Dallas Cowboys: Tony Sparano

Callahan situation evokes memories of 2006

January, 29, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- In 2006, Sean Payton wanted to bring Tony Sparano with him to the New Orleans Saints as offensive coordinator.

Callahan
Bill Parcells did not want to lose Sparano, so the Cowboys denied the request. Sparano was upset. He thought he was being blocked from a promotion even if Payton would call the plays for the Saints and the offensive coordinator was more of a title than anything else.

The Cowboys did not have a coach to take over the offensive line for Sparano in 2006. Parcells came to the Cowboys without “his guys,” but quickly established Sparano as one of “Parcells guys,” moving him from tight ends coach to offensive line coach to running game coordinator.

Sparano ended up calling the plays for the Cowboys in 2006, helping a young quarterback named Tony Romo through the final 10 games of the season.

Sparano lost the play-calling duties a year later to Jason Garrett after Parcells retired. He was upset, but three-fifths of his offensive line started in the Pro Bowl that year. In 2008 Parcells named Sparano as head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Eight years later, the Cowboys are preventing Bill Callahan from moving on when his authority on offense is about to be usurped. According to a source, the Cleveland Browns were denied permission to speak with Callahan about joining their staff. The Baltimore Ravens were reportedly blocked from talking to Callahan as well.

With the official announcement of Scott Linehan as the play-caller in 2014, Callahan finds himself being shuffled to the back of a confusing offensive setup. This is still Garrett’s offense. Tony Romo will still have major involvement in the game-planning. Linehan will make his amendments to the passing game. Callahan is back in an offensive line role with run-game duties.

Unlike 2006, the Cowboys have a ready-made replacement for Callahan in Frank Pollack. The linemen have a lot of trust in Pollack. Truth be told, Pollack worked more with the line in 2013 than Callahan, simply because the offensive coordinator duties pulled Callahan out of the linemen’s room.

It is well within the Cowboys' rights to keep Callahan, but in doing so they are potentially creating a miserable situation that can adversely affect the entire team.

A look at Cowboys' last two coach searches

January, 9, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are not in a search for a head coach. Jason Garrett will be back for his fourth full season in 2014.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Lovie Smith) and Houston Texans (Bill O’Brien) have landed their guys. The Washington Redskins, Tennessee Titans, Cleveland Browns, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings are still in the search process.

And they have been elaborate.

The Redskins’ list has 11 names, including Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia. Bisaccia’s name has turned up in the Titans’ chase too. A lot of the searches have the same names with guys like Jay Gruden, Mike Zimmer, Ken Whisenhunt, Todd Bowles, Jim Caldwell, Dan Quinn and James Franklin.

In 2007, Jerry Jones cast a wide net to find Bill Parcells’ successor.

He interviewed 10 coaches, including three from Parcells’ staff -- Tony Sparano, Todd Haley and Todd Bowles -- and a former assistant in Gary Gibbs. Unlike the Redskins, he did not interview any assistant from NFC East teams.

Including Wade Phillips, who was Jones’ pick, and Garrett, who took over for Phillips in the middle of the 2010 season, eight of the 10 interviewees became head coaches: Sparano with the Miami Dolphins, Haley with the Kansas City Chiefs, Norv Turner with the San Diego Chargers, Ron Rivera with the Carolina Panthers, Jim Caldwell with the Indianapolis Colts and Mike Singletary with the San Francisco 49ers.

Only Bowles and Gibbs have not been named head coaches, although Bowles has a chance in Cleveland or Minnesota.

Of the eight the only two not to take their team to the playoffs are Garrett and Singletary.

In 2010, Jones’ search was not as prolific. He liked what Garrett did in taking over for Phillips in finishing 5-3 without Tony Romo, who was out with a broken collarbone. Jones interviewed wide receivers coach Ray Sherman and also brought Bowles back for another look.

The job was always going to be Garrett’s so Jones did not need to put out a lot of feelers.

Jones could be in the head -oach business in 2015 if things do not go well for the Cowboys. The feeling is that the next search will look more like the one in 2007 than 2010.

Cowboys would have to OK Marinelli move

January, 2, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- With Lovie Smith set to become the next head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, according to reports, it is only natural to see Rod Marinelli linked to the former Chicago Bears head coach.

Marinelli spent four years on Smith’s staff with the Bears and was the coordinator from 2010-12. They coached together in Tampa Bay. He became the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line coach in part because of his loyalty to Smith, who was fired.

There is nothing more important than loyalty to Marinelli.

But if he wants to return to Tampa Bay -- he was a Buccanneers assistant from 1996-2005 -- and reunite with Smith, then he would need the Cowboys’ OK, according to multiple sources.

Marinelli is under contract to the Cowboys in 2014. The Cowboys could let him go if they choose, but they have blocked Joe DeCamillis and Tony Sparano in recent years from taking jobs with different teams while under contract. It is possible they could come up with some sort of compensation package to let Marinelli go.

Teams are only required to allow assistant coaches to interview for head-coaching vacancies.

But the feeling is the Cowboys do not want to lose Marinelli. He was forced to work with 19 different defensive linemen in 2013 because of injuries and poor play. The Cowboys' higher-ups liked what he brought to that group and the defense in particular.

With Monte Kiffin’s status up in the air, Marinelli could be a candidate to be the Cowboys’ coordinator if they went that route.

But there is no questioning Marinelli’s feelings for Smith.

“I'll say this, he was one of my very best friends,” Marinelli said during the season. “I went there because of him, not for any other reason. We had a long tenure together and I believe in him. I've started this thing off about my beliefs, being old fashioned or whatever, I have a strong belief in what he believes in and I liked it. For me, it's got to be that or I struggle. I never want to not do it with all my heart. For me, that was Lovie's defense.”

Five Wonders: Changes on defense?

December, 11, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Those of you wondering where Five Wonders went on Tuesday, fear not. It's here on Wednesday.

We just pushed it back a day with the Dallas Cowboys playing on ESPN's “Monday Night Football.” And boy wasn't that an exciting contest?

Anyway, off we go ...

1. Jerry Jones said there will be changes on the defensive side of the ball after the debacle against the Chicago Bears. I wonder what they would be. And how big of a difference could they actually make? The scheme is the scheme. They can't become some blitz-happy team overnight. The personnel is the personnel. So does it make a difference if J.J. Wilcox starts over Jeff Heath at safety? Minimally. I'd look for Sterling Moore to be the nickel back if Morris Claiborne cannot return this week from a hamstring injury. Huge difference? Perhaps considering how lost B.W. Webb looks. Injuries could force a shakeup at linebacker. Does DeVonte Holloman get some time? He's not a weak-side linebacker by trade, but maybe it's time he plays instead of Ernie Sims or Cam Lawrence if Bruce Carter can't go. The defensive line does not have many options, but maybe Drake Nevis moves in for Nick Hayden. Again, we're not talking major changes.

[+] EnlargeDallas' Rod Marinelli
Casey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsWould Rod Marinelli be interested in rejoining Lovie Smith if Smith were to become a head coach again?
2. This isn't so much an “I wonder,” but it is for those wondering if Rod Marinelli will join Lovie Smith should Smith return to the NFL as a head coach somewhere. From what I'm told, Marinelli signed a three-year deal with the Cowboys when he joined the team in the offseason. Technically Jones could allow Marinelli to join Smith if he wanted, but he does not have to. The promotion rule was dropped a long time ago. Since Jones would not let Joe DeCamillis leave for the Oakland Raiders two years ago to be with Dennis Allen or Tony Sparano to leave for the New Orleans Saints when Sean Payton took over in 2006, I can't see Jones letting Marinelli walk. The defensive line has been a drive-through of sorts because of injuries and Marinelli has made it work. It's not been perfect by any stretch but it's been fine.

3. With all of the talk about how well Tyron Smith has played this season, I wonder if the Cowboys will be more patient than normal in talking about an extension for Smith. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Cowboys have a fifth-year option on Smith in which they would pay him roughly the amount of the transition tag in 2015. They have to make their decision to use the option year in the spring and the money becomes guaranteed after the 2014 season. Maybe the Cowboys will wait because they will have to do something with Dez Bryant, who will be a free agent after next season. They could franchise Bryant and use the option year on Smith, but with salary-cap limitations I can see them being more willing to get a deal done with Bryant first. Because the option year is a new tool teams will have a difficult time navigating those negotiations on long-term deals. Bryant will be a more pressing deal to get done and the Cowboys will be able to keep Smith in their back pocket, so to speak.

4. I wonder how strongly the Cowboys attack the defensive line in the April draft. Marinelli played a big part in the team choosing to pass on Sharrif Floyd last April because they did not want to use a first-round pick on what they viewed was a two-down defensive lineman. A few years ago the Cowboys saw their offensive line grow old with Marc Colombo, Leonard Davis, Andre Gurode and Kyle Kosier. They cut Colombo, Davis and Gurode and bit the bullet. Jason Hatcher turns 32 next season and will be a free agent. Anthony Spencer turns 30 in December, is coming off microfracture surgery to his knee and is also a free agent. DeMarcus Ware turns 32 next July and has been slowed by nagging injuries this year. Their one building-block defensive lineman is Tyrone Crawford and he is coming off a torn Achilles. For as well as George Selvie has played this year, he is not a building-block player. He is solid, but you would feel better about him being a backup than a full-timer. The rest of the guys still have things to prove. If the last few years has been about rebuilding the offensive line, I wonder if it's time to start rebuilding the defensive line.

5. I wonder if assistant director of player personnel Will McClay becomes a sought after front-office personnel person. The NFL has tweaked its Rooney Rule and now teams will have to interview at least one minority candidate for their head coaching or general manager vacancy. Last year there were eight head coaching vacancies and seven general manager jobs and none went to a minority. McClay, who is African-American, was elevated to his current role in the offseason and has the run of the personnel department. He has yet to set up a draft board, but he has been responsible for a lot of the pro personnel work in recent years and has found players that have come off the street and contributed to the Cowboys' success. He was a former head coach with the Dallas Desperados and has also helped the coaches on game day. He has received interest from teams in the past, but the Cowboys have not let him leave. This time they may not have a choice.

Cowboys' run defense improves

November, 29, 2013
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- It didn't matter who it was up against, the Dallas Cowboys' run defense needed to do something positive against the Oakland Raiders on Thursday.

After allowing over 400 rushing yards the previous two games, the Cowboys held the Raiders, the NFL's fourth-leading rushing attack, to just 50 yards.

"It's just techniques, fits and guys in the right place where they’re supposed to be at, that's all it is," defensive tackle Jason Hatcher said. "We just going to keep doing it in this scheme and keep playing hard. This scheme is kinda coming together for us."

Coming into the game, the Cowboys allowed a league-worst 5.1 yards per rush, including 3.4 yards before contact per rush, 31st in the NFL.

But Oakland had seven rushes that didn't gain a yard and averaged just 2.0 yards per carry, the second-lowest average allowed by the Cowboys since a Week 2 game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Watching them on film, (assistant) coach Tony Sparano believes in running the ball," Hatcher said. "We were able to shut them down and we did an awesome job and hopefully we can keep doing it. That's been our nemesis all year. We've been getting gashed. Hopefully we found something in the run game."

Double Coverage: Raiders at Cowboys

November, 27, 2013
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Romo-RoachAP PhotoTony Romo's Cowboys host Nick Roach and the Raiders in a Thanksgiving Day duel.
IRVING, Texas -- For the second time in five years, the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders meet on Thanksgiving at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys won the 2009 matchup 24-7 with Tony Romo throwing for 309 yards and two touchdowns and Miles Austin catching seven passes for 145 yards. Since that game Austin has had more yards in a game just twice.

ESPN.com's Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Cowboys reporter Todd Archer bring you this week's holiday version of Double Coverage.

Todd Archer: The Cowboys are bad in most areas defensively, but they have given up 200 yards rushing in three games this season. The Raiders' strength, from afar, seems to be their running game. What makes it so good and how has it differed with Terrelle Pryor out?

Paul Gutierrez: Hey, Todd, it's not just Pryor being out, but also Darren McFadden, who has missed three straight games and four overall with a strained right hamstring. He said Monday night he hopes to play after practicing (limited) for the first time since Nov. 1. The run game, though, has not missed a beat with underrated Rashad Jennings picking up the slack. In the past four games, he has run for 413 yards while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. In fact, the running game has been so surprisingly solid without McFadden and Pryor that the play-action pass game has picked up with undrafted rookie Matt McGloin under center.

Speaking of passing games ... no doubt Tony Romo can rack up stats, but has he decided to assume more of a leadership role yet as the QB of America's Team, or is that just not in his makeup?

Archer: He has developed over the years as a leader, but there's no question that this has been "his" team the past three seasons. He is the veteran. He is the guy the Cowboys look to. The guys on this team now don't know of the Romo who burst on the scene in 2006 or had to deal with the Terrell Owens stuff. He's the guy who led the lockout practices and has been the big voice in the room. This year he has been given the added responsibility of being more involved in the game plan. The Cowboys' past two wins have come on last-minute drives led by Romo to beat Minnesota and the New York Giants. I don't think there's anybody questioning his leadership anymore. And if they did, well, the $106 million extension Jerry Jones gave him in the offseason should be more than enough proof to those guys that this is Romo's team.

Let's stick with the quarterback theme. Before the Cowboys lucked into Romo, they ran through a ton of guys after Troy Aikman's departure. Is there any reason to believe McGloin or Pryor can be a solution or do the Raiders need to go after one of these guys in next April's draft?

Gutierrez: Well, the way I put it earlier in the season, before Pryor hit his purported ceiling and sprained his right knee, robbing him of his greatest strength (running) while accentuating his biggest weakness (passing), if Pryor was not the Raiders' Mr. Right, he was their Mr. Right Now. McGloin is a pure quarterback, a pocket passer whom Dennis Allen prefers for what he wants to accomplish offensively. It's hard to give Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie much credit for their evaluation of QBs, though, what with their misses on Matt Flynn and Tyler Wilson, not caring much for Pryor early on and then, similar to the Cowboys with Romo, stumbling upon McGloin. But it's hard to see them going all in with the undrafted rookie from Penn State, too. At least hard at the moment. Unless McGloin continues to improve and wins a few games, it would behoove the Raiders to draft another QB if they see one as a can't-miss prospect. I know, I know, they really wanted USC's Matt Barkley but Philadelphia traded in front of them so they traded back and selected Wilson. Oops. There is no doubt, though, that this Raiders regime prefers McGloin as a prototypical QB over the more electric Pryor.

No matter who is under center for Oakland, though, the Raiders' QB is going to have to keep an eye on DeMarcus Ware. Is he rounding back into shape as a dominant pass-rusher, or is he more decoy as he rehabs from his quad strain?

Archer: I think he's still feeling his way through it. The fact that he made it through the Giants game healthy was a plus. He has been dinged up in just about every game with stinger and back strains earlier in the season before the quadriceps injury. We'll see how he fares on a short week, but the defense is a lot better with even the threat of Ware on the field. Jason Hatcher had two sacks against the Giants at least in part because of the attention Ware received. Ware has talked about wanting to make up for lost time. He has five sacks so far, his fewest this late in a season since his rookie year in 2005. Thursday would be a good time to look like the DeMarcus Ware of old.

This game is a homecoming of sorts for guys like Mike Jenkins, Andre Gurode, Kevin Burnett and Tony Sparano, but it's a real homecoming for Dennis Allen. How is he perceived in Oakland and will McKenzie be more patient with him than, say, Al Davis would have been?

Gutierrez: The jury, so to speak, is still out on Allen in the streets of Silver and Blackdom. Of course, when the Raiders win a game, he's the man. When he loses, the fans turn on him and start pining for Jon Gruden ... again. But isn't that the nature of the beast? Even Allen himself said this was a results-oriented business. Of course, he was referring to the quarterback position at the time, but it still applies. Make no mistake about it, Allen is McKenzie's "guy" and he's going to roll with him and have patience with him. The plan coming in was to give Allen at least three years to right this ship and really, the only thing that could damage Allen's chances of lasting another year would be if the team quit on him, like it did last November before playing hard again at the end. Then again, it might not be McKenzie's choice. Owner Mark Davis is a more patient owner than his father and wants McKenzie to handle all football-related decisions. But a year after stating he was fine with just about anything but regression, Davis wants progress. Stagnancy won't cut it, either. So, stay tuned.

Sticking with the coaching theme, is Jason Garrett in Jerry World for the long haul, or was Jerry Jones' support merely the dreaded vote of confidence?

Archer: Jerry has publicly backed Garrett, but he's also been a guy who's said, "Just because I say something, doesn't mean it's true." I do know this: He wants Garrett to be the guy. He desperately wants it to work. I really believe that. He believes in Garrett's approach and how he builds a team. Garrett will provide some blow-back to Jerry but not as much as, say, a Bill Parcells. Garrett knows what makes Jerry work and knows how to work around it to a degree or push Jerry in a certain direction. Honestly, Cowboys fans should want the Garrett deal to work out because it might be the best combination to mitigate the bad parts of Jerry and keep the good parts of Jerry.



IRVING, Texas -- Just a few days after the Dallas Cowboys' season ended, it was clear that Jason Garrett's days as a play-caller were going to come to an end.

When we talked to Garrett the day after the regular-season finale, the coach said he anticipated the status quo when it came to the calling of plays in 2013. The next day on KRLD-FM, owner and general Jerry Jones said everything was up for discussion and then Garrett told the station he would be open to giving up the duties.

PODCAST
Calvin Watkins of ESPNDallas.com joins Galloway & Company to discuss Jerry Jones hinting that Jason Garrett will not be calling offensive plays for the Dallas Cowboys next season.

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Funny how that stuff works, isn't it? Remember when Garrett said the team would look at other kick returners early in the season only to be followed the next day by Jones saying Felix Jones would remain the kick returner? Well, what do you know, Felix Jones remained the kick returner. It's the same sort of deal here, and it's a reminder that this is and will always be the Jerry Jones Show, especially if coaches don't win.

He was happy to stand to the side for a few years when Bill Parcells came on board but then got itchy. And when the team didn't win a playoff game in Parcells' four seasons, Jones did not try to talk Parcells out of retirement. It gave Jones the chance to say, "Hey, I tried it your way and it didn't work, so we're going back to my way."

Garrett had two full seasons to do it his way, so to speak, and produced a 16-16 record. Now Jones is showing he's in charge.

Which is why Bill Callahan looks to be the next play-caller if you want to read between the lines on Jones' comments from the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala.

Yes, the move would neuter Garrett, to a degree, but it'd actually be the best of a worst-case scenario for Garrett.

Should the Cowboys go outside the Valley Ranch surroundings for a new play-caller -- someone like Norv Turner, Pete Carmichael or Hue Jackson -- Garrett would be further muted as head coach.

Garrett would have had no say over the offense if an outsider had come on board.

Turner would've run the same offense, but he would've been all-powerful when it came to the game-day specifics. With Carmichael or Jackson -- or any other coach outside the building -- Garrett would not have had the background in the new offense.

And if the Cowboys want to go that route, then Jones just needs to put an end to the Garrett Era.

If Callahan is the choice, Garrett will be able to keep his thumbprint on the offense. The plays will largely be the same the Cowboys have run since Garrett joined the team in 2007. Callahan was not in the passing game meetings last year; Garrett ran those. Callahan does not have the depth of knowledge in Garrett's passing game as he does in a West Coast scheme. And they will not be making a seismic shift to the West Coast offense with Tony Romo as the quarterback.

If they do that and make a seismic shift on defense from a 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 scheme, then this team will not compete in 2013. It might not be able to compete anyway, but two gigantic changes would make Garrett's job even more impossible.

With Callahan calling plays, Garrett could be in Callahan's ear and offer suggestions that can be viewed as commands.

When Sean Payton and Tony Sparano called plays for the Cowboys, they ran Parcells' offense. Parcells did not let either coach go off on their own when it came to calling the plays. He kept a strong hand on top of them -- which some of you might remember more as a bad thing than a good thing -- and would intervene at times.

Jones will attempt to spin the move as a positive for Garrett, but it's not. Would Jones the general manager be happy if somebody came in to make the draft decisions? Of course not. And that will never happen, as we all know.

But, for Garrett, the move to Callahan would give him some chance to maintain a sliver of offensive control.

It would be up to him to use it as he sees fits, but I can't imagine he would just goes quietly into that good night during the week and during the games.

So who calls Cowboys' offensive plays?

January, 11, 2013
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The reshuffling of the Cowboys’ coaching staff is far from over this offseason.

New defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin will be given the right to choose his own assistants. Head coach Jason Garrett might be fighting for the right to continue calling the offensive plays.

With all due respect to the position coaches, deciding who will call offensive plays is by far the most important call Jerry Jones (hopefully with some input from Garrett) will make regarding the coaching staff the rest of the offseason. The Cowboys could go three routes:

1. Let Garrett keep the gig: Garrett made it clear this is his strong preference during his press conference the day after the season ended, stating that he believed the status quo was the best way to go.

Jones indicated otherwise during his radio appearance a couple of days later.

“Jason’s been in charge of the offense for the last six years,” Jones said on KRLD-FM, refusing to directly answer questions about whether Garrett would continue to call plays. “So we’ve got to look at it and say, how do we best use these assets?”

Many at Valley Ranch feel that hasn’t happened during Garrett’s tenure, despite the Cowboys piling up big yardage totals. Dallas has ranked between 14th and 18th in the NFL in scoring offense four of the last five years, creating a sense that a change is needed.

After Jerry said his peace, Garrett said he’d be open to handing over play-calling responsibilities to someone else during a radio interview hours later. Funny how that works.

2. Let Bill Callahan call plays: Callahan already has the offensive coordinator title. The Cowboys might actually give him the responsibilities.

Callahan has a worthy track record as an NFL play-caller. His Oakland offense ranked in the top 10 in yards and points for four straight seasons, peaking in 2002, when the Raiders ranked first in total offense and second in scoring offense en route to the Super Bowl (where they were defeated by Kiffin’s Bucs, coincidentally).

However, Callahan’s success came in the West Coast offense. Would the Cowboys want to use the scheme he knows best? Could he do a good job calling plays in Garrett’s scheme after a year of working in it? How about implementing aspects of Callahan’s West Coast scheme into the Cowboys’ offense?

If Callahan is calling plays, the Cowboys would have to consider hiring another offensive line coach, although assistant offensive line coach Wes Phillips is highly regarded at Valley Ranch.

3. Hire an outsider: It’s been widely reported that Norv Turner, who likely topped Jerry’s wish list, will land in Cleveland. That’s just as well for Garrett, who would have been in the awkward position of being the boss of a man who coached him with the Cowboys and almost returned to Valley Ranch as the head coach in 2007.

There are several other intriguing candidates who are available. Tony Sparano, who was fired after one season as the Jets’ offensive coordinator, worked under Garrett in 2007 when the Cowboys scored the second most points in the NFL and had a 13-3 record. Sparano, who is immensely respected by Tony Romo and Jason Witten, called plays the previous season when the Cowboys ranked fourth in the NFL in scoring.

Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael Jr. might be the best available candidate who has never worked for the Cowboys. His contract expired, and Carmichael might be willing to leave New Orleans for a play-calling role with Sean Payton returning to the Saints.
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys signed probable starters at both guard spots and fullback in March, but their most important offensive addition won’t put on a pair of shoulder pads.

That would be offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

How key is Callahan? The presence and experience of an assistant who has been a head coach and playcaller for a Super Bowl team should expedite the process of Jason Garrett reaching his potential as a head coach.

It’s no secret that Garrett struggled with some game-management situations in his first full season as a head coach. It’s also a fact that Garrett’s best statistical season as a playcaller occurred in the one year that he had running game guru Tony Sparano help prepare the game plans.

Callahan, a head coach for two seasons with the Oakland Raiders and four seasons at Nebraska, should be a tremendous asset to Garrett in both of those facets of the game.

“Certainly his experience as a coordinator and a head coach will help us,” Garrett said. “He and I have talked about that. He’s someone that I can lean on.”

Garrett will continue to call plays, but Callahan will make recommendations on runs or pass protections during games. Callahan also said he still thinks like a head coach during games and won’t hesitate to make suggestions to Garrett on situations that arise.

“Whatever those situations are, I’ve got enough experience in my background to assist where he needs help,” Callahan said. “I will say this, though: A lot of that stuff is done during the game plan week. That’s where I see that I can really contribute and help this staff is during the course of the week. Then if you’re well prepared, I think it just unfolds on game days. You’re ready to make those crucial calls.”

Garrett’s willingness to take input is a critical element to his relationship with Callahan working. The chain of command is clear, but Garrett isn’t too proud or stubborn to realize that he’s a young head coach who can benefit from Callahan’s experience.

“He’s really open,” Callahan said. “That’s the great thing about Jason. He’s a great listener. He’s wide open to thoughts and ideas, anything you have to offer, suggestions, whatever it may be. That’s been great.

“I’m sure it will be that way on game day, but I do respect his ability to call plays. He’s had a great knack for it. He’s had offenses that have been close to being on top of the league. I think the work relationship has been terrific, and I only see it getting stronger as we move along.”

A look at Cowboys' decision on DeCamillis

February, 1, 2012
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IRVING, Texas -- Oakland’s new coach Dennis Allen is off to a good start even if he did not get his man. He identified Joe DeCamillis as his target for assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.

DeCamillis, who worked with Allen in Atlanta, is fiery, has a good history as a special teams coach though 2011 was not his finest hour and will outwork just about everybody.

The Cowboys denied Allen’s request to speak with DeCamillis, according to a source.

It will lead to some awkwardness around Valley Ranch. It has to even if it will never be admitted to publicly.

The Raiders were ready to offer DeCamillis a promotion of assistant head coach, much the same way Green Bay allowed wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson to leave for the Cowboys last offseason. The Packers did not have to grant permission but they allowed Robinson a chance to move up the coaching chain.

There seems to be a hint of hypocrisy given how Robinson joined the Cowboys, but it is well within the team’s purview to hold on to a coach under contract. And it could mean Jason Garrett did not have a replacement in his back pocket to let DeCamillis go to Oakland.

DeCamillis wants to be a head coach one day. Getting that title in Oakland would help his profile even if he technically would be doing the same job with the Raiders that he would have with the Cowboys.

When Sean Payton left for New Orleans he wanted to take Tony Sparano with him as offensive coordinator, but the Cowboys denied the request. Sparano was upset because he felt he was being penalized and would not get a shot at a head coaching spot in the future. Bill Parcells did not want to lose a good coach from a staff that was already losing its playcaller in Payton. Two years later Parcells hired Sparano as Miami’s head coach.

If the Cowboys win and the special teams play well in 2012, then DeCamillis will get his chance.

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.

Jerry Jones hints at coaching staff changes

January, 6, 2012
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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.

Garrett needs OC? 'Humorous,' Jerry says

December, 14, 2011
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IRVING, Texas – You can make an argument that Jason Garrett would be a better head coach if he hired an offensive coordinator.

Just don’t expect to convince Jerry Jones of it.

“I’m actually humored when I hear that he might be overloaded mentally being the coordinator as well as the head coach,” Jones said during a SportsCenter sit-down interview with Hannah Storm. “That’s humorous. His biggest asset is his mental capacity and his ability to digest information and then act on it.

Never mind that Garrett’s late-game clock-management gaffes have provided plenty of laughs the last two weeks.

Tony Sparano, who was a tremendous asset to Garrett in his most successful season as an offensive coordinator, is available now that he’s been fired as the Dolphins’ head coach. Norv Turner, the brains behind the offense that put Super Bowl rings on Garrett’s fingers as a backup quarterback, is expected to be available after the Chargers fire him following the season.

But the Cowboys won’t consider hiring either supremely qualified candidate as an offensive coordinator. Garrett doesn’t believe it’s necessary, and his boss considers the thought laughable.
IRVING, Texas – Tony Sparano is proud to be part of the coaching staff that developed Tony Romo from undrafted free agent. into a franchise quarterback. That doesn’t mean the Dolphins coach is looking forward to seeing Romo on Thursday.

“Tony Romo was a special player when I was there and he’s a special player now,” Sparano said Tuesday. “There’s not a lot of quarterbacks in the league that can do some of the things that this guy can do.”

Sparano mentioned Romo’s ability to make all the throws, his competitiveness and his leadership ability, but Romo’s feel in the pocket and knack for buying extra time with his feet is what really makes him unique.

That was on full display against the Redskins, when Romo avoided pressure in the process of several big plays. Miami fans saw it in the Cowboys’ 2007 road win, most notably when Romo made unblocked Dolphins pass-rushing great Jason Taylor whiff before delivering a touchdown pass.

“The trait that this guy has is tremendous, tremendous awareness,” Sparano said. “As a line coach there, obviously I always appreciated that. I always thought he had eyes in the back of his head. This guy can sense things and feel things and get the ball out and find the open guy and that stuff can kill ya if you’re a visiting coach.”


IRVING, Texas -- In this week’s Hot Button issue Tim MacMahon and I debate whether Jason Garrett should bring in an offensive coordinator.

With Tony Sparano coming to town Thursday with Miami, it makes some sense. At least it does to Tim. I’d stick with Garrett as the play caller.

What do you guys think?

Click here to vote.

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