The biggest story coming out of Cowboys camp this week was the revelation by owner Jerry Jones that play calling duties would be taken away from head coach Jason Garrett and given to newly hired offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. The problem with this revelation from the owner is that the head coach seemed to have no idea about the change when he met with the media. On a winning organization there is a direct chain of command between the play caller and who has the ultimate final decision when plays are under debate. The Cowboys now face turmoil between the owner’s newly appointed play caller and the head coach, which the owner also handpicked for that job.
If you have been reading my blog posts ever since Jason Garrett took the reins as head coach, it will be no surprise to you about my feelings towards the head coach. Since his interim position ended in 2010, I have called for Jason Garrett to lose his position and be replaced by someone else, so it is not a shock that Garrett loses some aspect of his coaching responsibilities. Garrett has struggled with clock management issues, in-game management issues and very recently the one thing that got him the job, his ability to control an offense has come into question. The owner has tried to sell us fans on his ability to be the head coach, so the removal of the offensive play calling is just the owners way of appeasing the fans, while sticking with his handpicked coach throughout the past two seasons of mediocrity.
The reasons for making the change are obvious. Head coach Jason Garrett has looked overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the position. There is no bigger example of this than his performance in the game in 2011 against the Arizona Cardinals, where Garrett inexplicably called a timeout prior to kicking the game winning field goal. The time out signal was given late by the head coach and the ball was snapped and the kick sailed through the uprights. Whistles blew the play dead and the referees informed the players that time had been called prior to the snap The ensuing re-do on the kick sailed wide left and the Cowboys ended up losing in overtime. The head coach effectively “iced” his own kicker, and did not provide a competent answer explaining the time out prior to the first kick. This is the prime example and possible reason the owner may want to take responsibilities from the coach, allowing the coach to focus more on his in-game situation control.
The owner says the offensive controls will be handed over to new coordinator Bill Callahan, which comes with his own set of red flags in his coaching history. Callahan got his first job as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders. He did lead the Raiders to the Super Bowl in 2002, but most of the credit went to Callahan riding the coattails of previous coach Jon Gruden. Usually a Super Bowl appearance is a resume builder, but recent allegations made by former Raiders Tim Brown and Jerry Rice accused Callahan of changing the offensive plan just moments before the big game. Callahan disputes the claims, but the players suggest that Callahan altered the game plan from a heavy run to a heavy passing game the day before the game.
Another flag against Callahan is his performance as the head coach on the collegiate level at Nebraska. Callahan took over a Nebraska program and tried to change the offense from a smash mouth style and triple option attack to a West Coast offensive system. The change was a debacle of epic proportions. Nebraska suffered their first losing season in 40 years in Callahan’s first year and he posted the worst 4 year period of Nebraska football history during his tenure. To put this in more perspective Nebraska has had a total of 4 losing seasons in their 46 year history of a program, and Callahan’s tenure provides 2 of those losing seasons.
Back to the current situation in Dallas, the Cowboys face a major shift in their offensive strategy. Jason Garrett’s career as play caller has been a more wide open and pass heavy play calling. While Callahan’s background is more of a ground game, being a former offensive line coach, and his success in Oakland surrounded a balanced attack of run and pass. This could create a clash of theories in the headsets of the coaching staff when plays are called into the huddle. The other problem for the Cowboys is that the Cowboys did not have the cap space to make changes on offense, so the question for the upcoming season is to weight the familiarity with the current offensive scheme against the need to change to a more balanced attack. The other problem the Cowboys have is having a direct approach to the game in general. The team on the field needs to know not only how the game plan is going to be implemented, but they need to know who is having the final say when major decisions need to be made on the field.
It is no secret that the Cowboys recent spell of mediocrity can be correlated with the performance of their head coach. Garrett has failed pretty much in all aspects of his job from play calling to motivation and including in-game decisions. The owner handpicked Garrett for the head coaching position when he replaced Wade Phillips in favor of Jason Garrett. The stubbornness of the owner to prove himself right to the fans and the football world is obvious. The move to bring in a new play caller is just the owner’s way of appearing those that are actively calling for Garrett’s job. The problem is the owner appeared to not relay that information to his head coach prior to making the statements publicly. Both Garrett and Callahan have red flags against them in their coaching careers, but the one saving grace for the Cowboys fan is to turn to the world of mathematics where when multiplying two negatives you get a positive outcome.