It might be the most important question for the Dallas Cowboys heading into the 2014 NFL preseason.
The third offensive play-caller in as many seasons is Scott Linehan, former offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions and head coach of the St. Louis Rams prior. The time is nearing to find out exactly what this addition to the Dallas coaching staff really means.
Yes, Linehan has an experienced, multi-Pro Bowl quarterback in eleven-year veteran Tony Romo. It’s reasonable to think that, if healthy, Romo should be able to operate the passing attack rather well. How the running game progresses is an entirely different question seeing as how Linehan is known as being a “pass-happy” kind of guy when wearing the headset.
Without rehashing Linehan’s recent approach with the Lions, I’ll simply suggest that Linehan take aim at making the same kind of impact that former offensive coordinator Norv Turner did back in 1991. Despite having previously cut his NFL coaching teeth amidst successful passing attacks employed by the Los Angeles Rams, Turner immediately sent then second-year running back Emmitt Smith straight to the top of the league in rushing. Smith would obviously stay in that spot for awhile, but most compelling is how it impacted the team.
Smith’s ascension to prominence also elevated a very young and deep offense that was rich with talent. Turner, instead of falling in love only with the rocket-arm of young and eventual Hall of Fame quarterback Troy Aikman, stayed disciplined with a running back that literally took over football games more often than not.
How does all of this effect or pertain to Romo?
Well, if Linehan comes in knowing that he also has a quarterback that can move the ball in the air and put points on the board, then he should make certain that his aging signal caller has the same kind of overall protection that Aikman did as the Cowboys suddenly became contenders.
Prior to 1992, Aikman was known as a potentially great quarterback who just couldn’t stay healthy. Aikman hadn’t done so during any of his previous three seasons spanning 1989-91.
But when Turner arrived, Smith took off and an obviously gifted offensive line launched the careers of wide receiver Michael Irvin and tight end Jay Novacek. Once names like those emerged, the youngest team in the NFL was able to beat NFC power and historic rival San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, home and away over a couple of seasons.
Super Bowl wins followed each victory for Dallas in NFC Championship Games played during the 1990s.
In some ways, Linehan is in better shape than Turner was.
Turner had a franchise quarterback with tons of potential not yet fulfilled. Despite the fact that Aikman would become the MVP of Super Bowl XXVII, it’s not like there was any proof that this was part of the near future for the Cowboys when Turner arrived almost two years prior to the victory over the Buffalo Bills in Pasadena, Cal.
Linehan has the franchise leader in touchdown passes and also the franchise leader in fourth quarter comebacks and game-winning drives. Romo is actually tied with Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach with 23.
Seems like Romo, if healthy, certainly gives this team a strength.
Wide receiver and tight end?