Scott Linehan, the newly installed Cowboys Passing Game Coordinator, joined the Fan Jam on 105.3 during the draft on Saturday to talk about his new draft picks and his offensive philosophies. As it turns out, this was Linehan's first public appearance as a Cowboys coach, and given his importance as the 2014 offensive playcaller for the Cowboys, we thought we'd take a very close look at what Linehan said.
Thanks to Jeff Cavanaugh and the fine folks at 105.3 for making a recording of Linehan's interview available. You can listen to the whole thing here, or simply read the transcript below.
As usual, this is a manual transcript of the presser, all mistakes and omissions are mine. The transcript contains only minor edits for improved legibility.
Q: I believe this is going to be your first interaction with the public and the media as a Dallas Cowboy, so it's an honor for us to talk to you. How's it going so far?
Linehan: It's going great
Q: You've been around for a few months now, right?
Linehan: Yeah. I got here late January. It's been sort of the typical offseason time as far as doing the same stuff that you do, but in a different place, a great place.
Q: I guess we should go through some of your new toys that you just got in the last couple of days, starting with the first round. Zack Martin is a guy that's hopefully going to help keep your quarterback upright and move people in the run game. What did you guys see from him and where do you project him helping you out?
Linehan: He was obviously one of the top-rated players on our board. Talking with Bill [Callahan] and Frank [Pollack] about what the guy could do: it is pretty unique. The fact that he played tackle at the highest level - we're obviously projecting him as a guard for us - but I have a lot of friends in the league that see him as, if something happened to your center, he could even do that. So the position flex of this guy is what's really unique, on top of the fact that he's a plug-and-play starter from the get-go.
Q: What about Devin Street, the guy you guys traded up for to grab another wide receiver? I know we've heard from Stephen Jones, Jerry Jones and Jason Garrett about how they really wanted to have another wide receiver who can play the outside. What are the attributes about him that make him a fit, that you like about him?
Linehan: He's got great length, he's over 6-3 , the fact that he can really back us up and also compete at the outside receiver position and also have some position flex to move inside in the slot, even with his height. He's a very smooth, route-transition runner. He's a guy who you could see on film do those things. It's not like you have to project him going in there, into the inside part of the field, because you can see him on the outside part of the field doing all the routes in the NFL route tree that you look for. You don't see that very often in these receivers. They'll come out of spread systems, and they're running different types of routes. This guy really ran in a pro offense in college, so you can see him doing the routes that we'll ask him to do.
And they played him a lot in the slot. Your third receiver needs to be a guy who can play outside if something ever happened, but also be a match-up player - if you wanted to use a match-up player on the inside who's a taller player.
Q: Nine picks, only two on offense. How do you feel about where that unit is right now?
Linehan: One of the most intriguing things for me coming here was that we've got some great weapons on offense. Obviously we've built a heck of an offensive line; Tony is a proven player that I've always been a big fan of throughout his career; we've got a pretty decent receiver; a pretty decent tight end; those players are pretty good.
And the young players that are coming in: Terrance [Williams] had a really nice rookie year. You look at it from start to finish, what he was able to do, in kind of stepping in and playing the No. 2 role at times last year.
And then the Escobar kid, as you look at it, he's a guy that's somewhat untapped at this point, but it's not because he doesn't have the ability to do it. We really liked him last year coming out of the draft and we followed him when he came here. And now that I'm working with him, I'm really excited to see what he can do for us.
Q: How excited are you to work with a No. 1 receiver like Dez Bryant?
Linehan: Dez I think is really a key component. The great offenses in the league have a No. 1 receiver. Obviously the quarterback has to be [there as well], with Tony and everything, but you've got to have a No. 1 outside.
The guy I didn't really mention, getting to the running game, the things that were done last year in the running game with DeMarco [Murray], the running style that was created here, is a really good fit. That's going to be our strength, I think, being able to lean on that running game a little bit more than they have in the past.
Obviously with this offensive line, that's going to be something that's going to help our passing game, and the looks that Dez started to get as the year wore on, people started to give him the attention that Calvin Johnson and Randy Moss would get as far as getting those double coverages.
So you'll need to have those other facets of your offense, as far as the running game ...
Q: We LOVE to hear that. How much better can this running game be than what we've seen?
Linehan: We can always be better at anything. But the progress I think a lot of those guys made, and the running style that was implemented - you add Zack Martin to the mix with the current offensive line that we have, which is outstanding I think - I think we can really do some things as far as making some progress in that regard.
Q: How do you see the offense being different from what we're used to in terms of Jason Garrett, Bill Callahan and now with you coming in, what sort of changes, either systematically or schematically - is the playbook going to be different, or different looking pays - what's different about what you want to do?
Linehan: The number one goal, and I told Jason this when I came here, is to keep a lot of the things the same. It's a lot easier for the players to not have to change how they call things, how they line up, how you call motions and formations and things like that.
To the naked eye there'll be a lot of similar things. I just want to be an asset and bring in some ideas that maybe haven't been implemented that I can add to current things that were done well in the systems I've been around.
Jason and I have a good background [together]. His first year in the league he worked with me as quarterback coach in Miami, so we have that background, so there are a lot of similarities. It's just the language, and I basically made the commitment to transfer over the way I call things to the way people [here] call things to keep it consistent for the players here, so they can step on the field and be ready to go from the get-go in the OTAs.
Q: When you were hired, a gentleman with the Morning News did a study on how often your offenses threw the ball deep down the field. Is that something you would like to bring? We want shocks!
[The gentleman in question is Rainer Sabin, who authored this post: If history is in any indication, new play-caller Scott Linehan and Dallas Cowboys will go deep in 2014.]
Linehan: Not to get into specifics, but that's a big part of what I grew up with or believe in, and it's going to be our philosophy to do those kinds of things maybe a little bit more. We have the personnel for it for sure.
It's a way to get the [defenders] backed up a little bit and also create big plays. Everybody says it's a low percentage play, but depending on the look, it's a high percentage play - as long as you've got weapons on the outside part of the field. And I really believe we have that. We also have some big targets with our tight ends when [opponents] start getting the safeties back and overlapping the outside two [receivers].
Having the talent, the speed, and the length we have at our skill positions is something you've got to implement, and that really helps open up things for your running game as well.
[The conversation then turns to Jim Caviezel - Linehan's wife is Caviezel's sister-in-law - and a football film Caviezel will star in later this year]
Q: [Would you have liked to have drafted another tight end this year]?
Linehan: I feel we have obviously really good depth at tight end. We drafted Gavin [Escobar] last year and we got James [Hanna] a few years ago and he had a pretty significant role for us, and obviously with Jason [Witten] on the roster. A lot of things can still happen. We've got free agency here. If we can get another one that maybe has a little bit of a different kind of skill-set, that would be pretty good.
[The Cowboys have since signed two tight ends, Baylor's Jordan Najvar and Evan Wilson out of Illinois.]
Q: Are you looking for a blocker?
Linehan: We'd like to have that. The fullback is something that a lot of people have phased out of their offense. I really think that with some of the things we're doing in the running game, that a fullback is going to be a bigger part of what we're trying to do. So hopefully we can get Cluttsy [Tyler Clutts] to do some of the things that he did well when they signed him last year. Excited for him. And then maybe sign a fullback, I don't know yet.
[The Cowboys have since signed LSU fullback J.C. Copeland as a college free agent]