The Dallas Cowboys have passed on talented players if they weren’t deemed a scheme fit in the past. Are those days now over with the hiring of Mike McCarthy?
The Dallas Cowboys have incurred two of their biggest draft blunders over the past three years due to a focus on scheme over simply acquiring talented players. But with the hiring of Mike McCarthy as head coach, and the coaching staff almost entirely replaced, has that philosophy now changed in Dallas?
In the 2017 NFL Draft, the Cowboys famously drafted Michigan defensive end Taco Charlton over Wisconsin linebacker T.J. Watt with the 28th overall selection in the first round. Charlton was believed to be the better scheme fit.
Three years later and Charlton is no longer on the Cowboys roster as the team waived him last September. He ended up recording a career-high 5.0 sacks in 10 games for the Miami Dolphins in 2019. Meanwhile, Watt has recorded a total of 34.5 sacks over his first three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and was just selected to go to his second-straight Pro Bowl.
The Cowboys’ scheme-over-talent philosophy continued in 2019 with the selection of Trysten Hill with their top selection. Dallas traded their first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for wide receiver Amari Cooper the season prior. And with their second-rounder, they drafted the defensive tackle out of UCF.
Hill was believed to be the perfect fit for former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli’s scheme, making him a priority over a trio of talented available safeties including Delaware’s Nasir Adderley, Washington’s Taylor Rapp, and Virginia’s Juan Thornhill. But reports say the final choice was actually between Hill and Thornhill.
Trysten Hill played in just seven games and recorded only five total tackles in 2019. He spent most of his rookie season on the bench as a healthy scratch playing in less than 12 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps.
Thornhill started in all 16-games for the now Super Bowl-bound Kansas City Chiefs. He recorded 58 total tackles, five pass defends, three interceptions, and a defensive touchdown. Thornhill was selected to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team for 2019. Unfortunately, the talented safety tore his left ACL in the Chiefs’ final regular season game.
But the days of choosing scheme over talent may mercifully be over in Dallas. That’s if executive vice president Stephen Jones is to be believed. Here’s what the Cowboys president of player personnel told reporters while at the Senior Bowl this week.
"“Well, I think Mike [McCarthy] said it best … Let’s take players that can make plays. And then we’ll scheme around those type of players. And then get them the ball on the offensive side of the ball and put great players in positions to make plays on the defensive side of the ball.”"
Stephen Jones is referring to an earlier comment made by McCarthy where the Cowboys’ new head coach emphasized that their job as coaches is to make sure their schemes are flexible enough to accommodate excellent football players, per the Dallas Morning News.
Prior to the arrival of Mike McCarthy and his new coaching staff, the Dallas Cowboys have valued scheme over talent. And the team has suffered for it. Now, scheme is set to take a back seat as talent should finally reign supreme in Big D.