Fans of the Dallas Cowboys have been waiting since the end of the disappointing 2013 season to see who was going to get the ax on the coaching staff. With Jerry Jones affirming his commitment to keep head coach Jason Garrett around for the coming season, speculation was running hot and heavy about whether he would fire offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, or both.
The silence out of Valley Ranch has been deafening. And there are more and more indications that the answer may be one we did not see coming.
Jones may be willing to let both the coordinators stay around another year as well. There also are indications that a third name a lot of people felt should be replaced, strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik, is going to stay.
Mike Fisher laid out several of the reasons why this may happen in his report at FOX Sports Southwest. He lists things like the established reluctance Jones has to fire people and the fact that, while the team really seems to want to keep Rod Marinelli, he may not be willing to step up to replace Kiffin. The price for keeping Marinelli, who showed he can do a pretty remarkable job of making silk defensive linemen out of sow's street free agents, may be to let Kiffin stay on as defensive coordinator.
The situation with Callahan may be less certain, in Fisher's view.
Interestingly, while Kiffin is at work and while our report on Chris Boniol's departure from Valley Ranch solidifies special-teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia's spot, offensive coordinator Bill Callahan -- who I reported two weeks ago joined Kiffin "on thin ice'' -- has been conspicuously absent from Cowboys HQ some days.
However, there are other indications that Callahan may be allowed to decide his own future.
@rag231 What about Callahan though? / lets see if he jumps without being nudged— mike fisher (@fishsports) January 10, 2014
Fisher is not the only one who sees that Kiffin, at least, will likely be around for one more season.
"@MyRlhayes76: @BryanBroaddus so is Kiffen really gonna keep his job after having the worst defense in Cowboys history?" I believe so— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) January 10, 2014
While this all may lead to much wailing, gnashing of teeth, and rending of clothing among the Cowboys faithful, it does seem to fall in line with a couple of things that I think have been emerging over the past year.
First, Jerry Jones is placing more value on continuity than in the past. His decision to stick with Garrett to the end of his contract is the clearest indicator. I also think the remarks he made recently about having regrets over letting Rob Ryan go too quickly indicate that he is now seeing the issue as extending beyond just the head coach. It may also be something that the same head coach is pushing for. It is just a bit of personal speculation, but sticking by people and giving them time to get their systems and way of doing things in place sounds like the way Garrett would prefer to do things. Kiffin, of course, has just been in the job a year and several people have talked about it taking more than one season to get his system down. And the now infamous change in play-calling duties is also only a year old. The argument can be made that dumping Callahan and especially Kiffin now would not advance things, but would likely set the Cowboys back. However it finally works out, the idea of going with much of the current staff in 2014 and then deciding if a full housecleaning is needed seems to be in play.
The second factor is that this may be a tacit acknowledgement that the problems of the team stem more from a lack of talent than bad coaching. Certainly, the losses in both the defensive line and linebacking units were difficult to deal with. And the team is apparently making changes to improve the acquisition of talent. Calvin Watkins details the importance of the move to put Will McClay in charge of building the Cowboys' draft board.
McClay is in charge of finding pro players in free agency, evaluating the current roster, which is badly in need of an overhaul on defense, but salary cap restrictions make that difficult to do. And more importantly, McClay takes over this year as putting the draft board together.
McClay takes that job over from Tom Ciskowski, who remains with the team as director of scouting. This change is akin to that of the shuffle with offensive playcalling in the 2013 offseason. Ciskowski still is responsible for gathering the information on draft prospects, but McClay will be in charge of correlating the various inputs to come up with the draft board that Rabblerousr will be trying to leak as soon as possible.
McClay is seen as very good at personnel evaluation. He, like Ciskowski, are seen as potential general manager material for teams that, like, actually hire someone to be the general manager.
In point of fact, he gives Jerry Jones a de facto GM, as least as far as the draft is concerned, and possibly in making decisions concerning players already on the team.
I have long championed the idea that Jones is far from a dictator in running the team, but actually uses a much more collaborative approach, with the primary partners in making major decisions so far being Garrett and his son Stephen. Now, McClay seems to be emerging as a fourth member of what may be thought of as the Cowboys' Cabinet. (Or, for those who cling to a negative view of Jerry and all things Cowboys, you may prefer Politburo.) It is another voice, and in this case, one who brings a strong reputation for his skills to the table. Based on past years, especially the heated discussions about the Travis Frederick pick, and passing on Sharrif Floyd, Jones seems to very deeply involved in the first pick or two, but lets his staff handle things after that. Now, there may be another voice to defend sticking with the board. Whether that is a good thing or not is hard to say, given how well Fredbeard and Terrance Williams, the other part of the trade down, panned out. But, as Bryan Broaddus has remarked, it would have been interesting to see what Marinelli could have done with Floyd.
That is all just more speculation. The McClay move is something that we can watch and evaluate. If he is successful, then maybe all the concerns about Jerry Jones refusing to do something about the general manager position may be irrelevant. Titles are just that. Results are all that really matter.
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