Dec 15, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett celebrates a touchdown as wide receiver Dez Bryant (88) and running back DeMarco Murray (29) leave the field in the second quarter against the Green Bay Packers at AT

Cowboys Can Improve Coaching Staff Through 2014 Draft


We’ve used this space the past few weeks to argue the Cowboys have a good coaching staff that has gotten the most out of this GM’s roster. Time to buttress that argument with a simple NFL truth: Pro Bowl talent makes good coaches look great.

Vince Lombardi is hailed as a genius for leading Packers teams that boasted 11 future Hall of Famers to five NFL championships. Perhaps he did more with less in leading the lowly 1969 Redskins to a winning season – their first in 13 years. That 7-5-2 record he posted in Washington in not listed high among his accolades, but one could argue it was his most impressive pure coaching job, given the culture and the roster he took over.

Patriots head coach Bill Belichick’s long-standing genius status was achieved only after franchise quarterback Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Tom Brady was forced to start. The year before Belichick had gone 5-11 and was on the TV expert hot seat; a year later, a generational talent at quarterback helped flip that record to 11-5 and Belichick won a Super Bowl.

Talent makes good coaches great, or at least reveals their greatness to a largely lazy sports media seemingly blind to all but win-loss records. Leading a talented team to a Super Bowl win takes great coaching. Leading a shallow, banged-up roster to a competitive 8-8 is also great coaching.

From a pure coaching standpoint, one could argue Hall of Fame head coach Bill Parcells’ first season in Dallas was more impressive than either of his Super Bowl seasons in New York. In 2003, he led a roster that had finished 5-11 three straight years to an improbable 10 wins and the playoffs. In 1986, he won a Superbowl with eight pro bowlers and the league MVP.

The highs and lows of franchises on the field mirror their successes in the war room, more so than the coaches who lead them.

From the Cowboys first draft in 1961 through the end of that decade, the team selected 15 pro bowlers, including five Hall of Famers. The expansion franchise built from scratch would be dominating the NFL’s Eastern Division by 1966, finishing the decade with four straight division titles and two NFL Championship appearances.

During the ‘70s, the team drafted 15 more pro bowlers and won two Super Bowls. That Tom Landry is a coaching genius.

Then from 1980 to 1987, the Cowboys drafted two pro bowlers. Two pro bowlers in eight drafts; two pro bowlers out of 109 picks. In fact, the Cowboys started the ‘80s by logging five straight drafts without a single pro bowler; they’d go 0-for-72 before landing Herschel Walker in the fifth round in 1985.

By all accounts, and rightfully so, Tom Landry is considered a great NFL coach, but it is assumed his coaching acumen declined during the ‘80s. More than likely, he was still the same coach; he was just starting Brian Baldinger instead of Rayfield Wright. See the difference?

Jimmy Johnson took over the war room in 1989, and drafted five eventual pro bowlers with his first six picks. In the space of six picks, the Cowboys drafted more pro bowlers than they had the previous nine years. Gives you some idea of why the ‘80s were so bad and the ‘90s were so good.

Coaching matters. Coaching can make a difference, but it can only get you so far. Winning big in the NFL takes talent. If the Cowboys can bolster the roster in this upcoming draft, and some of their key contributors can stay on the field, 2014 might be filled with talk about how Jason Garrett has finally “figured out how to win” in the NFL.

Yeah – draft plenty of pro bowlers. That’s just great coaching.

Tags: Dallas Cowboys

  • Old Frog

    I like this. Let’s hope McClay is listening. Hard to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear even though Marinelli did a pretty good job of it.

    • John

      Marinelli! He’s a terrible coach! He went 0-16 in Detroit – record is all that matters! :)

      • Old Frog

        I think most Cowboys fans would disagree with you – saying he worked miracles given he had to use 20 different players on the DL most of whom were no name or disinfranchised retreads.

      • Juanito Juanito

        he is not a bad head coach, that lions team lack talent players and with matt millen like GM what can you expect

      • Earl Robertson

        U can be a great coach doesn’t mean u a great head coach a head coach talent is far different then being a position or cord coach

  • Chesney Blair

    The whole thing is laughable. When do you see in NFL anyone getting as much chance as JG after three years of mediocre showing? I guess this rationalization justifies Bellicheat’s recent run to the AFC championship. If he only had the players……

    • Old Frog

      Even the great Belichick had to learn how to be the coach he is today. His first HC job with Cleveland (1991-1995) he went 36 – 44 with one playoff appearance (which they lost). Give JG another two years before you compare him to BB.

      • Chesney Blair

        I hope for the sake of Cowboys you are right Old Frog. I just don’t see the leadership qualities from him. He was dangerously close to losing this team with two games left. He makes silly amateur game time mistakes and he allows his team to lose in the most ridiculous fashion. Regarding Bellicheat, I wouldn’t think too much about his Browns stint. That is sadly actually a good record for any Browns head coach. He probably will be in their ring of honor soon. What I am saying is stop blaming the injuries, this and that. JG has had enough opportunities. Just curious though, why did you opt for two years instead of this year for his room for improvement? JG might get lucky while Romo is out he might stumble upon a better qb and win games.

  • Big Ed

    Great piece. I’ve pointed out how Saint Lombardi won superbowls with the Redskins (Not) for years. On the sunny side I am amped by the drafts we’ve had since Redball entered the war room. Seriously, make the effort to check it out. We now no longer seem to be making stupid personnel decisions. With the injury decimation and another Redball draft I have high hopes for next year.

  • Kingdaddy2000

    Funny, all you’re pointing out is the same thing everyone has been saying – Jerry as GM sucks and needs to be replaced. Just another way of spinning the obvious!

    That said, I would have had much more enthusiasm for the upcoming season had we gotten rid of the Garrett expirement (after all, he was assistant head coach under Wade Phillips, so he’s been here more than enough years) and hired Mike Zimmer as Head Coach, with Norv Turner running the offense and even Wade Phillips coaching Defense, and Rich Biasaca maintaining Special Teams.

    • John

      The point of the piece is that talent makes a “great” coach – ask Belichick. A GM’s chief organizational responsibility is accumulating talent; your point must be that Jerry is bad at it. If you really think Jerry is the problem, how would hiring Zimmer make it any better? More importantly, if Jerry’s really the issue, why should firing Garrett make you feel “much more enthusiasm” for the future?

      • Kingdaddy2000

        We all know the history of Garrett, but let’s repeat it – he came to the Cowboys in 2007 as Offensive Coordinator. During the 2007-2008 timeframe, the Cowboys had Romo as the starting QB and Brad Johnson as a backup, and when it was time for Brad to step up when Romo went down, he couldn’t do it! Who should have known better? Garrett – as a former QB, it should have been obvious to him during the preseason and training camp!

        In 2010, he was named interim head coach, and and January 2011 Head Coach. SInce then, what has the team done? 8-8. 8-8. 8-8. each year with the division title on the line – and he couldn’t motivate the team to get a win. And during the season,
        Dallas has replaced Defensive Coordinators under Garrett, Offensive Coordinators under Garrett, and yet the same results. How about the Green Bay game this year, losing 37-36 – does that make you think he makes good decisions? The only coach in the league who will try to run out the clock by passing, when your RB has 7 yards per carry? Or how about the infamous “icing your own kicker”? Does any of that excite you? I guess it might if you’re the opposition.

        We can’t change GM, that’s a given – he owns the team and as Parcells said, he has the right to do what he wants because of that. So what’s left? Change the players, change the coaches. The Cowboys are again cash strapped this year because of the failure of the GM, so they can only do so much with the players. But coaches don’t fall under the salary cap.

        Stupidity is to keep doing what you’ve been doing, and expect different results (8-8, 8-8, 8-8). Garrett may be a smart guy (based on his pedigree), but Jerry in his role as GM (he’s a brilliant marketer) is the epitome of stupidity.