Is Scott Linehan the answer for Dallas?

January, 30, 2014
Jan 30
11:00
AM ET
The Cowboys have finalized the coaching staff, for now, and the main change is Scott Linehan taking over as playcaller in 2014.

Is he the answer to what ails the Cowboys' offense, which wasn't that bad in 2013 with Bill Callahan as playcaller?

Let's take a history lesson.

In five seasons as the offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions, Linehan's offense finished in the NFL's top 10 three times, however the run game never finished higher than 17th.

[+] EnlargeScott Linehan
Bruce Kluckhohn/USA TODAY SportsPiling up points wasn't the norm for Scott Linehan while he was calling plays in Detroit.
For the bulk of his years in Detroit, Linehan had Jahvid Best as his leading rusher for two of those seasons. But Linehan had quarterback Matthew Stafford from the start of his career and saw tremendous improvement. After Stafford threw a career-high 20 interceptions in 2009, his rookie season, he emerged as a solid quarterback who threw a career-high 41 touchdowns in 2011.

Stafford's passing attack finished fifth in 2011 while the run game averaged a poor 95.2 yards per game, 29th in the NFL.

With all that offense, especially with wide receiver Calvin Johnson on the team, you would believe the Lions were among the highest-scoring teams in the league. Nope. The Lions finished 27th (16.4 points per game) in 2009 and were in the middle of the pack after that. Only in 2011 did the Lions finished in the top 10 in scoring, ranking fourth overall.

You can even go further to the nearly three seasons Linehan spent in St. Louis as the head coach.

The Rams with Marc Bulger at quarterback finished sixth overall in offense in 2006, but 24th in 2007 and 27th in 2008. The Rams averaged just 16.4 points per game in 2007 and 14.5 points per game in 2008.

There's this perception that Linehan doesn't like to run the ball. Well Steven Jackson set career highs in yards (1,528) and attempts (346) in 2006. Jackson also had 90 catches for 806 yards with three touchdown receptions that year.

Maybe Linehan was just using Jackson because he was the Rams' best offensive threat. But Torry Holt went to the Pro Bowl in 2006 and 2007 after producing solid seasons, including a 1,188-yard, 10-touchdown 2006 season.

The thing that should worry Cowboys fans regarding Linehan is the lack of points scored in the years he was running offenses with top talents such as Johnson, Holt, Jackson and two quarterbacks with strong arms in Stafford and Bulger.

In the past eight seasons, Linehan's offenses ranked in the top 10 just twice and finished lower than 25th three times.

Dallas coach Jason Garrett has a good relationship with Linehan and is hoping with the talented weapons the Cowboys have he will be a positive influence to the offense.

"He’s been one of the really good coordinators in the league for a long time," Garrett said. "He’s got a lot of experience, a lot of exposure doing this at the collegiate level and the NFL level. His track record speaks for itself. He’s presided over a lot of really good offenses in this league. He and I worked together in Miami for a year, so I know him and I know him well. Philosophically I feel like we’re very similar in how we approach things. I learned a great deal from him, excited to have him on board."
Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.

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