Dallas Cowboys: Dave Wannstedt

Chat recap: More pressure on offense

May, 30, 2014
May 30
IRVING, Texas -- Sean Lee was a large part of Wednesday’s chat.

Everybody wants to know where the Cowboys will look for his replacement. Right now, they’ll look on campus. If they don’t like what they see during the organized team activities, they’ll look off campus.

We also talked about why Lee was practicing at all and the contractual issues that come from his injury.

Dez Bryant’s comments also came up. As did the importance of this season for Morris Claiborne. To read the full chat, click here.

But I want to expand a little on this question and answer:
Hanson (DC): As stated the offense is the way this team wins, but does the offense become more ball control trying to establish long drives with short passing game to help keep the defense off the field or do they just say heck with it and try to score 40 a game?

Todd Archer: I understand the thinking, but if you try to ball control your way through games you won't score points and that keeps other teams within a score of hitting a big play to change things. I think you have to attack early in games to get a lead and then you control it late with the running game.

In another life, I covered the Miami Dolphins when Dave Wannstedt was the coach. The Dolphins were loaded on defense with Jason Taylor, Zach Thomas, Patrick Surtain, Trace Armstrong, Sam Madison, Brock Marion, Tim Bowens and Daryl Gardner.

It was the year after Dan Marino and Jimmy Johnson left, and Jay Fiedler was the quarterback, Lamar Smith at running back with Oronde Gadsden and Leslie Shepherd at receiver.

That team went 11-5 and won a playoff game with a limited offense. But Chan Gailey did a great job of coaxing every little bit out of it.

With the Cowboys, I get the feeling Rod Marinelli is going to have to coax every little thing out of the defense in 2014.

And Scott Linehan is going to have to attack on offense. I don’t think the Cowboys can become a ground-and-pound type of team. Yes, that keeps the other team off the field, but it also turns potentially dominating games into close affairs. If the Cowboys look to win games 21-10 with a ball control offense, I think they would be fooling themselves.

I think they need an offense with Tony Romo, Jason Witten, Dez Bryant, DeMarco Murray, Terrance Williams and three first-round picks on the offensive line to come out firing. The key will be early leads. That will make life easier for a defense that will need a lot of help. If they can make opposing teams one-dimensional, that’s a good thing for a defense that couldn’t really stop either dimension in 2013.

Once they build the lead, then that’s when the Cowboys need to run the ball to kill the clock. The Cowboys have had a couple of games in recent years in which they built leads but couldn’t close them out either because the offense couldn’t run out the clock or the defense couldn’t stop anybody or both (Detroit, 2010; Green Bay, 2013 come to mind).

Even if Lee didn’t get hurt, the Cowboys were going to have to win games with their offense. Without Lee, there will be even more pressure on the offense.

If Cowboys move to a 4-3 defense ...

January, 8, 2013
IRVING, Texas – Last week we broached the possibility of the Cowboys moving to a 4-3 as part of the “unconventional move,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones alluded to on his KRLD-FM radio show.

Now comes word from Jason Garrett in a statement regarding Rob Ryan’s dismissal about a “move forward in a different direction philosophically on defense,” which seems to indicate the Cowboys will be moving to a 4-3 base defense.

So where do the Cowboys turn for their next defensive coordinator if they move to a 4-3?

Monte Kiffin resigned at Southern Cal last month with the hopes of returning to the NFL. He is a 4-3 master, using the Tampa-2 scheme that has been used all over the league. He had a tremendous run in Tampa Bay with players such as Derrick Brooks, Warren Sapp, Ronde Barber and John Lynch.

Dave Wannstedt was Buffalo’s defensive coordinator last season. He was not helped by a turnover-prone offense and an ineffective Mario Williams. There are obvious ties to the Cowboys from his time with Jimmy Johnson in the early 1990s. He helped direct some top defenses in Miami as well that featured aggressive cornerback play.

Lovie Smith learned from Kiffin, coordinated a Super Bowl defense in St. Louis and had a long run in Chicago. The Bears defenses forced a ton of turnovers in his tenure, including five Tony Romo interceptions last October. He is a head coaching candidate in Philadelphia and possibly San Diego.

The Cowboys have been a base 3-4 team since 2005 but have not abandoned the 4-3 with their sub package work either under Bill Parcells, Wade Phillips or Ryan.

As noted last week, a move to a 4-3 might not be too difficult and might be necessary if the Cowboys cannot afford to keep outside linebacker Anthony Spencer. DeMarcus Ware would simply be in a three-point stance all the time (as could Spencer if they kept him). Jay Ratliff could move to defensive tackle with Jason Hatcher. They like Tyrone Crawford’s potential.

At linebacker, Sean Lee can play middle and Bruce Carter can play the weak side. They would need a strong-side linebacker but perhaps Alex Albright could get in the mix there as well.

Opposing voice: Bucs coach Greg Schiano

September, 22, 2012
IRVING, Texas – A lot of times coaches making the jump from college football to the NFL struggle. There are a variety of reasons and some of it has to do with the organizations they join.

Jimmy Johnson proved to be one of the exceptions when he came to the Cowboys,

Tampa Bay’s Greg Schiano, who came to the NFL from Rutgers, is hoping to be more like Johnson than, say, Steve Spurrier.

Schiano has NFL-experienced assistants and coordinators and he also has former Cowboys assistant coach Butch Davis on the staff.

“One of the reasons I wanted to hire Butch, other than the fact that he was available and he’s an excellent football coach, is he could help me maybe navigate some of the minefields, some of the things I’m not aware of,” Schiano said. “He’s been a big help in the time we’ve been together here.”

Schiano did not seek out Johnson’s counsel as he made the jump, but Davis and former coordinator Dave Wannstedt are friends.

“Other than shaking his hand, I don’t know coach that well,” Schiano said, “but Butch and Dave all those guys are close. I’ve got to believe there’s a lot of Jimmy Johnson in what we do as far as organization and football and all those things.”

Homecoming for Dave Wannstedt too

November, 11, 2011
Sunday’s game against Buffalo will be a homecoming for a number of Buffalo players and head coach Chan Gailey but also for Bills assistant head coach/inside linebackers Dave Wannstedt.

Wannstedt was the Cowboys' assistant head coach under Jimmy Johnson when they won Super Bowl XXVIII before becoming Chicago’s head coach in 1993.

As Miami’s head coach in 2000, Wannstedt hired Gailey as the Dolphins' offensive coordinator and Gailey reciprocated by giving Wannstedt a job after Wannstedt was let go at Pitt.

“He’s meant a ton,” Gailey said. “He’s a confidant for me. We can talk about things that head coaches talk about. He knows problems that I need to see from time to time that I don’t see. I appreciate his input. He’s an excellent defensive coach. I think he’s helped our defense over on that side of the ball as well. He’s been a super addition for our football team.”

Wannstedt has a 3-2 record against the Cowboys since leaving Valley Ranch.

The Other Side: Buffalo News' Mark Gaughan

November, 10, 2011
IRVING, Texas -- Sorry for the delay, but this week we bring you Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News in our weekly The Other Side post to break down the Bills’ 5-3 start.

Archer - Jerry Jones has said he regretted firing Chan Gailey after two seasons, how has Gailey gone about turning things around apparently in his second year with the Bills?

Gaughan - The Bills had been in a decade-long offensive slump before Gailey arrived. They've finished in the bottom eight in the NFL in yards gained eight straight seasons entering this year. ... Gailey has brought a cohesive offensive philosophy and identity to the team, which was sorely lacking under previous coaches. The Bills have aimed to get bigger and more physical on the offensive line. They've changed personnel to reach that end. They have utilized the spread offense. ... But they're not as much of a pass-happy spread as some teams. They've kept a good commitment to run out of the spread. Gailey has adjusted to his personnel, and he has squeezed great production this season out of unheralded players.

Archer - Fred Jackson is coming home this week and I don't know the people in Arlington knew he could be this good. How is he doing it?

Gaughan - Jackson has been underestimated throughout his career because he's not a "speed" back. But don't be mistaken, he is a big-time talent. He's a big man, and he runs with great strength. He has a great ability to get yards after contact. He has incredible vision.

Archer - How much of a revelation has Ryan Fitzpatrick been and are you surprised at the amount of an extension he received?

Gaughan - You can't knock the results Fitzpatrick has produced since being paired with Gailey. In his first 16 games as a starting QB in Gailey's offense (through the first 3 weeks of this season), Fitzpatrick passed for 3,841 yards, with 32 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. ... His contract extension makes him the 16th highest paid QB in the NFL. It's very similar to the deal Kansas City gave Matt Cassel. ... It's the cost of doing business in the NFL.

Archer - Dave Wannstedt won a Super Bowl here. What has he meant to the Bills defense?

Gaughan - The Bills defense is improved this season, so there's no doubt he has helped (as have Marcell Dareus and Nick Barnett). ... Wannstedt is the assistant head coach and inside linebackers coach. He is Gailey's right-hand man and he helps defensive coordinator George Edwards put together the game plan. So he has a ton of input. Edwards calls the defensive plays.

Archer - Clearly Scott Chandler is doing something right. He couldn't get on the field with the Cowboys. Is it a product of the right time and right place for him?

Gaughan - Everyone would agree there's no shame in the fact Chandler could not beat out Jason Witten. Chandler can move pretty well for such a big man (he's 6-7) and he is a better than average blocker at tight end, too. So that has been a huge addition to the Bills' offense, which has not had a tight end of note since 2001. Chandler is a big target and an asset in the red zone.