Dallas Cowboys: Dat Nguyen

Sean Lee soaks up Dat Nguyen's wisdom

July, 31, 2013
OXNARD, Calif. – An equipment manager finally found Sean Lee in the media area, about an hour after practice ended, and told the middle linebacker his uniform was needed so the laundry could be started.

Had it not been interrupted, who knows how long Lee’s intense conversation with the San Antonio sports-talk radio host would have lasted?

Jean-Jacques Taylor joins Galloway and Company live from Oxnard, Calif., to discuss the latest news from Cowboys training camp.

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It looked like Lee could have continued picking Dat Nguyen’s brain all night out there on the tennis courts that overlook the Cowboys’ practice fields.

“You’re talking scheme and technique and everything," Lee said. "You can to try to pick his brain to see what made him successful.”

It was one of a few conversations that Lee and Nguyen have had over the past week, only one of which aired on the ESPN San Antonio 1250 AM drive-time show that Nguyen has co-hosted for a little longer than a year.

Lee looks at Nguyen -- whose smarts keyed a successful, albeit injury-shortened seven-year career as an undersized Cowboys linebacker -- as a role model whose wisdom is a resource. Nguyen, who decided to get out of coaching because he didn’t want his wife and three daughters to have to keep moving, considers Lee to be a blossoming linebacker genius.

“He’s a coach on the field,” said Nguyen, who lists Zach Thomas, Keith Brooking and Ray Lewis among the few linebackers he’s seen with instincts similar to Lee’s. “That’s exactly what you want. He’s like a coach’s dream.

“Man, this dude is smart. He wants to be good. He’s willing to listen. He’s one of those hard workers that wants to be good, and the game is important to him. You don’t find too many guys like that anymore. The game is important to him and he wants to be better at it, and he’s working.

“He’s exciting to watch. I watched that kid out there. He’s all over the field all the time. He doesn’t take a lot of bad steps and he doesn’t put himself in bad situations.”

The Cowboys paths of Lee and Nguyen just missed crossing. Nguyen was Dallas’ defensive quality control/assistant linebackers coach for the first three seasons of Wade Phillips’ tenure. Months before Lee was drafted, Nguyen left to coach linebackers at his alma mater, Texas A&M, where the Aggies legend was fired along with the rest of Mike Sherman’s staff after the 2011 season.

Now, Nguyen humbly carries himself as just another media guy, joining packs of reporters to interview players after practices. Funny, but the former No. 59 is the only media member whom Lee seeks out to discuss the details of playing middle linebacker in a Cover 2-intensive scheme, which Nguyen did for five of his NFL seasons.

“If I can share anything to help, I absolutely would help,” Nguyen said. “He’s a great kid. I want him to succeed. He’s one of the better linebackers in the league. It’s flattering that he would even want to ask me questions.

“He just loves the game. He’s 24/7. He’s just one of those guys that, bring your lunch pail. He’s just going to play football. He loves the game, and he just wants to do everything he can to be successful.”

That includes acting like a sponge around a San Antonio sports-talk radio host.

Scheme change will alter Cowboys' LB look

April, 15, 2013
IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys’ move to the 4-3 scheme under new coordinator Monte Kiffin has altered what kind of linebackers the Cowboys are looking at entering the draft.

From 2005 to 2012, the Cowboys drafted 12 linebackers, excluding Stephen Hodge on 2009. The average height and weight was 6-2, 247 pounds.

To move to the 3-4, the Cowboys needed bigger linebackers to withstand more direct play with offensive lineman. Most of them were defensive ends in college. The biggest was DeMarcus Ware (255 pounds, 2005). Ware and Kyle Wilber were the tallest (6-foot-4). The shortest was Jason Williams (6-foot-1, 2009) and the lightest was Bruce Carter (240, 2011).

The scheme switch this year has the Cowboys looking at smaller linebackers like they had for years in guys like Dexter Coakley and Dat Nguyen.

So far there are nine known linebackers that have caught the Cowboys' eye in the draft process either through top-30 visits, Dallas Day tryouts or private workouts: Brandon Magee, Sio Moore, Gerald Hodges, Taylor Reed, Ja’Gared Davis, R.J. Young, Alex Elkins, Jarvis Wilson and Sean Porter.

The average height amd weight: 6-0, 237 pounds.

Kiffin’s scheme is built on speed at every level. Linebackers have to be able to run. Moore is the heaviest at 245 pounds, but is just 6-foot-1. Magee is the lightest at 223 pounds and at 5-foot-11 is the shortest, along with Reed and Young.

Undoubtedly the Cowboys have looked at more linebackers, but that sample size should give you the prototype at linebacker.

5 Wonders: Lee's picks, McBriar's future

October, 18, 2011
We are back wondering about five things as the Cowboys get ready to play St. Louis this week. That would be the winless Rams, dude. But if there’s one thing about the Cowboys we don’t have to wonder about it’s that every game will be a close game.

And we’re off …

** Linebacker Sean Lee leads the Cowboys with three interceptions, which makes me wonder if he will end the year as the team leader in picks. The last time a linebacker led the Cowboys in interceptions came in 1999 when Dexter Coakley had four and returned one for a touchdown. The last linebacker to have at least three picks in a season was Dat Nguyen in 2004. Lee has five interceptions in his last 10 games. He has become what Bill Parcells would call a “catalytic” player. He makes things happen against the run and in the pass. He has really good eyes and can maintain his speed even as he reads a quarterback. Not a lot of linebackers can do that. And Elias Sports Bureau dug up this nugget: Lee is one of only two linebackers to intercept Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. The other was Donnie Edwards.

** The Cowboys have 14 players scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency next year and I wonder if it’s time to take at least one of player off that list: punter Mat McBriar. He is about to play out a five-year, $8.5 million deal and has made the Pro Bowl twice. He is averaging 50 yards per punt with a 38.9 net average this year. A punter like McBriar can make a defense even better. Now, what do you give the guy? Tampa Bay grossly overpaid for Michael Koenen with a six-year, $19.5 million deal with $6.5 million guaranteed. I’m not sure how that figures into any negotiations between the two sides, but Koenen was a guy who kicked in a dome nine times a year, plus great weather sites in Carolina and Tampa Bay. McBriar has excelled in a dome at home but has kicked well at Philadelphia, New York and Washington too.

** The Cowboys have had an offensive line built on size and strength for years. Take away Mark Stepnoski from those lines of the 1990s and the average size was roughly a DART bus. In the last few years the Cowboys had 300-plus pounders in Flozell Adams, Leonard Davis, Marc Colombo and Andre Gurode on the line. I wonder if their running game philosophy has remained the same even as they have seen the offensive line’s size taper down. Left tackle Doug Free is the heaviest at 323 pounds, but he is more athletic than a mauler. Right tackle Tyron Smith weighs 311 pounds but last year at Southern Cal he was in the high 280s. These linemen move better than the other lines, so I’d like to see the Cowboys do some more things on the outside so the lack of power gets mitigated.

** Before last year I wondered if a secondary makes the pass rush or the pass rush makes the secondary. After last year I was convinced that a pass rush makes the secondary and with what Rob Ryan has done so far this year has only cemented that position. Last year opposing quarterbacks completed 64.4 percent of their passes and had a 92.7 rating against the Cowboys. Through the first five games opposing quarterbacks are competing 59.3% of their passes and have an 82.6 passer rating. The only change in the secondary is strong safety Abram Elam. Maybe he is making that kind of difference, but I will put it on the pressure (16 sacks) that DeMarcus Ware & Co. is producing.

** I wonder if Tony Sparano could end up back with the Cowboys if his time in Miami ends after this year. The Dolphins are winless and owner Stephen Ross wanted to hire Jim Harbaugh last year. Sparano worked well with Jason Garrett in 2007 and Garrett has said Sparano was a tremendous help in his first year as a playcaller. It would almost make too much sense, but I also wonder if Sparano would want to come back without the possibility of calling plays.

Cowboys hire a defensive assistant

February, 17, 2010
The Cowboys hired Bob King as a defensive assistant replacing Dat Nguyen who left the organization earlier this month according to a source.

King was a defensive line coach at West Texas A&M for two seasons. Prior to that, King was a defensive line coach at Baylor, working with the tackles in 2006 and 2007.

The Cowboys have now completed their coaching staff.

There were four coaches with expiring contracts and Todd Grantham and Nguyen choice to go elsewhere.

Grantham became the defensive coordinator at Georgia and Nguyen left the Cowboys without a job in hand.
But he was soon hired by Texas A&M as their linebackers coach, which was announced last weekend.

Dat Nguyen joins Texas A&M coaching staff

February, 14, 2010
Former Cowboys player and assistant coach Dat Nguyen, who left the organization a few weeks ago, has surfaced.

Nguyen will become the Texas A&M inside linebackers coach, it was announced by the school on Saturday. Nguyen played for the Cowboys from 1999-to-2005.

In 2007, Nguyen joined the Cowboys as the assistant linebackers/defensive quality control coach.

Cowboys lose Dat Nguyen

January, 27, 2010
MOBILE, Ala. - Dat Nguyen, the Cowboys assistant linebackers/defensive quality control coach, is not with the rest of the coaches at the Pro Bowl in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Nguyen has told Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones he will not return to the coaching staff. Nguyen was in the last year of his deal, but decided to move on, according to a source.

Jones said last week he wanted to retain the three assistant coaches, Brett Maxie, Wes Phillips and Nguyen, who's contracts were expiring. Maxie and Phillips were signed through 2011.

Nguyen has been with the Cowboys as a coach since 2007. He also played for the team from 1999-2005 before retiring due to injuries.

He was a popular player in college at Texas A&M where he led the Aggies in tackles for four straight seasons.

Three other coaches have expiring deals

January, 15, 2010
IRVING, Texas -- One major reason defensive line coach Todd Grantham was able to leave the Cowboys was because his contract was coming to a close at the end of January.

But he's not the only coach with an expiring contract.

Secondary/safeties coach Brett Maxie, quality control coaches Wes Phillips and Dat Nguyen are other coaches whose contracts are up after this playoff run.

"With the success, those guys will and have more opportunities but all of them really have grown, we think, into significant contributors," Cowboys owner/GM Jerry Jones said. "You know Wes Phillips and Dat, they’re young coaches, but they’ve really progressed under Wade [Phillips]. Of course, Maxie is someone we think a lot of."