Seen as more of a shifting of the guard than a changing of one, the Dallas Cowboys shuffled their coaching staff this offseason in reaction to their third straight 8-8 season without a postseason appearance. The biggest moves included moving defensive guru Monte Kiffin from coordinator to assistant head coach of defense. And Rod Marinelli from defensive line coach to Kiffin’s old job.
On the other side of the ball, former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan was hired by Dallas in late January and named passing game coordinator. Under this new coaching structure, we were told Linehan would work under both head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.
But according to Albert Breer of the NFL Network, fans shouldn’t be confused by the titles when it comes to who is actually running the offense show in Dallas. Breer recently reported that it was Linehan, and not Callahan, that led all the offensive meetings throughout the spring for the Cowboys.
Last season, under Garrett and Callahan, the Cowboys offensive ranked a respectable 16th in net total yards. They also ranked 14th in passing and 24th in rushing. Despite those stats, Dallas (and more specifically Garrett) hired Linehan over the offseason under the guise that he would take over the passing game portion of the offense alone. Leaving Callahan to handle the rest.
But if the Cowboys passing offense was relativity good already, why bring in anyone at all? The answer to that question probably speaks more to the relationship between Garrett and Linehan than Callahan’s coaching abilities. Feeling his job is on the line after posting his third back-to-back 8-8 season, it would make sense Garrett would want someone he trusts calling the plays in 2014. He’d essentially want “his” guy. And Linehan is Garrett’s guy. The former Lions coordinator gave the now Cowboys head coach his first coaching job with the Miami Dolphins back in 2005.
And from the start, we’ve known that Linehan would be calling the offensive plays for Dallas. A role Callahan had last season. On top of that fact, now we know Linehan is also running the offensive meetings. That insight should tell us just how much Callahan’s role has been diminished, essentially regulating him to offensive line duties. And it also tells us who the real offensive coordinator is in Big “D”.
If all of the above is true, the Cowboys have handed the keys to their high-powered offense to a coach with an excellent recent track record. As offensive coordinator of the Lions last year, Linehan’s Detroit offense ranked sixth in the league in total net yards. The season before, they ranked third. And in 2011, fifth.
And Linehan has better weapons in Dallas than he had in the Motor City. Quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush were the offensive juggernauts for their team last season. Although Johnson is unquestionably considered the top player at his position, both Stafford and Bush have struggled with injuries and/or inconsistency in the past.
In Dallas, Linehan will have veteran quarterback Tony Romo, tight end Jason Witten, wide receivers Dez Bryant and Terrence Williams and running back DeMarco Murray at his disposal. Now, add in the fact they are playing behind the best young offensive line in the NFL, and things could get really explosive in Dallas in 2014.