By all accounts, the Dallas Cowboys are ready to officially introduce long time offensive coordinator Scott Linehan as part of their coaching staff. Whether it is as the “passing game coordinator” or “play caller” or “offensive coordinator,” no one is quite sure. One thing that is for sure is that regardless of the title, the Cowboys have once again found a way to make a bigger mess out of an already questionable situation.
Obviously, I was on board with replacing Bill Callahan, ( http://thelandryhat.com/2014/01/07/cowboys-offense-needs-hue-blue/ ) but not with someone like Linehan.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Linehan’s body of work as a coordinator in the league, let me take you through his resume.
Linehan first became an offensive coordinator with the Minnesota Vikings, running their offense from 2002 to 2004. In his first two years, the Vikings finished in the top five twice in rushing yards, leading the league in 2002. Sounds great, right? Wrong. The quarterback for the Vikings during these years was none other than Daunte Culpepper who provided the Linehan offense with almost 1500 yards of rushing in his three years there. For a point of reference, 34-year old Tony Romo, coming off two back surgeries has 546 career rushing yards. Romo isn’t boosting the running game. Also of note, each year under Linehan, the production dropped from first to fifth all the way down to eighteenth in his last season.
After getting fired by Minnesota, Linehan landed in South Florida to be the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator in 2005. Miami was without question his most productive locale. Here, Linehan improved the Dolphins offense in every category, taking a team that finished 28th in scoring, 29th in total yards, 21st in passing yards and 31st in rushing the previous season to 16th in scoring, 14th in total yards, 16th in passing yards and 12th in rushing yards in 2005. Linehan used this as a springboard to a head coaching gig, taking the job as the new leader of the St. Louis Rams after just one year in Miami.
Much like his time in Minnesota however, this was another exercise in regression. In three years, the Rams won eight games, then three, then two. Given an elite, young powerful running back in Steven Jackson, Linehan found a way to reduce his ability to produce as well. In Jackson’s first year, he gained over 1,500 yards and scored 13 touchdowns. In his next two years under Linehan, he barely totalled 2,000 yards and only scored 12 touchdowns. Consequently, the Rams went from 10th in scoring in 2006, to 28th in 2007 and 30th in 2008.
As a side note, I can honestly say that I spent a lot of time watching the Rams during this period. My fantasy football league that I have been in for 14 years now featured Jackson during this time frame. Linehan’s idea of offense was to throw the ball excessively whenever the Rams reached goal to go status even though he had a power back. In fact, it was almost like clockwork that the play calling would be a rush up the middle on first and goal followed up by two passes and then a field goal attempt. Ironically, one of the Cowboys biggest issues in the Garrett era has been settling for three instead of getting seven because of red zone failures.
Needless to say, Linehan was fired but somehow, another team came knocking on his door to be an offensive coordinator. This time, the Lions handed over the job where Linehan was the OC from 2009-2013. In five years with Detroit, only once (in 2013) did the Lions manage a way to finish above the bottom third in the league in rushing attempts or yards. They did find a way to throw the ball all over the place though, never finishing worse than sixth in passing attempts and leading the league twice in this category. Only once, did the Lions ever win more than eight games and only once did they ever finish in the top ten in points scored during this time.
Last week, I wrote about the Cowboys have no real identity and should rely on a power running game as they once did in the glory days of the early 90’s. Two days later, Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith was interviewed and backed up my exact thoughts here:
It’s not coincidence that seven of the top ten teams in rushing yards made the playoffs in 2013 or that three of these four teams played in the Conference Championship games. Unfortunately, this is too logical of a concept for the Cowboys brain trust of Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett to absorb. If you think Linehan and Garrett will not continue to their open apathy towards running the football, think again.