Dallas Cowboys: Hudson Houck

Story behind the Larry Allen pump

August, 3, 2013
CANTON, Ohio -- It was easy to tell when Larry Allen was excited during a game.

He would raise his right arm and pump it up and down after a long gain.

The crowd noticed, but Allen said he never really caught the reaction.

“I don’t think the crowd knew what that meant,” Allen said. “Whenever I did that, that was to Sean Payton because I wanted him to run the same play over again. So if I did something good on that play, I’d do that and he’d run the same play.”

John Madden has said Allen is one of the three best guards to ever play, along with John Hannah and Gene Upshaw. Bill Parcells had Allen with Hannah and Mike Munchak as one of the three best.

The reason? His strength.

“I’d punch them, two-handed punch, pass protection,” Allen said.

He learned it from Hudson Houck, his line coach when the Cowboys drafted him in 1994.

“I think he has four Hall of Famers he’s coached,” Allen said. “Players he coached played in over 100 Pro Bowls, so he’s a great coach.”

Could Doug Free return in 2013?

February, 20, 2013
INDIANAPOLIS -- It has seemed like a fait accompli this offseason that Doug Free would be among the players purged for salary-cap reasons by the Cowboys.

Free is scheduled to count $10.02 million against the cap, but if he is designated as a June 1 cut then the Cowboys would free up $7 million in space, which could account for the team’s money to sign the rookies.

“I wouldn’t rule Doug out,” executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Jones, however, would not discuss the possibility of the team asking Free to take a pay cut.

“That’s speculative,” he said.

Free, who has started 48 straight games, struggled in 2013, moving to right tackle with Tyron Smith moving left side. He led the Cowboys with 15 penalties (seven holds, eight false starts) and later in the season he split time with Jermey Parnell. Free’s play improved under the rotation.

Jones said he expects the offensive line to improve in part because of the second year learning from Bill Callahan, who took over from Hudson Houck in 2012, improved health from guards Nate Livings and Mackenzy Bernadeau and a more stable center position.

“I’m not naïve either. I know not everybody’s going to be healthy because guys get hurt,” Jones said, “but last year I do think it was inordinate.”

OL coach: Tyron Smith 'wants to be great'

August, 10, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. – Bill Callahan looks at Tyron Smith and sees a 6-foot-5, 308-pound ball of clay.

Cowboys LB DeMarcus Ware dishes on training camp, how Tyron Smith is progressing, the defense, playing for Rob Ryan and more.

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Callahan said he’s never coached an offensive lineman quite like Smith, the 21-year-old making the switch from right to left tackle in his second NFL season.

Smith’s work ethic and willingness to learn are almost as exciting to Callahan as the seemingly unlimited talent of the 2011 No. 9 overall pick. It’s typical for Smith and Callahan to stay after practice to work on the finer points of playing left tackle, such as footwork, as they did for about 20 minutes after Thursday morning’s walkthrough.

“More than anything, he loves football and wants to be great,” Callahan said. “All the motivation comes from within. That’s a great thing.

“He’s willing. He wants to absorb as much information as possible. He’s all ears. He wants to try something new to help his game. We’re just trying to build his toolbox, as we say.”

Not many tackles have possessed better physical tools than Smith. He’s lean by offensive lineman standards with long arms, huge hands, combining rare power and quickness.

Former Cowboys offensive line coach Hudson Houck, who coached a few Hall of Famers, said he’d never worked with a more talented offensive lineman. Callahan hasn’t had one like Smith, either.

“It’s just a matter of experience right now, but he has an innate ability to play the game,” Callahan said. “He has good toughness, he’s smart and he’s got want-to. Those are all positive traits that I like for the room and love for our team, because at some point in time as his career progresses he’ll certainly be a leader for our football team.”

Jerry Jones laments Cowboys' line play

February, 24, 2012
INDIANAPOLIS -- When Jerry Jones looks for one of the reasons why the Cowboys have not made the playoffs or advanced far when they have made the postseason, he looks at the position he used to play at Arkansas: offensive line.

“I can say that the offensive line has been a significant contributor to us being a mediocre team,” Jones said, "and I’m one of the biggest, not one of, I may be the biggest reason why it is because ultimately it’s my decision. It was my decision to go with who we went with in 2010 and then in 2011 to change who we went to and go. Ultimately that falls on my shoulders.”

Last year marked the first time in his tenure as owner and general manager that Jones elected to take an offensive lineman in the first round when he selected Tyron Smith No. 9 overall, but he also cut three starters from 2010 in Andre Gurode, Leonard Davis and Marc Colombo.

The Cowboys opened the year with three unproven starters in Smith, center Phil Costa and left guard Bill Nagy, a seventh-round pick. After Nagy got hurt, the Cowboys turned to veterans Montrae Holland and Derrick Dockery.

Jones said the uneven play in the interior of the line led to some of the offensive woes in 2011 because “it created ambiguity for our quarterback,” in terms of trusting what was happening in front of him.

In addition to Smith and Nagy, the Cowboys drafted David Arkin in the fourth round last year, but he did not play a game in 2011. The team also likes undrafted free agent Kevin Kowalski.

“I’m really pleased with everything we’ve done for the future on the offensive line, and we’re not through,” Jones said.

Jones said it was possible the Cowboys could select an offensive lineman in the first round this year (Stanford guard David DeCastro?) or go after one in the second round.

But what has him the most excited is the addition of offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who took over for a retiring Hudson Houck.

“Callahan is not only someone who can make a big contribution to overall what we’re doing as a team and offensively with his unique background, but he’s also a heckuva offensive line coach,” Jones said. “And we’re going to benefit from, for the lack of a better word, the freshness he brings to how they’re coached, and I was the No. 1 Hudson Houck fan in the building.”

Jason Garrett pays respect to Hudson Houck

January, 19, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Cowboys coach Jason Garrett opened his introductions of new offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan and secondary coach Jerome Henderson with an homage to the man Callahan is replacing, Hudson Houck.

After 29 years in the NFL and two stints with the Cowboys Houck, who turned 69 on Jan. 7, elected to retire.

“He is as good an offensive line coach that this league has ever seen,” Garrett said.

Garrett went on to cite Houck’s time at Southern Cal where he coached linemen like Jackie Slater and Anthony Munoz and designed running games that helped Charlie White and Marcus Allen win Heisman Trophies. With the Los Angeles Rams, Houck coached Slater and saw Erick Dickerson dominate the league in rushing.

His first stint with the Cowboys coincided with Emmitt Smith’s push to become the NFL’s all-time leading rusher. In San Diego, Houck was the line coach when LaDainian Tomlinson was building a Hall of Fame career.

“He’s a rare guy, a rare person who made a tremendous impact on players through the years, on a lot of fellow coaches through the years and just a real class guy and a guy who makes me as a coach feel proud to be in the same profession,” Garrett said. “I learned an immense amount from him when I was playing and had the good fortune of coaching with him on the same staff. Really an unbelievable guy.”
Retired offensive line coach Hudson Houck doesn’t know whether the Cowboys will move Tyron Smith to left tackle next season.

Houck, however, has no doubt that Smith would be ready for the challenge after a tremendous rookie season as a right tackle.

“He can certainly be a very, very good left tackle,” Houck said during a Saturday appearance on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM’s The Football Show. “This is an extremely talented guy. When you take a look at him being 20 years old to start with and not being able to have a minicamp, not being able to have OTAs and come in cold turkey and just be able to start on a team in the National Football League against very, very good players, this guy has done incredible things up to this point. …

“He is a tremendous worker and a very good person. He’s going to be an outstanding player in this league.”

Houck lobbied to draft Smith with the ninth overall pick last season, and the USC product paid off by being the Cowboys’ best offensive lineman on a consistent basis, prompting Houck to compare his talent to that of Cowboys legend Larry Allen.

The issue is that a 20-year-old rookie was consistently better than left tackle Doug Free, a five-year veteran who signed a four-year, $32 million contract after the lockout was lifted. That’s why it makes sense for the tackles to flip sides, having Smith protect Tony Romo’s blind side and putting Free at right tackle, where he played in 2009 after Marc Colombo’s injury.

Houck said Free’s struggles this season were “overblown a little bit” while acknowledging that a move to right tackle might be in Free’s future.

“I’m not so sure he played that differently or that poorly,” Houck said. “That’s up for conjecture. I think we expected more and all of us expected more because of that contract that he signed. I think Doug has some things that he has to work on, but this is a very smart guy and a very dedicated guy. He will work hard to improve those skills, and perhaps they’ll move him back to the right side.”

Damien Woody lauds Bill Callahan

January, 12, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- Damien Woody was an offensive lineman for Bill Callahan for three years with the New York Jets, and he can’t say enough good things about the Cowboys' new offensive line coach.

And it sounds like Callahan can’t wait to get started.

“I talked to him yesterday,” said Woody, who is now an analyst for ESPN. “He was definitely excited. Just excited for the fact of that organization and the rich tradition the Cowboys have and the personnel on offense. He’s really excited about the personnel on offense, the personnel of the offensive line. He knows it’s a young group, but it’s a talented group. He’s going to be a good fit for the Dallas Cowboys.”

Callahan is replacing Hudson Houck, who elected to retire earlier in the week. Callahan spent the last four seasons with the Jets after a four-year run at Nebraska.

“He’s a meticulous man,” Woody said. “He’s not going to leave any stone unturned. That’s the one thing about him. He’s meticulous in everything: the classroom, on the field. He’s a real stickler on technique. But the one thing I like about him is he listens to the players. He’s open. His whole thing is he’s not going to make players do something they’re not comfortable with. At the end of the day if the players feel like it worked better one way, he’ll listen.”

The Jets’ line had something called the “Breakfast Club,” and they would meet before the rest of the team would get in the building to start the day.

“We always had the longest meetings of probably any position group on the team because we just went over everything,” Woody said. “Every little detail we’d go over.”

With the Jets, Woody said Callahan worked man and zone blocking schemes.

“When I first got there, we were kind of like a power, just straight man-on-man blocking,” Woody said. “But as time wore on we incorporated the zone more into our blocking schemes. He’s versatile. We did both and were successful with both with the Jets. It doesn’t matter to him. He knows how to get it done the way the offensive coordinator wants to get it done.”

Hudson Houck: 'I had a great run'

January, 11, 2012
Hudson Houck said he plans on retiring from the NFL, after a long-career which ended in 2011 with the Dallas Cowboys as the offensive line coach.

"I had a great run," said Houck, 68. "I've spent 13 years with the Cowboys and all of them were wonderful. The owner has been generous to me."

Yet, Houck said he could be like a prize fighter and return to the game he loves despite saying he will retire. Houck could duplicate what Howard Mudd, the veteran offensive line coach, who will coach the offensive line with the Philadelphia Eagles for the 2012 season.

Mudd, who is 69, was thought to have retired after a long stint with the Indianapolis Colts, but was talked about of retirement and coached with the New Orleans Saints in 2010 and then the Philadelphia Eagles last year.

"He's one of my idols," Houck said of Mudd. "I have plenty of energy, expertize and love the game."

Houck said once the 2011 season ended he thought about retiring but wasn't sure of his plans. His contract had come to an end and the Cowboys didn't say he wasn't welcomed back.

"My time is up here and somebody will carry it well," he said.

That person is Bill Callahan, who is leaving the New York Jets as their offensive line coach. Callahan was twice offered a contract extension by the Jets, according to ESPN New York, but declined the opportunity.

Tuesday night, Houck said he hasn't spoken to the offensive linemen that he coached this season, including left tackle Doug Free, right tackle Tyron Smithand center Phil Costa, among others.

"This came about suddenly," Houck said. "I will miss those guys. You miss the coaches and the relationships you built."

Brett Maxie gets interest from Tennessee

January, 10, 2012
According to a source, Cowboys safeties coach Brett Maxie will interview with the Tennessee Titans to become the new secondary coach.

Tennessee asked the Cowboys for permission to speak with Maxie. The Washington Redskins also could make a move toward Maxie.

Marcus Robertson, who spent the last five seasons with the Titans, was released last week.

Maxie did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Maxie has spent the past four seasons on the Cowboys staff as a safeties coach.

The Cowboys are expected to finalize the hiring of former Cleveland Browns secondary coach Jerome Henderson, maybe as soon as Monday, according to a source.

Also, Hudson Houck, has retired as the offensive line coach and will be replaced by former Oakland Raiders coach Bill Callahan. Callahan spent the last four seasons with the New York Jets.

Maybe year too late, but right moves made

January, 10, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- At the end of the disastrous 2010 season two of the Cowboys biggest problem areas were the secondary and offensive line. A year later, they remain problem areas but this time the Cowboys will do something they hope rectifies the problems.

In addition to the expected changeover in personnel in 2012, the Cowboys will have a change in assistant coaches, too, with Bill Callahan and Jerome Henderson replacing Hudson Houck and Dave Campo.

The changes had to be difficult on Jason Garrett because of his personal relationships with Houck and Campo that go back to his playing days with the Cowboys.

But at some point you have to cut the cord.

By not renewing the deals for Houck and Campo, Garrett severed ties to the teams Super Bowl teams of the 1990s and brought in two coaches with no real ties to his playing or coaching days.

It takes some guts to go with guys you know only on reputation or on the recommendations of others.

Callahan has an excellent reputation as an offensive line coach. Henderson, who played for Bill Parcells with New England and the New York Jets, was on the Cowboys’ wish last year but Cleveland blocked the move. He was the only defensive assistant to remain under new coach Pat Shurmur’s staff.

Why did these moves happen today?

Tuesday marked the end of the seven-day grace period teams have in attempting to keep coaches whose contracts had run out after the 2011 season.

Callahan reportedly turned down an extension from the New York Jets, where he was the assistant head coach. What will be his title with the Cowboys? Does he come in solely as the offensive line coach or does he take over the running game coordinator title Houck had as well?

Henderson should take over a secondary in transition. Terence Newman could be a salary-cap casualty. Abram Elam, whom he coached in Cleveland, will be an unrestricted free agent, as will backup cornerbacks Alan Ball and Frank Walker. The Cowboys re-signed cornerback Orlando Scandrick and safety Gerald Sensabaugh to extensions in 2011 and cornerback Mike Jenkins will be in the final year of his contract in 2012.

Maybe the moves came a year too late, but better late than never.

Quick look at new O-line coach Bill Callahan

January, 10, 2012
The addition of Bill Callahan to the Cowboys’ coaching staff will provides Jason Garrett an offensive assistant with valuable experience as a head coach and play-caller.

Callahan, who ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reports will replace the retiring Hudson Houck as offensive coordinator, was the Oakland Raiders’ head coach from 2000-02 and also spent four seasons as the University of Nebraska’s head coach. He was 15-17 with the Raiders, who Callahan led to the Super Bowl in his first season as head coach, and 27-22 at Nebraska.

Callahan has been the Jets’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach since his stint at Nebraska. The Jets had an elite rushing attack in Callahan’s first three seasons, leading the NFL in rushing offense in 2009, but regressed badly this season, ranking 22nd in that category.

Callahan, who was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator before replacing Jon Gruden as the head coach, had offenses in Oakland that led the NFL in rushing (2000) and passing (2002).
Tony Sparano’s return to Valley Ranch makes so much sense that Jerry Jones needs to offer as many dollars as necessary to make it happen.

Maybe that won’t matter, as Sparano has financial security from the contract extension the Dolphins gave him through 2013 before deciding to fire him as their head coach in December. Maybe Sparano will be offered a true offensive coordinator job with play-calling responsibilities, which Jason Garrett will not give up, that he considers too good to pass up.

But Jerry has to give it his best shot if he really wants Garrett to succeed.

Jones has proven in the past that he’s willing to pay top dollar for assistant coaches, compensating Garrett like a head coach to keep him on Wade Phillips’ staff and making Hudson Houck the NFL’s first million-dollar offensive line coach. Sparano, a key factor in helping Bill Parcells rebuild the Cowboys’ respectability last decade, justifies that kind of offer.

Loyalty to Houck, who is in his second tour of duty at Valley Ranch, can’t get in the way of what’s best for the franchise. Jones and Garrett can’t let their personal feelings for Houck cloud their judgment.

If Houck and Sparano can co-exist on a staff, that’s swell. But if Houck has to go to make room for Sparano, so be it.

There are many reasons why Sparano, who is respected tremendously by team leaders like Tony Romo and Jason Witten, should be a priority for the Cowboys. The main ones:

1. Sparano would make Garrett a better head coach: Whether he wants to publicly admit it or not, everybody knows that Garrett made critical clock-management errors in a couple of losses. One solution would be to give up play-calling duties to allow Garrett to focus more on the big picture during games, but that isn’t going to happen. He’d benefit from having somebody else on the headset with significant head coaching experience.

2. Sparano would make Garrett a better offensive coordinator: This isn’t just a theory. It’s fact. Garrett’s best season by far as an offensive coordinator was in 2007, the only season that he worked with Sparano. The Cowboys ranked second in the NFL in scoring (28.4 points per game) that season despite it being Romo’s first full year as a starter. They’ve been a top-10 scoring offense only once in the four seasons since then, when they ranked seventh (24.6 points) in 2010.

3. Sparano would make the offensive line better: Dallas’ offensive line has steadily regressed since Sparano’s departure. His edginess and expertise have been missed. Hiring Sparano would increase Tyron Smith’s chances to reach his immense potential. It would increase Doug Free’s odds to return to his 2010 form. It’d give the Cowboys’ young, unproven offensive linemen – which should include another early-round pick in April – their best shot of developing into long-term solutions.

One man could help fix a few of the Cowboys' biggest flaws. What's that worth to Jerry?

UPDATE: Houck is retiring, as reported by ESPN's Chris Mortensen. He will be replaced by Bill Callahan, whose résumé includes stints as a play-caller and head coach for the Raiders and University of Nebraska.
This is the second installment in ESPN Dallas' five-part series on things that went right for the Dallas Cowboys in 2011.

[+] EnlargeTyron Smith
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireSmith emerged as a force along an offensive line that struggled during the 2010 season. He improved as the season went on, using his long arms and quick feet to hold off pass rushers.
4. Tyron Smith takes over at right tackle

When the Cowboys drafted Tyron Smith, ninth overall, the goal was to make him a right tackle with the potential to move him to left tackle in the future.

There was some concern he could do it, but when the team released veteran Marc Colombo, it forced the Cowboys to view Smith as the starting right tackle. Colombo performed badly in 2009 and the Cowboys needed to upgrade this position.

Smith emerged as a force along an offensive line that struggled during the 2010 season. Yes, Smith was penalized eight times, but he had two stretches of four and five weeks where he didn't get flagged.

He improved as the season went on, especially when defending twists, spin and power moves. Smith used his long arms and quick feet to hold off pass rushers. The Cowboys were not afraid to run off the tackles with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones, and as the season progressed right guard Kyle Kosier didn't help Smith as much with communication.

The big picture has Smith moving to the left tackle spot over Doug Free, who was inconsistent in 2011. Smith has the athletic ability to play left tackle because he took on elite pass rushers on a regular basis last year.

Hudson Houck, the Cowboys offensive line coach, said Smith improved throughout the season but wouldn't say if the rookie would move to left tackle. But it appears things are headed that way.

With the season over, Smith, after getting some rest, will work out with agent and former offensive line coach Joe Panos on his techniques and gain strength. He doesn't need to pick up weight (307), but if he gets stronger, he has a strong chance to remain a force along the offensive line.

Jason Garrett meets with coaches

January, 7, 2012
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett met with some coaches in the last few days to talk about their status with the organization. Several coaches, Dave Campo, Brett Maxie, Skip Peete, Hudson Houck, Wes Phillips and Keith O'Quinn, entered the last year of their contracts.

It isn't known if these coaches were retained by Garrett, but Campo, the secondary coach offered a "no comment" when asked about his status with the team.

The Cowboys tried to replace Campo last season with Ray Horton, who was the secondary coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Horton became the defensive coordinator of the Arizona Cardinals.

Houck is the highest paid offensive line coach in the NFL, at $1 million a season, and it appears he along with Maxie, the safeties coach will return.

Phillips has a close relationship with Garrett, but he might leave to join his father, Wade Phillips in Houston. The Cowboys seemed to be pleased with Peete, the running backs coach, who worked with rookie DeMarco Murray, who rushed for a team-high 897 yards.

O'Quinn, the offensive quality control/wide receivers coach, who is well-respected, could also return.

Jerry Jones hints at coaching staff changes

January, 6, 2012
Changes are likely to come soon on the Cowboys’ coaching staff.

“We’ll give you better answers on that as we go over the next three weeks,” owner/general manager Jerry Jones said during a Friday appearance on KRLD-FM, indicating that hires would be made the week of the Jan. 28 Senior Bowl. “That’s pretty much the way I’ll leave it.”

Those changes will not include defensive coordinator Rob Ryan unless he gets an offer to become a head coach. Jones said he is excited about Ryan returning as defensive coordinator, adding that head coach Jason Garrett is in agreement on the issue.

Several assistant coaches have contracts that are expiring: Dave Campo (secondary), Hudson Houck (running game/offensive line), Brett Maxie (secondary/safeties), Wes Phillips (assistant offensive line), Keith O’Quinn (offensive quality control/wide receivers) and Skip Peete (running backs).

Poor performances by their position groups could result in Campo and Houck being replaced despite the franchise’s respect for the assistants in their second tour of duty at Valley Ranch.

The Cowboys tried to replace Campo last offseason by hiring Ray Horton away from the Steelers. However, Horton opted to become the Cardinals’ defensive coordinator instead. Had Horton been hired, Campo likely would have been reassigned to an off-field position.

Former Cowboys offensive line coach Tony Sparano, who was fired as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach this season, could be a candidate to replace Houck. Garrett’s most successful season as a play-caller was in 2007, when he worked with Sparano, who has excellent relationships with key Cowboys such as Tony Romo and Jason Witten.

However, Sparano would likely opt for an offensive coordinator job with play-calling responsibilities if given the choice. Garrett has no intention of relinquishing play-calling duties.

Garrett is also extremely loyal to Houck, who was on the Cowboys’ staff for two Super Bowl championship seasons during Garrett’s playing career and worked with him on the Dolphins’ staff before they returned to Dallas.