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A Deeper Look At Will McClay's Role With The Cowboys

The coaches may not be changing, but one move made in another part of the staff may have long lasting effects on the Cowboys.

Looking for a better way forward
Looking for a better way forward
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the Dallas Cowboys are, by and large, exhibiting consternation at the lack of activity concerning the coaching staff. With frustration increasing over the inability of the team to get into the playoffs, people want to see something done. However, unless one of the coaches makes his own decision to leave, it does not appear that anyone is going to be fired this year. Jason Garrett and his coaching staff are going to sink or swim together in 2014. If the team breaks through the .500 barrier, there will be new contract offers for most, if not all, of the current coaches. If not, expect a major, possibly total changeover of the staff.

However, that does not mean that Jerry Jones is not trying to resolve the issues with his team. Last week, it was announced that Will McClay would now be the person in charge of preparing the draft board. The day before that was reported, BTB's favorite insider sent this out:

There was a long e-mail discussion of the McClay move by the BTB staff over the weekend. As part of it, OCC put up a table showing the people involved in personnel and scouting at Valley Ranch, and how the jobs had changed last year. I have reproduced it here. As the boldface type indicates, the main changes involve McClay, Tom Ciskowski, and Judd Garrett - the three top people involved in scouting and acquiring new players.

Name 2013 Title Change 2012 Title
Will McClay Assistant Director of Player Personnel Promoted Director of Football Research
Tom Ciskowski Director of Scouting Demoted Assistant Director of Player Personnel

Chris Hall College Scouting Coordinator n.c. College Scouting Coordinator
Drew Fabianich National College Scout n.c. National College Scout
Walter Juliff National College Scout n.c. National College Scout
Jim Abrams College Scout n.c. College Scout
Bill Dekraker College Scout n.c. College Scout
Sam Garza College Scout n.c. College Scout
Mitch LaPoint College Scout n.c. College Scout
Kevin Simon College Scout n.c. College Scout
Justin Stucky Combine Scout n.c. Combine Scout
Rich Behm Scouting Video Coordinator n.c. Scouting Assistant
Ross Wuensche Scouting Assistant new guy

Judd Garrett Assistant Director of Pro Scouting Demoted Director of Pro Scouting
Henry Sroka Pro Scout lateral move? College Scout
Alex Loomis Pro Scout Promoted Pro Scouting Assistant
George Jordan Scout n.c. Scout

Todd Williams Senior Director of Football Admin./Football Operations Promoted Director of Football Administration
Connie Shaffer Contract Administrator n.c. Contract Administrator
Adam Prasifka Player Personnel n.c. Player Personnel

One thing that I find interesting is the title that McClay was moved into, displacing Ciskowski: Assistant Director of Player Personnel. The man primarily responsible for player personnel matters with the Cowboys is Stephen Jones. This is an even clearer indication that McClay now holds a position that is analogous to Jason Garrett's job as head coach. Where Garrett really only reports to Jerry Jones, McClay now looks to have supplanted Ciskowski as the second most powerful or influential person not named Jones in the Dallas organization. The line of authority, or chain of command, on the personnel side now seems to run from Jerry Jones (the ultimate boss of everything) through Stephen Jones, McClay, and Ciskowski, with the college and pro scouting departments both reporting to Ciskowski. (OCC posits that Judd Garrett also reports to McClay, but I think he is one step removed, based on the titles. However, that is not totally clear.)

I like to try to read between the lines a bit. When I look at McClay's old title, Director of Football Research, I am not sure exactly what that was. And at the moment, it does not look like the job even exists anymore. McClay may have been brought in with the plan to move him into his current job, or perhaps it was more of a tryout for him before the team committed. I can't say for sure, but at least it indicates some forward thinking.

As for the reason McClay now has responsibility for the draft board, OCC shared his thoughts on it. Here is his analysis of why he believes this happened.

Well, the most obvious thing is that there was a clear disconnect between the college scouting department and the pro department. This came to a header when the pro guys made it clear they had no intention of drafting Sharrif Floyd in the last draft.

Remember how Broaddus was up in arms for weeks about how the Cowboys scouting department had been slighted in the war room? Broaddus is obviously plugged in to the scouting department from his time as a scout at Valley Ranch, and he was publicly taking the scouts' side in what was apparently some internal power struggle - or at the very least a disconnect.

The pro guys won, and McClay is now in charge of the draft board. I assume this is an effort to reign in the scouts a little and make sure that the board is not constructed "on pure talent," whatever that may mean, but designed to deliver the best possible players that fit the Cowboys system - something McClay has demonstrated he can do in bringing in street free agents that contributed.

You can also go back one more year: Claiborne was graded as the "best corner since Deion" but has failed to produce so far in Dallas. Sure, injuries played a role, but was Claiborne really the best possible fit specifically for Dallas?

Similarly, you could ask some pointed questions about the Cowboys procilivity for drafting injured or small school players over the years. On paper, and probably even on film, all of those guys may have been greatly talented. But what's the point of drafting guys who can't stay healthy or whose skills do not translate to the NFL, or more specifically, to the Cowboys' system?

I think OCC nailed this one. The Floyd Kerfluffle, as it is now formally known in Cowboys lore, was about as clear a sign of dysfunction on day one of the draft as can be. Dallas managed to emerge from what could have been a real pile of biological waste smelling like a rose, thanks to great seasons from Travis Frederick and Terrance Williams, but the evidence remained that the process was broken. This seemed like an intolerable situation given that the coaching side is a bit process-centric, based upon almost every word uttered by Garrett since he got the job.

Someone has taken definitive steps to fix the situation. By creating the clear delineation between the Assistant Director of Player Personnel and the scouting function, the Cowboys have placed McClay in a more neutral position than Ciskowski was (he still was the head scout when he held the job, while McClay does not seem to have that role at all). Hopefully, this should allow him to do a better job of making sure everyone is on the same page, or to be more precise, on the same draft board.

Again, reading between the lines a bit, I think this is what Birddog was alluding to. The Cowboys have made a systemic change. The goal would seem to be having a clearer plan going into the draft. Ideally, they should have every contingency worked out in advance for the first round. Which players do they feel are worth the 16/17th pick, will they trade back if certain names are off the board, is there anyone deemed worth a move up, and how far? Given that the Cowboys had 18 first-round names last year, they should be able to have a pre-determined move based on who is gone before they pick, with just about every possible scenario worked out in advance. There should be no arguing, because those decisions should be already hashed out between the coaches, scouts, and of course, the Joneses. Things are not as clear-cut later in the draft, but at the least the first-round pick should be a simple call to make by the time the draft is actually underway.

To me, this is all encouraging, because it shows not only that the owner and general manager is aware of certain problems but is addressing them. And he is doing so in a way that moves some of the authority into other hands. More importantly, I believe, it is an attempt to get long-term solutions in place. In this case, turn the draft into a consistent, understandable process. That is a hint, perhaps, of just how pervasive Jason Garrett's worldview has become at Valley Ranch.

It is largely just my opinion, but I think this is why Jerry Jones is not trying to revamp the coaching staff this offseason. Last year, Dallas faced a great deal of turmoil. First Rob Ryan was dismissed. Then the playcalling furor took place. Finally, there was the first-day draft room fight. It was disorganized and chaotic. This year, the idea seems to be to take a measured approach. Get things organized so that you can figure out what the real solutions are. Last year, the team did not have what appeared to be a really organized approach. Now, maybe, some rational decisions can be made, especially concerning the draft. The Cowboys need to maximize the value of their picks (just like every team should try to do). I don't know in advance if McClay is the man to fix things (expect more on that from rabblerousr shortly), but the plan makes sense.

And apparently, I am not alone.

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