required of an NFL tight end.
“I think I have a lot to learn. I think I haven’t reached my potential or even close to it,” says Hanna, who wowed scouts with his blazing speed at the 2012 Scouting Combine, topping all tight ends in five different categories. “The coaches told me it’s on me to develop as much as I can to be the best I can be, and I feel like, with hard enough work, I can be a contributor here.”
Bucs receivers coach John Garrett added one of his former players today (Thursday), reuniting with Kevin Ogletree. Garrett was the tight ends coach with the Cowboys during all four of Ogletree’s seasons in Dallas.
Ogletree, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2009, became the Cowboys’ No. 3 receiver in both 2011 and 2012. He lost the job early during the 2011 season to Laurent Robinson, who was signed off the street after final cuts. Ogletree lost playing time late last season to Dwayne Harris.
Ogletree played 457 plays to Harris’ 257, but 212 of Harris’ plays came the final seven games, including 68 on Thanksgiving Day against Washington when Ogletree sat out with a concussion. In the final seven games, six of which he played, Ogletree was in for only 143 snaps.
Harris is expected to get the first shot at the No. 3 job this season behind Miles Austin and Dez Bryant.
Ogletree finished his four seasons with 46 games played, two starts, 57 receptions, 730 yards and four touchdowns.
Jason Garrett might give up play-calling duties to Bill Callahan. Then, again, maybe he won’t. Both Garrett and Callahan spoke to the media this week, but it remains a mystery about who will actually call the plays for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys.
Dallas tight end Jason Witten said it’s not about who calls the plays, but how they are executed. The Cowboys were sixth in total offense last season, but they were only 15th in scoring.
“I think more’s been made of that than probably needs to be as far as a player’s perspective just because it’s all about execution for us,” Witten said Friday night in Fort Worth. “We’ve got to execute those plans better. We’ve got good plays, and we’ve got some good players, but we’ve got to do a good enough job of executing time and time again. That’s where I focus is on as players, I think, and that’s where it needs to be moving forward.”
The Cowboys offense is expected to look much the same as it has since Garrett became the offensive coordinator in 2007 regardless whether he or Callahan is calling the plays.
The Cowboys hope to run the ball better. They were 31st in rushing, with a franchise-low 1,265 yards for a 16-game season. They need to protect it better, too, having turned it over 29 times, and they want to score more points in the red zone (25 touchdowns in 49 red-zone trips, ranking 20th in the league).
“We just need to do a better job of scoring and taking care of the ball collectively and not putting ourselves in those situations where we’re having to come from behind,” Witten said.
Witten will have a new position coach after six seasons with John Garrett. Witten had 554 catches for 6,110 yards and 30 touchdowns the past six seasons, an average of 92 receptions for 1,018 yards and five touchdowns. He set an NFL record for a tight end with 110 catches in 2012.
But John Garrett departed for Tampa Bay to become the Bucs receivers coach, and Wes Phillips was promoted from assistant offensive line coach. Phillips is the son of former Dallas head coach Wade Phillips and was retained by the Cowboys after Wade Phillips was fired.
“I am excited for Wes,” Witten said. “I think Wes breaks that label of ‘I got in because of my dad.’ He’s proven he’s a good football coach. He’s a young, fiery guy. John was a guy was near and dear to me. I think what we were able to accomplish over the last six years is special. He pushed me every day, and as good as he was as a coach, he was a better man. But Wes has been in the receiving end. He’s also been on the line. I think he’ll be a perfect mix. I’ve enjoyed working with him. I think we share a lot of the same beliefs as far as how you prepare and attack a game plan. So I’m looking forward to that opportunity.”
Dallas Cowboys tight ends coach John Garrett has accepted a job to become the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new receivers coach. Garrett worked in Dallas for six seasons, arriving when his brother, Jason Garrett, became offensive coordinator. John Garrett added the title of passing game coordinator to his title in 2011.
“I’m really excited about this opportunity in Tampa,” Garrett said. “We had a had a great time interviewing down there, getting to know coach [Greg] Schiano more and more and the offensive coaches and the rest of the staff of the Buccaneers. It really went well, and I’m thrilled for the opportunity and just really excited to get started working for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.”
Though Garrett still was under contract with the Cowboys, Dallas already had OK’d his leaving. He and other coaches had been allowed to look for other jobs, and Garrett had applied for the University of Delaware head coaching job. The opportunity with the Bucs came last week.
Garrett, 47, will leave his brothers Jason and Judd, the Cowboys’ director of pro scouting, but he said he will miss his tight ends room just as much. Garrett said he developed a special relationship with Jason Witten, John Phillips and James Hanna. Witten left for Hawaii and his eighth Pro Bowl on Sunday.
“My six years with the Cowboys have been fantastic,” Garrett said. “I want to thank the [Jerry] Jones family and the entire Cowboys organization. The opportunity to work with the coaches here on staff and everyone in the administration has been fantastic. I loved coming to work every day. But most importantly, working with the players in my position. The tight ends are just fabulous people, really good players and do it the right way. They love football. They prepare. They execute. They have just tremendous integrity and character. It was a great, great tight end room from Jason Witten to John Phillips to James Hanna. I just loved coming in and coaching them every day. They were like sponges, soaking everything in and being prepared for the games and the practices. I really appreciate that and the fact that they gave everything they had.”
Garrett has seen his career come back to where it started. He began his post-playing career as a pro personnel assistant for the Bucs, staying in that role from 1992-94. He worked with the Bucs receivers, too, during the week those two seasons and assisted the defensive staff on game days.
When he left the Bucs for Cincinnati in 1995, he was replaced in Tampa by Mark Dominik. Dominik now is the team’s general manager.
Garrett’s tie to Schiano is his father. Jim Garrett was a long-time NFL scout whose path crossed several times with Schiano while Schiano was in the college ranks.
“Greg Schiano is a fantastic person, and a great football coach, and he loves football and does everything the right way,” Garrett said. “I’m really excited to learn more from him and be part of his program.”
Garrett will replace Bucs receivers coach P.J. Fleck, who was hired as the head coach at Western Michigan. Garrett inherits Vincent Jackson, who, in his first season in Tampa, earned a Pro Bowl berth with 72 catches for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns.
“Vincent Jackson is a fantastic player and from what I hear and what I saw when I had the interview, he is arguably a better person,” Garrett said. “All the coaches there think he’s an outstanding leader, a fantastic worker. He loves to be coached and loves football. They had a lot of comparisons to this is our [Jason] Witten, how he just loves it and as a star player sets the tone and pace for how to work and prepare. I got a chance to visit with him in the course of the interview and that’s exactly the case. I developed a good rapport, and I’m looking forward to working with such a talented guy.”
Garrett is the fifth assistant to leave Dallas, continuing a restructuring of the coaching staff. Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was let go, replaced by Monte Kiffin. Defensive line coach Brian Baker also was not retained, replaced by Rod Marinelli.
Running backs coach Skip Peete also was let go, and he landed in Chicago. The Cowboys have not replaced him yet. Special teams coach Joe DeCamillis’ job also has not been filled. DeCamillis also joined the Bears staff.
Wes Phillips, who has been on the Cowboys staff for six years, could be considered for John Garrett’s vacated job. Phillips has spent the past two seasons as the assistant offensive line coach.
The Cowboys also are unsettled at play caller, though the job could go to offensive line coach Bill Callahan.
Oh, it’s an easy annoyance. The second-round pick who never really made it here in four years goes to the division rival, the Super Bowl champions, and has now done something no player in the Giants’ storied history has ever done.
Martellus Bennett became the first Giants player to record a touchdown catch in each of his first three games.
Are you kidding? No, it’s a reality and one that obviously has Cowboys fans wondering why it didn’t work out like that in Dallas.
It doesn’t really take a Sherlock Holmes investigation to figure out. The Cowboys had Jason Witten. He was and still is the starter. He was and still is a better overall player. And Martellus Bennett’s contract expired and he wanted to be a starter.
He found that in New York and so far, he’s taking advantage.
In three games, Bennett has 15 catches for 185 yards and three touchdowns. He needs two catches to tie last year’s total and he’s already surpassed his 144-yard production from all of last year. And the three touchdowns? Well, that’s one shy of the four he had in his entire four years in Dallas, which all occurred in his rookie season.
Not just good for Martellus, but great for Martellus. That’s all he ever wanted was to be a starting tight end in the NFL and he’s getting the chance to do that. And on a big stage with a great quarterback throwing the ball to him.
Like anything involving the Cowboys, this will probably be turned back at them for not developing him better, but the reality of the situation is this: It wasn’t going to work here in Dallas, not to the point of making anyone happy.
When you take a guy in the second round, you expect production. You expect a good starting player who can possibly get to a Pro Bowl level. You don’t expect a backup who sometimes contributes and sometimes he’s just a blocker that often had no impact on the game.
And on the flip side, when you’re taken in the second round like he was in 2008, Bennett expects to one day be that starting player and a go-to member of the offense.
With Witten in the fold, it wasn’t going to happen. And it’s nothing new. It didn’t work for Anthony Fasano in 2006 either. He was a second-round pick that was here two years and the Cowboys traded him to Miami, one day before the draft in which they got Bennett with the 60th overall pick.
If anyone is to be blamed here, it has to be the Cowboys for drafting Bennett and creating these expectations that simply couldn’t be fulfilled.
And while everyone wants to bring the New England Patriots into the conversation because they manage to have a successful two-tight end offense, it’s really not the same at all. For starters, Aaron Hernandez is the biggest, slowest wide receiver in the NFL. He’s great at what he does, but not even the Patriots really consider him a true tight end. Sure, you might put him in the “TE” slot for your fantasy team, but he’s not asked to do the same things as most tight ends.
And New England runs a more inside-out offense. They focus on the slots with the tight ends and Wes Welker. They don’t invest huge money on the outside receivers. They lucked into a record-setting season with Randy Moss, but they thought they were getting an aging veteran on his last legs. That’s the approach they take with guys like Deion Branch, Reche Caldwell, Brandon Lloyd and Deion Branch, who keeps coming back.
It’s not the same. And if you go around the league, there aren’t many teams, if any, that get the ball to BOTH tight ends on a regular basis.
Sure, it probably sucks to see Bennett doing so well for the Giants when he was here for four years, but a part of that is also on him.
Truth be told, the Cowboys did want Martellus back this year. They offered him the same one-year deal he got with the Giants. But it was clear when Bennett cleaned out his locker on the last day of the season that he simply wanted out.
His act here in Dallas had gotten old for everyone. He was tired of playing behind Witten and not getting the ball. The Cowboys were probably tired of seeing him coast through seasons, where he often seemed more excited about non-football interests such as art or his clothing line. One of Bennett’s biggest storylines last year occurred in the locker room when he got into some words with a member of the media and one of my colleagues.
That really wasn’t even a big deal, but it goes to show what kind of season he had on the field.
He needed a change and a fresh start. He’s getting that in New York.
But I think it’s a stretch to say that he’s all of a sudden a better player and a more developed tight end. He still has an issue with drops and he got into a shouting match with a coach on the sidelines Thursday night against Carolina for a miscommunication in personnel.
I don’t think we’re seeing a different player at all. I think we’re seeing a guy with an opportunity – one that just wasn’t available here in Dallas.
Last year, it seemed like whoever the Cowboys brought in during the regular season, it was smart move.
Laurent Robinson wasn’t just a steal, but one of the best pickups off the street you will ever see on any team. The guy had four touchdowns in four years and he gets 11 in 14 games.
But he wasn’t the only one. Tony Fiammetta started games at fullback, while Frank Walker was a big addition in the secondary. Even tailback Sammy Morris helped out when DeMarco Murray went down.
PHOTO: The three Garrett brothers played football at Princeton in the late 80’s. In 1987, the three played together for the Princeton Tigers. From left to right, Judd, Jason, and John.
Now, the guys in the Pro Scouting Department – Judd Garrett and Will McClay are at it again. Trading for Ryan Cook seemed like a nice cushion to the interior line. That’s before Phil Costa played just three snaps against the Giants and now will be out a while.
Cook is THE guy at center and the Cowboys seemingly made a nice call with him, especially since he’s been mostly a guard and tackle during his seven years in the league. But they saw enough of him at center, and obviously trusted former Cowboys scouting director Jeff Ireland, who is the GM in Miami and traded him to Dallas for the seventh-round pick.
What they did last year on the fly to get Robinson, Fiammetta, Walker and company, coupled with this free agent period in March to get Brandon Carr, Kyle Orton, Mackenzy Bernadeau, Nate Livings and Dan Connor, suggests those pro scouts have a good feel for what the coaching staff is looking for.
And that only makes sense considering Judd Garrett is running the pro scouting department and happens to be the brother of the head coach.
But already Cook looks to be a good pickup, and it makes me think the addition of cornerback LeQuan Lewis should be rather helpful, too.
RELATED: Everything you ever wanted to know about Judd Garrett, and more!
Judd Garrett (born June 25, 1967) is a former coach and running back. He is currently the director of pro scouting for the Dallas Cowboys.
Playing career: Early years
Judd Garrett went to high school at University School in Hunting Valley, Ohio, where he earned a varsity letter in football, basketball, and baseball. He was named Most Valuable Player in all three sports his senior year. In football, as a senior, Garrett gained a school record 2,011 yards rushing and scored 35 touchdowns. He was selected first team all-state and he won the Cleveland Touchdown Club’s Lou Groza Award which is given to the Most Valuable Player in Northeast Ohio. Garrett graduated from University School in 1985.
Prior to University School, Garrett attended grade school at Saint Ann’s Catholic School which is located in Cleveland Heights, Ohio from 1978-1981. His three years at Saint Ann’s, Garrett played in three consecutive City Championship Football Games and his team won the City Championship in 1979.
Garrett is a 1990 graduate of Princeton University where he was a three year starter at running back. In his three seasons, Garrett gained 3,109 yards rushing, caught 137 passes and scored 41 touchdowns. In his senior year, Garrett lead the Tigers to their first Ivy League championship in 20 years. Following his senior season, Garrett was awarded the Asa S. Bushnell Cup which is given to the Ivy League Player of the Year, and he was selected to the Division 1-AA All-American team. He played in the 1990 Hula Bowl where he scored the first touchdown of the game. He also represented the Ivy League with a group of 40 league All-Stars in the Epson Ivy Bowl in Tokyo Japan vs. a team of Japanese All-Stars.
Garrett was drafted in the 12th round of the 1990 NFL Draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. After being released by the Eagles, Garrett spent part of the 1990 season on the Dallas Cowboy’s injured reserve list. Garrett then played the next two seasons (1991–1992) with the London Monarchs of the World League of American Football. His first season in London, he led the league in receptions with 71 while helping the team amass an 11-1 record and the first ever World Bowl Championship. In that championship game, Garrett set a World Bowl record of 13 receptions and caught the game sealing touchdown with less than a minute left in the first half. After the 1991 season, Garrett was selected to the All-World League team. Following his two seasons in the World League, Garrett spent the 1993 season on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, earning a Super Bowl ring. He finished his playing career with two stints in the Canadian Football League with the Las Vegas Posse (1994) and the San Antonio Texans (1995).
Garrett started his NFL coaching career as an offensive assistant with the New Orleans Saints under Mike Ditka from 1997-1999. After leaving the Saints, Garrett spent six seasons with Miami Dolphins from 2000–2005, as an assistant coach under Dave Wannstedt and Nick Saban during which time the Dolphins had five winning seasons, won a Division Title and two playoff appearances. After the 2005 season, Garrett was hired by the St. Louis Rams to coach tight ends. He stayed with the Rams from 2006-2007. He was hired by the Dallas Cowboys as the director of pro scouting in May 2008.
Judd Garrett was married to the former Kathleen Kobler, an all-American soccer player at Princeton University, for 14 years, and together they had four children, Calvin, Frances, Campbell and Kassity. Kathy died unexpectedly on August 19, 2007 from a heart attack.
His father (Jim Garrett) was an assistant coach for the New York Giants (1970–1973), New Orleans Saints (1976–77), and Cleveland Browns (1978–84), head coach of the Houston Texans of the fledgling WFL (1974), and head football coach at Columbia University (1985). From 1987-2004, he served as a scout for the Dallas Cowboys
Career highlights and awards
Months of practices and four preseason games all culminate in one final cut day, which 22 Cowboys players won’t survive.
That time is 8:00 p.m. Aug. 31, and it’s a day that head coach Jason Garrett called one of the worst for a player or a coach in the NFL.
“I think what makes it difficult is the work that they put in,” Garrett said. “Most of our coaches and administrators are former players. They understand the commitment these guys have made. Anybody who’s been around our football team for the last month or so has seen the commitment these guys have made.”
Garrett, the offensive or defensive coordinator and a position coach all talk to the released player and try to explain why the decision was made, provide them constructive coaching and thank them for their effort. Afterward, their time as a Cowboy is finished.
Dallas has been plagued with injuries throughout the preseason, which could force them to go deep at some positions and light at others. Garrett said it’s not always the 53 best players, but the 53 players who give the Cowboys the best chance to win. No official announcement on the final roster will be made until Friday.
Garrett said the draft picks will get every opportunity possible to show the reason they were selected, but there are other players worthy of a chance. The Cowboys have a history of turning undrafted free agents into top talents, including Eastern Illinois’ Tony Romo and Monmouth’s Miles Austin.
“If you have an attitude that it doesn’t matter where players come from, it matters what they do when they get here, I think you’re more able to find some of those guys,” Garrett said. “That’s been our approach. We preached that to our players from Day 1.”
Garrett said it warms his heart to think about the commitment the Cowboys players made in the offseason to fulfill their dreams.
“We have a lot of discussions about who we should keep, what we should do with different players, what role he might have and might not have, so those are difficult discussions,” Garrett said. “What makes it hard is, in a lot of ways, many of these guys’ dreams have come to an end or have changed.”
Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten will likely be sidelined for the rest of the preseason after suffering abdominal injury in Monday’s night’s 3-0 opener against the Raiders, according to multiple sources.
The Cowboys are conducting more testing on Witten, who injured his spleen after taking a hit from Raiders linebacker Rolando McClain. According to a source, Witten’s spleen was not ruptured but it was bleeding.
He will not require surgery but he will be sidelined for the next three weeks, putting his availability for the Sept. 5 season opener against the Giants in doubt.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones expressed a sigh of relief after the game that Witten didn’t appear to be hurt from the hit on the second play of the game. He told reporters that he held his breath when he saw the hit.
However, it appears Jones may have spoken to soon as Witten was indeed injured on the play.
He came back and caught a pass on the next series and then was taken out when the rest of the starters were sidelined for the game.
But the bad news came when the Cowboys returned to Oxnard to resume training camp.
The injury is potentially a huge setback as not only was Witten the Cowboys leading receiver but they have little experience and little depth at tight end behind him after Martellus Bennett bolted to the New York Giants as a free agent in the offseason.
Jason Phillips will likely start in his place until he returns. The other tights on the roster are rookie sixth-round pick James Hanna and undrafted rookie free agent Andrew Szczerba.
RELATED: Harry Flaherty signed; Bill Nagy waived
The Cowboys moved quickly to bolster the tight end position for practice, signing Harry Flaherty and waiving injured guard Bill Nagy.
Flaherty is the nephew of head coach Jason Garrett and tight ends coach John Garrett. He may not be able to help in Saturday’s preseason game against the Chargers as he will Wednesday and Thursday’s practice adhering to the NFL’s three-day waiting period.
The Cowboys will only conduct a walkthrough on Friday.