Recently, over at the mothership, writers Rowan Kavner and David Helman weighed in on this issue in a Point/Counterpoint series. Helman sees the hiring of former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to be the play-caller for the Dallas Cowboys as being the biggest offseason move made by the front office, while Kavner feels that the promotion of former defensive line coach Rod Marinelli will bring the biggest improvement to the squad. Given the fact that the Cowboys are coming off of three consecutive 8-8 seasons, it stands to reason that each man will have to make an impact for the team to rise above mediocrity in 2014. Let's take a look at what each man could potentially do to help lead the 'Boys back to relevance in the National Football League.
Coming off of his recent stint with the Matt Stafford-to-Calvin Johnson, pass-happy Detroit offense, coach Linehan finds himself in a situation where he not only has a similar pairing in Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, he also has a more complete arsenal to work with at Valley Ranch. He has an emerging young receiver in Terrance Williams, a jitter-bug named Cole Beasely, and a future Hall of Fame tight end in Jason Witten. Providing the protection that will allow time for his offense to work is an offensive line that features both a 2013 Pro Bowler and a 2013 All-Rookie team member. Behind this front, and with a passer of Romo's caliber throwing to a talented corps of targets, it is reasonable to expect that the Scott Linehan aerial attack should be more potent than last year's edition.
In addition to returning explosiveness to the Air Coryell scheme that the Cowboys favor, Linehan has proven over his career that he is not afraid to incorporate the ground game into his gameplan.
Over his tenure as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the National Football League Linehan's RB's have contributed five 1,000 yard seasons out of the dozen that he has coached.
While his running attack in Detroit was not known for its potency, when he has been provided with a top runner, Linehan has never been reluctant to ride that horse. With DeMarco Murray also coming off of a Pro Bowl season, it is reasonable to believe that Linehan will revert to his history of being able to run a balanced offense. While, with the assortment of different options he has to chose from, it is not likely that Linehan will use Murray to the extent that he used Steven Jackson in St. Louis, he will not hesitate to pound the rock as needed.
Scott Linehan has stepped into a good situation. He has an offensive squad that has skill-position talent, a young and improving offensive line, and some veteran leadership to hold things together. With his background of running high-powered offenses, a return to explosiveness on offense should be expected by the Dallas faithful. Based on this, Helman reached a logical conclusion:
So it’s not as if I think Linehan is a better coach than Marinelli, and I’m also not saying Marinelli can’t improve this defense. I don’t think there’s any argument Linehan has more to work with, though, and that should show when the offense returns to its more explosive ways.
Of course, there is more than one way to skin a cat. Looking at the same set of facts, Helman's DallasCowboys.com colleague, Rowan Kavner, reaches a different conclusion. To start with, Rod Marinelli starts with a defense that gave up a league worst 415 yards per game in 2013; even a small improvement would be a dramatic change for Dallas. As the team's defensive line coach last season, Coach Marinelli managed to get more out of less (talent-wise) than any coach in recent memory. He is a consummate teacher of the game, and he will have plenty of teaching to do in getting the defense ready to play in 2014.
While his unit does not feature as much talent as what Linehan has available, it is expected that the defense will get an infusion of young talent in the upcoming draft. Aside from the new personnel, the cupboard is not bare in the defensive meeting rooms. Guys like Sean Lee, Bruce Carter, Brandon Carr, and Barry Church have experienced recent NFL success. One of the biggest issues Marinelli will face is keeping his unit healthy, if Dallas can do that, Marinelli has a good chance to coach his men into something special.
In Kavner's view, what sets Marinelli apart is his attitude toward the game. He wants his players to finish every snap and not be content with merely stopping the play. He is a coach who insists that his men go for the kill at every opportunity.
Since arriving as the defensive line coach last season, he’s preached the importance of finishing. A sack is not enough to Marinelli. He wants the ball to pop out and for his linemen to be athletic enough to take that to the house. He’ll now get to preach the same objective to a wider audience on defense.
With the mentality that predominates among defensive players, Marinelli will no doubt find a receptive audience for his message, and that could catapult him up the "impact rankings" in a big way during the upcoming season.
No matter if you favor offense or defense, this should be a time to keep your eye on the changes that come to pass. With the hiring of Scott Linehan we should expect to see a return to the high-flying Dallas offense of days gone by. He is not afraid to take shots down field, but neither is he shy about grinding it out. On the other side of the line of scrimmage, Rod Marinelli is a guy who stresses keeping the passer under pressure and capitalizing on the mistakes that the heat causes. Both men have a history of being aggressive in their strategy. If things work out, we may finally see a Dallas Cowboys team that is conditioned to go for the jugular from the opening whistle to the final gun. Wouldn't that be a nice change?
While it remains to be seen which of the two coaches will have the largest impact on the 2014 Cowboys, I really don't have a preference for which emerges as "the one", I just want to see both sides return to the type of football that made the Dallas Cowboys a force to be reckoned with in the past. As long as both men are able to elevate their players, the team will find itself in a position to experience success. Pressed to choose one or the other, I would lean slightly toward coach Marinelli simply because he is first and foremost a teacher of the game. Still, I don't consider Linehan to be far behind in how he affects the offensive philosophy. I am excited to see what each can do.
You know my take on the question, now it's your turn to tell us how you feel. So, Blogging The Boys community members, what is your take? Who will impact the 2014 Dallas Cowboys more; Scott Linehan or Rod Marinelli?