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Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Updated: January 2, 6:32 PM ET
Jerry Jones needs offseason sacrifice

By Jean-Jacques Taylor
ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Ask Jason Garrett about Dez Bryant, Tony Romo or Jason Witten, and he'll talk an eternity. Inquire about DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin -- players who had subpar seasons -- and Garrett will provide diplomatic answers. You can even ask about low-profile players such as Jeff Heath, DeVonte Holloman and Kyle Wilber, and Garrett will give you some insight into their futures. But ask Garrett about defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin or offensive coordinator and playcaller Bill Callahan, and you get nothing -- even if you ask it 100 different ways.

The same goes for owner Jerry Jones, who plays the semantics game well enough to have been president, if he had opted to be a politician instead of an NFL owner.

Ask the owner about the statuses of Kiffin and Callahan, and this is what you get:

"I think you've got to assume that their contract status is [their status] until we do differently," Jones said Tuesday in his weekly radio show on KRLD-FM 105.3.

"Those guys are still under contract. There are others that are under contract. There are others that are not. The real world is since I haven't, we haven't, addressed this thing is whatever their contract status is, and I don't want to get into what that status is, but whatever it is, it is."

Monte Kiffin
Monte Kiffin presided over one of the worst defensive seasons in NFL history.
Based on that gibberish, we can draw only one conclusion: Neither Kiffin nor Callahan is returning -- and there's nothing wrong with that.

Think about it. Jones has been as clear as he can be that Garrett is coaching the Cowboys next season, but he talks in circles when it comes to Kiffin and Callahan.

Why?

The defense, overall, was an embarrassment, and the offense was consistently inconsistent, which is why Garrett tweaked the play-calling system in November. Callahan still called the plays, but Garrett relayed them to quarterback Tony Romo.

All this cloak-and-dagger stuff is a silly waste of time. Kiffin and Callahan each need to go. The sooner, the better.

The Houston Texans just hired Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien to the same position, which means five NFL jobs remain open. As they get filled, the competition to find replacement coordinators increases. If they act quickly, Jones and Garrett will have more options.

Besides, Jones must provide Cowboys Nation with a sacrifice or two as tangible evidence that he's truly vexed about joining the Green Bay Packers and the Houston/Tennessee Oilers as the only teams in NFL history to have three consecutive 8-8 seasons. Understand that Jones is never ever firing himself as general manager, and he's told us he'll keep Garrett for at least one more season. Romo's six-year contract extension -- worth $108 million, including $55 million in guarantees -- starts next season, so he's not going anywhere.

Last season, Jones sacrificed defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who's preparing the New Orleans Saints' defense this week for an NFC wild-card game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

The only worthy sacrifices Jones can provide for another disappointing season are Kiffin and Callahan. Neither excelled this season.

The Cowboys had one of the worst defensive seasons in franchise and NFL history. They allowed four 400-yard passers while yielding more yards (6,645) than any team in NFL history except the 2012 Saints.

They allowed an NFL-record 388 first downs and 432 points. New Orleans, the Chicago Bears and Denver Broncos each scored more than 40 points.

Welp.

We understand injuries decimated this unit -- it used 20 defensive linemen -- and compromised its ability to play at a high level, but there's no excuse for Kiffin's failure to find creative ways to pressure quarterbacks and place his defenders in better position to make plays. "Now, we had a rough year, but we didn't necessarily have a rough year because of coaching in terms of our defense," Jones said on his radio show. "So all of that will be considered as we look ahead."

The Cowboys' offense generated more empty numbers than usual. Romo passed for 31 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, Bryant caught 93 passes for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns, and DeMarco Murray gained 1,124 yards, the most for a Cowboys running back since Emmitt Smith had 1,203 in 2000.

Bill Callahan
Arguably Bill Callahan's most glaring error in 2013 is failing to get Dez Bryant more targets.
But if you watched the games, you understand the offense was hit-and-miss all season.

Too many times Callahan couldn't figure out how to get the ball to Bryant, who had four games with fewer than 40 yards receiving. Or he didn't run the ball enough, considering Murray averaged 5.2 yards per carry. Murray went nine games between 20-carry efforts.

The Cowboys averaged 341.3 yards per game, 16th in the NFL, and three times they gained fewer than 300 yards. They had only 57 plays of 20 yards or more, which tied for 22nd in the league.

"I haven't really sat down and discussed it, looked at it, and I don't know how much thought Jason [Garrett] has given to it here in this latter part of this season," Jones said regarding the statuses of Kiffin and Callahan.

"But ... there's no hurry on that."

Really? A team that's missed the playoffs four consecutive seasons should always have urgency.

Surely Jones realizes that.