The playoffs start this Saturday–one familiar truth resounds and it has the making of a “Groundhog’s Day” movie. For the third consecutive year the Dallas Cowboys finished 8-8 and lost their week 17 “win and you’re in” game.
Again, the Cowboys were battling unforeseen factors that seem to always haunt this team. It seemed like players were dropping like flies from the onset and the team struggled to recover, starting 19 defensive lineman who weren’t even thought to be good enough to be on active rosters.
That being said, it’s understandable that frustration is mounting amongst Cowboys Nation. Cowboys fans are used to a history of winning and the general thought is that this current crop of front office guys and coaches is marring the image of a once legendary franchise.
With the offseason upon us, it’s important to ask the question, “what changes are going to be made to put us in a position to contend?”
For this installment we’ll look at the coaches and what their future holds:
The Current Figureheads:
Jason Garrett: Coach Garrett isn’t going anywhere. Jerry Jones continues to echo his commitment to Garrett at least through his contract, which expires after 2014. Garrett is a smart guy who believes in a process but has been haunted by poor game management and a merry-go-round of supporting staff that has threatened any benefit of continuity he brings. With one more year to prove he’s the guy in Dallas, I expect Garrett to take some control and save face.
Monte Kiffin: Kiffin is over 70 years old and ran a defense, albeit decimated with injuries, that was historically bad—surrendering over 400 yards a game. There is a thought that Kiffin’s Tampa 2 scheme can’t win in this league but I tend believe that this scheme didn’t fit with this group of personnel. The biggest problem was trying to force fit players into a scheme instead of the opposite.
Bill Callahan: Callahan is a tremendous offensive line coach who can directly be credited the development of Pro-Bowl Left Tackle Tyron Smith. However, since his promotion to offensive coordinator, Callahan has been under fire. This offense is one of the most talented in the league and at times looked like they were comparable to that of Jacksonville. There’s no doubting the benefit of Callahan on this staff but his ineptitude calling an offensive ball game is a real issue.
What Lies Ahead?
Earlier this week I reached out to Dallas Cowboys writer Jeff Sullivan to discuss what we can expect coaching wise. Jeff replied via Direct Message on Twitter saying, “Kiffin is gone, that’s all that is certain right now. Some position guys will be let go. If not Marinelli, could start over on (defense).” Consequently, I asked if Kiffin goes if Marinelli (often known as a loyalty guy) would follow other guys he gets along with, namely Lovie Smith. Jeff had this to say, “(Marinelli) would leave if Lovie lands a head job.” So that leaves us with a very real possibility that defensively we’ll clean house.
What about the offense?
The team has been hush on what moves are pending but I would imagine that Bill Callahan is facing the same fate as that of Kiffin. This team needs a serious change but more importantly, Garrett needs an opportunity to bring in a staff he trusts to execute the “process” he’s trying work out.
The Cowboys will miss Callahan’s ability to develop offensive linemen but they will be happy to have a fresh face at the position that Garrett feels confident in letting run a gameplan.
Norv Turner: Turner and Garrett have history together and Turner also has history with this franchise. Too me, this is an appealing location for Turner, not just because of Garrett but because he knows there will be a possibility of becoming a head coaching candidate again if he has success here.
Gary Kubiak: Why not? Kubiak is a brilliant coach who really should be considered for Head Coaching vacancies around the league. However, there is a hot new trend of either getting successful older coaches (Gruden, Lovie) or big name college coaches (Bill O’Brien, Charlie Strong). If Kubiak is still looking for a job, why not contact him.
In-House: Why not someone like Wes Phillips? Or Derek Dooley? There is benefit to guys who already know the players and won’t want to implement an entirely different scheme. Dooley has bred some very good players and has experience competing tough SEC defenses. Some options there.
Leslie Frazier: Frazier was recently fired from Minnesota but is essentially a Garrett clone. He runs a similar style of defense to the Tampa 2 and has been successful in doing so. Frazier is a straight-faced, tough coach who players have loved everywhere he’s went.
Jim Schwartz: Not a likely candidate here but an option. Schwartz is fiery but I also think he’s a grade-A jerk. If this happens, God help us all.
Todd Grantham: Grantham has history with the Cowboys as a defensive line coach and has been making his bucks coaching strong defenses and NFL-caliber talent at the University of Georgia. Grantham can run any scheme but seems to prefer a 4-3. From that base he does everything from the 4-3 flex to the bear. He’s a strong defensive mind that has a good future.
Jason Garrett, as I’ve said before, is going to do everything that he can make sure he puts the best coaching staff together to ensure he achieves his goal and ultimately a contract extension. It’s early but here is who I think he brings in:
Offensive Coordinator: Derek Dooley
Defensive Coordinator: Leslie Frazier
Defensive Line Coach: Todd Grantham (though you’d have to give him great incentive to leave the Georgia Program… $$$)