The Dallas Cowboys are coming off of their third-consecutive 8-8 season without a playoff berth, and it stood to reason that changes would be made to the coaching staff this off-season as a result.
Changes to the coaching staff have indeed been made, but it’s weird. For some reason, it seems as though Jerry Jones is just afraid to fire anyone. Shortly following the announcement that former Rams head coach Scott Linehan has been added to Jason Garrett‘s staff as the “passing coordinator and play-caller”, the team also decided to promote Rod Marinelli to defensive coordinator and demote Monte Kiffin to assistant head coach.
Dallas had one of the worst defenses in the history of the NFL in Kiffin’s first season as defensive coordinator last year, so it comes as no surprise that he’s no longer going to be in charge of that unit next season. What does come as a surprise is that, for some reason, the team still wants to employ him. What’s the point? He’s like 510 years old and serves no clear purpose on the staff. Marinelli is reportedly great friends with Kiffin, so are the Cowboys keeping Kiffin on staff simply to appease Marinelli and to keep him around? Given the dysfunction of the team’s front office, it wouldn’t be particularly surprising.
The Linehan thing is a whole other story. Prior to last season, much was made of the fact that Jones had stripped Garrett of play-calling duties and handed them over to the team’s offensive line coach, Bill Callahan. The Dallas offense was explosive at times last season, but oftentimes it was mired in mediocrity. The team routinely abandoned the run in the second halves of games despite having success early on. For example, if DeMarco Murray were stopped for 2 yards on a first down play, Callahan would seem to lose all faith immediately, and would call 10 pass plays in-a-row after that. The Cowboys were one of the most prolific teams in the league when using play action passes. The problem? No team used play action less than Dallas did. Tony Romo used play action on just 12.2% of his pass attempts last season, which ranked just 36th out of 39 qualifiers. His passer rating on such plays was 119.5, which was the sixth-best mark in the league. Why didn’t Dallas go to it more often? Who knows.
Callahan is reportedly none too pleased that Linehan has been hired to take over the play-calling for next season. Callahan is retaining the title of “offensive coordinator”, which seems pretty hollow. Why didn’t Dallas just cut bait with Callahan, then? Baltimore and Cleveland reportedly asked permission to interview Callahan for their respective OC openings, only to have Dallas decline. Why? It makes no sense. It’s not like Bill Callahan is some wondrous, indispensable football mind. Players have always been pretty adamantly against him, going back to his days with the Raiders and the University of Nebraska.
Linehan has been the offensive coordinator for the Detroit Lions since 2009, where Calvin Johnson has become the league’s most prolific receiver. Does Linehan have anything to do with this? Who knows, but the Lions have used Johnson more creatively than the Cowboys have ever used their prized pass-catcher, Dez Bryant. The Lions also used play-action 10% more than the Cowboys did last season, which bodes well for the Dallas offense moving forward.
Is any of this surprising? Not really. After all, Jerry Jones is the one building Jason Garrett’s coaching staff. How many NFL head coaches have the ability to create their own staff? Pretty much all of them. We don’t even know if Garrett has any input whatsoever in coaching staff decision-making. As long as the front office is structured this way, the days of mediocrity for the Dallas Cowboys will continue. Now, they’ve got a glut of coaches that they certainly don’t need. Too many mouths at the table. Good luck with all that.