Dallas Cowboys: Don Coryell

Not sure Bill Callahan is answer either

January, 3, 2013
1/03/13
1:00
PM ET
IRVING, Texas – Earlier today, Tim MacMahon made the case for Bill Callahan to become the Cowboys’ next playcaller, not Norv Turner.

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He cited Callahan’s work as the playcaller when Oakland made it to the Super Bowl when he was the Raiders head coach, except there would be a huge difference between running that offense and this offense.

The scheme.

Callahan’s offense was a West-Coast scheme, shorter, timing routes and a different philosophy. The Cowboys’ offense is based on the Don Coryell system and a number tree with a more intermediate and vertical passing game.

Callahan has been with the Cowboys for a season, but clearly he was the coordinator in name only. He was not involved much in the passing game. Despite the title, he was the running game coordinator. He would be in Jason Garrett’s ear with different runs but he wasn’t making suggestions about pass plays.

This isn’t to say Callahan can’t call the plays. It’s that this would not be an offense in which he is completely familiar and the Cowboys are not going to become a West Coast offense.

If there’s one thing we’ve seen with a Garrett offense, it’s that they can pile up yards. They just don’t score enough points.

If the Cowboys want to look at ways to improve their point totals, steal from teams like New England, New Orleans and Green Bay.

That’s another story for another time this offseason.

But for this story, I don’t think Callahan is the answer either.

The passing of former Chargers coach Don Coryell on Thursday reminded many of how his offensive scheme is in playbooks throughout the NFL.

Cowboys offensive coordinator Jason Garrett uses large portions of the Coryell offense, passed down to him by Norv Turner, who learned the offense from former offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, in the Cowboys passing game. Garrett learned about the offense when he was a quarterback with the Cowboys backing up Troy Aikman when Turner was the offensive coordinator in the 1990s.

A book called Blood, Sweat and Chalk: The ultimate football playbook: How the great coaches built today's game, written by Sports Illustrated's Tim Layden, talks to several coaches, players and team executives about how some of the famed offensive and defensive schemes orginated.

The book has a August 3 release date.

In an excerpt, Garrett talked about how he taught Tony Romo the Coryell offense, nicknamed Air Coryell.

"Romo was pretty good from the start," Garrett says in the book. "But we absolutely had to coach him to get away from the center. And we've had to coach receivers to get off the ball. Like Ernie always said: 'Speed, speed, speed.' None of that changes."

The Cowboys use some of the same terminology that the 1990s Cowboys used that was taken of course by the San Diego Chargers teams of the 1970s and 1980s.

"To me, there was so much simplicity in the way it's taught and the way it's learned," Garrett said. "And that goes back to the three-digit system of digitizing the routes. Putting the whole passing game together is just a matter of putting the numbers together. It all flows so naturally."

Said Turner on Coryell's death: "I have the highest regard for him and his impact on the sport. Even though I didn't get a chance to personally work for him, you almost feel as though youdid because of the influence he had on the guys who I learned from, by like Ernie Zampese. He will most definitely be missed."

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