The Dallas Cowboys bye week shake ups continued Monday with their first coaching change of 2018. First year Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander lasted seven games with his new team, as the Cowboys fired Alexander in favor of Marc Colombo. The former Cowboys starting tackle from 2005-10 had been serving as Alexander's assistant.
Beneath Colombo, the Cowboys brought back Hudson Houck, who has two previous stints as the team's offensive line coach. Houck was most recently in the league in 2011, his 28th year coaching at the NFL level.
Great move bringing Hudson Houck back as Consultant with the Cowboys. He's the best!!!
The Cowboys offensive line is in good hands moving forward, primarily because of their talent level as well as desire for Colombo to lead their room. It took the Cowboys admitting to another offseason failure that may still cause this season to fall short of the playoffs, but the Cowboys readily admitting their mistake to hire Alexander -- who shifted the team's blocking focus from zone to power -- is a step in the right direction.
This move could easily be too little too late for Dallas as well. Even with the incompatible Alexander leading the way, the Cowboys offensive line has given Quarterback Dak Prescott the third highest average time to throw at 3.04 seconds and paved the way for Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to rush for 619 yards, despite seeing eight or more defenders in the box on over 24% of his runs.
Expecting to squeeze even more out of this group, hardly playing at full strength with Travis Frederick sidelined and rookie Connor Williams getting acclimated at left guard, feels like a desperate way for the Cowboys to convince themselves they're in the NFC East race at 3-4.
As a long-term move though, the Cowboys offensive line needs to remain the strength of the team for this roster to find any success. Hiring a former player that's worked with revered OL coaches like Frank Pollack and Bill Callahan is a move that had to be made. It's one fortified by the absurd talent level of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La'el Collins, who can be asked to change technique mid-season and expected to handle it just fine.
DallasCowboys have fired offensive line coach Paul Alexander. The team released this statement from Jason Garrett about that move and promoting assistant Marc Colombo to Alexander's position. #4TheCowboys
The 2017 Cowboys finished with a winning record of 9-7 and began shaking up the coaching staff below Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli. As Defensive Coordinator, Marinelli has effectively handed his tasks to first-year Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard.
Both Garrett and Linehan have survived frequent calls to lose their jobs through just seven games this season, all it took for the Cowboys to give both their Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator even less of an excuse for post-bye-week struggles.
Alexander being shown the door at The Star should send a message to Keith O'Quinn, Ben Bloom, Kellen Moore, Sanjay Lal, and Doug Nussmeier - the remaining first year position coaches for the Cowboys. All five are being held to a very high standard, one Garrett must maintain at the helm of a desperate team that hasn't won consecutive games since last December.
The Cowboys promoting Colombo is certainly not as flashy a move as trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, but both moves during their week off signal that Dallas is doing everything they can to play up to their potential on offense.
If the Cowboys are able to do so in support of a defense that ranks third in total yards allowed per game, third against the pass, and ninth against the run, this team has a real case for best in the NFC East.
Such a title currently belongs to the Washington Redskins, who followed up their miraculous home win against the Cowboys two weeks ago with a win at the lowly Giants on Sunday, perhaps cementing the fact that all of these Cowboys moves will be about looking ahead to 2019 - spending the rest of this season admitting to even more offseason miscues, two of which have been realized in a big way over the last nine days.
Did DC Rod Marinelli Have Increased Role in Cowboys Loss at Rams?
The Dallas Cowboys Divisional Round loss at the Los Angeles Rams is still fresh on the minds of their players, staff, and front office. So much so that the team had to fan the flames on a Jason Garrett comment expecting Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan to return. Garrett himself walked back this "report" once Stephen Jones noted it's still too early for any coaching staff changes. The focus will remain on Linehan's post until it's removed or the Cowboys OC is retained, but one coordinator the Cowboys now expect to keep is Rod Marinelli on defense.
Marinelli himself disputed the season-long belief that this was likely his last as the Cowboys defensive coordinator. With Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard not taking any of the three HC positions he interviewed for, Marinelli doesn't have to worry about shuffling his title to accommodate Richard - who called the plays from week one this season anyway.
Rod's title does include his specialty as defensive line coach though, a unit that the Rams dominated with their offensive line to a historic degree. The Rams' season-high 273 rushing yards was provided by both Todd Gurley and C.J. Anderson surpassing 100 yards on the ground, the first time in team history they've had two backs reach this mark in a single playoff game.
Rams HC Sean McVay hardly had to reach into his vaunted 'bag of tricks' to expose the Cowboys defense in a way they hadn't been all year, but there was still an element of brilliance in his offensive game plan. It came out after the game that the Rams picked up on the keys the Dallas defensive linemen used to signal stunts and twists before the snap. While this is nothing more than just great scouting yielding an unforeseen advantage, it's left the Cowboys with more than enough time to ponder what went wrong in the Coliseum.
The Rams offensive line knew what the Cowboys defensive line was going to do before the snap on Saturday. https://t.co/oGo6Eiz4av
The answer to this may be nothing other than the coaching questions the Cowboys are already considering. With Richard's interviews in Tampa Bay, Miami, and New York coming at the beginning of the week leading up to game day, it's possible Marinelli had a larger say in the Cowboys preparation on defense.
It was Marinelli's defense that conceded 412 yards to the Rams in 2017 in a loss at AT&T Stadium. Matching him up with McVay leaves a lot to be desired, while Richard helps bridge this gap - something he was seen desperately trying to do on the sideline with a battered Cowboys defense.
As each day of the offseason passes, a change at either coordinator position becomes less likely in Dallas. On offense, the play caller has more than a season's worth of evidence showing the deficiencies of the Cowboys attack. In a league fueled by recency bias however, Marinelli certainly didn't leave his best performance on the field in Los Angeles.
Somewhere in the middle of this is Jason Garrett, safely in place as the head coach that should be personally trying to upgrade his top two assistants however possible. Marinelli signing up for another year makes this hard on defense, though Richard should resume play calling duties next season.
Again, this leaves the onus of the Cowboys improvements for 2019 on the offensive side of the ball, something that'll be realized when the shock of their defense letting them down in the biggest game of the season is gone.
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
You may have already heard that the Dallas Cowboys will be flush with salary cap space in 2019, and that's very accurate. A huge portion of it comes from over $30 million in expiring cap penalties, otherwise known as "dead money."
Quick explanation; dead money occurs when a player is released or retires prior to the expiration of their contract. Any guaranteed money, such as the original signing bonus or money converted in a restructuring, that has not yet been paid out according to the contract schedule is accelerated.
For example, when Tony Romo retired after 2016, he still had $19.6 million in guaranteed money owed to him. Dallas chose to split this dead money over two years, and thus had a $10.7 cap penalty in 2017 and $8.9 million last season.
But now Romo's dead money, along with Dez Bryant's and several other players, is coming off the Cowboys' books. The result is a roughly $30 million infusion of salary cap space for 2019.
Here were the major culprits for last year's dead money:
(All cap figures are taken from Spotrac.com)
- QB Tony Romo - $8.9 million
- WR Dez Bryant - $8 million
- DT Cedric Thornton - $2.5 million
- CB Orlando Scandrick - $2.3 million
- CB Nolan Carroll - $2 million
- WR Deonte Thompson - $1.8 million
- DE Benson Mayowa - $1.1 million
- K Dan Bailey - $800 thousand
- TE James Hanna - $750 thousand
Those players alone make up a little over $28 million. Another $4 million or so came from over 30 players with lesser penalties that still added up.
Right now, the Cowboys have only $1.76 million in dead money on their 2019 salary cap. Nearly all of that is the $1.6 million still owed to Orlando Scandrick.
That difference is where the cap space comes from, and it will be of tremendous help to Dallas as they have major financial moves coming. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, deal with a major salary bump for Amari Cooper, and consider a contract extension for Dak Prescott.
The 2019 number will change, of course, as the offseason rolls on. If Dallas elects to release players like Sean Lee, Tyrone Crawford, or others, some dead money will appear. But that will be offset by whatever cap savings motivated the move in the first place.
This is a good reminder of why the Cowboys' new era of fiscal conservatism is a good thing. After years of what felt like perpetual "salary cap hell," they are finally getting out from under those penalties and have complete flexibility this offseason. They may not even need to cut a guy like Crawford, who they almost would have been forced to in past seasons.
We'll be talking a lot more about individual players and their contracts in the weeks ahead, but this summary helps us see that Dallas isn't nearly up against the financial wall as they have been. We still miss guys like Romo and Dez, but we won't miss that awful dead money in 2019.
Cowboys Expect C Travis Frederick Back for Offseason Program
Lost in yesterday's hoopla over Scott Linehan's return was a positive report about Center Travis Frederick. In his comments to the media, Jason Garrett said that Frederick's recovery timetable should allow him to a full participant in the team's offseason program.
After never missing a start in his first five years, Travis missed all of 2018 dealing with the effects of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. The disease attacked his neurological system and required immediate and intensive treatment.
Jason Garrett says the team anticipates Travis Frederick being involved in the offseason program right from the start this spring if he continues on the same positive track in recovery from Guillain-Barré syndrome. #cowboyswire
While Joe Looney performed admirably in Frederick's absence, he's not an elite talent. Travis has been arguably the best center in the NFL since entering the league in 2013.
It's hard to qualify what effect not having Frederick had on the Cowboys offense in 2018. Ezekiel Elliott still led the league in rushing, but short-yardage plays weren't as automatic as we've seen in past years. A 4th-and-1 stuff was part of what led to the Cowboys' loss this past Saturday.
Dak Prescott was the second-most sacked QB in the NFL in 2018. After being sacked just 25 and 32 times in his first two seasons, the number skyrocketed to 56 sacks.
That's not all on Frederick, of course. Tyron Smith had some health issues and there were was turnover at left guard.
But having your All-Pro veteran center out there to help with the pre-snap reads, and help the rookie guard on his left, might have helped avoid some of those issues.
Indeed, Travis Frederick's return is just one of many reasons for optimism with the 2019 season. One of the best players on the team, he was sorely missed this year and can only help as Dallas looks to build on their division title and playoff appearance.
Star Blog7 days ago
Should Tavon Austin’s Role Get Expanded Against His Former Team?
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Texas Forever? Kris Richard Appears Closer to Staying with Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys12 hours ago
Cowboys Getting Over $30 Million Cap Space from Expiring Dead Money
Dallas Cowboys2 weeks ago
Amari Cooper Trade Looking Like a Real Bargain Now for Cowboys
Dallas Cowboys2 days ago
What’s Next for Cowboys Coaching Staff After Divisional Round Loss?
Dallas Cowboys6 days ago
It’s Time To Stop Doubting the Dallas Cowboys
Player News1 week ago
Allen Hurns Injury: Status, 2019 Prospects, Teammate Reactions
Star Blog6 days ago
Blake Jarwin’s Injury Could Mean Expanded Role for Rico Gathers