The Dallas Cowboys miraculous 2016 season pretty much caught just about everyone off guard in regards to the surprise turnaround they have made after finishing 4-12 last season. Nobody could have possibly predicted that they would end up with less losses (3) than they had wins (4) in one years time span.
Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on what side of the spectrum you're on, that turnaround has not only probably cost the Cowboys Tony Romo's services next season, but it could also cost them their offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan.
You see, Scott Linehan's name may be a short list for a lot of these teams that are looking for a new head coach.
It shouldn't come too much of a surprise when you think about it. Linehan's offense has been one of the best in the NFL since joining the Dallas Cowboys and his work this year with rookie QB Dak Prescott has simply been outstanding.
Linehan has a track record of helping young quarterbacks reach their potential, having previously helped Matthew Stafford when he entered the league with the Detroit Lions. This is why I believe he could possibly be a highly sought after head coaching candidate.
Instead of evaluating the head-coaching positions for just Scott Linehan, I decided to take a look to see which team would be the best for Linehan and Tony Romo to continue to work together because I think they could end up being a packaged deal, at least I hope so.
The NFL coaching vacancies are a gambit of desirability. There is everything from Super Bowl contenders to the bottom feeders. Below I have ranked them from what I believe is the worst to best situation.
San Francisco 49ers
There is absolutely nothing to like about the situation that the San Francisco 49ers have themselves in. They do have the #2 overall pick in this year's draft, but the amount of dysfunction in the organization makes this job less than desirable.
The 49ers last two head coaches didn't last more than a season and they are also looking for a new general manager. There is absolutely zero stability from top to bottom, which doesn't bode well for Scott Linehan and Tony Romo continuing their careers together in the Bay Area.
Overall, I think the chances of Linehan and Romo continuing their working relationship with the 49ers is extremely thin at best. The 49ers need a miracle worker!
San Diego Chargers
The San Diego Chargers are kind of like the Philadelphia Eagles this year in their own respective divisions. Both teams will be watching from home while nearly every other team in their division play in the playoffs.
The uncertainty surrounding the Chargers makes them just a little bit more desirable than the San Francisco 49ers, but not by much.
The Chargers team is full of aging players and the uncertainty surrounding where they will play in the future might mean the next head coach might want to live out of boxes until something is made official.
Philip Rivers automatically negates the need for Tony Romo, but that didn't necessarily mean that Scott Linehan would take his name out of the hat to become the next head coach.
Honestly, I think Linehan is in a better situation in Dallas, which means this move for both Tony Romo and Linehan is pretty unlikely.
Okay, finally a team that makes a little bit of sense for both Scott Linehan and Tony Romo. However, Buffalo may decide that they will stick with Anthony Lynn, but nothing has been made official just yet.
I don't believe the Buffalo Bills are as bad as their record suggests. They have playmakers on both sides of ball to work with, especially on offense.
Scott Linehan and Tony Romo could do wonders with offensive weapons like Sammy Watkins and LeSean McCoy, but it looks to me like the Bills could possibly be thinking about getting younger and starting a rebuild.
I don't think Linehan or Romo would like to join a team that is even remotely considering starting to rebuild, because that would likely mean that they would be trading away some of their better players and starting from scratch. So, I think we can scratch the Buffalo Bills off the list.
The Jacksonville Jaguars were thought to be a team set to break out in 2016, but nothing ever materialized which led to Gus Bradley's departure and the fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft.
This could be a really intriguing opportunity for Scott Linehan. The Jaguars have a solid roster and quite a few young players to build around. Of course, Linehan's experience working with young QB's could possibly help Blake Bortles finally reach his potential.
Unfortunately with Bortles in place, it is unlikely that Linehan would bring Tony Romo in, but then again Romo could help with Bortles development.
If Scott Linehan is offered the head coaching job with the Jaguars, it is an opportunity that he might not be up to pass up. The AFC South division is one of the worst divisions in the NFL and could be up for grabs in 2017.
Overall, Linehan might not be able to pass up an opportunity with the Jacksonville Jaguars, but it is highly unlikely Tony Romo joins him.
Los Angeles Rams
The Los Angeles Rams spent their first overall draft pick on a quarterback Jared Goff in last year's draft, so that automatically rules out Romo and Linehan continuing their relationship in LA. However, this could be an intriguing head-coaching opportunity for Linehan.
Again, Linehan's experience working with young QB's can be a huge benefit to the LA Rams and most importantly Goff. Goff has the tools necessary to succeed, but needs the coaching to hopefully reach his potential.
There is a lot to like about the Rams and with the right head coach, they could take a huge step in the right detection, becoming competitive once again.
With players like Todd Gurley, Aaron Donald, Tavon Austin, and even Kenny Britt, there are plenty of offensive weapons that Linehan would have at his disposal. It would be interesting to see if he could do with the Rams what he has been able to do with the Cowboys.
There should be a number of coaches lining up for this job, which makes me believe that Scott Linehan would jump at the chance to become the LA Rams next head coach.
To be completely honest, I think this would be the ideal situation for both Scott Linehan and Tony Romo. The Denver Broncos have the most complete roster out of all of these teams and if not for the quarterback play this season, they likely would have made the playoffs.
I think I would go as far as saying if Romo joins the Broncos, they would likely be the Super Bowl favorites in 2017.
This is the one team where I believe Romo has a better chance of playing for then Scott Linehan does coaching.
I think Romo would be ecstatic to join the Broncos. Denver has arguably one of the best, if not the best defense in the entire NFL. They also have just enough offensive weapons to keep Romo happy and make things difficult for their opponents.
I could honestly see John Elway and the Denver Broncos being interested in bringing in Tony Romo, but ultimately it will come down to what type of compensation Jerry Jones is looking for in return. If the asking price isn't too steep, I think there is a good chance Tony Romo is in a Broncos uniform next season.
I would love to see Scott Linehan become the next a coach of the Denver Broncos, but not more than I would like to see Tony Romo get a chance to be their next starting QB. Ideally, I wouldn't mind seeing Linehan and Romo be a Bronco in 2017.
What do you think?
Please feel free to use the comment section below to share your thoughts and opinions on this topic.
Sean’s Scout: WR Deonte Thompson A Vertical Threat for Dallas Cowboys
Finally addressing their underwhelming cast of wide receivers, the Dallas Cowboys signed journeyman Deonte Thompson yesterday. The seventh-year pro spent 2017 with both the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills, hauling in 38 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns.
Thompson was undrafted in 2012 out of Florida, making both the Cowboys' free agent signings to date former UDFAs. The Cowboys added LB Joe Thomas earlier in the week, who you can learn more about in Sean's Scout as well.
In desperate need of speed and play making ability on the outside, here is a look at what WR Deonte Thompson can bring to the Dallas Cowboys.
WR Deonte Thompson: Strengths
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Deonte Thompson plays with a great understanding of his own frame, using his length to give defensive backs problems up the field. Not a true "burner", Thompson takes some time to accelerate down the field, but can separate vertically.
Thompson runs smooth routes, using his long strides to get on DBs in a hurry. Once in position to free himself at the stem of a route, Thompson showed the ability to consistently turn his hips and complete a number of underneath and deep routes at a high level.
Check out this video on Streamable using your phone, tablet or desktop.
Deonte Thompson may not win on many throws "above the rim", but he is above average at the catch point securing passes with his strong hands.
Snagging the ball outside of his frame is not much of an issue for Thompson, who makes the most of his run-after-the-catch opportunities by effortlessly receiving the ball in stride.
At this stage of his career, Thompson may not be an every down player, but this is a player the Cowboys can absolutely find a way to get involved in their sputtering passing offense next season - at the very least replacing the role of FA WR Brice Butler.
WR Deonte Thompson: Weaknesses
Deonte Thompson should not be expected to go over the top on many defenses for the Cowboys in 2018. While the traits are there to flash as that sort of player, Thompson simply is not at his best trying to track down deep vertical passes.
When Thompson does not create separation on his initial burst up the field, there was a tendency for him to get shoved around at the catch point. Still coming up with his fair share of passes, the degree of difficulty on these catches was often increased by his inability to truly play through contact.
This is not a player with a powerful lower body, relying on upper body flex and foot speed to free himself and create plays in space. Overall balance is a strength for Thompson, but he rarely is able to break tackles or move defenders as a blocker in the running game.
WR Deonte Thompson: Summary
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The Cowboys should know what they are getting in Deonte Thompson, who has not had the benefit of great quarterback play in recent seasons. The hope in Dallas is that a number of receivers on the bottom of the depth chart can stand out this summer to make the team out of a crowded room.
This group of Ryan Switzer, Lance Lenoir, Noah Brown, and KD Cannon will now include Deonte Thompson - who should have the edge over most of these names.
Thompson won't be the difference in the Cowboys' offense having a bounce back season in 2018, but his raw athleticism and effortless ability to serve as a deep threat could surely make an impact in Dak Prescott's progression.
Using Win Probabilities To Evaluate Decision Making: Cowboys Kick Vs. Raiders
The Philadelphia Eagles have surpassed the Dallas Cowboys in more ways than one, but on Super Bowl Sunday, their willingness to "be aggressive" and "take chances" shined through the most. Eagles head coach Doug Pederson was congratulated by the masses for not coaching scared, and instead going for it on key fourth downs and even attempting trick plays.
When you really evaluate those decisions, however, they shouldn't even be thought of as "risky." If anything, they were simply the obvious call.
Over the last few months I have been working with win probability models, looking to validate and refine those available to the public. I can't share too much about the work as of yet (there will hopefully be a published article in the future), but the work is certainly promising.
What I can say is this. Dennis Lock and Dan Nettleton worked to utilize random forests to estimate win probabilities before each play in an NFL game. These "forests" are similar to decision tree machine learning, cycling through random trees of past data to predict future outcomes.
Brian Burke has been utilizing his model for a while now, and Pro Football Reference has a simple, yet effective model as well. For my project, I have been working to find the "best" ways to estimate those win probabilities in order to inform decision making by head coaches and coordinators.
If you aren't utilizing analytics correctly in today's NFL, you're falling behind. And if you aren't willing to take calculated risks based off of what these numbers say and mean, you are really falling behind.
How does this all relate to the Cowboys?
Well, Cowboys Nation has been pretty consistent in their main criticism of head coach Jason Garrett: he's too conservative. They say he coaches scared, and they believe he punts the ball away too often between the 40's. Numbers accumulated by writers such as Bob Sturm and Marcus Mosher back up these claims, but I wanted to examine Garrett's decision making through the win probability lens.
I took to Twitter to ask the fan base for specific scenarios in which they felt Garrett was too conservative. Then, I ran these situations through the win probability model to determine how these decisions affected the outcomes.
Over a series of posts I will detail what the model says about the Cowboys' decision making in these key moments. First, we go back to December of last season where the Cowboys had their season on the line in Oakland.
Cowboys at Raiders, 2017
One instance which was consistently brought up was ironically from a Cowboys win. Yes, a win!
The Raiders had played the Cowboys close all game long, and with their season on the line Dallas was in position to put those pesky Raiders away. Tied at 17 they entered a fourth and goal situation at the Raiders' 1 yard line. The Cowboys decided to kick the field goal and grab a 20-17 lead. While Dallas did hang on to win, this was only because of a miraculous play by Jeff Heath which resulted in a fumble and a touchback.
Many of the fans who tweeted at me seem to think the Cowboys should have went for the touchdown on fourth down, rather than take their three points. But what does the model say?
Prior to the fourth down play, the Cowboys had about an 85% chance to win the game. After kicking the field goal and kicking the ball away to Oakland, that probability went down to just above 80%. Had the Cowboys gone for it and been stuffed at the Raiders' 1 yard line, that probability would have dropped all the way to just over 57%.
But the model does believe that Garrett made the right decision. Of course, had Dallas scored a touchdown, the game would've virtually been over, but the variance in probabilities suggests that kicking the field goal and taking the sure points was a good move.
Next week, I explain where Jason Garrett and company may have gone wrong during a key 4th down decision against the Los Angeles Rams. If you have any suggestions for plays/situations you'd like evaluated, please comment below!
Cowboys en Español: Nuevas Contrataciones, ¿Podría Ser Allen Hurns la Siguiente?
La agencia libre de los Dallas Cowboys comenzó un poco tarde, siendo el último equipo en toda la liga de la NFL en realizar una contratación este offseason. Ahora, con algunas caras nuevas en el equipo, comienzan las preguntas inevitables. ¿Qué jugadores tendrán un impacto y qué jugadores serán una contratación irrelevante?
Sólo el tiempo lo dirá. Las piezas que añadieron los Cowboys no son agentes libres de gran renombre pero podrían llegar a tener algún impacto en el 2018. Sin embargo, no todas las adquisiciones de Dallas han sido por medio de la agencia libre.
Hace unos días, los Raiders y los Cowboys acordaron un trade por el fullback Jamize Olawale. Días después de perder a Keith Smith (quien fue contratado por... los Raiders), Dallas no quiso echarse todavía otra necesidad encima, así que solucionó rápidamente su hueco en la posición que le abrirá camino a Ezekiel Elliott.
Además de enviar a Olawale a los Cowboys, los Raiders consiguieron una selección de quinta ronda de parte de Dallas y ellos entregaron su sexta ronda. En otras palabras, los Cowboys sólo renunciaron 19 turnos en las rondas tardías del Draft por un fullback que será de ayuda constante para esta ofensiva.
A pesar de ser tres años más grande que Keith Smith, Olawale le brinda a los Cowboys potencial para participar en el juego aéreo así como en el terrestre.
Por la agencia libre, los Cowboys obtuvieron ayuda ofensiva y defensiva.
Joe Thomas, (no, no el que todos conocemos como uno de los mejores tackles de la historia) el linebacker que viene de los Green Bay Packers, usará la estrella este 2018. Mi compañero y escritor de Staff Sean Martin escribió una excelente pieza analizando a detalle al nuevo defensivo.
Thomas definitivamente no será un titular, pero sin duda ayudará a un grupo de equipos especiales que necesitan bastante apoyo esta temporada. Además, es un linebacker rápido y atlético que podrá brillar como un jugador de rotación en una defensiva que incluye a Sean Lee y a Jaylon Smith.
Esta contratación no hace que los Cowboys dejen de tener una gran necesidad por un LB, pero da una profundidad que urgía a la posición.
El último movimiento y quizá el más discutido por los aficionados de los Cowboys es la adquisición de Deonte Thompson. Un receptor abierto que ha batallado para conseguir una casa en la NFL llega a un equipo que cuenta con nombres como Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams y Cole Beasley, pero que aún necesita mucho más producción.
¿Acaso la adición de Thompson al roster hace que WR deje de ser una necesidad para el equipo de los Cowboys? Claro que no, pero añade un talento que quizá pueda ayudar al equipo en ciertos aspectos.
Thompson es un jugador muy rápido, lo cual es algo que esta ofensiva necesita para abrir el campo un poco más. Un corredor de rutas bastante sólido con manos seguras. Thompson viene probablemente a ser una versión mejorada de Brice Butler por $2.5M.
Quizá fue un error de parte de la administración garantizarle un millón de su contrato. ¿Por qué garantizarle dinero a un jugador que ni siquiera debería tener un lugar asegurado en el equipo? Sin embargo, Thompson parece ser un contribuidor a la ofensiva.
Pero no fue el WR en la agencia libre del que se ha hablado esta semana en el mundo de los Dallas Cowboys. De hecho, aún después de firmar su contrato, no es el más discutido entre los aficionados.
Allen Hurns, receptor que fue cortado de Jacksonville, es un jugador que podría llegar a hacer un impacto inmediato en la ofensiva de Dak Prescott y proveerle al QB un potencial mejor amigo. A pesar de que muchos esperarían que conseguir a Hurns significaría decirle adiós a Dez Bryant, la verdad es que no sería necesario.
Hurns podría tomar el rol que Terrance Williams posee ahora como receptor "Z" y llevar a esta ofensiva a otro nivel. Todd Archer de ESPN reportó que la reciente adquisición de Deonte Thompson no significa que la posibilidad de ver a Hurns usando la estrella ha acabado.
Todos queremos ver acción en la agencia libre, aunque a veces lo sensato sea ser conservadores. Así como muchos aficionados de los Cowboys se quejan de la falta de movimientos, muchos aficionados de los Steelers y los Patriots agradecen que sus equipos tengan esta filosofía de no gastar mucho en agencia libre.
La diferencia son los resultados en el campo.
Sin embargo, Allen Hurns definitivamente parece como una opción muy viable para los Cowboys, y una adición que simplemente tendría mucho sentido. Sólo queda esperar si lograrán firmarlo o si un equipo (como los Jets, quienes han mostrado mucho interés y tienen bastante espacio en el tope salarial) logra convencerlo de no regresar a Dallas.
Por ahora, esperamos. Quizá hasta que los Cowboys firmen a alguien más. O quizá hasta la llegada del NFL Draft.
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