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What The Scott Linehan Hiring Means For The Dallas Cowboys

The Cowboys added another voice to their offensive game planning meeting, while changing the one who will be pulling the plays off the play sheet into the headsets. So what in the world does this all mean?

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE


In my opinion, everything about the Cowboys offensive game planning and play-calling system over the past few years has been about trust. Whether it was Jason Garrett continuing to call plays after becoming head coach midway through 2010, or involving Tony Romo in the game planning process, the controversey over the announcement of who would call plays in 2013, or Bill Callahan sitting in the booth once Garrett finally did give up the reins (probably halfheartedly). On the surface the move to Callahan calling plays made sense and looked like something Garrett was on board with.  Callahan could bring some new insight from a different system (and his O-Line background) to infuse it with what Garrett had in place, throw that together with the ideas Romo was putting in, and you have what looks like it could be a fun, creative, successful offense.

As the 2013 season played out we saw an offense that, for the most part, lacked the explosiveness we have seen in past offenses led by Garrett and Romo. We saw them convert only 35% of their third downs into first downs, and although the run game was better and they performed better in the red zone, we saw too many stalled drives at crucial times, and failures to get their best players (ahem Dez Bryant ahem) involved in games to the proper extent. Looking back now it is very easy to see what all of this has meant.

Jason Garrett wasn't ready to give the play-calling up to Callahan, (despite what I, and some others believed at the time). It is not that Garrett was against giving up the duties, he just didn't feel as though the right man was on the staff.  He didn't trust Callahan so he pushed off the announcement until owner Jerry Jones, and later Callahan himself, spilled the beans. Another example of this lack of trust can be found in the mechanics of the play call. By sitting Callahan in the box, Garrett was able to force the call to be relayed through someone he did trust (Wade Wilson), allowing Garrett, and potentially Wilson the opportunity to change the call before it got to the field. Once they decided to put Wilson in the box, rather than bringing Callahan back to the field, he left him upstairs, now forcing the relay through the head coach himself (if he wasn't actually calling the plays), essentially adding back all of the issues and complications they claimed to be avoiding by changing the play-caller in the first place.

It's pretty obvious that the most streamlined approach would be to put the offensive play-caller on the field, and have him call the play directly to the quarterback. When you watch a team like the Saints play offense, there is a rhythm to everything. When the play ends the personnel changes, the call comes in quickly from the sideline, Drew Brees gets his guys in and out of the huddle and they're back up to the line ready to go. But when you've got to relay the call from the box to the field to the QB, (including vetoes on who knows how many occasions), this all serves to slow down the process we were made to believe throughout training camp that they were seeking to streamline.

So why would Garrett, a Princeton educated man, who called plays from the sideline himself as a coordinator, make the conscious decision to put his man in the box and prevent a streamlined approach? The obvious answer, is trust.

So now over the last few days we've heard of the impending hire of former Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan to some role, likely passing game coordinator, which will involve calling plays. A move almost unanimously seen to be driven by the head coach (not the GM) and one, I think, is driven by trust. You see, in 2005, Garrett's first as a coach in the NFL, he was the quarterbacks coach on Nick Saban's staff with the Miami Dolphins. The offensive coordinator on that staff? You guessed it, Scott Linehan (another member of that staff, was current Dallas WR coach Derek Dooley, who coached TEs). So when people wonder, will they run Linehan's system or Garrett's system, the answer is, well, both, because they run the same system.

I would predict that come August, when the Cowboys take the field for their first pre-season game, we will see Scott Linehan, standing on the sideline, likely right next to Jason Garrett as his right hand man, holding a play card and calling those plays directly to Romo's headset. I also believe we will see Callahan (if he's still in town) accompanied by Wilson and possibly either Gary Brown or Mike Pope in the box, observing the opponents' defensive fronts and coverages.This would leave Linehan, Garrett, Frank Pollack, Dooley, and either Brown or Pope on the field to coordinate personnel, make adjustments etc.

Hopefully, the result of all this is a more consistently efficient process, which is one of the most sure fire ways to produce consistent success. All resulting from a little more increased trust between the head coach and the guy calling the offense.

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