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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