Dallas Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete has been relieved of his duties by coach Jason Garrett and will not return for the 2013 season.
Peete, who had been with the Cowboys since 2007, was informed in a meeting with Garrett Monday.
According to a source, Peete was surprised by the move, given the injuries to running backs DeMarco Murray the past two seasons that limited his effectiveness, and the struggles on the offensive line to open holes for the running game.
The Cowboys set a team record for fewest rushing yards in a 16-game season in 2012 with just 1,265.
Murray, who missed six games with a sprained foot, rushed for 663 yards, the lowest for a Cowboys leading rusher in 23 years. Felix Jones was ineffective in Murray’s place but his presence and production should land more at the foot of owner Jerry Jones than Peete.
A disappointed Garrett hinted at changes with the running game in his press conference after the season-ending loss to the Redskins.
“We have to do a better job running the football,’’ Garrett said. “DeMarco Murray was out for a large portion of this season, but having said that, you have to put the next guy in there and you have to be effective running it.
“It just helps your football team. It helps your offensive line, it helps your quarterback, it helps your defense. That’s something that we’ve tried to do and we weren’t as effective as we needed to be.
“We have to make a commitment to being better next year.’’
Peete may be the first change but he may not be the only staff move in 2013.
Special teams coach Joe DeCammilis interviewed for Bears head coaching job on Saturday. And even if he doesn’t get the Bears job, he could be in line for a lateral move to another team. The Cowboys blocked a potential move by DeCammilis to the Raiders last season.
The Cowboys have yet to rule on the future of defensive coordinator Rob Ryan.
Patricia Jones says that her son, Lance Dunbar, first told her when he was 12 that he wanted to play in the NFL.
In the family’s native New Orleans, that meant a standout career at a local high school, followed by a short drive west on I-10 around Lake Pontchartrain to Baton Rouge to play for LSU, and finally, hopefully, a contract with the New Orleans Saints.
That’s the dream anyway, but few young men are talented enough or lucky enough to make it happen.
Dunbar’s path to the NFL did take him through his local college and his local NFL team. But it was the University of North Texas and the Dallas Cowboys, not LSU and the Saints.
You see, New Orleans isn’t home to Dunbar anymore. It hasn’t been since Hurricane Katrina.
“When I was in New Orleans I was actually a starting safety and a running back,” Dunbar says. “So there’s no telling what position I would have played, what college I would have gone to, or where I would have ended up. Coming to Texas, it felt like I got a new start. I went to play at Haltom (High School) and ended up playing offense the whole time.”
Even seven years later, the mention of “Hurricane Katrina” resonates mightily with those who lived through it. The violent storm swept through the Bayou and by the time the disaster was over, the levees were broken, more than 1,000 people had died and thousands more hade fled, never to return.
“I go back to New Orleans for holidays and I have a good time,” Dunbar says. “It’s kind of how it used to be now. But I don’t like staying there more than a week. I feel like I get bored. It doesn’t seem like it’s home to me anymore. I’ve moved away for so long, most of my friends that were there have grown up and gone away.”
Opening day of football season was less than a week away when it became apparent Hurricane Katrina would hit New Orleans in August 2005. Dunbar had just played in his Jamboree game for De La Salle, the equivalent of a preseason scrimmage. De La Salle was one of the best prep schools in the city, a private school that excelled both academically and athletically. Dunbar was good enough to play varsity athletics in the eighth grade and had already put in two years on both the varsity football and basketball teams. He entered the 2005 season as a starting safety and a backup running back.
There is little doubt in Jones’ mind that had the family stayed in New Orleans, Dunbar would have found his way to a Division I school and, perhaps, the NFL.
By the Saturday before landfall, Jones knew it was time to get out of New Orleans. She packed up what she could and took the entire family to a Red Cross shelter in Hazelhurst, Miss., about two hours from New Orleans. The shelter was the family’s home for the next two weeks. From there, Jones and her family watched Katrina come and go, and watched the levees hold, then break. Because Jones heeded the warnings, her family didn’t have to live through the hell that became New Orleans in the days after Katrina. But she faced the same decision as others in the wake of the storm.
Where do we go now?
New Orleans had been home. De La Salle was a great school for a gifted athlete and smart kid like Dunbar. Plus, Jones admits, their home didn’t suffer as much damage as others in New Orleans. The family could have returned, but watching her city descend into lawlessness and despair was too much. She said she never really entertained the thought of taking her family back.
“New Orleans was pretty crazy after the storm,” Dunbar says. “There was too much happening. Everyone came to one side (of the city), the side that wasn’t flooded. It kind of got out of hand and mama didn’t want us around that environment.”
The storm provided a unique opportunity to start over. Jones could have moved the family anywhere. One day she received a phone call from one of Lance’s former youth coaches (J.R. Sheppard) in New Orleans, who was now living in Haltom City, a suburb northeast of Fort Worth. He encouraged her to move the family there.
Jones worked in a hospital system and was able to transfer from New Orleans to North Hills Hospital in North Richland Hills. So, sight unseen, Jones moved her family and some friends – 13 in all – to Haltom City that fall. Jones’ friend set up a hotel for the family near the school so Lance and his siblings could start school as soon as possible.
It didn’t take long for the family to make its final decision on where to stay.
“The kids really wanted to stay in Texas,” Jones says. “Once the kids started at Haltom, they loved it. They actually asked if we could stay. So that was really all I needed to hear.”
The hotel was a temporary residence. When the family did find its first permanent residence, its location was of little surprise to anyone who knows Lance. It was right behind Haltom High School’s practice field.
Home in Haltom City
Clayton George found himself in a unique position to relate to Dunbar when he arrived as Haltom’s head coach in the spring of 2006.
George had just spent a couple of years as the head football coach at Dallas Hillcrest, his first head-coaching job after leaving Southlake Carroll. Hillcrest became a hub for families displaced by Hurricane Katrina. He coached several players from New Orleans and heard their stories about the storm and the tragedy that came afterward.
“I still can’t imagine what they went through and what they saw,” George says. “I had heard those things before I met Lance. I kind of knew where he was coming from.”
George inherited a player with unique talent as both a rusher and a receiver. Dunbar joined Haltom midway through the 2005 season and gained 640 yards and scored four touchdowns. In his one season at Haltom, George says he did everything possible to put the ball in Dunbar’s hands. That translated into 1,100 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, along with 750 yards receiving and two more scores in 2006.
George spent just one year at Haltom because, shortly after the end of the 2006 high school football season, he accepted a job as the wide receivers coach at the University of North Texas offered by his former Southlake boss, Todd Dodge.
But in less than 12 months, Dunbar and George had connected on a personal level. George got to know not just Dunbar but Jones and the rest of Dunbar’s extended family. George and Dunbar still talk regularly and the family invited George to their home on the final day of the NFL Draft. George was there to watch the dream come together for the player he calls his “favorite” of any player he’s coached.
Their relationship extends beyond Dunbar’s obvious talent.
“Lance is quiet and humble,” George says. “He’ll open up, but he’s reserved and quiet. He’s that way but he has a great sense of humor. He’s someone that was raised well. His character and integrity are tremendous. I sound so cliché talking about him.”
When George left for UNT, he told Dunbar he would come back for him. Dunbar finished off his career at Haltom in 2007 with a 1,200-yard season. Oklahoma State wanted him. Colorado wanted him. So did Virginia.
But Dunbar chose North Texas.
“Initially, I was going to go to Oklahoma State,” Dunbar says. “(But) I also wanted to play as a freshman. I didn’t want to sit out. I’ve always felt if you’re good enough you can make it anywhere.”
So Dunbar signed with UNT, a decision that admittedly made Jones happy. She and her husband went to every game. So did Lance’s father, Lance Dunbar Sr. Denton, Texas is a heck of a lot closer to Haltom than Stillwater, Okla. And it was proof that Texas was now home. The test? The day he signed with UNT, guess who called the Mean Green’s newest recruit?
“LSU was definitely the school I wanted to go to when I was down there,” Dunbar says. “They were one of my favorite schools growing up. I was a big LSU fan, but that all switched after I went to North Texas.”
Dunbar wanted to play right away, and he did. When he received his first start for the Mean Green, he torched Louisiana-Lafayette for 224 yards and four touchdowns.
By the time he ended his UNT career, he had torn up the Mean Green record book, which was once the sole property of Patrick Cobbs. Dunbar finished with 4,224 yards, making him the program’s all-time leading rusher. Additionally, he is now UNT’s all-time leader in touchdowns (49), all-purpose yards (5,375), 100-yard rushing games (21), points (294) and rushing touchdowns (41). He was also the only Mean Green runner to have three straight 1,000-yard seasons and became just the sixth back in FBS history to compile 4,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards for a career. He earned All-Sun Belt first-team honors twice and Sports Illustrated named him honorable mention All-America twice.
He ended his tenure in Denton with a crescendo. He rushed for 313 yards against Middle Tennessee in a game played in a cold, driving rain for most of the contest. That night he broke Cobbs’ career rushing mark with Cobbs in attendance.
But that wasn’t enough to entice NFL teams to draft Dunbar in April. Had one done so, he would have become just the second Mean Green player to be drafted in the last 16 years.
But had one done so, he might not have ended up in Dallas.
Dunbar did not earn an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis in February, so his one opportunity to impress NFL scouts came in March at the Mean Green’s pro day at Apogee Stadium. The Cowboys were among the teams in attendance, as was current UNT coach Dan McCarney.
“He did a great job,” McCarney says. “He opened some eyes that day that he does have quality speed and quickness and hands.”
George heard about it later from a friend, Cowboys offensive assistant Keith O’Quinn.
“He told me before Lance was picked up how well Lance stood out and how (Cowboys running backs coach) Skip (Peete) liked him,” George says. “It wasn’t that much of a surprise to me when Dallas called him. He did well in front of them.”
Draft day was quite the party at the Dunbar house, even though there was no guarantee Dunbar would be drafted. George says the house was packed with more than 60 relatives and friends, some from Haltom and others from New Orleans. Late in the draft, Dunbar received a call from the Cowboys letting him know they were interested in signing him as a free agent, if no one drafted him.
“By the time the draft ended the process was already rolling,” George says.
So does Dunbar have the goods to stick with the Cowboys? Well, George believes that if anyone can overcome the long odds that face any undrafted free agent, it’s Dunbar, who says he loves competition. McCarney compares Dunbar to a player he coached while an assistant at Iowa, Ronnie Harmon. Harmon carved out a 12-year NFL career in which he gained nearly 9,000 yards. McCarney says Dunbar has similar strength, hands and versatility.
The Cowboys are intrigued. Peete likes Dunbar’s pass receiving skills, decision-making and quick adjustment to learning NFL schemes. Dunbar spent plenty of time with the second team offense in the ramp-up to training camp.
The man Dunbar replaced in the Mean Green record book, Cobbs, was an undrafted free agent coming out of college. Before spending 2011 on New Orleans’ injured reserve list, he played five seasons as a backup running back and special teams star for several teams, including Miami, where he served as a captain in 2010.
What lies ahead for Dunbar? We’ll just have to wait and see. But his circuitous path in life and to the NFL has proven he can overcome just about anything.
“Thank God for the opportunity to be here in Texas, a football state,” Jones says. “I think it was an act of God that placed us here because we could have gone back home.”
Courtesy: Matthew Postins | Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine
This story originally appeared in Dallas Cowboys Star Magazine. For subscription information, please click here.
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.”
Running back Lance Dunbar returned to practice Monday after missing two weeks with a hamstring. He missed the first two preseason games, so the Cowboys hope to see him Saturday at Cowboys Stadium against the St. Louis Rams.
“He’s mentally into what we’re doing. He understands what we’re doing. He has a good feel for our offense,” running backs coach Skip Peete said after the work at Chargers Park against the San Diego Chargers. “We just have to, obviously, give him the opportunity to get in there and get the work as a runner – carrying the ball, running routes, catching the ball. But he was doing fine before he got injured.”
The former North Texas and Haltom High standout has fallen behind another North Texas product, running back Jamize Olawale, but still remains high in the coaches’ minds.
“He’s a talented runner,” Peete said. “He’s a much better protector than I anticipated, being a guy of his size. So that’s a plus that was very impressive the first couple of days of practice. He’s a very explosive player and very dangerous. I’m excited to see what he can do in a preseason game.”
Dallas Cowboys running back Ed Wesley, a rookie from TCU, seeks to make the team as a free-agent signee. Wesley grew up as a huge Cowboys fan and, at one point in high school, lived in apartments across the street from the team’s Valley Ranch training facility. He shared his five favorite Cowboys memories thus far:
1Emmitt Smith sets NFL career rushing record… "It was awesome. Emmitt was my favorite."
2Smith inducted into Pro Football Hall of Fame… "My first time playing football, when I could choose my own number, I chose No. 22 because of him."
3Cowboys beat Pittsburgh 27-17 to win Super Bowl XXX… "I was in the first grade. I was 7 years old and I watched every bit of it."
4Cowboys beat Philadelphia in 2009 playoffs, the team’s first postseason triumph in 13 years… "The guys were giving me crap at TCU… because I was like, ‘We’re going to the Super Bowl.’ And they lost in the next round."
5Getting the call to join the team… "It was a dream come true."
Cowboys cornerback C.J. Wilson, a former Baylor standout, missed most of the morning walkthrough while having a root canal but took part in the padded practice during the afternoon. It made for a memorable day. "The pain medicine wore off as soon as we got out here, so I’ve been spitting out blood. But I’m fine," Wilson said after the afternoon session. "You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, man. If you don’t, somebody else will."
Because of injuries to Lance Dunbar (hamstring) and Phillip Tanner (broken hand), free-agent running backs Ed Wesley and Tavarris Williams figure to log significant snaps Monday at Oakland. Running backs coach Skip Peete said both are "a little behind the 8-ball" in learning the offense because neither went through off-season drills. Asked about Wesley, a TCU product, Peete said: "He’s an exciting young kid. He has some good run skills and has ability to run routes out of the backfield. He’s still behind, but that’s not his fault. If you’re three or four months behind everybody else, you’ve got to catch up quickly."
Actor Ashton Kutcher watched Saturday’s practice. He strolled the sideline like an assistant coach but wore a Boston Red Sox cap.
They said it
"I can’t accept … that we will be as disappointing as we were last year. I can’t accept that. Because I know that it was my most disappointing year as a Cowboy. We can’t have, individually, players play at the level they played at last year and not do better." — Jerry Jones
With the preseason opener looming, Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett reflected on his first snap as a rookie quarterback in the NFL. Playing for the New Orleans Saints, Garrett handed off on a reverse against Buffalo. Then, he turned to block defensive end Bruce Smith, a future Hall of Famer. "He looked like he was 48 feet tall," Garrett said. "So you dive at his knees, he throws you to the ground and he makes the tackle."
History lesson, reality check
Cowboys tight end James Hanna, a rookie sixth-round pick from Oklahoma, wears No. 84. But his knowledge of predecessors who donned that digit is limited to Jay Novacek, a standout tight end from the 1990s. Asked about Pettis Norman, who made the number notable in the 1960s, Hanna said: "I don’t know about that. Not familiar with him." He is familiar with outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware. Asked to cite the moment he realized the NFL would be significantly different from college, Hanna said: "The first time I blocked DeMarcus Ware. Or tried to. It didn’t go well."
Dallas Cowboys Injury Report
WR Miles Austin, hamstring, 1 week
WR Dez Bryant, hamstring tightness, day-to-day
RB Phillip Tanner, hand, 1-2 weeks
G Kevin Kowalski, ankle, on PUP
G Bill Nagy, high ankle sprain, day-to-day (UPDATE: Waived)
G Nate Livings, hamstring, day-to-day
LB Anthony Spencer, hamstring, day-to-day
DE Jason Hatcher, hamstring, day-to-day
RB Lance Dunbar, hamstring, day-to-day
DB Matt Johnson, hamstring, day-to-day
TE John Phillips, ankle, day-to-day
WR Saalim Hakim, dislocated finger, 1 week
CB Mike Jenkins, shoulder, on PUP
Courtesy: Jimmy Burch
The Oakland Raiders host the Dallas Cowboys on ESPN’s Monday Night Football
A NEW ERA OF EXCELLENCE: The Raiders enter the 2012 season under new leadership for the first time in nearly five decades. Owner Mark Davis named Reggie McKenzie the team’s General Manager on Jan. 10, making McKenzie the first person to hold the GM title since Al Davis was named Head Coach and General Manager in 1963. McKenzie named Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen head coach on Jan. 30.
TRAINING CAMP 2012: The Raiders checked into training camp at the Napa Valley Marriott on July 29. This marks the organization’s 17th year of training in the Napa Valley. The team will conduct all of its day-to-day football operations in Napa until the team returns to its permanent Alameda facility after the third preseason game.
FAMILIAR FOE: Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys have squared off only 10 times in the regular season, but the two teams have played 27 times in the preseason, with the Silver and Black holding an 18-9 all-time advantage in a series that dates back to 1972. This week’s matchup marks the third time in four seasons that the two teams have met in the preseason and the first time in Oakland since a 31-10 Raider victory in the 2009 preseason opener. The Raiders lead the all-time regular season series, 6-4, with the teams last squaring off on Thanksgiving Day 2009 in Dallas, a 24-7 Cowboys victory.
EXTENDING THE SERIES: The Raiders and Cowboys have squared off 27 times in the preseason, making Dallas the second-most common preseason opponent for Oakland. The Silver and Black’s most familiar opponent is the San Francisco 49ers, with the two teams having played 39 times in the preseason. The Raiders and Cowboys played a preseason contest in Oakland in 2009, ending a five-year hiatus, and most recently faced off in Dallas in 2010.
OXNARD TIES: The Cowboys are no stranger to California during the summer months, as Dallas hosted training camp in Thousand Oaks from 1963-89. The Cowboys returned to Southern California in 2001, training in Oxnard, Calif. The Raiders’ training camp site was also in Oxnard from 1985-95 after moving from the El Rancho Tropicana Hotel in Santa Rosa,
Calif. The Raiders moved training camp to Napa, Calif., in 1996, a year after the franchise returned to Oakland.
NOTABLE CONNECTIONS: RB Darren McFadden and Cowboys RB Felix Jones occupied the same backfield at the University of Arkansas … CB Bryan McCann played for the Cowboys from 2010-11 before signing with the Raiders … S Michael Huff is from Irving, Texas … Cowboys’ recently-signed OL Dan Loper played for the Raiders in 2010 … RB Lonyae Miller played four games for the Cowboys in 2010 … LS Jon Condo played for Dallas in 2005 … Special teams coordinator Steve Hoff man spent 16 seasons (1989-04) as kicking coach with Dallas … Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan served as defensive coordinator for the Raiders from 2004-08 … Cowboys’ offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan was an assistant coach for the Silver and Black from 1998-01 and served as head coach from 2002-03 … Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete was an assistant coach for the Raiders from 1998-06 … Former Raiders QB Wade Wilson is the Cowboys’ quarterbacks coach … Tight ends coach Mark Hutson was a Cowboys’ third-round draft pick in 1988.
• at Oak. 19, Dal. 13 (Oct. 2, 2005): The Raiders posted the organization’s third straight win in the regular season series against the Cowboys in front of 62,400 fans in Oakland. K Sebastian Janikowski kicked four field goals, including two from 40-plus yards, and RB LaMont Jordan rushed for 126 yards and one touchdown to lead the Raiders.
• Oak. 13, at Dal. 12 (Sept. 27, 1998): QB Jeff George and WR James Jett connected on a 75-yard touchdown strike and the Raiders held off a late charge to edge the Cowboys by one point. A fourth-quarter Cowboy touchdown brought Dallas within three points, and Oakland P Leo Araguz ran out of the back of the end zone to give Dallas a safety but preserve a one-point lead that would ultimately hold up.
• at Oak. 27, Dal. 23 (Dec. 14, 1974): QBs Ken Stabler and George Blanda combined to throw three touchdown passes and the Raiders posted a 27-23 victory in the first meeting between the two teams. The win capped a 12-2 regular season for the Raiders that culminated in an AFC Championship-game appearance.
WINNING WAYS: The Raiders and Cowboys are among the elite teams in the NFL, with both ranking among the top-four since 1963 in winning percentage. The Dallas Cowboys top the chart with a .591 regular season winning percentage, while the Raiders rank fourth with a .567 percentage since Al Davis was named head coach and general manager in 1963.
HEYWARD-BEY REPLAY: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey recorded his first career TD reception the last time the Raiders faced the Cowboys in a regular-season tilt. On Thanksgiving Day 2009 at Cowboys Stadium, the rookie hauled in a 4-yard pass from Bruce Gradkowski, the Raiders’ only score.
PLAYOFF PEDIGREE: The Raiders’ 2012 training camp rosters includes 15 players that have earned postseason experience during their respective careers. Seven players have combined to be a part of 10 Super Bowl squads and have claimed seven championships.
There have been a number of changes in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff over the past few years. Here’s an updated list of the assistant coaches and links for more detailed information on each of them.
DALLAS COWBOYS HEAD COACH
Jason Garrett was named the eighth head coach in Dallas Cowboys history on January 5, 2011. Garrett, who played for or worked alongside four of his predecessors, became the first former Dallas Cowboys player to become the team’s head coach.
DALLAS COWBOYS COACHING STAFF
|Offensive Coaches||Defensive Coaches||Specialty Coaches|
Asst. Head Coach/Wide Receivers
Strength and Conditioning
|To Be Determined
Tight Ends/Passing Game Coord.
Assistant Special Teams/ Kickers
Assistant Strength and Conditioning
Offensive Coordinator/Offensive Line
Assistant Offensive Line
Off. Quality Control/Wide Receivers
This post has been revised. Please click HERE.
Running backs coach Skip Peete, whose contract was set to expire at the end of the 2011 league year, has signed a new two-year deal. Assistant offensive line coach Wes Phillips and offensive quality control/wide receivers coach Keith O’Quinn also will return with new deals.
The Cowboys introduced their two new coaches — secondary coach Jerome Henderson and offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan — Thursday. Their staff is complete, Jason Garrett said, aside from an assistant secondary coach to help Henderson.
"Jerome is the secondary coach; he is the head secondary coach so to speak," Garrett said. "In the last few years, we’ve had kind of dual secondary guys. Jerome is going to coach the secondary, but we are going to look into hiring a secondary assistant. We’re starting that process here really in the next few days, and hopefully we’ll get it done here in the next couple of weeks."
Brett Maxie and Dave Campo split the secondary duties the past four years. Campo was not retained, and he left to become the defensive coordinator at the University of Kansas.
The Cowboys wanted to have Henderson split the duties with Maxie, but Maxie decided to leave for the Tennessee Titans.
With the contracts of six coaches expiring after the season, staff changes are definitely expected.
And it appears one of the biggest could be on the offensive line, where longtime coach Hudson Houck is reportedly not returning to the club in 2012. Houck, who has 28 years of NFL coaching experience, including two different stints with the Cowboys, could be headed for retirement.
While most of the coaches were off this week at the complex, Houck was spotted at Valley Ranch on Monday with a box full of his belongings.
Along with his offensive line coaching duties, Houck has also served as the running game coordinator for the last two years.
The one name that has suddenly surfaced to replace Houck is former Raiders and University of Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan. A team source said Callahan recently turned down a similar offer to remain on the New York Jets’ coaching staff. Since he left Nebraska’s sideline in 2007 after five seasons, Callahan joined the Jets and has been coaching the offensive line and assistant head coach since 2008.
Houck has coached the Cowboys’ line for 13 years, including a nine-year stint from 1993-2001 where he helped the team win two Super Bowls. Houck left in 2002 where he coached the Chargers for three seasons and then three more in Miami, where he was on staff with Jason Garrett, who coached the quarterbacks from 2005-06.
When Tony Sparano left the Cowboys’ staff to become the Dolphins’ head coach, Houck returned to Dallas on Wade Phillips’ staff.
Houck was one of six assistant coaches with expiring contracts, along with assistant offensive line coach Wes Phillips, assistant receivers coach Keith O’Quinn, running backs coach Skip Peete and secondary coaches Brett Maxie and Dave Campo. It was also reported earlier this week that Campo would not be returning to the Cowboys’ staff in 2012.
SPECIAL FEATURE: Dallas Cowboys looking to plug exposed middle of offensive line by utilizing all of their offensive tools
IRVING — It happened in an instant. During the second quarter of the New York Giants’ 41-35 victory over Dallas in October 2010, linebacker Michael Boley flashed through a gap and slammed Tony Romo to the turf, fracturing the Cowboys quarterback’s left collarbone.
The impact of Boley’s devastating hit reverberated the rest of the season because Romo would never take another snap after being injured.
More than a year later, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was asked to reflect on the collision that rocked the Cowboys’ universe in 2010.
"That’s a long time ago," Garrett said Friday. "That’s really not part of our concern right now."
Boley’s hit may no longer be on the Cowboys’ minds but what caused it to happen – poor pass protection – is.
"That’s one of the things we have to work on," said Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck.
Last week, in Dallas’ 19-13 overtime loss to Arizona, the Cardinals were able to create sustained pressure by attacking the interior of the Cowboys’ line – just like Boley did when he blitzed up the middle a season ago.
Against Arizona, the Cowboys conceded five sacks – two of which were surrendered by center Phil Costa and right guard Kyle Kosier. The Cowboys are under the assumption the Giants, who have recorded 33 sacks, will copy the Cardinals’ plan.
"Whatever they throw at us, we’ve got to deal with it," left guard Montrae Holland said. "But we’re trying to solidify the middle."
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo working with a young, but improving, offensive line in 2011.
The Fiammetta Factor:
The numbers don’t lie.
Running back DeMarco Murray rushed for a team record 601 yards in four games with fullback Tony Fiammetta leading the way.
With Fiammetta out the past three games with an illness, Murray has tallied 198 yards.
It goes without saying that Murray is excited to have Fiammetta back in the lineup for Sunday’s game against the Giants.
“He’s a hard working guy,” Murray said. “He does all the dirty work for me. I am very excited to have him back. I definitely I knew I wasn’t going to go for a 150 every game. I understand that. You are going to have ups and downs. You got to continue to get better, it’s all about the next game. But I’m feeling good about this week.”
Beginning this weekend, we’ll see how the Fiammetta Factor effects both DeMarco Murray and running back Felix Jones.
NEXT MAN UP: Shaun Chapas ready for opportunity to block for running backs DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones
Rookie fullback Shaun Chapas may get the opportunity he’s been working hard for all season. The Cowboys could move Chapas to the active roster, coach Jason Garrett said Friday. Starting fullback Tony Fiammetta will miss Sunday’s game against the Redskins with an illness.
“I’ve just been working hard ever since I got here and waiting for the opportunity,” Chapas said. “If it’s this week, I’m looking forward to it, and if it’s not, I’ll just keep working.”
Chapas was a seventh-round draft pick out of Georgia. He did not make the roster out of training camp but was re-signed to the practice squad. He said he is more familiar with the playbook and comfortable in the offense now than he was when he reported to training camp in late August.
“It’s definitely helped being here [at Valley Ranch] for 10 weeks now, nine weeks, something like that,” Chapas said. “I feel a lot more comfortable with everything than I did right out of training camp.”
In the three games Fiammetta was either not on the roster or inactive, the Cowboys used tight end John Phillips in their two-back sets. Fiammetta has drawn praise from the coaching staff, getting credit for the team’s resurgent running game with DeMarco Murray.
The Cowboys lost the three games Fiammetta didn’t play, averaging 3.3 yards per carry and 84.7 yards rushing per game.
IRVING, Texas — Rams quarterback Sam Bradford isn’t surprised rookie running back DeMarco Murray is starting to make an impact on the Cowboys’ offense. Bradford knows him well: the two were teammates on a very successful Oklahoma program.
Murray actually worked out some with his close friend and former roommate during the NFL lockout while unable to join his new Cowboys teammates in official practices.
“I think one of the main things I told him is have fun with it, because it’s a great job to have,” Bradford said via conference call this week. “Other than that, I told him it was going to be a lot of work and make sure he put in the time on and off the field to get himself prepared to play each week. It’s a long season, so just making sure his body can stand up for 16, 17 games.”
Bradford is listed as questionable for Sunday with a high ankle sprain after not practicing all week. Meanwhile, Murray has gotten extra practice reps with starter Felix Jones out with a high ankle sprain. Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones said Friday on KRLD-FM that DeMarco Murray would likely split carries with Tashard Choice.
“Very anxious,” Murray said this week. “Just hoping Felix makes a full recovery. But I’m ready for this. I’ve practicing hard. Coach Skip Peete (Running Backs) has been giving me opportunities and I’ve done well with opportunities. But hopefully there are more to come.”
IRVING — Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said he’s pleased with the development so far of third-round pick DeMarco Murray. The rookie out of Oklahoma has 14 carries for 39 yards through four games.
Murray didn’t play until the final week of training camp because of a hamstring injury.
“DeMarco is doing very well. After missing the entire training camp and coming in and getting about three or four days of practice before the start of the season, I think he’s done very well in his first couple of days,” Peete said. “I think he is kind of where he is right now. He’s progressing and it takes time to come back from a hamstring injury, which he had, and I think he’s progressing just as we anticipated.”
Peete said generally rookie running backs have trouble early on in the NFL picking up blitzes because they don’t do it very often in college. But Peete said that isn’t the case with Murray.
“The offense he came from was more of a more complex, pro-style passing attack where they obviously had to protect as a runner,” Peete said of the Sooners’ offense. “That was one thing that was very impressive about him when studying film, was his ability to recognize what they’re trying to get accomplished and obviously stepping up and blocking linebackers and secondary guys who blitzed against it.”
While no one is getting the blame here in Dallas like Tony Romo, but, it doesn’t mean there aren’t a few other head-scratching performances that took place in Sunday’s epic collapse.
For the second straight week, a running back has a major mental lapse late in the game and goes out of bounds for some odd reason.
Sunday, it was Felix Jones who apparently had no clue what the down-and-distance was and/or failed to realize the time on the clock. On a fourth-and-20 with just 11 seconds remaining, Jones just had a mental gaffe when he took a short pass from Jones and decided to hurry out of bounds after just seven yards.
Umm . . . what? Clearly he didn’t realize what the situation was, but that’s not really an excuse either. Going back and watching it again, it seems obvious that Jones thought it was third down. And so did the Fox TV analysts, both Troy Aikman and Joe Buck were thinking the Cowboys had another down.
Still, it’s not that hard to count to four and a few people weren’t doing it. So either Jones just went out on his own, or didn’t know what down it was, either way it’s inexcusable to be that unaware.
Last week, Tashard Choice ran out of bounds on third down just before a game-winning field goal by Dan Bailey, which allowed the Redskins to keep another timeout. Obviously, it didn’t come back to bite this team, but it was still a bone-head play that shows mental lapses in situational football.
I thought the running backs were taught to have a good vision and awareness. The last two weeks, the Cowboys have been plagued by these poor decisions at the running back spot.
Obviously, it should’ve never gotten to that point. And we all know by now why it did. But in the middle of Romo-bash-week, let’s not forget there were some other mistakes as well.
If Cowboys starting running back Felix Jones can’t play Monday in the home opener against Washington or is limited because of his dislocated shoulder, don’t be surprised to see much more of rookie DeMarco Murray than Tashard Choice in the backfield.
The Cowboys were pleased with what they saw out of Murray, the third-round draft pick out of Oklahoma, on the team’s game-tying drive to end the fourth quarter. Murray showed great leg churn and made yards after first contact.
Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete said last week that they were going with Choice on third downs to help pick up blitzes and protect quarterback Tony Romo. Peete said he didn’t want to throw Murray into that role yet as he continues to learn the Cowboys’ offense and adapt to life in the NFL. After two games, Murray has had a chance to get his feet wet and could be used more on third downs now with Choice fading into the background as he continues to struggle running the ball. Choice has only nine yards on eight carries this season.
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said he’s seen improvement from Murray.
“His comfort level playing in our offense both on first and second down, and on third down certainly has improved,” Garrett said. “I think he’s done some good things with the opportunities he’s gotten.”
Also, look for Murray to become the Cowboys’ primary kickoff returner now after they cut SMU-ex Bryan McCann on Tuesday to make room for the re-signing of wide receiver Laurent Robinson. Murray did well returning kickoffs at Oklahoma.
By Brandon George / Reporter