A Small Victory in Valley Ranch
Dallas Cowboys hire new play-caller, but at least it's one of Garrett's guys
Did Jason Garrett just win an argument with Jerry Jones? One could make the assumption that the hire of Scott Linehan as the Dallas Cowboys’ new play-caller might represent such a victory.
The Cowboys have yet to make an official announcement, but all signs point to Linehan joining the Cowboys staff, including an ESPN Dallas report that Linehan took part in team meetings on Monday. Reports broke last week that the Cowboys were interested in the former Lions offensive coordinator as most of the NFL world was at the Senior Bowl.
Let’s set aside the absurdity of the Cowboys having a different play-caller for the third straight year. Here’s why this might be a win for Garrett.
ESPN.com’s Ed Werder and Chris Mortensen highlighted the somewhat tenuous by-play between Garrett and Jones over play-calling since the end of the 2012 season. According to their sources, Garrett wanted to bring in Norv Turner to call plays, but Jones was opposed to it, saying Turner’s offense was too close to Garrett’s. Instead, Jones overruled his head coach — as he so often does — and elevated game play-calling duties to Bill Callahan, who at the time was the offensive coordinator in name only.
Let’s set aside the absurdity of the Cowboys having a different play-caller for the third straight year and consider why this might be a rare win for Jason Garrett.
How did that work out? Well, the offense, once again, put up great numbers. And the Cowboys, once again, went 8-8 and failed to make the playoffs, despite needing only a win in Week 17 to win the NFC East.
Callahan took some heat for play-calling in certain situations, such as late in the Green Bay game. Along the way Garrett cleverly insinuated himself back into the play-calling process by shipping his quarterbacks coach, Wade Wilson, up to the booth with Callahan, leaving himself as the only coach able to communicate Callahan’s calls to quarterback Tony Romo.
It sounds like Linehan might be a compromise between Garrett and Jones, but the decision leans toward Garrett because this hire is a rarity for the fourth-year head coach. All great head coaches have “their guys,” the ones that follow them from job to job because they know the system. Garrett is by no means a great head coach, but Linehan is as close to being a “Garrett guy” as you’re going to get.
Garrett’s first job after retirement was as quarterbacks coach for the Miami Dolphins. The man who hired him was Linehan, then the offensive coordinator. Linehan reportedly interviewed Garrett after Troy Aikman recommended his former backup to Linehan. A 10-hour interview later Garrett had the job. Linehan took to Garrett, so much so that when Linehan took the head coaching job in St. Louis he tried to take Garrett with him and make him the offensive coordinator.
One of the things that I’ve always believed stunted Garrett’s development was his lack of time as a position coach. He spent two years in Miami before joining the Cowboys. He didn’t really get a chance to accumulate “his guys,” the ones that are so important to supporting a future head coach. You only accumulate those guys when you get the chance to work with them.
Garrett’s rapid ascent robbed him of that opportunity. Hiring Linehan provides Garrett a philosophical touchstone to lean on this offseason and during the season. The Garrett-Callahan marriage always had a shotgun feel. Garrett and Linehan should be on the same wavelength. Garrett enters the final year of his contract. It seems only fair to allow him to have a guy on his staff that he wants to coach with and not one he has to coach with.
It doesn’t mean it will work, of course. As noted, changing play-callers last season had no impact on the bottom line. Hiring Linehan may not save Garrett’s job past 2014. But Garrett can walk around Valley Ranch a bit taller today. Sure, Jones is hiring yet another coach. But at least it’s one of Garrett’s guys. For once.