Austin On Dallas: Cowboys Improve Staff, Add Depth And Consequences


Apparently when Jerry Jones indicated heads would roll in Valley Ranch this off-season, for once he meant business.  Honestly, he had little choice but to make drastic changes in order to dampen the burning outrage.

It is abundantly clear even the most loyal Dallas Cowboys fans have reached a new boiling point from the constant embarrassment of mediocrity.

Following sequential 8-8 finishes, both ending with hopelessly watching their playoff dreams crushed by despised division rivals…enough was enough.

Cowboys fans shouted for a major coaching overhaul and Jerry Jones uncharacteristically delivered in sweeping fashion.

The additions and reshuffling weren’t as earth-shattering and universally desired as a new General Manager or Head Coach would be.

Yet substantial changes were made which provide Cowboys fans with new hope for repairing their shattered trust in producing a winner again.

The main cogs in this new coaching staff create a very distinct, unique dynamic when viewed as a unit.  Let’s take a look at some of the intriguing, novel characteristics this group provides.


Jason Garrett, Head Coach > Jason Garrett, Head Coach / OC /Play-Caller

Not many Cowboys fans will argue the fact that Jason Garrett has consistently struggled with wearing too many hats on Sundays.  I’d assume it likely had an effect on his weekday team preparations as well.

As a first time head coach and young coach in general, Jason did not need to be overloaded with responsibilities before he mastered even one of them.  It was apparent play-calling suffered as well as overall game management.

There is little doubt JG will be a better head coach without having to constantly stress about what play to call and getting it to the huddle on time.  Now he can focus more on game situations, and develop management strategies for outcomes of plays before they unfold.

Bill Callahan, Play-Caller > Jason Garrett, Play-Caller

The numbers speak for themselves.  In Callahan’s 4 years in Oakland calling plays, his offensive scoring rankings were 22, 8, 3, and 4.

The first year he was straddled with an inferior QB and RB, yet after personnel changes he scored 3 straight years in the top 8.

Callahan had 2 rushing offenses in the top 3, and 1 passing offense in the top 4.  Bill had an average scoring ranking of 9th over 4 years.

Jason Garrett, while above average, did not enjoy the same consistent success.  JG’s scoring rankings as OC in Dallas were 2, 19, 14, 8, 15, and 15.  4 of his offenses ranked 14th or worse in the league.

Needless to say as play-caller he has been a constant helping of mediocrity.  His average scoring ranking is 12th over these past 6 years.

Monte Kiffin, Def. Coordinator (w/Rod Marinelli) > Rob Ryan Def. Coordinator

This one is a no-brainer.  Kiffin is a living legend as a defensive coach in the NFL.  While he recently struggled on the collegiate level, the NFL and college game are two different worlds and the results in each should be viewed separately.

Nick Saban was an awful NFL head coach, yet he’s widely recognized as the best active collegiate head coach in the country.  In turn, Kiffin’s struggles at USC don’t translate to the NFL, where he is one of the most decorated defensive coaches alive.

Marinelli, a student under Kiffin for years, moved on to excellent NFL success as a Defensive Coordinator.

His defenses in Chicago (2010-12) ranked 4, 14, and 3.  Over 3 seasons, Marinelli produced an average scoring defense of 7, with 2 finishes in the top 4.

That brings us to Rob Ryan.  I for one think Rob was on the right track in Dallas and would have fielded a top 8 or so defense in 2013.

However, speaking strictly off of results, Ryan is not remotely in the same elite class as either Kiffin or Marinelli.

In 5 years with Oakland (2004-08), Ryan’s scoring defenses ranked 31, 25, 18, 27, and 24. That 5 year stretch was simply wretched.

In Cleveland (2009-10), he finished ranked 22 and 14.  And finally in 2 seasons with Dallas he ended at 16 and 24 in scoring.

In 9 seasons as an NFL DC, Ryan has never ranked higher than 14.  His defenses averaged a punchless 22nd in scoring over his entire NFL DC career.

There is no doubt Jerry just sweetened the pot by boldly acquiring the Tampa-2 experts.


Three NFL Head Coaches Banding Together

HC Jason Garrett (2 years HC), OC Bill Callahan (2 years HC), and DL Rod Marinelli (3 years HC) all have head coaching experience in the NFL.  Between the 3 of them they own a combined 7 years commanding a pro squad.

Success is a different matter altogether, as their combined win-loss record is a feeble 46-74. Over half of those 74 losses stem from Marinelli’s disastrous 10-38 record with Detroit.  At the very least Callahan and Marinelli will help Garrett from the perspective of being in his shoes.

The head coach position requires a completely different set of skills beyond teaching detailed strategy of the game.  Hopefully Garrett will successfully fine tune those special skills after being relieved of other strategy-specific duties.

Two NFL Play-Callers Tweaking the Playbook

Now that Callahan has taken over the play-calling duties, both he and Garrett will work together blending their playbooks to fit this Cowboys roster.

It’s my guess Callahan didn’t have much input into play-calling specifics last season.

He may have offered strategy suggestions, but the playbook belonged to Jason before he arrived.

This will now change during the practice week, as both Garrett and Callahan will have strong input into the detailed game plan and their method of attack.

The new benefit is Garrett will relinquish final authority to Callahan, and have to bow out of ongoing adjustments during game action.

Two Elite NFL DC’s Teaching the Tampa-2

8 years later, the master (Kiffin) and his worthy protege (Marinelli) reunite in Dallas. What’s new on the NFL defensive scene since those 10 legendary years together in Tampa Bay?

Rod Marinelli has become revered in NFL circles as an elite defensive coordinator.   Now both Kiffin and Marinelli are highly regarded for their ability to implement and lead the 4-3 defense.


Abruptly following ugly defeat to the archrival Redskins, Jerry Jones fiercely denounced 8-8 as no longer tolerable.  If the 2013 Cowboys fall short of the playoffs, regardless of reason, rest assured both the head coach and at least one of the new coordinators will be fired.

Which brings me to the main point that Jones and fans want real results now.  The new coaching staff Jerry Jones is assembling has created depth which uniquely insures no coach is safe.  This includes changes being possible during the ongoing 2013 season.

As we all know, legitimate competition makes most successful people achieve at a higher level or increase their effort.  Fear is the greatest asset a football professional can have.  Fear of failure and fear of replacement are always a fortunate tool for a team to possess.

Head Coach On A Short Leash

Let’s face it, Jason Garrett’s head coaching job is about as safe as a ship loaded with gold off the coast of Nigeria.

After all, Garrett was awarded his head coaching promotion be taking over for Wade Phillips at the halfway point of the 2010 season.  Phillips led Dallas to a 1-7 graveyard before mercifully being relieved by Jerry Jones.

So let’s role-play a scenario that Dallas is 2-6 at the break, Garrett’s third straight year failing to produce a winning record at the halfway point.

On top of that, we will assume for a third straight year poor game management by the head coach likely prevented two victories in the final moments.

How difficult would it be to fire Garrett at mid-season with 2 former NFL head coaches on the staff?  Even Monte Kiffin with 30 years in the NFL would qualify as an interim head coach.

When it comes to head coach in 2013, there is no doubt in my mind that anything less than 4-4 by the break will have Garrett in very hot water and likely to be replaced mid stream.

Play-Caller Change A Reversal Away

There have been many cases in the NFL when a head coach takes over playing duties from his OC during the season.  Garrett understands the team’s success is his responsibility.

In Jason’s shaky position, I doubt he’d hesitate to press Jerry to reclaim those duties if Callahan unmistakably falters.

Assume the Cowboys are 3-5 at the midway point.  The defense is playing lights out, yet the offense is ranked 20th in scoring and incapable of providing enough to topple strong opponents.

Would it be any stretch of the imagination for Jerry to re-assign play-calling back over to Jason for a spark?  Would it even be a shock if Callahan were fired altogether after a very poor 8-game stretch?

Jason can coordinate the offense as before.  As for o-line coach, the organization gives rave reviews for young coach Wes Phillips and his quality work assisting with the line.

Let’s not forget, John Harbaugh and the 2012 Baltimore Ravens fired their offensive coordinator with a respectable 9-4 record, and 3 games remaining in the regular season.

How’d that work out?  They finished the regular season 1-2, yet went on a 3-game tear in the playoffs and now will contend for the Superbowl Championship a week from Sunday.

Defensive Coordinator Has Proven Alternative

Let’s face it, Monte Kiffin will be 73 when the season starts and has been away from coaching in the NFL for 5 years.

Assume the old magic and energy just aren’t materializing at the elevated age, and newly evolving offensive strategies prove too much to overcome.

So the Cowboys sit at 2-6 after 8 games and the defense is allowing a surprising 25 points per game just as they finished last year.

Dallas is dropping close games with final scores in the neighborhood of 27-30.  Clearly it’s the defense at fault as they can’t hold leads.

Would it be startling to hear Jerry has replaced Kiffin in favor of Rod Marinelli after 8 games?

After all, Marinelli’s Chicago defense finished 3rd in scoring last season, and even held these Cowboys to 18 points while cementing their lopsided victory.


The Dallas Cowboys have created a very unique, and likely productive coaching dynamic with this staff.  Garrett is now able to focus more effort into better team preparation and game management.

Callahan is a better option at play-caller than Garrett.  Even former player and guaranteed Hall of Famer Tim Brown recently said Callahan is the most intelligent offensive mind he has ever played for.  This is coming from a guy with a debated distaste for his former OC.

The combination of Kiffin and Marinelli together far exceeds the skills and production of Rob Ryan.  Either of these guys is a better option at DC, and I actually believe in Rob Ryan.  But these guys crank out top 10 defenses like it’s clockwork.

Along with all the depth and extensive knowledge on this staff comes great virtues through information sharing and strategy formulation.

However, the biggest advantage of all in my mind is fear and competition.  Knowing Jerry Jones is in full put-up or shut-up mode in 2013 will motivate all these guys one step further.

Each coach is aware the guy behind him is similarly competent and competitive, while experienced in the exact same job they are performing.

The dynamics created within the new Dallas coaching staff reads almost like a handbook for success.  With an appropriate free agency (modest yet productive) and a solid draft the Cowboys will finally have something tasty brewing.

By adding a few quality starters in the right areas, along with the improved coaching staff sliding into place, there is little doubt in my mind the Cowboys can turn the corner and finally capture the elusive NFC East crown.