Dallas Cowboys: Jay Gruden
In it we discuss:
- The potential of Tyrone Crawford
- The potential of the defense overall
- The potential of Jason Garrett
- The potential of Sean Lee
Away we go:
@toddarcher: Everybody wants to heap a pile of expectations on Crawford. Jason Hatcher did it. Tony Romo did it. Jerry Jones did it. The coaches have done it. I'm just not ready to say he will have seven or more sacks in 2014. I think if he had five, that would be a good year. Remember, he is coming off a torn Achilles that cost him the 2013 season and he did not have a sack as a rookie in 2012. He was good, solid, dependable, but he never got the quarterback. He had a good spring, but he also expressed some worry that he was still having pain in his leg even if it is considered normal. A five-sack season would be a good way for Crawford to rebound. If he has seven, the Cowboys will be ecstatic. I'm not saying he doesn't have the potential for that kind of season. I just want to see some more evidence before jumping on an already crowded bandwagon.
@toddarcher: Thankfully the fine folks at bloggingtheboys.com have already looked this up. Generally, they do better. Only one team in the past 19 seasons allowed more yards after giving up the most yards in the NFL. Unfortunately that team was the 2008 Detroit Lions coached by Rod Marinelli, who takes over as Cowboys' defensive coordinator. According to BTB, the average improvement is 827 yards from the previous years. Sixteen of those 19 had more wins the following season, which bodes well for the Cowboys. I think the defense will be better in 2014 because it can't be worse. Well, I know it can be worse, but I think Marinelli will make a positive impact. I think you will see the Cowboys go from No. 32 in yards to the Nos. 20-25 range. Call me crazy.
@toddarcher: I'm going to take the new head coaches out of the mix, so no Bill O'Brien, Mike Zimmer, Jay Gruden or Mike Pettine. He clearly isn't among the best in the league. I don't think he's the worst either. I've got Jason Garrett as better than Doug Marrone, Gus Bradley, Joe Philbin and Dennis Allen. I think he's better than Jim Caldwell. I think he's better than Marc Trestman. To me, guys like Jeff Fisher and Lovie Smith are overrated, but that is just my opinion. I'd put him in with guys like Ron Rivera, Mike McCoy and Ken Whisenhunt, and, yes, I realize those guys have made the playoffs or a Super Bowl (Whisenhunt). Garrett is in that 18-23 range, to me. Middle of the road. Much like the Cowboys.
@toddarcher: Maybe I'm just being stubborn on this one, but no. Contractually they can't really walk away yet even if they wanted to ... and they don't want to. I realize Lee has had his share of injuries, but he is an impactful player. He has shown too much even with missing so many games. I'm going to take my chances that he will be healthy eventually. I don't doubt he will come back from the torn anterior cruciate ligament. While still a major rehab, it is not as daunting or as uncommon as it was in the past. Lee will do everything he can do be ready. Sometimes this stuff comes down to luck. Maybe all of Lee's bad luck is out of his system and he'll be able to play a full season in 2015 and beyond. I wouldn't want to see him do it elsewhere for another team..
One reason is the addition of DeSean Jackson to the Washington Redskins.
We documented Jackson’s efforts against the Cowboys while with the Philadelphia Eagles. He’s scored just one touchdown against the Cowboys and averaged 3.5 catches a game in the regular season.
Maybe things become a little different now that he is with the Redskins. He will have a first-time head coach in Jay Gruden, who loved to throw it when he was the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals. He has Robert Griffin III trying to recapture the magic of his rookie season. He has Pierre Garcon, who lit up the Cowboys, and free-agent pickup Andre Roberts.
Carr struggled badly with Garcon (11 catches, 144 yards) in the second meeting of the season last year at FedEx Field so much that Scandrick moved in late in the game when the defense made a stop. Roberts has played twice against the Cowboys with the Arizona Cardinals and has two 100-yard games.
He caught five passes for 110 yards and a touchdown in the Cardinals’ 27-26 win in 2010 and six passes for 111 yards in the Cardinals’ 19-13 overtime win.
New defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli will have to blend what Carr, Scandrick and Claiborne do well into the scheme better than last year’s coordinator, Monte Kiffin. Carr and Claiborne have to play better to give Marinelli options.
Wes Phillips accepted an offer to become the tight ends coach of the Washington Redskins one day after interviewing for the position on Jay Gruden’s staff.
Phillips had been with the Cowboys since 2007 and finished his first season as tight ends coach. He joined the Cowboys as a quality control coach and worked with wide receivers and special teams. In 2011 he was named an assistant offensive line coach.
That the Cowboys allowed Phillips to interview with a division rival was a sign the Cowboys were ready to find a replacement.
The Cowboys could look in-house for a new coach with Keith O'Quinn, who has helped coach the wide receivers the past few seasons in addition to his offensive quality control work. Another possibility is Mike Pope, the long-time New York Giants tight ends coach who was let go this week. Pope is widely regarded as one of the best tight ends coaches in the NFL.
Phillips is among a handful of Cowboys assistants with expiring contracts. He has been with the club since 2007 when his father, Wade, was named head coach. In 2013 Wes Phillips was the tight ends coach after serving as the assistant offensive line coach in 2011 and ’12. He also spent time working with wide receivers and special teams in his time on the staff.
In 2013, Cowboys TE Jason Witten caught 73 passes for 851 yards and had eight touchdown catches, the second-best single-season total of his career. As a group, the tight ends caught 94 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns.
The Cowboys have yet to announce any changes to the coaching staff, although the team and assistant special-teams coach Chris Boniol mutually agreed to part ways two weeks ago. Like Phillips, Boniol had a one-year contract.
The Redskins hired Jay Gruden as head coach (to replace Mike Shanahan) and promoted tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator.
The Cowboys will face three teams with new head coaches in 2014: Jay Gruden with the Washington Redskins, Bill O'Brien with the Houston Texans and Ken Whisenhunt with the Tennessee Titans.
In 2013, the Cowboys went 1-4 against teams with new coaches. The lone win was the October meeting against Chip Kelly's Philadelphia Eagles, but they returned the favor in the more-important Week 17 rematch that won the NFC East.
The Cowboys also lost to Kansas City's Andy Reid, San Diego's Mike McCoy and Chicago's Marc Trestman.
Gruden and O'Brien will be head coaches for the first time in the NFL. Whisenhunt had a six-year run with the Arizona Cardinals.
The Cowboys went 0-3 against Whisenhunt. Two of the losses came in overtime and the third was by a point. And they were three of the strangest losses. In 2008, they lost on a blocked punt for a touchdown in overtime. In 2010 they lost in part because David Buehler missed an extra point. In 2011 they lost in overtime in a game in which many believe Jason Garrett iced Dan Bailey at the end of regulation.
(Personal aside: I don't believe that was the case. The play clock was running down and Garrett called the timeout at the request of special-teams coaches Joe DeCamillis and Chris Boniol. Bailey's first miss of that season at San Francisco came with the operation rushed because of the play clock. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.)
O'Brien was the New England Patriots' offensive coordinator in 2011 when Tom Brady beat the Cowboys on a final-minute touchdown pass 20-16. The Texans have the top pick in the draft and a team that could be in line for a quick turnaround.
Gruden was the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator when Bailey won the game on a last-second field goal after Andy Dalton was limited to 206 yards passing. The Redskins folded under Mike Shanahan and have a ton of needs, but the return of a healthy and motivated Robert Griffin III could change their fortunes quickly.
The Cowboys could have six more games against teams that will lose assistant coaches in 2014.
As of Thursday, the only assistant the Cowboys have lost is Boniol, who oversaw one of the best kickers in the NFL. Maybe that will change too. Maybe.
Last season, the Philadelphia Eagles hired offensive-minded Chip Kelly to bring havoc to the division. The Dallas Cowboys split two games with the Eagles this season, which included losing the regular-season finale at AT&T Stadium, 24-22.
You could say in both games, the Cowboys' defense held it's own.
What would the Cowboys do against Gruden?
Gruden was the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator before taking the Redskins gig.
In 2012, the Cowboys visited the Bengals and earned an emotional 20-19 victory. The game occurred just 24 hours after the death of practice squad player Jerry Brown.
The Bengals' offense gained 336 total yards, but the Cowboys won the game on a Dan Bailey 40-yard field goal in the closing seconds.
Of course, the Bengals have different personnel than the Redskins, but a recap of the 2012 game shows the Bengals receivers dropped numerous passes and Gruden made some questionable decisions. Gruden kept passing the ball, 33 pass attempts from Andy Dalton, instead of sticking with a run game, where BenJarivs Green-Ellis rushed for 89 yards on just 12 carries.
Gruden won't be the only new face to the division. With the New York Giants firing offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride, Monte Kiffin will have to prepare for another new play-caller.
Kiffin had some good moments against Kelly in 2013, but overall his defense was pretty bad.
It doesn't get easier with Gruden coming to the division.
So there is that.
Gruden’s addition also means the NFC East will have two ex-Arena Football League players and coaches at or near the top of their teams’ flow chart.
Will McClay is the Dallas Cowboys' assistant director of player personnel, which is the most powerful personnel job owned by somebody not with the last name Jones. He won three ArenaBowl titles with the Detroit Drive and was with the Dallas Desperados from 2002-08, serving for five years as the head coach. In 2006, he was named the AFL’s coach of the year.
Gruden won four titles as quarterback of the Tampa Bay Storm, and two more as coach of the Orlando Predators.
Scoff at the indoor league all you want, but it provided solid training ground for a variety of players, coaches and personnel people now in the NFL.
McClay has been with the Cowboys for 11 years, but is in his first year as the assistant director of player personnel, flipping responsibilities with Tom Ciskowski, who is now the director of scouting.
For those scoring at home, McClay had a 4-1 record against Gruden’s Predators from 2004-08.
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.