Tag Archives: Bill Callahan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Jerry Jones: Jason Garrett’s focus to shift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Click HERE to watch the short video (pardon the increasingly familiar and annoying ad delay)


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Scott Linehan’s offenses

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

Year

Team

Job Title

Run pct.

Rank

Pass pct.

Rank 

2002

Minnesota

OC/QBs

43.8

15

56.2

18

2003

Minnesota

OC/QBs

46.7

12

53.3

21

2004

Minnesota

OC/ QBs

39.3

28

60.7

5

2005

Miami

OC

43.3

19

56.7

14

2006

St. Louis

Head coach

39.8

28

60.2

5

2007

St. Louis

Head coach

39.4

26

60.6

7

2008

St. Louis

Head coach*

42.5

21

57.5 

12

2009

Detroit

OC

39.4

27

60.6

6

2010

Detroit

OC

38.0

28

62.0

5

2011

Detroit

OC

33.6

32

66.4

1

2012

Detroit

OC

33.7

32

66.3

1

2013

Detroit

OC

40.4

19

59.6

14


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

COACHES REALIGNED AND DEFINED: Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett provides insight into 2014 coaching changes

COACHES REALIGNED AND DEFINED - Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett provides insight into 2014 coaching changes - The Boys Are Back 2014

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

Sep 22, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett on the sidelines during the fourth quarter against the St. Louis Rams at AT&T Stadium. The Dallas Cowboys beat St. Louis Rams 31-7. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

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.

DIVINE INTERVENTION - Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggest changes, but not in the coaching ranks - Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin

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

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.

NO LOVIE IN CHICAGO - Rod Marinelli gave up a chance to be Bears defensive coordinator to reunite with Dallas Cowboys DC Monte Kiffin - The Boys Are Back blog

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

UNCOMFORTABLE VALLEY RANCH VIBE - Former Detroit Lions OC Scott Linehan’s role with Dallas Cowboys publically undefined - Dallas Cowboys coaching staff 2014 - Linehan with Stafford

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.

UNCOMFORTABLE VALLEY RANCH VIBE - Former Detroit Lions OC Scott Linehan’s role with Dallas Cowboys publically undefined - Dallas Cowboys coaching staff 2014 - Linehan UNCOMFORTABLE VALLEY RANCH VIBE - Former Detroit Lions OC Scott Linehan’s role with Dallas Cowboys publically undefined - Dallas Cowboys coaching staff 2014 - Bill Callahan
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

FLASHBACK 2005 - Troy Aikman’s hand in Jason Garrett-Scott Linehan relationship - The Boys Are Back website 2014

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?

FLASHBACK 2005 - Troy Aikman’s hand in Jason Garrett-Scott Linehan relationship - Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Jason Garrett The Boys Are Back website 2014

“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.’’

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett teaching in classroom with players

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

DALLAS COWBOYS COACHES ROSTER - Jerry Jones moving forward with both coordinators in 2014 - Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan remaining as Dallas Cowboys coordinators

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

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 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.

THE JERRY JONES SHOW: Dallas Cowboys owner explains his decision to stick with Jason Garrett

The Jerry Jones Show - Final weekly show of the 2013 Dallas Cowboys season - Jason Garrett will NOT be fired

The Jerry Jones Show: Jason Garrett’s future; Stance on coordinators | 16:17

Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones speaks with 105.3 The Fan for his final weekly show and talks about the decision to stick with Jason Garrett, and what the status is on the coordinators (Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin) for both sides of the ball. (Watch Video | Listen Audio)


RELATED: Jerry Jones reaffirms his faith in Jason Garrett; Focusing on players

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

IRVING, Texas – Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones left no doubts about the future of head coach Jason Garrett today.

Jones reaffirmed on 105.3 FM “The Fan” that he had made his decision to retain Garrett and that it wasn’t a decision he made recently. He said he decided that several weeks ago and that he likes what Garrett’s doing as a coach.

“One thing that’s a positive here is we’ve been in it,” Jones said. “We’ve been in it the last three years. Jason’s been on this staff going on seven years now. But we have been in it, during his time as head coach, we have been in it, right there playing for it, in the last game for the last three years.”

Jones said there’s a positive to competing and being in the mix in the division in the final week every year, but he also said he’s right there with fans wanting more than 8-8 and not having to play for a division title in the last game every year.

“That’s where we can have improvement,” he said.

With the news that Garrett would return, the attention now focuses on the future of the other coaches and coordinators. Jones said in this business, players and coaches can lose their jobs if they don’t get the job done with or without a contract, but he wouldn’t get into the specifics of many of the coaches’ contracts.

Jones said he was pleased he had defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan this year. That’s despite the Cowboys finishing last in the league in total defense and questions popping up throughout the year regarding the offensive play-calling.

The owner didn’t specifically state that those coordinators will stay next year, but he said to assume the coaching staff’s contract statuses will remain intact until they decide differently. He said those coordinators mentioned previously are still under contract.

“When we got them, I’ve never had as many people talk about, ‘Well, boy, you have really upgraded or, not upgraded would be the word, but you have really added a plus to the coaching staff,’” Jones said. “Now we had a rough year, but we didn’t necessarily have a rough year because of coaching, in terms of our defense. All that will be considered as we look forward.”

He also said the Cowboys won’t have the changes in the coaching staff area that they had last year. As far as what decisions will be made, Jones said he will look at that with Garrett going forward, but they haven’t discussed that in depth yet.

“We’ve made some philosophical changes this year with (Tony) Romo and his influence that he has in the offense,” Jones said. “We’ve made some changes regarding the philosophy of the defense. We need to practice that, we need to improve that, to the extent we can add personnel, which we certainly can through the draft.”

Most of Jones’ focus now seems to be on personnel rather than coaching. He said he’s had recent years where he thought the talent on the field was greater than it was this year, specifically because of the injuries the team sustained, but he also thought the team should have had more success with Romo on the field for 15 of 16 games.

“But when I look at the challenges that we had, frankly, and the numbers of players we had to bring on the roster and get on the field in a relatively short amount of time that for the most time weren’t a part of rosters or maybe aren’t going to be a part of rosters this year, I think we did a pretty good job getting the team out there under the circumstances,” Jones said. “Having said that, one of the things you look at is your depth.”

POSITIVE CHANGE IN PLAYCALLING: Jason Garrett wanted return to sideline relationship with Tony Romo

POSITIVE CHANGE IN PLAYCALLING: Jason Garrett wanted return to sideline relationship with Tony Romo

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.”

PRYING EYES IN THE SKY: Communication tweaked in the Dallas Cowboys offense by Wade Wilson elevation

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — For all the discussions regarding Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett’s move to relay the offensive plays to quarterback Tony Romo for Sunday’s game against the New York Giants, it was all about improving communication and reiterating the value of quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson.

This season when Bill Callahan took over the play-calling duties, Wilson moved into the role of relaying the signals to Romo. But when Garrett decided to take over for the Giants game, Wilson moved to the press box and tight ends coach Wes Phillips moved to the sidelines.

Cowboys officials contend Wilson helped in the play calling by seeing the defense from the press box, in comparison from the sidelines because he can recognize defenses better.

“I thought it was an opportunity to get Wade upstairs to see the game that way,” Garrett said. “Wade has great eyes. He sees the game as well as anybody I know. Just getting him up there I thought was good for us. We brought Wes Phillips down and Wes does a great job just interacting with the players and I just thought the whole thing worked out well.”

The Cowboys’ offense wasn’t great, the windy conditions had something to do with it, but Romo threw for 250 yards and finished a solid game-winning fourth-quarter drive to help the Cowboys defeat the Giants, 24-21.

The rushing attack had a solid effort, gaining 107 total yards including 86 from starter DeMarco Murray. While the third-down issues continued, going 4-for-12 overall, the Cowboys needed to do something with the offense.

Dallas Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones said the change wasn’t about Garrett or Callahan but more about Wilson helping the offense.

“That’s the wrong interpretation of the decision,” Jones said when asked whether it was about Garrett. “The decision was to give Wade, who is standing on the sidelines an aerial view of the field. It was all about that and it’s a skill that we’ve long [for], since [we] haven’t taken advantage of Wade Wilson. Wade Wilson is outstanding and can do a better job for us.”
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Jason Garrett: Dallas Cowboys vs. New York Giants postgame press conference

Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media after the win over the 2013-2014 New York Giants. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

COWBOYS WORKING ON WRINKLES: Jason Witten confident that opportunities are coming for Dallas’ offense

COWBOYS WORKING OUT WRINKLES - Jason Witten confident that opportunities are coming for 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys offense

Jason Witten said it’s frustrating when he and Dez Bryant get coverage that limits them, but he said the Dallas Cowboys coaches are working on wrinkles to solve that.

“It’s been tough with the coverage we have seen,” he said. “When the opportunities are limited, it makes it tough. We will work through that. The bye comes at a good time to get guys healthy and review and try to get a couple wrinkles.”

But Witten said it’s not up to the system as much as the players.

“At times, the execution has been there. We have seen success,” Witten said. “But overall, it hasn’t been good enough. We have to do a better job of it. We feel confidence in the system and the players within the system. That’s what’s good about the system. It’s held up for a long time. We have to continue to work within it.”

Witten said Jason Garrett emphasized the opportunity the Dallas Cowboys have at the top of the NFC East.

“Obviously, we know we have to play a lot better football if we want to win this division,” Witten said. “We have a great opportunity to reflect on that and say, ‘We know we have to play better, here is how we are going to do it,’ and just execute. As an offense, our focus is to find ways to do those things. There are all kinds of wrinkles of putting guys in different situations and plays, but ultimately, us executing this system we have had success in and been a powerful offense.”


Watch Video Dallas Cowboys - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys newsListen to Dallas Cowboys Jason Witten - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys schedule - Dallas Cowboys news

Editors comment: Listen to Jason Witten’s full interview with media for more details about the Dallas Cowboys plans during the bye-week. Same advice applies to any video posted here, including the one below. Enjoy!


COWBOYS WORKING ON WRINKLES - Jason Witten confident that opportunities are coming for Dallas’ offense - Bill Callahan talks to Dallas media

Dallas Cowboys play caller Bill Callahan – 3rd down issues; consistency (4:28)

Bill Callahan spoke to the media about the teams offensive struggles as the Dallas Cowboys prepare to head out on their bye week. (Watch Video | Play Audio)

DIVINE INTERVENTION: Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggest changes, but not in the coaching ranks

DIVINE INTERVENTION - Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones suggest changes, but not in the coaching ranks - Bill Callahan and Monte Kiffin

IRVING, Texas –  While the Dallas Cowboys will have a chance to get healthy and possibly make a few adjustments during the bye week, changes in the coaching staff are not expected.

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said this morning on his weekly radio show on 105.3 “The Fan” that he doesn’t anticipate any staff changes, and that includes the defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin and the play-calling duties for Bill Callahan.

“I don’t know if you have much choice as to what you’re doing in the bye week,” Jones said. “We certainly want to emphasize the good things that can be done. I’m not even going to address coaching staff, as to where they’re safe or not. Obviously, here we’ve got 3-4 days this week and go into next week and we’re 5-5, we’re tied for the lead in our division. We’ve got players coming back. 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.”

Jones emphatically said “no” when asked point blank if Jason Garrett would take over for Bill Callahan in the play-calling duties.

One change Jones did say regarding the defense is the play of more man-to-man coverage with the secondary and less zone. In fact, during the some 12-minute interview, Jones made two references to playing more man.

“We need to look at what each of these guys do the best,” Jones said. “Basically, I’m talking about our corners. Can we get our corners playing more man and less zone, those are kind of things (to change) when the bye week comes along.”

Here are some other points Jones said this morning:

  • Wide receiver Miles Austin is expected to return to action against the Giants after the bye week. Jones said Austin should have a “clean bill of health” after missing six of the last eight games with a hamstring injury.
  • Speaking of hamstrings, both Sean Lee and Justin Durant will likely be out 3-4 weeks with their injuries they suffered in the Saints game.
  • Jones said losing to the Saints does not make him hit the panic button. He references close losses to the Chiefs and Broncos this year in helping him realize the Cowboys have a chance to be more than competitive against some of the NFL’s top teams.
  • With all of the injuries, Jones said the team evaluates the strength and conditioning staff to make a “comparative assessment around the league” to see how the Cowboys stack up regarding other injuries. In the past few years, Jones said the Cowboys haven’t been much different than other teams.

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RELATED – Jerry Jones says Dallas Cowboys can improve by getting Dez Bryant the ball, getting healthy, playing man coverage

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he’s glad the Cowboys are in their bye week because it gives them a chance to get guys back from injury.

He said safety J.J. Wilcox, defensive tackle Jason Hatcher, cornerback Morris Claiborne and receiver Miles Austin should be ready to go against the Giants Nov. 24.

Jones outlined a few things on radio today that the Cowboys can do during the bye to be better down the stretch.

First and foremost, he said the team needs to find a way to get the ball in the hands of receiver Dez Bryant more.

Jones said the offense has underachieved and the Cowboys should be more productive on offense which had equal responsibility in the blowout loss to the Saints last Sunday when Bryant caught just one pass for 44 yards. That lone reception didn’t come until late in the third quarter.

“We need to get (Dez Bryant) the ball more,” Jones said Tuesday on KRLD-FM. “That type of thing is a reasonable thing you can adjust. How do we get him the ball more. We need to get the ball the (running back) Lance Dunbar. He’s a play maker out there.”

Apart from getting the injured guys back, Jones said the defense can improve by allowing guys to do they do best and play more man coverage in the secondary. He said cited the zone defense as one reason Saints quarterback Drew Brees blistered the Cowboys on Sunday. He finished 34 of 41 for 392 and four touchdowns, coming eight yards shy of becoming the fifth quarterback to top the 400-yard mark against the Cowboys this season.

“It’s time to look at what the guys do the best,” Jones said. “Play a little more man, a little less zone. You need to man up more in the secondary rather than rely on zone. If you can’t get pressure and you are relying on zone that’s how we end up on the position we were in the other night.”

CALLAHAN’S CARDIAC COWBOYS: Imbalanced offense puts Dallas in come from behind situations

CALLAHAN’S CARDIAC COWBOYS - Imbalanced offense puts Dallas in a come from behind situation - Dunbar

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.”

Related Article:

CALLAHANDOFF QUESTION: Why does the Dallas Cowboys stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game?

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

Editors comments:

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?

DALLAS COWBOYS FAN QUESTION - Why stop trying to run before you can even establish a run game - Callahan 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys offense

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.

WATERS IN THE FLOW: Bill Callahan thinks veteran Dallas Cowboys guard is ready to start

Dallas Cowboys offensive line coach Bill Callahan said RT Doug Free never strayed away from his dedication to the job - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

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.”


Watch Video - Dallas Cowboys OC Bill Callahan - We Left Yards On The Field first three games - 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys
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Callahan: We Left Yards On The Field first three weeks

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.

RUNNING LANE PAINS: Callahan to call upon DeMarco Murray more often

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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.”

WILD BILL CALLAHANDOFF: Dallas OC not thrilled with his last play call

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.”

HORSES SADDLED: Improvement expected in the Dallas Cowboys running game

IRVING, Texas – Through two games of the season, the lack of a consistent running game is once again a hot topic for the Dallas Cowboys.

But team owner/general manager Jerry Jones is optimistic things can turn around.

“I see improvement in the future in our running game,” Jones told 105.3 FM “The Fan” on his regular radio show. “I look at how much we’re improved in our offensive line. (Brian) Waters played good for the number of snaps he played. So Waters will be in there. That’ll improve us. I think we have flexibility with our tight ends. We’ve got some answers there … we’ll get it worked out.”

When asked about running back DeMarco Murray, who had just 25 yards rushing on only 12 attempts Sunday, Jones said he graded out well from the coaches film after the Chiefs game. He praises his professional approach and his physical size as a runner, and then added, “I’d like to see him have more opportunities.”

The Cowboys’ average starting position on Sunday was their own 21-yard line and had four possessions starting at the 10 or closer to the goal line.

“You’re going to be more conservative when you’re backed up like we were,” Jones said. “I want to credit (Kansas City’s) defense. They have a good front. (Dontari) Poe was the talk of the combine. There was a question about his motor but there’s not a question anymore. He did give us fits. Hopefully, there won’t be any more Poes.”

When asked about the differences between a Bill Callahan-called game and what the Cowboys had the last few years with Garrett, Jones joked it would take “five hours” to get into full detail of all the changes. But he did give some hints of what he expects to see more of in the future.

“I think we’ll see more play-action, more zone blocking,” Jones said. “You’ll see us emphasize the tight ends more. I think this Terrance Williams is really improving practice by practice. I think he can put some pressure on those (defensive) backs.”

2013 TRAINING CAMP WRAP-UP: Jason Garrett end of camp press conference (Video)

2013 TRAINING CAMP WRAP-UP - Jason Garrett end of 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys training camp press conference

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett speaks to the media for the final time from training camp in Oxnard, California.

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INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Bill Callahan’s unexpected play-calls for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

INSIDE THE NUMBERS - Bill Callahan’s unexpected play-calls for the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys

Football is a game of competing minds. The Dallas Cowboys’ coaches must not only figure out what their players do best, but they need to determine how they can play to their players’ strengths while knowing that the opposing coaches are trying to limit the effectiveness of those strengths. In many situations, that can lead to counterintuitive thinking; the Patriots, for example, do such a great job of taking away an opponent’s best option that, in many situations, it’s optimal to build the game plan around “sub-optimal” players. Quite the paradox.

The study of this sort of decision-making – the type that’s governed by rational minds, often in a zero-sum game (just like football) – is known as game theory. The best way to make sense of the concepts behind game theory is with an example.

The Cowboys have historically had the most success running to the weak side and from spread formations, i.e. where they have the fewest blockers. It’s not inherently advantageous to run where there aren’t any blockers, of course, but since defenses typically have fewer defenders in those areas, the net effect is positive.

So why don’t the Cowboys just run to the weak side all the time? Well, that would obviously be a problem since defenses would catch on quite quickly, negating the advantage the Cowboys once possessed. So NFL offenses need to find some sort of balance, running optimal plays as much as they can before defenses defend them differently. The point that will maximize overall efficiency is known as the Nash equilibrium. In regards to run location, that point is where the efficiency of weak-side runs matches that of strong-side runs. And since NFL teams are still much more successful when running to the weak side, it follows that they should be doing it more often.

NFL coaches obviously don’t need to concern themselves with the specifics of equilibriums and complex decision theory, but they should be doing two things: 1) calling the “unexpected” in an effort to remain one step ahead of the opponent, and 2) determining when it’s best to play to your strengths and when you should be focused on exploiting opponent weaknesses (or, preferably, both).

Expect the Unexpected

Thus far through two preseason games, we’ve already seen a change in the Cowboys’ play-calls. Although they’ve expectedly stayed “vanilla,” the ’Boys have still run the ball way more often to the perimeter and thrown more screen passes than what we saw in 2012. Those play-types suggest that Callahan is at least taking opponents’ actions into account when picking plays – a rudimentary form of game theory.

So without further ado, here are the “unexpected” play-types, the plays that might be sub-optimal in a vacuum but most beneficial in practice, that the Cowboys should consider running more often in 2013.

  • Counters

There’s no single type of play that I’d like to see more in 2013 than the counter. Counters take a long time to develop and there’s a bigger opportunity for negative yardage than on a dive or other quick-hitting run, but there’s also a (much) larger probability of hitting a home run. From 2009 to 2011, Dallas averaged over 7.0 yards per carry (YPC) on counters! They ran only six of them last year, however, likely due to concerns about the offensive line.

And as mentioned, weak-side runs are usually best. The Cowboys have actually increased their rate of weak side runs, which was as low as 19.5 percent, every year since 2009. In 2012, it was nearly double that.

  • Screens

Everyone seems to believe that the Cowboys need to run the ball more often to take pressure off of Tony Romo (which is a form of game theory itself), but why not run more screens? Screens are high-percentage passes that can hold back pass-rushers, generating the same effect you’d want from a handoff (risk minimization), but with higher upside.

Dallas ran only 24 screens in all of 2012, and 16 of those were to receivers. Those aren’t the screen passes I’m talking about (although they can be useful at times). Rather, the Cowboys look like they’re going to run more running back screens under Callahan, which shouldn’t be difficult considering they called an average of one every two games last season. With exceptional pass-catching backs, there’s no reason that we shouldn’t see more screens in 2013.

  • Spread Runs and Tight Passes

One of the great things about having versatile tight ends is that you can split them out wide and utilize spread formations with heavy personnel. That allows you to keep your best blockers on the field when you want to run, yet still spread out the defense. And that sort of strategy works.

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The Cowboys have always been most successful when calling a play that is “unexpected” based on the formation. Again, it might be best to run from tight formations in theory, but in practice, it’s typically most beneficial to run from spread formations (and pass from tight ones) due to the defense’s preconceptions and actions.

  • Play-action passes

Play-action passes are underutilized by just about every NFL team. Of the 27 quarterbacks who took at least half of their team’s snaps in 2012, only five of them had a lower yards per attempt (YPA) on play-action passes than straight dropbacks.

And Tony Romo was one of the league’s best. He completed 66.2 percent of his play-action looks, averaging 8.6 YPA and generating a 109.1 passer rating. He recorded a passer rating of 88.3 on all other passes.

Despite that, the Cowboys had the lowest play-action pass rate in the NFL, by far. Romo attempted a play-action pass on just 10 percent of his dropbacks. The difference between Romo and the second-lowest quarterback, Eli Manning, was larger than the difference between Manning and the next 11 quarterbacks!

And I know it’s popular to argue that you can’t run play-action passes without an effective running game, but that’s just not true. Defenses play situations, not necessarily past rushing efficiency, so defenders typically bite up on play-action passes based on the down-and-distance, not whether you’re averaging 5.0 YPC or 3.5 YPC.

We saw Romo have success on play-action without a running game, and the same was true for passers like Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, Ben Roethlisberger, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, all of whom ranked in the top 10 in play-action passer rating with rushing offenses ranked 20th or worse in efficiency. Actually, of the 10 most successful play-action passers in 2012, only two, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III, played on offenses that ranked in the top 10 in rushing efficiency (and that’s really just because of their own rushing prowess).

So the Cowboys’ rate of play-action passes should really increase in 2013, regardless of whether or not the rushing game improves.

NO VANILLA EXTRACTION: Now is not the time to show all of the Dallas Cowboys offensive cards

Dallas Cowboys - Opening ceremony - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

OXNARD, Calif. – There’s vanilla.

         And then there is Dallas Cowboys double-secret ultra-vanilla.

         That’s exactly what we saw Friday night from that Cowboys offense in a 19-17 preseason game No. 2 loss to the Oakland Raiders.

         Not surprising to say the least.

         Generally, teams do not like to show much of anything they are planning new for the upcoming season in a mere preseason game, especially just the second of what will be five for the Cowboys this summer. And that’s doubly true when playing an opponent they will be facing at some time during the regular season.

         So no way was head coach Jason Garrett going to give the Oakland Raiders any hint of what might be coming down the pipe during the 2013 season from this Cowboys offense, even if the two teams won’t meet until Thanksgiving Day at AT&T Stadium, Game 12 of the regular season. Not an entirely new offense, granted, but one with two tight ends becoming the base set and now Bill Callahan calling the plays.

         And, of course, with quarterback Tony Romo having a little more say in game-planning and the implementation of some new plays he’s partial, too. Instead of the 11th-year veteran having to “draw those plays up in the dirt,” which he could have Friday night quite easily (since a good portion of the O’s field is consumed by the A’s infield).

         There likely was some great anticipation on everyone’s part to see just how all this would work with the first-team offense making its 2013 preseason debut. The first-team offensive line was allowed to work during last Sunday’s Hall of Fame game. You know, Romo and Jason Witten and Dez Bryant and Miles Austin and DeMarco Murray and them finally out there playing together.

         There would be Witten and James Hanna, maybe some Gavin Escobar and Dante Rosario, too, showcasing these two-tight sets we’ve been witnessing here during training camp practices. Then, too, some of these new pass plays that have become a staple of camp workouts. Oh boy.

         And what?

         Nothing. As vanilla as you can get.

         Oh, the Cowboys ran some two-tight sets, but for the majority of the first-team offense’s two series (and even when Kyle Orton was in there running things behind the first offensive line with backups galore at running back and wide receiver). The Cowboys, of all things for everyone anticipating a hard-charging running attack, seemed to be in three-receiver sets more than anything.

         They weren’t about to expose much of anything, and from my understanding only did so with a couple of plays just to help keep a couple of drives alive to create more reps for some of the younger guys. Secrets are secrets, and no sense putting too much on tape for the Giants to start going to school on at this early date.

         In fact, for all those readily jumping to conclusions about this perceived “new” Cowboys offensive philosophy following that first preseason game in which they ran the ball 34 times and threw it only 21 – you know, see there that Bill Callahan, he’ll emphasize the run more – well, surprise, surprise, in this game against the Raiders the Cowboys ran the ball only 20 times and threw it around 32 times – the very reason no one should draw undeniable conclusions from these practice games.

         Talk about holding the play-call sheet over your mouth to prevent lip reading.

         But having said all this, the Cowboys still piled up 171 yards of total offense in the first half with Romo and Orton totaling three series, scoring on two of them and likely would have scored on all three if not for a blocked 26-yard field-goal attempt Mr. Automatic, Dan Bailey, surely would have made.

         OK, can hear the grumbling in the background already. While that all might be true, you’re screaming, same ol’, same ol’ with the Cowboys offense, three penalties inside the Oakland 30 turned potential touchdown drives into field-goal attempts. The nerve of that Witten to get caught holding, or for potentially first-time starter Ronald Leary to false start and Hanna to do so also.

         And as Garrett said afterward, bemoaning the penalties, the blocked field goal and the game-turning fumbled punt by rookie B.W. Webb, “We’ll continue to harp on that.”

         But did you see, or you should have seen, the ease in which Romo hooked up with Bryant three times for 55 yards; with Austin on slants twice for 22 yards; Orton with Cole Beasley twice, the second for a 15-yard touchdown.

         And guess what? Of the 32 attempts, only three times were tight ends targeted, and only one of those Witten. That ain’t going to happen, Witten targeted just once in a game. Please.

           Just look at the first-half stats alone, a half the Cowboys had a 10-6 lead, for what that matters. Romo and Orton were a combined 12 of 14 for 140 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, one sack, finishing with a QB rating of 132.1. Bryant, Austin and Beasley finished the game combining for eight catches on eight targets, totaling 126 yards and the Beasley touchdown.

         And for the most part Romo and Orton had the time of day in the pocket behind what most perceive as a worrisome offensive line. Hmmm, while the Cowboys are keeping their eyes open for fortuitous opportunities to enhance that crew, particularly at guard, maybe what you saw Friday night isn’t all that bad, from left to right Tyron Smith, Leary, Travis Frederick, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Doug Free. Especially since, unlike the other four, Bernadeau was playing for the first time after returning from injury.

         Maybe their main problem up front is really who is playing behind these guys, especially at tackle since with Jermey Parnell injured (hamstring) and veteran Demetress Bell still trying to get in shape, there isn’t much to write home about. As Jones said after the game, making a move up front “would be determined by the opportunity” available, meaning he’s not necessarily desperate to sign just anybody at this moment.

         Romo did get sacked once, but did you see how long he had in the pocket before everything collapsed? And he did have Austin wide open in the end zone, but explained later, on that particular play that Austin was his third read and by time he got there, Austin was covered and pocket time had expired.

         “I don’t want to get away from here without talking about the offensive line,” Romo said. “There were a couple of times I had all day and we had a sack, an incompletion on those two plays, so that’s going to help us a lot if we’re able to do that.

         “That’s different. I know what it’s like to play behind that, and having that ability like they did tonight would be a huge bonus for us.”

         So with three more preseason games to play, another five training camp practices this week, resuming Sunday evening, there is time to clean things up while still playing peek-a-boo with play-calls and offensive intentions.

          And oh, by the way, if now your concern is the ability to run the ball more efficiently, at the conclusion of the first half, when the first-team offensive line retired for the evening, the Cowboys had run the ball six times for 36 yards with Murray, Lance Dunbar and Phillip Tanner, a 6-yard average following last Sunday night’s 5-yard mark.

          “It was good,” Romo said of what took place in the team’s first three offensive series. “We did what we’ve been doing in training camp and moved the ball real well. We were holding back on a lot of our stuff, red zone stuff and some other things. We would have liked to have scored a touchdown, but we got hurt by penalties more than anything, and that aspect of it is just going to hurt you no matter what.

          “So we have to avoid that [and] stress that this week, and we’re going to make sure that stops.”

           But probably not the double-scoops of vanilla approach.

Courtesy: Mickey Spagnola | Columnist

Editors comments: I don’t have a problem with being vanilla with the starters on their first few series this preseason. You come out and keep it simple … basic. The same philosophy deployed with this new 4-3 scheme, also applies to the offense this early in the year. The veterans might not need that as much, sure. But these new roster additions and young rookies do! The beauty of this offensive roster is that they can afford to come out and execute basic runs and passes. See if the opposing defenses can stop that first. With so many Cowboy players wielding star power, it’s a challenge for most defenses to handle them man-for-man. You sprinkle in wrinkles, after you get the basics down … ditch the butterflies, and execute these base plays with precision.

I believe the week-one emphasis (and success) of Dallas’ running attack (in the Hall of Fame game) showed coaches what they needed to see. However, if you think back, there was very little to see (or grade) in the passing game in week 1. The coaching staff needs to grade and develop these young offensive linemen in run and passing situations. I think that’s why we saw more pass (and consequently more pass blocking) in the second preseason game. Expect more balance going forward.

The Romo and Orton led drives were successful. The running game is still on pace. Kiffin’s starters have grasped his base defense … his rookies are coming along. Callahan’s starters are showing rust, but promise. Both of these games were more about weeding out the roster, than going for the kill. I do want to see Callahan/Garrett go for the throat once the regular season starts. They have the weapons to make a statement, and they should.

Friday night, Oakland played their starters longer, and did less with them. The Cowboys will host the Raiders later on … rest assured, we’ll see the full arsenal. Garrett is baking that vanilla cake first. He’ll add the icing later.

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND: Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–Scoring Chances

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND - Watch the 2013-2014 Dallas Cowboys in Oxnard–Scoring Chances - The Boys Are Back blog

TRAINING CAMP ON-DEMAND: Scoring Chances

Watch the 1-on-1 period in the redzone drills. End-of-game special situations that concluded with a surprise call by Bill Callahan. (Duration – 9:09)

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LEAN AND MEAN: Dallas Cowboys RB Phillip Tanner is moving faster after weight loss

Dallas Cowboys running back Phillip Tanner (34) gets by safety J.J. Wilcox (27) - The Boys Are Back blog 2013

Phillip Tanner looks like a new man. He feels like one, too.

The Dallas Cowboys running back lost 10 pounds in the offseason, down to 210. He credits his weight loss to better eating and different workouts.

“The coaches see the difference,” Tanner said Tuesday. “Coach [Bill] Callahan messaged me in the offseason and said, ‘I thought about putting you at fullback last year,’ joking around because I was so big. It really has helped me, and I appreciate all the hard work I put in during the offseason.”

Tanner played in 14 games last season but carried the ball only 25 times for 61 yards with four catches for 41 yards. He had expected his second season in the league to be more productive, especially considering DeMarco Murray missed six games and Felix Jones was non-productive.

“There were a lot of times last year where I would see it, but I wasn’t able to get there as fast I wanted to,” Tanner said. “In the NFL, holes are only open for so long. So it was kind of hindering me from that. My goal this offseason was just to get leaner, faster and quicker and play at a certain weight.”

He is as light as he has been since his sophomore season in college. It has him playing faster. He outran Bruce Carter in an 11-on-11 drill Monday, something he admits he probably wouldn’t have done last year.

Tanner’s eating habits changed in the offseason. At Chili’s, his favorite restaurant, he chose the salmon and broccoli. At Wendy’s, it was a grilled chicken salad and a baked potato. He was allowed two cheat meals per week, with Wingstop and Dominos the favored stops. Snacks became granola bars instead of candy.

It has turned him into a lean running back ready to compete not only for a job but for playing time.

“We come out, and we compete against each other every day,” Tanner said of the running backs, “and it just makes the team better.”

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