Over at Peter King's MMQB, there's a nice story that has a current Dallas Cowboys connection. Many of you know that Paul "Dr. Z" Zimmerman, a long-time NFL writer was struck down by a series of strokes and has been unable to write for years now. This year, the Pro Football Writers of America created a new award - "The Paul ‘Dr. Z' Zimmerman Award" for lifetime achievement for NFL assistant coaches.
One of the assistant coaches to receive the new award was Ernie Zampese. Zampese has a long direct and indirect impact on the Cowboys. Of course he was the offensive coordinator in Dallas from 1994-1997. He took the job after his pupil, Norv Turner, left for Washington. Turner was one of Troy Aikman's all-time favorite coaches, but he also had a soft spot for Zampese, probably because they both ran the same offense that they learned from Don Coryell and the Air Coryell school.
Zampese has the distinction of running for the winning touchdown as a USC tailback against Notre Dame in 1956 (bet you didn’t know that) and being hired for two of his early coaching jobs by John Madden and Don Coryell.
"A lot of times in my career," he said, "I was in the perfect spot. You go to work for Don Coryell, and he just lets you do what you do; he lets you coach."
"He’s the best offensive coach I know," Coryell once said. His quarterbacks—Fouts, Jim Everett, Troy Aikman, Drew Bledsoe (in New England in his stop as coordinator, in 1998 and ’99)—were always among the league’s most prolific. Aikman swore by him.
"I had some great quarterbacks who ran the offense great," Zampese said. "It comes back to being in the perfect spot so many times. In Dallas, what a great position that was to be in, with such great offensive talent."
Also on those early 90s teams as Aikman's backup was our own Jason Garrett. Garrett is just another in a long line of coaches influenced by Don Coryell and a couple of his most famous prodigies, Norv Turner and Ernie Zampese. Zampese was Turner's mentor in the 80s on the Rams coaching staff.
Zampese was rather rigid with his offense, bringing it to wherever he went and implementing it lock,stock and barrel. Garrett seems to be slightly more open to modification. Bill Callahan and Scott Linehan, for example, bring some other points of view on offense. Still, under Garrett as coordinator and head coach, mostly using the Zampese/Turner timing offense, the Cowboys have had tremendous statistical success.
Congrats to Ernie Zampese for his recognition as one of the great assistant coaches in the NFL.