In 2003-04, as he was working to get the Cowboys' roster in the shape he wanted it, Bill Parcells added several former players from his time with the Patriots and Jets to the Cowboys roster. In 2003, he brought in Richie Anderson, Terry Glenn, Ryan Young, Eric Ogbogu and, in midseason, Adrian Murrell. The following year saw the arrival of Vinnie Testaverde, Keyshawn Johnson and Dedric Ward.
Parcells brought these guys in for two reasons. First, he trusted them. Both player and coach knew what to expect from the other. As a result, there was a short learning curve, in terms of scheme and, perhaps more importantly, in terms of psychology. This leads us to the second reason: he wanted them to show the Cowboys who, under Dave Campo and Bruce Coslett's tutelage had learned little other than how to lose, how winning teams worked and prepared. In short, the "Parcells guys" would help the coaches to change the culture.
Parcells is not alone in this; many coaches bring players with them when they jump teams. In the past two seasons, we have seen Wade Phillips do this in Houston, bringing in former Cowboys defenders Bradie James and Alan Ball, presumably for much the same reason Parcells brought former Jets to Dallas: to help ease the myriad transitions a new coaching staff brings about.
Speaking of transitions and culture changes, the Cowboys have six new coaches and will be effecting a large scale defensive makeover. Will Dallas' revamped staff help to ease the transition by bringing in known quantities? To answer this question, I thought it might be useful to review who the new coaches are and where they have been recently. Note that I'm only including the coaches who come to Big D directly from NFL jobs. Tomorrow, I'll try the same exercise with the new staffers from the college ranks (albeit with potential draftees instead of free agents). Let's start on the defensive side of the ball, where we're likely to see the most significant movement.
Defensive Line Coach Rod Marinelli, as we know, is Monte Kiffin's long-time line coach. They were together in Tampa Bay for ten seasons (1996-2005). During their time there, the Bucs defense was in the top ten in points allowed every year and in the top ten in yards allowed in all but their first season together, when the Bucs ranked eleventh. Marinelli left Tampa Bay in 2006 to become head coach of the Detroit Lions, spending three seasons there before becoming the Bears' defensive coordinator under Lovie Smith, who was the Bucs linebackers coach from 1996-2000. Might the Cowboys look to the Windy City for a free agent or two to help the transition to a 4-3? Here's who is currently on the market (note that I've excluded kicking game specialists and players who have already received the franchise tag):
|Bears Free Agents|
Elsewhere, I've written that the Cowboys should sign at least one former Bear; it makes the most sense that this person should come on the defensive side of the ball. With that in mind, the guys I've got my eye on are DE/T Israel Idonije, DT Omobi Okoye, and and OLB Nick Roach. Since one of free agency's governing rules is not to give long-term contracts to old guys, if I decide to sign Idonije, it's only to a short-term deal.
Special Teams Coach Rich Bisaccia spent the last two seasons as the Chargers' special teams coach. Before that, he was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Special Teams Coach from 2002-10, where he worked with Kiffin and Marinelli from 2006-10. Bisaccia has two NFL teams in his recent past; let's look at the free agents from both franchises:
|Chargers Free Agents|
And now the Tampa Bay free agents:
|Buccaneers Free Agents|
The names that jump out at me from these two groups are all linemen: San Diego's Louis Vasquez (who I liked coming out of Texas Tech in 2009 and Brandyn Dombrowski as well as Tampa Bay's Michael Bennett (yes, Martellus's brother), although I hear he's the Bucs number one free agent priority.
New Dallas Running Backs coach Gary Brown is still fairly new to the coaching game. After retiring from professional football following the 1999 season, Gary returned to his home town and was hired as an assistant coach at his Alma Mater. Three years later, he began a meteoric rise through the coaching ranks, with stops at little Lycoming College (2003-'06) and Susquehanna University (2006-'07) and a year at Rutgers before he was hired by Eric Mangini to join the Cleveland Browns' staff in 2009. To his credit, Brown survived one coaching turnover in Cleveland, so he remained with the Browns until joining the Cowboys this offseason. Are there any former players from the Mistake by the Lake who might wear the star in 2013? Let's take a look:
|Browns Free Agents|
I see two possibilities: running back Brandon Jackson, who Brown would know very well (although, given Jackson's injury history, for a low-risk deal) and receiver Mohammed Massaquoi, who the Cowboys brought to Valley Ranch for a visit before the 2009 draft. They liked his length and potential then; who knows, they might feel the same way still.
Assistant Offensive Line Coach Frank Pollack has been in the league since 2007, when he signed on as the Texans' Assistant O-line Coach. In 2012, the Raiders removed the "assistant" tag, making him their Offensive Line Coach for one ill-fated season. In Dallas, he'll again have the Assistant moniker, albeit with a year of unit head seasoning. Are there any Texans or Raiders free agents on whom Pollack might have the inside scoop? Take a looksee:
|Raiders Free Agents|
And the Texans:
|Texans Free Agents|
There are several names from these two lists whose tires I'd want to kick, to see what they might have to offer. Until his recent arrest, I was intrigued by the Raiders' Des Bryant. Now not so much. Mike Goodson is built a lot like DeMarco Murray, with a receiver's body. He also had Murray's wheels - but not his power. There are several Texans who I'd sign, if they could be had for a reasonable price (one of the free agency commandments: thou shalt not pay high prices for a good team's role players): running back Justin Forsett, OT Ryan Harris and safety Glover Quin.
There you have it, BTBers. A gallery of "insider" free agents. Looking over these lists, who would you like to see wearing the star in 2013 and beyond?