Dallas Cowboys: Rich Bisaccia

Bisaccia doesn't want kickers punished

June, 16, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys have one of the NFL’s best kickers in Dan Bailey, so if extra points come from a deeper distance in the future it won’t much matter.

But Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia doesn’t believe there needs to be a tweak in the point-after process.

“Peyton Manning broke the record for touchdown passes, so should we limit the amount of time you get to throw the ball because, all of a sudden, the record has been broken for touchdown passes?" Bisaccia told ESPN’s NFL columnist Ashley Fox. "We have to be careful for how much we're changing the game.”

In March, not long after signing a seven-year, $22.5 million extension, Bailey talked about a proposed rule change that never came about.

“I definitely can see where he’s coming from,” Bailey said. “I can’t say that it doesn’t make sense to me, but at the same time I think it’s really just a matter of how you look at it. There’s just a million different examples you can argue that point. For me it’s like a handoff or maybe a center-quarterback exchange. To me and to most people, they feel like it would seem like an automatic thing, just handing the guy the ball, but as we all know that doesn’t always go smoothly. There’s fumbles and botched snaps. That’s just one example. I feel like if it was as automatic as everybody implies, I feel like we’d all be out of a job because everybody would be able to do it. I don’t think that’s the case. I understand where it comes from, but obviously I disagree on a couple of fronts.”

For two weeks in the preseason the point-after try will come from the 15-yard line, equating in a 32- or 33-yard field goal. Last year kickers converted 90 percent of their tries from between 30-39 yards.

Bailey, who has never missed a PAT, has missed just one of 33 career attempts between 30-39 yards. If the NFL wants to move it back further, Bailey is 27 of 29 from 40-49 yards and has made 17 attempts in a row in his career.

He could become the most accurate kicker in history next season.

Bisaccia doesn’t want to see his guy -- or any kicker -- punished for excellence.

"Proficiency is a skill kickers have worked really hard at, and that part of the game has really changed," Bisaccia said. "Pete Gogolak was the first soccer-style kicker in the game. The way they kick changed only in my short lifetime of football. Unless we want to alleviate the kicker and say a position player has to kick, they're going to get better ... We're going to penalize guys for perfecting their craft? They're getting more skilled, more proficient, but it's a skill they've had to work at."

Cowboys pick Will Smith in 7th

May, 10, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The pick: Will Smith, linebacker, Texas Tech

My take: Since the first position coach that was handed the phone after the Cowboys picked Smith was Rich Bisaccia, the look for Smith is to be a special teams’ stalwart. He started 24 games in two years in Lubbock, including 13 last season when he had 120 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, three hurries and two quarterback hurries. He also returned a fumble for a touchdown. Smith, 6-3, 220 pounds, had a career-high 18 tackles against Texas. He said the Cowboys told him he will play weakside linebacker.

Notable: Smith grew up a Cowboys fan ... His 86 solo tackles were the most by a Texas Tech defender since Lawrence Flugence had 124 in 2002 ... Spent a year at Northwood University in Midland, Mich., before going to Riverside (Calif.) Community College and two years at Tech ... His father, Wade, played football at New Mexico. His mother, Gina, played basketball at California Baptist.

Danny McCray joins Bears

March, 18, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Danny McCray is now a member of the Chicago Bears.

The free-agent safety signed a one-year deal with the Bears on Tuesday, reuniting with special teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis.

McCray led the Cowboys in special teams’ tackles two of his three years with DeCamillis, and finished second in 2012 when he was forced to play more defensive snaps because of injuries. McCray was credited with eight special teams tackles in 2013 under Rich Bisaccia, tied for sixth on the team.

McCray joined the Cowboys as an undrafted free agent in 2010 and quickly made his presence felt on special teams. He had 87 tackles in 10 starts in 2012 to go with five pass deflections and an interception.

He is the third Cowboy to sign elsewhere in free agency, joining DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher.

Mike Pope had influence on Jason Garrett

February, 23, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Jason Garrett’s background has played a role on the composition of his Dallas coaching staff.

Of the coaches brought in after he took the job on a full-time basis in 2011, offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan, running backs coach Gary Brown, secondary coach Jerome Henderson, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack did not have a previous association with Garrett.

New passing game coordinator Scott Linehan worked with Garrett for a year with the Miami Dolphins. Derek Dooley got to know Garrett when he was an assistant coach at SMU and worked together for a year with the Dolphins. Garrett spent time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers where he got to know Rod Marinelli, Monte Kiffin and Rich Bisaccia. Assistant secondary coach Joe Baker was Garrett's teammate at Princeton.

Tight ends coach Mike Pope is the latest assistant in which Garrett dipped into his past.

Garrett was a backup quarterback with the New York Giants when Pope coached their tight ends.

“He’s really as good a coach as I’ve been around in my career,” Garrett said. “I saw him up close and personal with a lot of different guys, established players and young players and he’s a great friend. He’s a great addition to our staff and [Jason Witten] is the kind of guy who’s always trying to get better. Each and every day [Witten] comes in he’s always looking for ways we can help him, how he can help himself become a better football player. That’s why he is the player he is. To add Mike Pope to the mix and having a different perspective on how he gets coaches, I think Witt’s really excited and I know Mike Pope is as well.”

Pope’s main task, however will be to develop Gavin Escobar, but Garrett begs to differ slightly.

“I can go in my office right now and pull out his Saturday night tip sheet for the tight ends for four years with the Giants that I would fall asleep with in my bed that was 25 pages long and in Pope’s handwriting,” Garrett said. “He and I have known each other a long time. He’s a great coach. His track record speaks for itself. He’s worked with different kinds of tight ends, veteran tight ends. He’s worked with young guys, he’s developed guys who were college free agents. The fact that we have an investment in Escobar and have a young guy in James Hanna, we feel those guys will benefit, but Witt’s going to benefit as well.”

Garrett sees staff turnover as life in NFL

February, 21, 2014
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett preaches the importance of continuity, but his staff has seen nothing but changeover since he took over midway through the 2010 season.

Garrett
Garrett
Rod Marinelli is his fourth defensive coordinator after Paul Pasqualoni, Rob Ryan and Monte Kiffin. He is on his third wide receivers coach in Derek Dooley. He's on his third tight ends coach in Mike Pope. He's on his second running backs coach. He has had two offensive line coaches.

On the defensive side of the ball, only linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett remain from Garrett's first full season in 2011. Secondary coach Jerome Henderson arrived in 2012.

Rich Bisaccia, who is entering his second year on the staff, is Garrett's second special teams coordinator.

"I think if you look around the league, staff changes are a part of this league," Garrett said. "Just as there's turnover on your football team with your roster, there's turnover on the coaching staff all around the league. The teams that embrace that, that embrace the change, are the ones with the most success. You always have to be ready with a guy you're thinking about if someone leaves. I think relationships in the past that you had in your career with different coaches, you rely on those and you bring in the right kind of people. Thirty two teams around the league are going through the same kinds of things and there's staff changes everywhere and you have to embrace them and find the positives in them. A new guy coming in, what can he add to our team to make us better? Certainly we're in the process of doing that."

Garrett added Scott Linehan as passing game coordinator, taking away the playcalling duties from Bill Callahan. The Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns were denied permission in speaking to Callahan this offseason, which the Cowboys acknowledged did not please Callahan.

"We're a team and every decision we make we believe is in the best interest of our football team," Garrett said. "Every decision we make in regards to players and coaches [is that way and] everybody understands that. That's the first thing out of my mouth and everyone has to understand what they're role is after those decisions are made and embrace those roles. We've changed things up a little bit last year. It was a different structure to what we had and now we're going to back to the structure that Bill was comfortable with originally when he was hired. That's just something we all have to embrace. It's going to take a little time to work through that and that's what this offseason is for. You work through the things we did well last year, the things we've got to improve upon and everybody has their role and the responsibility to embrace it and try to become a really close staff and a really close football team."

A bright side for Cowboys fans?

February, 11, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- It is difficult for fans of the Dallas Cowboys to feel good about much these days.

I will try to offer up something: At least the Cowboys are not the Cleveland Browns.

It seems 'dysfunction' is not a word the Cowboys can claim exclusively.

For as screwy as the structure at Valley Ranch can seem under owner and general manager Jerry Jones, at least you know it is screwy from the get go.

On Tuesday, the Browns announced CEO Joe Banner and general manager Mike Lombardi have been replaced and named Ray Farmer as general manager. This came after a coaching search that took forever and saw several coaches turn down the job. Even more interesting, Farmer was not in the head coaching interviews that landed Mike Pettine as the replacement for Rob Chudzinski, who was fired after one year. So how secure does that make Pettine feel?

Perhaps Cowboys special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, who interviewed for the Browns’ vacancy that went to Pettine, was able to see some of the Cleveland dysfunction.

Browns owner Jimmy Haslam said being an owner does not come with a manual and he "underestimated" the job. Jones was an outsider when he purchased the Cowboys in 1989 and worked without a manual, too.

He had some missteps in how he handled the Tom Landry firing, but he got it right by hiring Jimmy Johnson as head coach.

By 1992, the Cowboys won their first of three Super Bowls in Jones' first seven years as owner.

It’s been nothing but .500 football for the Cowboys for more than just the past three seasons. They have two playoff wins since winning Super Bowl XXX.

Jones has made several head-scratching moves over the years and over the past few months. Keeping offensive coordinator Bill Callahan after Scott Linehan was added as passing game coordinator to call the plays is one. So too is inventing a position for demoted defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, who is now the assistant head coach/defense.

The one decision just about everybody wants Jones to make -- Hire a football guy, Jerry!!!! -- he will not make.

Jones can look at how Haslam has handled the Browns as an example as to why the Cowboys’ structure works best. Very little happens at Valley Ranch without Jones’s OK.

So as you try to fight through another 8-8 finish and see your team unable to do much in upcoming free agency because of salary-cap trouble, just remember it could be worse. You could be rooting for the Browns.

But don’t look too closely. The Browns had six players in the Pro Bowl, have about $45 million in cap space, according to reports, and have five picks in the top three rounds of the May draft, including two first-rounders.

Maybe things aren’t so bad in Cleveland.

Rich Bisaccia as a possible interim coach

February, 6, 2014
Feb 6
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IRVING, Texas – The Dallas Cowboys' biggest topic last week was the addition of Scott Linehan as the passing game coordinator. In a close second was why the Cowboys did not allow Bill Callahan to seek employment elsewhere.

I talked about it. Calvin Watkins talked about it. We both believe the Cowboys were wrong in not letting Callahan leave.

ESPN’s Ed Werder offered up an interesting nugget in between all of his work leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII. Via Twitter, Werder said a source saying Callahan could be the interim head coach should Jerry Jones replace Jason Garrett in the middle of the season.

Jones has said he keeps a list in his desk with names of possible head coaching candidates in case things don’t work out. I get that. It makes sense to be prepared for all kinds of situations, the good and the bad.

What I don’t understand is why Callahan would be promoted over the guy he was replaced by as playcaller, Linehan, or the new defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli. Maybe Jones would view them as "Garrett guys." But they have NFL head coaching experience. It wasn’t great, I realize, especially with Marinelli overseeing the only 0-16 team in NFL history with the Detroit Lions in 2008. Linehan was fired early in the 2008 season by the St. Louis Rams.

Callahan directed the Oakland Raiders to Super Bowl XXXVII but don’t bring up the discussion with Tim Brown.

If the Cowboys need to make a coaching change during the 2014 season, then the season will have gone awry. Who cares who would be the interim coach? Jones would likely get rid of everybody for 2015 anyway.

But since I’ve trotted down this path, I would bring up another coach on the staff as a possible interim choice: special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

He interviewed for the head coaching vacancies with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns in the offseason. I like the idea of special teams coaches running a program because unlike an offensive or defensive coordinator, they have a command of the entire roster. The special teams coach has the ears of offensive and defensive players.

When Garrett took over for Wade Phillips in 2010, there were some defensive players who really didn’t know him other than what they saw on a practice field. It’s just how the NFL is with the separation between units. It was not a slap at Garrett.

From all reports Bisaccia did well in his interviews with the Redskins and Browns.

From what we saw on the field last year, it can be argued that he was the Cowboys’ best coach in 2013. Why wouldn’t they give him a shot at the interim job in 2014 if all went haywire?

Cowboys position breakdown: Coaches

January, 31, 2014
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Cowboys reporters Calvin Watkins and Todd Archer break down the Cowboys, position by position, analyzing what the players did in 2013, what they can do in the future and what the team can do to improve the position in 2014.

Under contract: Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, Rod Marinelli, Bill Callahan, Monte Kiffin, Wade Wilson, Gary Brown, Derek Dooley, Mike Pope, Frank Pollack, Keith O’Quinn, Matt Eberflus, Jerome Handerson, Leon Lett, Ben Bloom, Joe Baker, Rich Bisaccia.

A look back: For the first time since he arrived as an assistant coach in 2007 Jason Garrett did not call the offensive plays. It wasn’t Garrett’s idea, but he had little choice in the matter. Owner Jerry Jones wanted Bill Callahan to do the job, so that’s how it went.

[+] EnlargeJason Garrett
AP Photo/Tom HauckAfter a third straight 8-8 season, Dallas' Jason Garrett made several key changes within his staff.
The Cowboys averaged 27.4 points per game but had their fewest yards in a season since 2005. For the final six games of the season Garrett asserted himself in the process, relaying the plays from Callahan to the quarterback. Garrett maintained Callahan called the plays throughout the season.

Defensively, it was a disaster for Monte Kiffin. The Cowboys’ move to the 4-3 could not have gone worse. Injuries depleted the defensive line and took their toll on the linebackers by the end of the season. Players counted on to have big seasons – DeMarcus Ware, Brandon Carr, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne – didn’t and Kiffin was unable to come up with any answers.

The Cowboys allowed the most yards (by a wide margin) and the second-most points in franchise history. Kiffin's return to the NFL after a run with his son, Lane, at Tennessee and Southern Cal, was a flop.

Special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia might have had the best season of any assistant coach. The special teams were better across the board in 2013 and he interviewed for the head coaching jobs with the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Browns.

A look ahead: Rod Marinelli has replaced Kiffin as defensive coordinator, although the Cowboys cushioned the demotion by naming Kiffin the assistant head coach/defense. Callahan has been replaced as playcaller by Scott Linehan, who is a Garrett confidante.

The Cowboys have denied teams from speaking with Callahan, which has not pleased Callahan and could lead to ill-will on the staff no matter how much the Cowboys try to put a smiley face on the situation. Callahan will return to coaching the offensive line full-time, which pushes Frank Pollack down the line after he did a good job with the group in 2013.

The Cowboys hope Marinelli can be as effective as a coordinator as he was in his three-year run with the Chicago Bears. He will need more talent, especially on the defensive line. He will need to be more creative than Kiffin as well. Players play hard for him and believe in his coaching, but the confidence of the entire group was shot last year. Having Sean Lee return from injury and players like Ware return to form, will help.

Kiffin will be around but mostly in an advisory role. Tight ends coach Wes Phillips joined the Redskins and was replaced by Mike Pope, a long-time veteran considered one of the best in the NFL. Assistant special-teams coach Chris Boniol also left.

A look out: The Cowboys have set up an interesting situation on the offensive side of the ball by hiring Linehan and demoting Callahan, but Garrett believes the transition will be smooth because the system remains in place.

But how well will Linehan and Callahan work together? Are there too many people involved in the offense with different agendas? It will make for interesting viewing.

On defense, the move to Marinelli should also be easy because the system remains. He should be more adept at handling the current game than Kiffin, who could not come up with ways to slow spread offenses.

But this year will be all about Garrett, who is entering the final year of his deal. The Cowboys gave him the authority to make the changes on the staff, and it’s up to him to make it work. He has been able to keep the players on his side despite three straight 8-8 finishes. They believe in what he says. Now the actions have to back up the words.

Position breakdown:

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Tight ends
Wide receivers
Defensive line
Offensive line
Linebackers
Defensive backs

Dallas Cowboys coaching tracker

January, 29, 2014
Jan 29
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IRVING, Texas -- With changes on the Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff, it’s time to update the tracker.

Rod Marinelli is the defensive coordinator but will continue to work with the defensive line. He'll receive more help from Leon Lett and Ben Bloom.

The changes are in bold.

Head coach: Jason Garrett

Passing game coordinator: Scott Linehan
Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
Defensive coordinator: Rod Marinelli

Assistant head coach/defense: Monte Kiffin

Quarterbacks: Wade Wilson
Running backs: Gary Brown
Wide receivers: Derek Dooley
Tight ends: Mike Pope
Assistant offensive line: Frank Pollack
Offensive quality control/wide receivers: Keith O’Quinn
Offensive assistant: Vacant

Defensive line: Rod Marinelli
Linebackers: Matt Eberflus
Secondary: Jerome Henderson
Defensive assistant/defensive line: Leon Lett
Defensive quality control/defensive line: Ben Bloom
Assistant secondary: Joe Baker

Special teams: Rich Bisaccia
Assistant special teams: Vacant

Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Brett Bech
Assistant strength and conditioning: Kendall Smith

Cowboys' coaching staff tracker

January, 22, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- Since we parsed Jerry Jones' words Tuesday about the current state of the Dallas Cowboys offensive and defensive coordinators, let's parse what head coach Jason Garrett said Wednesday when it came to Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan.

Like Jones, Garrett said both are under contract for 2014. Unlike Jones, however, Garrett said roles could change, but he would not elaborate.

What does it mean? Maybe everything. Maybe nothing.

Kiffin, who turns 74 next month, has said repeatedly he is not retiring. Could the Cowboys move him to a consultant role like they did with assistant head coach/wide receivers Jimmy Robinson last year? Robinson was not spotted at one practice in the offseason, during training camp or during the season. He is in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl looking for a job in 2014.

Given how Jones and Garrett handled the announcement of Callahan as playcaller last year, first with Jones saying it, then Garrett denying it only to come back a day or two later and say, indeed, Callahan would call plays, this is shaping up as an only-with-the-Cowboys situation.

With that in mind, let's look at the current state of the staff:

Head coach: Jason Garrett

Offensive coordinator/offensive line coach: Bill Callahan
Defensive coordinator: Monte Kiffin

Quarterbacks: Wade Wilson
Running backs: Gary Brown
Wide receivers: Derek Dooley
Tight ends: Vacant
Assistant offensive line: Frank Pollack
Offensive quality control/wide receivers: Keith O'Quinn
Offensive assistant: Vacant

Defensive line: Rod Marinelli
Linebackers: Matt Eberflus
Secondary: Jerome Henderson
Defensive assistant/defensive line: Leon Lett
Defensive quality control/linebackers: Ben Bloom
Assistant secondary: Joe Baker

Special teams: Rich Bisaccia
Assistant special teams: Vacant

Strength and conditioning: Mike Woicik
Assistant strength and conditioning: Brett Bech
Assistant strength and conditioning: Kendall Smith

Wes Phillips left the Cowboys to be the Washington Redskins tight ends coach. Offensive assistant Dave Borgonzi left for a defensive assistant's job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mikal Smith also worked with the Cowboys secondary last year but did not have a specific title. He joined his father, Lovie, in Tampa Bay. Assistant special teams coach Chris Boniol and the club agreed to part ways, and the Cowboys will likely give that job to Carlos Polk, although Garrett did not confirm the position at the Senior Bowl. Polk served as an intern with the Cowboys in 2013.

Coaches like Bloom, Baker, O'Quinn and Woicik would need new deals to remain with the team in 2014.

A look at Cowboys' last two coach searches

January, 9, 2014
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IRVING, Texas -- The Dallas Cowboys are not in a search for a head coach. Jason Garrett will be back for his fourth full season in 2014.

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.

Cowboys, Chris Boniol part ways

January, 8, 2014
Jan 8
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IRVING, Texas – The first change in the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff for 2014 has happened with assistant special-teams coach Chris Boniol and the club agreeing to part ways.

Boniol’s contract was set to expire after he signed a one-year deal. He will attend the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and hopes to remain in the NFL.

“It’s been a great time, blessed to have been around some great people and good players,” Boniol said. “And I’m grateful for the opportunity Jason [Garrett], Stephen [Jones] and Jerry [Jones] have given me.”

Boniol joined the Cowboys in 2010 and worked with then special-teams coordinator Joe DeCamillis for three years. Rich Bisaccia took over as special-teams coordinator in 2013 after DeCamillis left for the Chicago Bears.

Carlos Polk, who was with the Cowboys through the season as an intern, could be made Bisaccia’s assistant. Bisaccia interviewed for the Washington Redskins head coaching vacancy and has been mentioned as a candidate for the Tennessee Titans opening.

Boniol had a three-year run as the Cowboys' kicker, winning a Super Bowl in 1995 while making 81 of 93 field goal attempts. He has coached Dan Bailey to three of the best seasons in team history for a kicker. Bailey has made 89 of 98 attempts in his career and has missed just two in each of the past two seasons.

Punter Chris Jones averaged 45 yards per punt with a 39.1-yard net average in 2013.
“They’re great guys, work their butts off, love those guys like my own,” Boniol said. “Real proud of them and what they’ve accomplished as players and people. It’s been a joy to watch them grow and mature as athletes and young men. It’s people like them that I’ll miss.”

Cowboys coaches are off this week. Last year the Cowboys made two coaching staff changes in running backs coach Skip Peete and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan two weeks after the 2012 regular season ended.

Rich Bisaccia on Redskins' coaching list

January, 3, 2014
Jan 3
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IRVING, Texas -- For the second straight year the Dallas Cowboys will see their special teams coordinator interview for an NFL head coaching vacancy.

According to ESPN’s John Clayton, Rich Bisaccia will interview with the Washington Redskins. Last year Joe DeCamillis interviewed with the Chicago Bears and eventually joined Marc Trestman’s staff as assistant head coach/special teams coordinator.

Bisaccia put together one of the better special teams’ units in the NFL last season, but he almost never got to the Cowboys. If things had not worked out, then he would be coaching in the BCS Championship game for Auburn. He was the school’s running backs, special teams and assistant head coach for 22 days before joining the Cowboys last winter.

Bisaccia and Redskins general manager Bruce Allen worked together for years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Bisaccia was Jason Garrett’s top choice last season, but he also interviewed Bruce DeHaven, a former Cowboys’ special teams coach, and Alan Lowry.

The Cowboys saw improvement in their kickoff and punt return averages, albeit minimally in the punt returns. The kickoff and punt coverage were also improved by fractions, and there were no major breakdowns.

In 2012, the Cowboys had a punt blocked, a punt returned for a touchdown, and a kickoff returned for a touchdown. This season, the longest punt return allowed was 26 yards, and the longest kickoff return was 45 yards.

With injuries on defense, Bisaccia had to mix and match his units, but they were able to hold up their end of the bargain.

Dallas Cowboys season wrap-up

January, 2, 2014
Jan 2
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Arrow indicates direction team is trending.

Final power ranking: 17
Preseason power ranking: 20

Biggest surprise: The Dallas Cowboys did not believe they could have a worse defense than the one they fielded in 2012. They were wrong.

Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan lost his job after the Cowboys finished the year ranked 19th in defense and allowed 400 points. The Cowboys not only switched defensive coordinators, they switched philosophies, bringing in Monte Kiffin to run a 4-3 scheme.

It never worked.

The Cowboys allowed 6,645 yards, 432 points and failed to deliver most of the time. They were hit by injuries, just as Ryan’s defense was, and poor play from big-name players such as DeMarcus Ware, Bruce Carter, Morris Claiborne and Brandon Carr. Sean Lee was having a Pro Bowl-type season but hamstring and neck injuries forced him to miss most of the final seven games. Only Jason Hatcher, Orlando Scandrick and Barry Church had representative seasons.

Biggest disappointment: It’s hard not to go with Ware, who had a career-low six sacks. For the first time he did not play in every game in a season, missing three games with a quadriceps strain. He also played with injuries to both elbows, a back strain and stinger. But the pick will be Miles Austin. Like Ware, he suffered through injury. He missed five games with a hamstring injury and was held without a catch in two games as he attempted to play through the strain. He finished the season with 24 catches for 244 yards and no touchdowns. It was the fewest catches he had since 2008 when he was a bit player and first time since 2007 he did not score a touchdown. The Cowboys hoped for a late-season boost when he returned but it never came.

Biggest need: The easy answer is to say upgrade the entire defense. They need help at linebacker and safety. The defensive line needs an overhaul. We talked about Ware’s status, but Hatcher, who had a career-high 11 sacks, and Anthony Spencer, who is coming back from microfracture surgery, are set to be unrestricted free agents. The Cowboys used 19 defensive linemen during the year and found solid contributions from players such as George Selvie and Nick Hayden, but optimally they play in reserve roles. The hits on the line started in April when the Cowboys passed on Sharrif Floyd, their fifth-ranked player, at No. 18 and traded down and continued when Tyrone Crawford tore his Achilles on the first day of camp. Owner and general manager Jerry Jones said in the offseason the defensive line was a strength. There is no way he can say that now.

Team MVP: By process of elimination it cannot be a defensive player because the unit was the worst in the NFL. DeMarco Murray would get votes for a second-half MVP. The contest comes down to Tony Romo and Dez Bryant. Romo missed the final game because of back surgery, but threw 31 touchdown passes and was intercepted only 10 times while throwing for 3,828 yards. Bryant earned his first Pro Bowl berth and finished with 93 catches for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns. They made big plays at big moments. They had mistakes at big moments, too. As a result, they split the award.

Cowboys look for jump from Spurlock

December, 20, 2013
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IRVING, Texas -- Not long after Micheal Spurlock was released by the Detroit Lions he had a workout with the Washington Redskins, whose general manager Bruce Allen was in Tampa Bay when Spurlock played for the Buccaneers.

Spurlock
The Redskins passed, and on Wednesday he ended up joining the Dallas Cowboys, in part because of another tie to his Tampa Bay past: special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.

Spurlock admits it is kind of funny that his first game will be against the Redskins.

“It was just one of those situations where it wasn’t a fit there,” Spurlock said. “It became a fit here. You move on. There’s no hard feelings at all. Just go play, and we’re trying to get a win.”

The Cowboys hope Spurlock can spark the return game that has dried up with Dwayne Harris slowed by a hamstring injury. Terrance Williams has handled the kickoff duties in Harris’ absence, but he might not play Sunday because of a hamstring injury. Cole Beasley has handled the punt returns.

In nine games for the Lions, Spurlock averaged 22.5 yards per kick return and 6.6 yards per punt return. For his career he has three kickoff returns for touchdowns, and two punt returns for touchdowns.

The Cowboys have made a late-season play for a returner before. In 2003, they signed Michael Bates in time for the regular-season finale. In the playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers he had seven kick returns for 172 yards, with a long of 41 yards.

In 2009, the Cowboys signed Allen Rossum to return kicks and punts, but he was hurt on his first return against Atlanta. The man he was supposed to replace, Patrick Crayton, had a clinching 73-yard punt return for a touchdown in the win against the Falcons.

The Cowboys are the third team Spurlock and Bisaccia have worked with together. They were together in San Diego as well.

“I’ve been around him a long time,” Spurlock said. “Shoot, out of eight years maybe six years I’ve been around him. Some stuff has changed, but after looking at the pictures and stuff, it’s pretty much the same stuff with different names. But I’m familiar with it.”

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