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Surprise: Cowboys Garrett Has Drafted For 4-3 Since Day 1

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Garrett saw the 4-3 win Superbowls in Dallas in the ‘90s; he was exposed to it further as a player in Tampa Bay back in 2004 – a formative year for the 37-year-old aspiring NFL coach. Very recently, he’s seen it win two more Superbowls for his division rival. Garrett has always wanted a 4-3 here in Dallas.

Apr 27, 2012; Valley Ranch, TX, USA; From left Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett and first round draft pick Morris Claiborne and owner Jerry Jones pose with a jersey at a press conference at Dallas Cowboys Headquarters. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

But Jerry didn’t want to change the defense in Garrett’s first full year as head coach. Garrett’s leadership rescued the franchise after a 1-7 start in 2010 – going 5-3 as the interim coach, losing those three games by a combined seven points. Garrett’s success convinced Jerry his team was closer to making a run than it really was, so he understandably resisted a scheme change.

Garrett, however, knew he had a roster to rebuild. He recognized the rot from within that was the legacy of the Phillips era. But Garrett’s also fiercely competitive, and if winning the argument to switch schemes meant conceding that 2011 was to be a rebuilding year, Garrett wasn’t willing to press the point.

So if he couldn’t have the staff right away, he could still go get the players. Looking at the defensive prospects Dallas has drafted since Redball entered the war room in 2011, there’s pretty compelling circumstantial evidence suggesting Garrett has planned a 4-3 switch since the day Jerry removed “interim” from his job title.

Garrett picked up just two defensive players in his first draft: prototypical 4-3 WILL linebacker Bruce Carter, and corner Josh Thomas (now with the Panthers), who in college could be left out on an island and was never afraid to play the run – qualities essential to a 4-3 corner.

Garrett’s 2012 defensive picks started with ball-hawking corner Morris Claiborne, a natural fit for coordinator Monte Kiffin’s turnover-focused scheme. Tyrone Crawford was considered light at 275 pounds for a 3-4 defensive end, but just the right size for his natural position of 4-3 end. Kyle Wilber was a physical misfit as a 3-4 SAM linebacker, but has shown early promise as a pass-rushing 4-3 end. Matt Johnson was a turnover machine as 4-3 safety at Eastern Washington; Caleb McSurdy was a productive 4-3 MIKE linebacker at Montana.

Anyone who thinks of Jerry as the meddling puppet master should take notice: Jerry is collaborating with his head coach. Jerry the GM has supplied Garrett with the coaching staff he wants and the players he needs to execute the scheme. This year, we find out if Garrett’s vision will translate to wins.

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  • AustonianAggie

    This isn’t a fair assesment, in that there are only 4 or 5 colleges that run a 34 anywhere. And in Kyle Wilber’s case, he was a 34 LB in college anyway.

    • John

      Isn’t a fair assessment? I’ll go you a step further – it’s reckless speculation. The Rob Ryan hire just screams Jerry Jones, though – no cap room to make a splashy free agent player signing in 2011 so he went with a splashy coach. Garrett/Ryan always struck me as very Lemon/Mattheau – odd indeed. Garrett’s background is in the 4-3, he’s seen it have success, he likes fundamentals and process as opposed to exotics, so I speculated. This is a blog, right?

  • oneputter

    check yourself brudda! 51 was a DE at Purdue, not a LB.
    I’ve said from day one that JG’s plan was to switch to the 4-3, people kept saying we don’t have the players to play the 4-3, well guess what, yes we do. just about every defensive player we’ve drafted in the last 2-3 yrs was playing 4-3 in college….
    as coach has said from day one, “its a process” well he’s planning his work and working his plan…..and you best believe jerry is on board!

  • Imdatdude99

    I don’t buy it. Wilber was a classic tweener but besides that if the plan was 4-3 since day 1 why did Garrett try so hard to bring in Dom Capers?

    • John

      Sure, it’s thin, but this is a blog. I don’t get to interview anyone. The Capers angle fits, though – Jerry didn’t want to switch schemes, and Rob Ryan’s exotic 3-4 never appealed to the process-oriented Garrett. If Redball couldn’t have the 4-3, he could at least try to land a 3-4 coach more rooted in fundamentals and less prone to going all mad scientist.

  • Raymond Tippett

    I agree Jason was trying to build a 4-3 scheme the minute he got the job he drafted for it. he went after linebackers for speed and tackles, in my eyes Jason is doing everything on the defensive side of the ball to succeed . Jason is the right guy to have at the helm

    • John

      Boy, how good does Garrett look on the sideline without that clipboard, huh?

  • Juanito Juanito

    Jerry look like a dumb in football stuff like allways