Austin On Dallas: Callahan Capable, Being Set Up To Fail


The Dallas Cowboys made a very wise move this week in officially naming Bill Callahan the new offensive play-caller.  After the past 5 seasons lost adrift under Jason Garrett, the navigation now belongs to a capable captain with an accomplished past filling this critical role.

Recently in January 2013 at The Landry Hat, I posted a detailed article exploring the impressive success Bill Callahan enjoyed as the Oakland Raiders’ play-caller from 1998-2001. I’ve included the link below if any readers wish to view or re-visit that past column.


Jerry Jones absolutely made the correct choice selecting him as play-caller over a lackluster repeat of Jason Garrett in 2013.  Yet expecting vastly improved results while leaving Callahan’s style of calling offense short-handed won’t make the widely desired jump.


In the 4 years Callahan called plays in Oakland, there was one thing he made very clear…his offenses strongly valued the commitment to running the football!

Finally the Cowboys have a play-caller who understands running the football is not merely to gain rushing yards, it also creates unpredictability and sets the stage for greater passing success.

Even in 2001 when his Raiders offense was a passing dynamo (4th in passing yards), Callahan still ran the football 450 times.  That number of carries surpasses every Dallas unit during Jason Garrett’s entire 6 years leading the offense.

In the 2000 season, Callahan’s offense ran the ball an astounding 520 times.  That would rank them at 3rd most attempts in the entire league if it took place during the 2012 NFL season.

Even more impressive is his desire to run the ball into the endzone.  In 6 years in Dallas, Garrett’s offenses have reached 14 or more rushing TD’s twice.  In 3 of 4 years in Oakland, Callahan’s offenses scored 14 or more TD’s on the ground (18, 23, 14).

Clearly Bill Callahan values the run greatly and makes it a priority to slam across the goal line the old-school way…by pounding the ball.


I’m absolutely not implying Jerry Jones wants Callahan to fail in his new duties, nor is he purposely sabotaging his ceiling for success.  What I am stating is Jerry Jones has no idea what it requires for Bill Callahan to succeed with his documented offensive style.

There’s little doubt the Cowboys will continue to struggle run blocking along the front line.  I firmly believe it will improve over 2012 with the Travis Frederick (Wisconsin pounds the ball) addition, Tyron Smith settling in at LT, and another year of overall continuity.

I also realize there will be concerning run deficiencies held over, with the current OL players on the roster lacking in this area.  Yet my problem is not with what Jerry Jones is doing along the front wall.  He made his decision there, and even though I’d like to have more upgrades, I’m prepared to see how it shakes out with the current linemen.

The way in which I believe the Dallas Cowboys GM is situating the offense for Callahan to fall flat on his face is with the lack of skills players who are primary blockers.  By this I mean a true blocking Tight End and a powerful fullback.


If an NFL team absurdly struggles for 2 consecutive seasons to score rushing TD’s, or even produce any decent running threat…and the offensive line is clearly still a soft spot…the last 2 things you want to do is ignore adding a powerful blocking Tight End, and depend on a faltering fullback.

Rookie draft addition Gavin Escobar, promising receiving TE James Hannah, and new veteran Dante Rosario are all mediocre blockers at the point of attack.  Not a single one is a big, powerful TE who can line-up in a short-yardage, 2-TE set and blow the defender off the ball to gain a big push for the RB.

These type of specialty, power TE’s are cheap to acquire and relatively plentiful.  Jerry Jones aloofly doesn’t seem to care his team is overloaded with receiving TE’s, and completely barren of a short-yardage blocking type.  His lack of solid NFL strategy knowledge in this area is mind-boggling in my eyes.

Furthermore, now that Dallas will field a questionable o-line and no primary blocking TE, wouldn’t it be wise to make at least one attempt to powerfully clear holes for DeMarco Murray and locate a capable FB?

If the idea here is to simply motion back a current TE to assume the lead blocker job in short-yardage…it’s a very BAD one.  None of Callahan’s previous pro offenses employed this strategy on a regular basis.

It’s a strategy that can be situationally effective by creating mismatches if used sparingly and appropriately.  However, to rely on it as your main tactic for lead blocking is boldly naive and will ultimately lead to predictability and failure.

As it sits now at the position, current FB Lawrence Vickers has proven he’s not reliable enough to depend on in addition to the rest of the leaks.


Bill Callahan has shown he can orchestrate and direct a very productive offensive strategy if given quality players to employ.  In each of his last 3 years in Oakland he finished in the top 8 in both points scored and total yards gained.  That’s an extremely solid achievement, and one Jason Garrett would beg to have on his resume.

The 2013 Dallas Cowboys are as loaded at all main skill positions (QB, RB, WR, receiving TE) as any team Callahan has ever called plays for.

However, it’s an accepted fact Dallas is playing with a shaky front wall along the OL and likely done adding potential starters there.

Along with that, it will not bode well to completely ignore acquiring a powerful blocking TE, and a much more consistent fullback than the 2012 flop Lawrence Vickers provided.

Both can be found, both are at a relatively cheap position, and both are desperately needed to be successful in short-yardage and goal-line offense situations.  Which are highly valuable areas in offensive football, and tremendous failure spots for the last 2 Cowboys’ teams.

Callahan will need a powerful; blocking TE and better fullback to direct his brand of offense and produce success in Dallas.  The man can get the results Cowboys fans desire, Jones simply needs to allow a few minor (inexpensive) additions to avoid presently inevitable failure.