It is the best of situations, and it is the worst. . .
Sorry. Too cliche. Moving on.
Numerous questions about the playcalling on both sides of the line swirled around the Dallas Cowboys in 2013. After the team staggered to their third 8-8 finish in a row, an attempt was made to solve what were seen as bad situations in both instances. After having one of the worst statistical performances in the history of the NFL, first year defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin was replaced by his assistant Rod Marinelli, reversing the relationship both had been used to in the past. And with a nearly weekly barrage of questions about, among other things, why the running game was so often abandoned even as DeMarco Murray had the best year of his young career, Bill Callahan gave way to new hire Scott Linehan.
The replacement of the two coordinators was not unexpected. Dropping the axe is the time honored way of expressing disappointment in the performance of coaching duties in the NFL. What was rather unusual was that neither of the replaced coordinators left the team. Almost always, a fired coordinator cleans out his desk and seeks employment elsewhere.
Dallas went another direction with both Kiffin and Callahan.
In Kiffin's case, keeping him on staff is suspected to be something Marinelli wanted. The two have a long history of working together, and all signs are that they truly enjoy the partnership. Although it is speculation, it is also not hard to believe that Marinelli may well have made Kiffin's retention a precondition of his taking the coordinator job.
Callahan is rather a different situation. Where Marinelli was promoted from within, Linehan was brought in from outside to supplant Callahan as the playcaller and de facto offensive coordinator. Callahan still carries the title of offensive coordinator on the organizational chart at DallasCowboys.com, but everyone sees that as a face saving measure. Linehan is the passing game coordinator, and anyone who watches Dallas play knows that he is really going to be making most of the decisions about the game plan if he is in charge of throwing the ball. Further, it is believed that Callahan wanted to move on, but the Cowboys refused to let him out of the last year of his contract. At least two other teams were denied permission to interview him. It appears the team still values his ability to develop the offensive line, and he is now working with one of the youngest and arguably one of the most talented group of linemen in the league.
The first day of the rookie minicamp in Dallas was also the first time the media was able to ask the two men about their situations, and you can be sure the reporters availed themselves of the opportunity.
Monte Kiffin had nothing but good things to say about his new role.
"I'm really excited. I'm really fired up," Kiffin said. "I'm not down one bit. I'm really not. I can't coach that way. I wouldn't stay here. If I didn't feel right, if I knew I wasn't going to contribute, and it wasn't going to be a good situation, I promise you I would have moved on. I like it here. I like the head coach. But Rod [Marinelli] is the guy.
"Shoot, I'm fired up. The players are fired up. We're all fired up. Take it one year at a time. If you don't like your situation, move on. I'm serious. You signed a contract. ...If I'm coaching, I'm going to coach my tail off."
Considering he is 74, it is not surprising that a love for the game and teaching players to be better would seem to be involved in his decision. There has to be something to motivate a man to stay involved in the long hours and endless pressure of being an NFL coach long past the age most of us have or will bid the workplace farewell. And there is a sense he and Marinelli are much more than just colleagues. The friendship seems very real. That, and the suspicion that he just would not know what to do with himself if he wasn't coaching, appear to be enough to keep him happy. Given his knowledge and understanding of the game, I'm sure Jason Garrett and Jerry Jones are glad to have him still around.
Callahan's tone was not as much rainbows and unicorns, but more that of someone who is trying to make lemonade out of some sour fruit.
"I just take on the mindset that things happen for a reason. I live with that and I move on. I make the best of each situation I'm in. I never worry about anything else. I've always had confidence in myself and my abilities to do a good job. My focus has always been to do a great job where I'm at. Everything else takes care of itself. I'm not concerned about any of that stuff."
Offhand, I have never heard anyone say "things happen for a reason" when they are dealing with a really wonderful turn of events. That looks like a fairly clear confirmation that Callahan's continuing time with the Cowboys is not by choice. Hopefully, he will work hard at what he is doing to burnish his resume for when he finally does get out of his contract, but I don't think he is going to be smiling a lot this season.
His situation is a lot more puzzling than Kiffin's. Frankly, I am not sure why Jerry Jones or Jason Garrett felt it was a good idea to keep a disgruntled coach on staff. I just hope it does not backfire.