Which assistant can most help Jason Garrett?
If offense improves, Garrett is safe
Jason Garrett's job security is tied to one man in 2013: Bill Callahan.
If he "allows" Callahan to call the offensive plays next season as expected, Garrett's fate as Dallas Cowboys coach will no longer be in his own hands.
Garrett still won't say who will call the plays, instead continuing to talk about the process and how good the offense has been the past six seasons with him in charge. The Cowboys have averaged 24.1 points per game over that span, seventh-best in the NFL.
But the reality is the Cowboys' offense should be better. There is no reason why Dez Bryant should go several plays without getting a pass thrown his way, nor is it logical for Jason Witten not to be a major target in the red zone. And what about the running game, which ranked 31st in the NFL last season? And we haven't touched upon Tony Romo's stretches of inconsistency.
But these had fallen under Garrett's umbrella of responsibility. If Callahan calls the shots, that won't be the case. And if Callahan fails, Garrett fails.
Jones has seen enough of this mess and, while it's easy to blame him for the draft and free-agent signings, it's just as easy to blame the head coach for the franchise's struggles. After all, Garrett has had an opportunity to fix things, and he has no postseason appearances to show for it.
So who ultimately has the most to lose? That'd be Garrett.
Who can help him the most by fixing the offense's shortfalls? That'd be Callahan.
It's pretty easy to figure out.
Defense key to Garrett's job security
The dominating talk of the Cowboys' offseason so far has been who will be the calling the offensive plays, and for good reason.
Owner/GM Jerry Jones has consistently said he doesn't want a walk-around head coach. He would like for the head man to be in charge of one side of the ball or the other. That's why he forced Wade Phillips to take control of the defense in 2008 after Brian Stewart was running things.
But now it appears Jones wants to make a change.
The play calling has been Jason Garrett's baby since 2007. Has that been THE reason why the Cowboys have missed the playoffs the past three years? Not to me.
While I don't believe Garrett helped himself very much during last week's news conference, I do believe he was right in one thing: Who calls the plays is not that big of a deal. It matters, don't get me wrong. To a degree. But if Nate Livings can't block his guy, then it doesn't matter who is calling the plays. Even Bill Walsh.
That's why my answer to this question is Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. I don't think we can separate the importance of these two guys as the Cowboys move to the 4-3 in 2013. Kiffin might be the founder of the defense, but Marinelli is the current landlord.
Why these guys?
This defense has to be better in 2013 for the Cowboys to make it to the playoffs, and it's not like Kiffin and Marinelli will be working with a short deck of cards.
Re-signing Anthony Spencer will help, but I don't think that will be likely. Yet these guys will have a solid trio of corners in Brandon Carr, Morris Claiborne and Orlando Scandrick. They will have two excellent linebackers with skill sets that mesh with the new scheme in Sean Lee and Bruce Carter. They will have a healthy and motivated DeMarcus Ware, who is still a top-five defender in the NFL. Jay Ratliff's future might be dicey because of his salary-cap number and his arrest, but he should be motivated more than ever after a disastrous 2012 season that was beset by injury. I'm not as down on the safety spot as most, but without looking it up, tell me who Chicago's safeties were in 2012 when they led the NFL in takeaways?
The Cowboys will look to the draft to help, especially on the defensive line.
No matter who is calling the plays, this offense will be what it has been: It'll put up yards, make some big plays, commit penalties and average somewhere around 22 points a game.
That's gotten the Cowboys to 8-8 in Garrett's first two full seasons.
If the defense under Kiffin and Marinelli improves, that could get them to the playoffs, and Garrett's job will be safe.
103.3 FM ESPN PODCASTS
Herm Edwards joins Fitzsimmons & Durrett to discuss the NFL combine and Cowboys' offseason. Edwards says Rod Marinelli is the key to the defense this season, not Monte Kiffin. He also talks about what it would be like to work for Jerry Jones.
Ed Werder joins Richard Durrett and Ian Fitzsimmons to discuss what he took away from the NFL combine and his conversation with Jerry Jones on the penthouse bus.