Dallas Cowboys: John Garrett

Win or lose, jobs at stake Sunday vs. Eagles

December, 23, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- As thrilling as Sunday’s 24-23 win against the Washington Redskins was, it might have only delayed the inevitable for the Dallas Cowboys.

With a loss this week against the Philadelphia Eagles in a third straight NFC East championship game, there will be change. Actually, win or lose there will be changes, because that is just the nature of the NFL. How grand and how widespread are the questions.

Speculation abounds about Jason Garrett’s future. Twice in the past two weeks Garrett said he is focused on doing his job to the best of his ability. There is nothing else he really can say. Would Jerry Jones have the patience to bring Garrett back for a fourth season after three crushing Week 17 losses?

After last season’s loss to the Washington Redskins, Jones promised an uncomfortable season for everyone in the organization ... not named Jones.

Would it have made a difference if the Cowboys beat the Redskins last season? Would Jones have stayed with the status quo? They didn’t win, so changes were made.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan was fired. So was running backs coach Skip Peete. Special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis was allowed to leave for the Chicago Bears. Garrett’s brother, John, was allowed to leave for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Wide receivers coach Jimmy Robinson was named “senior coaching consultant,” however, he has not been seen at one practice the entire season.

Ryan’s replacement, Monte Kiffin, would appear to be on thin ice after this historically bad season as the Cowboys switched to the 4-3. He has consistently said retirement is not in his plans, but at 73 years old that could change quickly.

Players, like Gerald Sensabaugh, Marcus Spears, Lawrence Vickers and Dan Connor, were cut in the offseason. Doug Free had his base salary cut in half. Players like DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin could be in the crosshairs this year win or lose to the Eagles.

A lot is at stake against the Eagles, and for some people it could be more than just a playoff spot.

IRVING, Texas – For a 5-11 football team, the 2004 Tampa Bay Buccaneers must have had one heck of a training camp.

Former fourth-string quarterback Jason Garrett talked about that camp for much of his 27-minute soliloquy that opened his Wednesday press conference at Valley Ranch. Garrett regaled reporters with anecdotes about defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin’s attention to detail, defensive line coach Rod Marinelli’s “gimpy swagger” and special teams coordinator Rich Bisacia’s something or another.

Immediately after the Jason Garrett news conference ends, Randy Galloway and Matt Mosley are joined by Glen "Stretch" Smith and Chuck Cooperstein to analyze each and every question/answer.

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Frankly, by the time Garrett got around to discussing Bisaccia, he might as well have been Charlie Brown’s teacher. At that point, my focus was on wondering how a man could talk that long without taking a sip of water or saying anything interesting.

Oh, and there was still the eager anticipation of Garrett announcing the offensive play-caller next season … which he eventually promised would happen at some point before the preseason opener. It apparently takes eight days to decide to change defensive schemes but eight months to figure out who should call offensive plays.

But let’s get back to that glorious Bucs camp, which Garrett called his “football grad school.” Garrett, who was cut at the end of the preseason and returned to the roster for less than a month in midseason, clearly wanted to emphasize his ties to the most accomplished additions to the Cowboys’ coaching staff this offseason.

In other words, Garrett tried as hard as possible to convince people there are no puppet strings attached to him, never mind the appearance that he’s been twisting in them for the last six weeks.

Garrett took a much more subtle approach than screaming that these weren’t just Jerry hires that potentially set the stage for Tampa-exes Jon Gruden or Lovie Smith to replace him. Garrett called the coaching changes “collective decisions.”

“One of the great things about this organization since I’ve been here is the communication between me as the head coach and the ownership and the decision-makers is really strong, and it’s always been strong,” Garrett said. “We’ve had great back-and-forth about a lot of the decisions we’ve made. We made a lot of personnel decisions through the years. We’ve made a number of staff decisions through the years and these were no different.”

His older brother, John, the former tight ends coach and passing game coordinator, being forced out seemed a bit different. But Garrett explained that “we felt like the best opportunity for him to grow was not to be here.” He didn’t mention that it was also the only opportunity for John, who landed in Tampa Bay as the receivers coach, to remain employed.

To be fair, Garrett dug in enough to prevent Jerry from hiring a playcaller from outside the organization. However, his stubborn hesitance to officially hand over the play-calling responsibilities to Bill Callahan smacks of a head coach desperate to hold on to what little real authority he has left.

The one really firm answer Garrett gave was a “yes” when asked whether picking a playcaller would ultimately be his decision. That didn’t necessarily make it believable.

The perception remains that Jerry stripped Garrett of his authority during this uncomfortable offseason. The in-house videos Jerry shot last week, claiming all the offseason decisions were Garrett’s, didn’t change that. Nor did Garrett’s nearly hour-long meeting with the media, when he repeatedly danced around the one important issue expected to be resolved Wednesday.

“Well, Jerry Jones is the owner and GM of the team,” Garrett said. “As far I can tell, there’s an owner and GM in 31 other cities. I know since I’ve been here as the head coach, he and I have had a really good relationship. We talk about a lot of different issues regarding personnel, scheme, what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, what we’ve been doing and what we’re doing now and where we wanna go. We’ve had very candid conversations, and this offseason has been no different.

“And I have great respect for him as a football person and the owner and GM of this football team and our relationship. The lines of communication are open and we make collective decisions here and decisions we feel are in the best interest of the Cowboys.”

There’s an owner and a GM for every NFL team. Preferably, they’re two different people. But there’s only one Jerry.

Garrett knew that when he turned down better jobs to stay here as Wade Phillips’ successor, benefiting from the Jerry-bred dysfunction. He’s dealing with the downside after a pair of mediocre seasons that have made him as expendable as a fourth-string quarterback in training camp.
At least Jerry Jones is trying to hide the strings he attached to his head coach.

Jerry at least recognizes that the perception that he’s turned Jason Garrett into a puppet after two seasons with no playoff bids is a problem. Jerry cares enough to be aggressively defensive, insisting in an in-house interview posted on the team’s website that Garrett is the guy calling the shots when it comes to who calls the Cowboys’ offensive plays next season.

Hall of Fame former Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach joins Mike and Mike in the Morning to talk about the early days of the Super Bowl, mobile QBs, Robert Griffin III's style of play and more.

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It’s transparent spin control – and remember Jerry’s favorite line: “Just because I say it doesn’t make it so” – but it’s at least a little tangible proof that Jerry’s power trip has some limits. And it shows some awareness that publicly stripping Garrett of any semblance of authority would be an awful thing for an owner/general manager to do.

Of course, this is probably too little, too late, much like many of Garrett’s halftime adjustments after his offense stumbled out of the gate.

Perhaps there is a kernel of truth to Jerry’s spin. It sounds as if Garrett gets to pick the Cowboys’ next play-caller, as long as it’s not him again, which essentially means he can prevent an interim coach candidate from being added to his staff.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/James D SmithJason Garrett might give up play-calling duties, but do you really think he wants to?
But only a fool would believe that it was Garrett’s idea to give up play-calling. He made it clear the day after the Cowboys’ 8-8 season ended that he believed the “status quo” was in the Cowboys’ best interests. He suddenly became more open-minded on the subject a couple of days later, coincidentally after Jerry went on his radio show and strongly hinted that a change was coming after six disappointing years with Garrett calling plays.

You think Garrett’s good buddies and old teammates such as Troy Aikman and Daryl "Moose" Johnston would be critical of taking play-calling responsibilities away from ol’ Redball if this was all Garrett’s idea? C’mon, man.

Oh, we’re also supposed to believe that it was Garrett’s idea to run his brother John out of Valley Ranch, right?

Here’s all you need to know about Jerry’s confidence in Garrett: He insisted that Wade Phillips’ fingerprints be all over the defense after the Cowboys missed the playoffs in his second season as a head coach, but it’s the polar opposite with Garrett and the offense at this point. Jerry believed in Phillips’ X’s and O’s expertise. He hopes Garrett can do a better job as a “walk-around” head coach.

It’s hilarious to hear Jerry pump up the impact that Garrett can have without the burden of being the offensive play-caller. This coming from a man who has made condescending comments about “walk-around” head coaches for years, despite the fact that the three Lombardi Trophies he’s hoisted came with head coaches who didn’t call plays.

Gee whiz, good thing the Cowboys’ GM has such a strong, sensible plan in place.

The funny thing is, on paper, all the decisions Jerry has made with the coaching staff this offseason have been good ones. There’s no reason to doubt that Jerry, who has a lot of ego and dollars invested in Garrett, is just trying to help his head coach succeed.

Jerry has just gone about making the right decisions in the wrong way, removing a proud coach’s spine in the process.

You won’t find a bigger Rob Ryan fan than me, but there’s no denying that the Cowboys have hired not one, but two defensive coordinators with much more impressive credentials. You can question Monte Kiffin’s age and ability to adjust to the modern-day NFL, but he’s an NFL legend. New defensive line coach Rod Marinelli, who did a tremendous job as the turnover-happy Chicago Bears’ defensive coordinator, is the most overqualified position coach in the NFL.

And Garrett should have given up play-calling a year ago, after he was exposed as overwhelmed by the dual roles of coordinating the offense and managing the clock. It makes no sense to have a continuation of mediocrity, which describes the Cowboys’ offense in the category that matters most (points scored).

But when Jerry promised an “uncomfortable” offseason, it made it clear who was making the decisions at Valley Ranch. That was emphasized when the buzz began about forcing Garrett’s brother out of town – as justified as that was due to the lack of development of the Cowboys’ younger tight ends.

The only realistic way to describe stripping Garrett of play-calling duties at this point is as a demotion. Garrett will enter the season on the NFL’s hottest seat, with a staff loaded with newcomers who just so happen to have strong ties to potential replacements Jon Gruden and Lovie Smith.

It does Jerry no good to have Garrett seen as a lame duck, but there’s nothing he can do about that now.

It takes much more than one staged interview to clean up the mess after cutting a coach’s legs out from under him.

NFL32: Cowboys look for improvement

February, 1, 2013

Suzy Kolber and Chris Mortensen discuss what changes the Cowboys should make in the offseason; Eric Mangini breaks down how the 49ers can defend against Joe Flacco; and the NFL32 crew discusses whether it would be better to have Eli or Peyton.

So what's next for the Cowboys' coaches

January, 18, 2013
The Cowboys finalized the hiring of Rod Marinelli as defensive line coach Friday, beginning a trickle-down effect for the rest of the defensive coaching staff.

Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher joins Ben and Skin in studio to talk about his famous response to the leadership question the last time he was on the show, his development as a player, the transition to Monte Kiffin's Tampa 2 defense and much more.

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With Marinelli on board to coach the defensive line, Brian Baker's time with the Cowboys appears to be over.

The defensive coaching staff will have some familiar faces in 2013, with Jerome Henderson (secondary) and Matt Eberflus (linebackers) returning to the coaching staff. If Rob Ryan becomes the defensive coordinator in St. Louis, it will be interesting to see if he tries to hire Eberflus. But the Cowboys might block any potential move by Eberflus.

The offensive coaching staff still needs some work. Skip Peete, the Cowboys' former running backs coach, has been hired in Chicago, and the Cowboys have yet to hire a replacement.

Former Arkansas and Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt interviewed with the Cowboys this week for an offensive position, maybe the running backs job or possibly the tight ends gig. Tim Spencer, who was released of his duties in Chicago this week, is a possibility. Anthony Lynn, a former Cowboys coach now with the New York Jets, has one year remaining on his contract. The Cowboys have tried to hire Lynn in the past, but the Jets have not allowed them to interview him.

John Garrett is still employed at Valley Ranch as the tight ends coach, but he applied for a head coaching job at Delaware and didn't get an interview. Dave Brock, an assistant coach at Rutgers, took the job Friday.

There are rumors Garrett might not return in 2013. If Garrett leaves, there's a chance Mike Tice, the former offensive coordinator in Chicago, could take the position.

The Cowboys also need to hire a special teams coach to replace Joe DeCamillis, who took that position in Chicago and was also named assistant head coach.

Steve Hoffman, a former Cowboys kicking coach, is free after his time in Kansas City ended in 2012. Rich Bisaccia, the San Diego Chargers' special teams coach the last two seasons, who also worked in Tampa Bay when Monte Kiffin was there, could be considered.

John Garrett shouldn't be exempt

January, 9, 2013

Every assistant coach should be harshly and honestly evaluated after the Cowboys missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season.

That uncomfortable process is very much underway with the firings of running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. It’s unfortunate for good men to lose their jobs, but that’s life in the NFL, and the firings can be easily justified from a football perspective.

Just wondering whether tight ends coach John Garrett gets an exemption.

The only reason the elder Garrett brother wouldn’t be in jeopardy of losing his job is the same reason he was hired in the first place: He happens to share bloodlines with the then-offensive coordinator/current head coach.

Please don’t point to Jason Witten’s record-breaking career as proof that John Garrett has done a good job. Witten was a three-time Pro Bowler when Garrett showed up at Valley Ranch. He doesn’t need a position coach to push him to be great. In fact, the example Witten sets is the best asset Garrett has.

Garrett should be judged by the development of young tight ends. That’s been a major failure during his six-season tenure.

Martellus Bennett didn’t develop one bit during his four-year tenure with the Cowboys, who didn’t spend a second-round pick on the dude just to be the equivalent of a third tackle despite what they want you to believe. In fact, Bennett regressed during his time under the tutelage of Mr. High and Tight, catching four touchdown passes as a rookie and failing to reach the end zone the rest of his time here.

But the Cowboys still missed Bennett after he left for the Giants, where he basically matched his four-year Dallas production in one season. Just look at the glaring differences in Dallas’ two-tight end packages the last two seasons.

In 2011, the two-tight end packages were a Jason Garrett favorite despite Bennett’s limited contributions as a pass catcher. The Cowboys drastically reduced how often they used two tight ends after his departure, when John Phillips filled Bennett’s role.

According to Stats Inc., the Cowboys ran 320 plays using two-tight end formations that season. Tony Romo was 59-of-89 passing for 729 yards (8.2 per attempt) and four touchdowns and was sacked six times. The Cowboys rushed 225 times for 935 yards, an average of 4.2 per pop, and two touchdowns.

The Cowboys ran 198 plays out of two-tight end packages in 2012. Romo was 51-of-74 passing for 556 yards (7.5 per attempt) and three touchdowns. The Cowboys’ average yards per carry in these packages plummeted to 2.7, gaining only 326 yards on 120 carries.

Phillips, a fourth-year player, caught only eight passes for 55 yards. Some questioned why rookie James Hanna (eight catches for 86 yards) didn’t get a bigger share of the snaps, wondering whether Garrett was showing favoritism to a player he coached at Virginia. (Kevin Ogletree, who kept getting No. 3 receiver reps despite being the fifth-best receiver on the roster, was also coached by Garrett at Virginia.)

Speaking of favoritism, Garrett’s three-year stint as Virginia’s receivers coach certainly shouldn’t have made him attractive to NFL teams. The Cavaliers’ passing offense ranked 91st, 57th and 102nd in the nation during those three seasons. Garrett added the assistant head coach title in his final season, when Virginia matched its worst record in a two-decade span.

Prior to his extended stay at Valley Ranch, Garrett had been an NFL position coach for consecutive seasons only once. That was as the quarterbacks coach for the Arizona Cardinals in 1999 and 2000. Jake Plummer, who looked like a promising young quarterback when he beat the Cowboys in the playoffs the season before Garrett’s arrival, threw for 22 touchdowns and 45 interceptions in their two seasons together.

It’s probably pure coincidence that Romo matched his career high and tied for the NFL lead with 19 interceptions this season with Garrett passing game coordinator, a promotion his little brother gave him in 2011. After all, it’s a meaningless title that didn’t add any significant responsibilities.

But that title, like John Garrett’s mere presence at Valley Ranch, is a reminder that nepotism runs rampant around those parts.

5 Wonders: Roster, coach turnover in 2013?

January, 1, 2013
IRVING, Texas -- With the Cowboys’ season over, this will be the final weekly version of Five Wonders, but we’ll continue an occasional series throughout the offseason.

These Wonders are about the future:

** I wonder how much turnover this roster will see. Of the 16 unrestricted free agents, I don’t know if there is a lock to return. Anthony Spencer is not a lock, though the team wants him back badly. Then there will be salary-cap decisions that could be made on guys like Doug Free, Jay Ratliff, Marcus Spears, Dan Connor, Lawrence Vickers and possibly even Miles Austin and/or Orlando Scandrick. That’s 23 guys right there. You figure on a lot of turnover every year, but this offseason figures to involve more regular contributors than just down-the-line guys. The Austin case could be interesting. He is scheduled to make $6.7 million in base and count $8.3 against the cap. I’m not advocating getting rid of him by any stretch, but there is frustration over at Valley Ranch. Austin finished with 66 catches for 943 yards and six touchdowns, but he was slowed again by hamstring injuries and was knocked out of both Washington games because of injuries. While it would not be cap prohibitive to cut Austin, the Cowboys do not have a receiver ready to replace him, and it would be hard to find a guy who can play outside and inside the way he does. Like everybody else on the roster, 2013 will be a key year for Austin.

** I wonder how the Cowboys can pay Spencer. As noted before the Cowboys wil,l be in a difficult salary-cap situation and will have to make a lot of decision related to money. I’m not sure they will have enough to keep Spencer before he hits the open market. And I would figure a team will be ready to give him more than what the Cowboys can afford. Spencer is coming off a career-high 11-sack season and he is one of the best run-stopping linebackers in the NFL. I do wonder if he can be a star for a defense, the way DeMarcus Ware is a star, or is more of a supporting actor. San Francisco’s Ahmad Brooks signed a six-year deal worth a max of $44.5 million last year ($37.5 million actual) with $17.5 million guaranteed. The Cowboys paid Spencer $8.8 million this season on the franchise tag. It would be $10.6 million if they tag him again and that’s a lot to budget for in a cap crunch. Signing him to deal with an average of $8 million-plus would be good, but another team flush in space in need of a strong-side outside linebacker who never comes off the field will probably pay more.

** I wonder if there is a chance Felix Jones returns in 2013. Stop laughing and hear me out. Jones is what he is: a backup. The Cowboys will need a backup running back in 2013 and one with the ability to start if needed, especially given the health issues DeMarco Murray has had his first two years. Is it worth it to keep Jones for two more years at low money? I’m not talking anything substantial at all. Jones is not going to get a chance to be a starter anywhere else on the free-agent market. He hasn’t shown he is that guy. But he’s not a bad option as a backup, and, yes, I realize health is an issue for him too. He’s proven to be tough, playing 2011 with a shoulder injury and this season with two bad knees. The Cowboys like Lance Dunbar but, to me, he’s more of a niche back. We can say the Cowboys can draft a runner late and find a guy, but there are so many needs that keeping Jones on a low-money, short-term deal might make more sense. OK, continue laughing.

** I just talked about player turnover. I wonder about coaching turnover. Jason Garrett would not get into whether the coaching staff would return in 2013, calling it premature. It makes you wonder if changes are coming. Is Rob Ryan safe? Garrett admired how Ryan worked through so many injuries in 2012 and kept things competitive, but he stopped short of a vote of confidence. Even after the loss to the Redskins, Ryan made it sound as if he might not be back when asked if he would like to coach this defense at full strength going forward. Let’s move on to special teams coach Joe DeCamillis. Last year, Oakland was denied permission to speak with him about a move to the Raiders, but that special teams’ job has opened again. DeCamillis and Oakland coach Dennis Allen are great friends. There could be a few new head coaches who would like to speak to DeCamillis. The special teams’ units had some poor moments with a blocked punt for a touchdown at Seattle and a kickoff return for a score at Baltimore. The kick return game didn’t provide much of a lift, but Dwayne Harris proved to be a tremendous punt returner and Dan Bailey was Dan Bailey. On offense, John Garrett, Skip Peete, Wade Wilson and Wes Phillips have been around since 2007. Just wonder if there has to be some moves to break up the band, so to speak.

** The last Wonder will focus on the draft. I wonder if the Cowboys will help the offensive and defensive lines come April. They need help. They also need to look at how they evaluate players in those spots, especially on the offensive line where they have missed on just about everybody not named Tyron Smith. Since Garrett has taken over they have done a better job of taking the “right kind of guys,” and have put together a growing young nucleus. They need interior line help on both sides of the ball. If Spencer leaves, then they need an outside linebacker. They will need cornerback help, too, with Mike Jenkins unlikely to return. If you want to add a safety to the list, OK, but to me, that’s not a top-end priority. They can use a tight end to pair with Jason Witten, even though they like James Hanna’s development. They can use wide receivers too. A running back, too. I haven’t mentioned a quarterback of the future yet, and I’m not sure they go that route with so many more pressing needs to fill. Because of the poor drafts in the Wade Phillips’ Era, the Cowboys do not have much depth (think the 2009 draft). Because of the upcoming cap limitations the Cowboys can’t miss on their picks.
The Dallas Cowboys' bust is blowing up with the New York Giants.

Tight end/goofball Martellus Bennett, who didn’t score his last three seasons in Dallas, has become the first player in Giants history with a touchdown in his first three games for the franchise. He already has more receiving yards this season (185 on 15 catches) than he did all of last season. Eli Manning has already thrown Bennett as many touchdown passes as Tony Romo did.

We’ll let ESPNNewYork.com gush about how great an addition Bennett has been for the Giants. Let’s assess the blame for why he never approached his immense potential with the Cowboys.

Don’t buy the bull about there not being room for both Jason Witten and Bennett to be weapons in the Cowboys’ passing game. The New England Patriots are proof that two talented, versatile tight ends can thrive together in an offense. And the Cowboys, a middle-of-the-pack team in points scored, sure could have used another stud.

The Cowboys didn’t draft Bennett in the second round simply to have an offensive tackle who was eligible to catch the occasional pass. They expected him to be the dynamic downfield and red-zone threat he’s become with the Giants. That was the buzz after Marty B. was All-Alamodome before his second season, putting together a personal highlight reel in training camp.

But Bennett never made a difference in Dallas’ passing game. How much of the fault for Bennett’s failure with the Cowboys should fall at the feet of the Garrett brothers?

Coaches get paid to motivate players and maximize their potential. Head coach/offensive coordinator Jason Garrett and tight ends coach John Garrett never figured out how to do that with Bennett, an all-time free spirit whose wavering focus on football could be a source of great frustration.

Bennett didn’t develop under the Garretts’ guidance. He regressed.

Bennett certainly shoulders a large share of the blame. He dropped too many passes. He ran too many sloppy routes. He moped too much, assuming he’d be nothing but a bit player while buried underneath Witten on the depth chart and the Garrett/Romo tree of trust. And he treated his final season at Valley Ranch like a prisoner waiting on his parole date, all but marking off the days in his locker stall.

The chicken-and-egg debate about Bennett’s days in Dallas: Did he not get many opportunities because he failed to capitalize on the ones he did get, or did he not capitalize because he didn’t get enough opportunities?

Marty B. has been far from flawless with the Giants, but Manning and the New York coaches have been rewarded handsomely for showing faith in the physical freak. He’s dropped three passes – two that could have been touchdowns – and drew his quarterback’s wrath for quitting on a route just before halftime in last night’s rout of the Panthers. But his production has still been outstanding, catching 15 of the 23 balls thrown his way, including the game-tying touchdown last week after two drops against Tampa Bay.

The Cowboys basically gave up on Bennett as a receiving threat, focusing on what he wasn’t (read: a Witten-like technician). They let a phenomenal talent go to waste.

And now it’s the worst-case scenario for the Cowboys: Their bust is booming for their biggest rival.

Jason Witten ready to show he's not slowing down

September, 20, 2012
IRVING, Texas – In some ways after Jason Witten's three-drop performance at Seattle it’s as if his 702 career receptions for 7,977 yards never happened.

Now the talk is Witten is 30 and slowing down; not a seven-time Pro Bowl performer.

“It does bother you because you run good routes, you’re open and you just didn’t make the catch,” Witten said. “It has nothing to do with that other stuff. Ultimately, I have a job to do and I didn’t get it done. The criticism is going to come and I understand it but it’s tough because all of those other things come with it when they’re not necessarily true. But when they throw it, you’ve got to make the play.”

Witten said the Seattle game does not drive him more, but he is anxious for Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

“For me Sunday can’t get hear fast enough,” Witten said. “You prepare yourself for those moments and for whatever reason you drop it but you have to be ready for the next one. You learn from it, put behind you and move on to the next one.”

Tight ends coach/passing game coordinator John Garrett said Witten looks faster than he has in recent years.

“He can still do it,” Garrett said. “I think the (catches) far outweigh the drop. He goes through seasons without dropping three balls, so it’s a complete anomaly. There’s nothing to worry about it and knowing him the resolve he has, he’s as competitive guy as there is in the league. This will motivate him more and I really think he’s going to be tough to deal with defensively for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday.”

A 'whirlwind' for Harry Flaherty

August, 15, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. – When Harry Flaherty takes to the practice field, he’ll have some familiar faces around him. Namely, his uncles John and Jason Garrett.

“It’s pretty interesting,” Flaherty said. “This is my first day here, so it’s definitely going to be an interesting experience, but I’ve been around their coaching a lot through the years.”

Flaherty was signed Wednesday morning after arriving at the team’s Oxnard practice facility late Tuesday evening. The Cowboys needed another tight end when Jason Witten suffered a slightly lacerated spleen that will keep him out for the rest of the preseason.

Flaherty had just finished working out when he got the call from the Cowboys and had about 90 minutes to get to JFK for his cross-country flight. Another uncle, Judd, is the Cowboys director of pro scouting.

“It’s been a pretty good whirlwind,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty, who played at Princeton, went to training camp with New Orleans last year and spent time in the spring with Tampa Bay. He worked out recently with New England and had a December workout with the Cowboys.

What does he offer?

“Just being able to line up a lot of different places, I think that was my appeal coming out of college,” Flaherty said. “I didn’t have huge stats or anything but I played fullback, played the slot, played tight end, so however they want me to plug in in camp, we’ll see how it goes.”

James Hanna catching on

August, 7, 2012
OXNARD, Calif. -- As John Phillips recovers from a sprained right ankle, rookie sixth-round pick James Hanna is getting more looks and the Cowboys like what they see.

“He’s doing well,” tight ends coach John Garrett said. “Smart guy. We’re playing him a couple of different positions and he’s picking things up. Understands it. Can see it and do it. I’m pleased with how he’s picking the volume of the offense up. For a guy who hasn’t blocked a lot from the backfield, we’re using him from the backfield and doing a lot of the fullback-type jobs and he’s putting his face in there. He’s listening to technique and performing it right.”

Hanna came to the Cowboys with a reputation as a pass catcher, not a blocker. He had difficulties in the offseason with some drops, but Garrett said, “Not to worry about his hands.”

Hanna has seen the benefit of the extra work in Phillips’ absence.

“It’s speeding up my learning curve,” Hanna said. “I’m going against better guys in the earlier groups. I think the defense is a little more complex with the ones and some of the twos, so you’re seeing a lot of different stuff and it’s really helpful.”
OXNARD, Calif. – Raymond Radway has a long way to climb on the depth chart to crack the Cowboys’ receiver rotation.

Right now, Kevin Ogletree has the lead in the race for the third receiver role, assuming that player is currently in camp. Dwayne Harris and Andre Holmes are next on the list. Danny Coale has yet to practice, but the fifth-round pick will be given every opportunity to earn a roster spot.

However, it’s going to be awfully hard to release Radway if the former Abilene Christian track star keeps coming up with big plays. A 6-foot-3, 204-pound receiver with that kind of speed is hard to sneak through waivers onto the practice squad.

Radway had earned a roster spot as an undrafted rookie last year, but he suffered a season-ending injury on the final play of preseason, needing surgery to place a steel rod into his broken leg. He started this camp slow, but he’s come on strong in the last few days.

That continued Saturday, when he caught a couple of deep balls for touchdowns. Radway beat $50 million cornerback Brandon Carr on one of them.

“He has really good speed and can get on top of the defense,” passing game coordinator John Garrett said. “As you can see, he’s made some big plays. He just needs to be consistent and keep learning all the positions so we can insert him anywhere and he can become reliable and dependable.”

John Phillips has work to do

June, 15, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- A few observations from the offseason programs at Valley Ranch:


What's been the Cowboys' most difficult spot to replace since their '90s dynasty?


Discuss (Total votes: 6,517)

*John Phillips is getting a lot of hype in the media and among fans for moving into the No. 2 slot at tight end behind Jason Witten. Phillips is a better receiver than blocker. Tight ends coach John Garrett said Phillips needs to improve his technique and get more snaps at blocking tackles and linebackers along the line of scrimmage. But Phillips' last day of work Thursday wasn't his best. He suffered a drop, hit linebacker Sean Lee in the neck after a turnover and fell down on a pass thrown behind him from Stephen McGee.

*Speaking of McGee, the standard line has him improving as a quarterback, but there are too many times when he doesn't throw the ball downfield. McGee will hit a running back in the flat when things are not opening up, and that's it. It might be time for the Cowboys to move on from McGee this summer if Rudy Carpenter challenges him.

*There shouldn't be any concern about the recovery of running back DeMarco Murray's return from ankle surgery. Murray has shown a burst, lateral movement and the ability to take blows. Lee knocked him down at the goal line, by accident, during the offseason.
Murray looked at reporters as if they were crazy when they asked if he 100 percent. Murray is doing some light MMA training to help with his core and balance.

*Dez Bryant ran good routes, caught the ball and seemed to play more relaxed during the offseason practices the media was allowed to see. There were few of those talks between Bryant and the receivers coach over his techniques and whether he ran the right route. Receivers coach Jimmy Robinson will speak with him from time to time, but Bryant is catching deep balls and getting away from defenders to run shorter routes with more ease this summer.

*The problem with this Mike Jenkins drama is some fans and media members think he's a bad guy. He's not. Jenkins is seeking respect from the Cowboys front office. To his point, the team drafted and signed his replacements. Jenkins is a Pro Bowler. His free-agent replacement, Brandon Carr, hasn't been to one. The rookie drafted to replaced him hasn't practiced yet, so it's left Jenkins irked. Should Jenkins have showed up to the voluntary workouts? Of course. But then again, maybe the communication with Jenkins this offseason regarding the moves of the team should have gone better. If they happened at all.

*We do think Carr and Claiborne are upgrades over what the Cowboys had last season at the position. Carr is good at man and zone coverage, and we can only imagine how good Claiborne will be when he gets on the field. There is pressure on both players to produce because of what the team invested to get them. It's not so much interceptions fans need to see from Carr and Claiborne, it's pass breakups and taking receivers out of the game. That's the key.

*In the mailbag, I wrote that Andre Holmes is the leader for the No. 3 receiver position. Kevin Ogletree, Danny Coale, Raymond Radway and Dwayne Harris are in the pack. If no one emerges, expect a committee or receivers to get snaps. But don't be surprised if a veteran receiver is signed before the start of the season or after Week 1.

*On the last day of the mandatory minicamp, Jason Witten and DeMarcus Ware looked like All Pros. Quick, spry, powerful and the most talented players on the field. ... It was good to see Rob Ryan and Skip Peete looking smaller in the waistline during the offseason practices. ... Three players to watch for training camp: Coale, Phil Costa and Radway. I think only one of these guys makes the team.

OTA notes: Dez Bryant gets deep

June, 6, 2012
IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys held their ninth organized team activity of the offseason Wednesday and third open to the media, so we bring you a number of observations from the two-hour workout:

** S Gerald Sensabaugh did not practice because of a sore knee. Coach Jason Garrett said the decision to sit the veteran was precautionary.

** Tight ends coach John Garrett was in a walking boot during practice because of Achilles’ pain. He ran a 5K over the weekend (winning his age group, he added) and came up sore for the final half-mile.

** WR Dez Bryant was slow to get up after landing awkwardly on the ground after stretching for a Tony Romo pass. He did not appear to miss any practice time.

** You know DeMarcus Ware is ready for action when a team tries to run a toss to the weak side and he does not take a false step. Ware snuffed out such a play to DeMarco Murray during team run drills.

**With Mike Jenkins and Morris Claiborne not practicing, undrafted rookie CB Isaac Madison was taking turns with the first-team nickel and dime units.

** Unofficially Romo went 14-of-22 in team and seven-on-seven drills. His best throw came on a go route to Bryant, who sprinted past Orlando Scandrick for a would-be touchdown. On the first play of the next team period he hit Jason Witten for a touchdown as the tight end pulled away from a linebacker.

** CB Brandon Carr ended the first-team offense’s two-minute drill with a breakup of a Romo pass to Kevin Ogletree on fourth down. In seven-on-seven red zone drills, he broke up a slant to Dez Bryant.

** Kyle Orton went 13-of-21 in team and seven-on-seven drills. He was particularly effective in the red zone, hitting Andre Holmes for a touchdown on a perfect back-shoulder throw with C.J. Wilson in coverage.

** Undrafted rookie WR Tim Benford had two touchdowns in red-zone drills from Orton. The first came lined up in the slot and the second was a low throw to the back shoulder.

** Orton was 3-of-8 in the two-minute drill, but had one throw away and was victimized by a Raymond Radway drop. His fourth down throw to Cole Beasley down the seam was high.

Danny Coale brings versatility

April, 28, 2012
IRVING, Texas -- The Cowboys like versatile players and Virginia Tech’s Danny Coale is versatile.

He played outside wide receiver and excelled in the slot. He had four carries. He returned punts. He was on the Hokies’ punt block team and also was on the kick return and punt return teams.

He even punted as a senior, averaging 43.5 yards per punt.

“I want an opportunity to contribute to a team and it seems like a great fit,” Coale said.

Coale was the Cowboys’ fifth round pick and their first offensive selection. He left Virginia Tech with 165 catches for 2,658 yards and eight touchdowns. His receptions and yards are second-most in school history.

Coale did not come to Valley Ranch for a pre-draft visit, but he met with coach Jason Garrett and assistants John Garrett and Jimmy Robinson at the NFL scouting combine.

“I like to challenge myself to make tough catches over the middle and I really enjoy playing the middle of the field, seeing it from the slot,” Coale said.

The Cowboys have an opening for Tony Romo’s No. 3 wide receiver spot after losing Laurent Robinson. However, owner and general manager Jerry Jones has expressed his belief that Andre Holmes, Raymond Radway, Kevin Ogletree or Dwayne Harris can be playmakers. Coale will be in a competition

“He does a lot of exciting things,” Coale said of Romo. “I’m really thrilled to have an opportunity to catch from him.”