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Does Scott Linehan's Hiring Mean Dallas Will Abandon The Run?

Recently Scott Linehan, an 'Air Coryell' disciple like Jason Garrett, took over calling the offense for the Boys. Will his vertical passing philosophy spell the end of the emerging Dallas ground game?

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE

One thing seems obvious, the dink and dunk passing that we saw in 2013 will most likely not be a major part of the Scott Linehan-led offense. Instead, it stands to reason that the Dallas Cowboys will once again be attacking downfield via the right arm of Tony Romo. Add in the fact that he has some serious pass catching weapons in Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, and Jason Witten and you can pretty much figure that Linehan is going to do everything within his power to "go vertical" at every opportunity. That was, after all, the strategy he used with Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson when he directed the Detroit Lion's quick-strike offensive.

In five seasons as the offensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions, Linehan's offense finished in the NFL's top 10 three times, however the run game never finished higher than 17th.

The part of that statement in bold print is the part that many find disconcerting. In 2013 we were witness to DeMarco Murray finally achieving what we felt he was capable of doing. Murray ran the ball 217 times in 2013 and gained 1,124 rushing yards, becoming the first Dallas rusher to eclipse the thousand-yard barrier since Julius Jones in 2006. Those efforts earned DeMarco his first trip to the Pro Bowl. Having bemoaned the Cowboys lack of success on the ground in recent seasons, many are not in any hurry to allow that aspect of the game to be laid aside. Based on Linehan's reputation, many assume that a Scott Linehan-led offense might do just that. That group includes a former Dallas head coach.

"The only thing that concerns me is Linehan is not known for being a guy that’s going to run the football. That’s kind of been a little bit of a problem with the Cowboys in the past that they’ve got a great running back in DeMarco Murray and, I mean, I don’t know. Are they going to run the ball more or less? Who can tell? We’ll only know a year from now. But it does concern you a little bit." - Jimmy Johnson

Digging just a little deeper into Scott Linehan's coaching history we find his time as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. Scott took over a team on the decline. Gone were the elements of Mike Martz' potent "Greatest Show On Turf" offense. The one weapon that Linehan had in his arsenal was a guy named Steven Jackson. In 2006, the third-year running back had his coming out party in the rookie head coach's more balanced offense. Jackson toted the rock a total of 346 times for 1,528 yards on his way to a Pro-Bowl season. In addition to his performance as a ball-carrier, Jackson also lead all RB's with 90 catches for an additional 806 yards, bringing his total yards from scrimmage to 2,334. During that 2006 season, Steven Jackson set his career marks for both rushing attempts and rushing yards, all the while playing for a pass-happy head coach. Steven Jackson had the best season of his career under the tutelage of the same coach that many are assuming will set aside the ground game in Dallas

Contrary to what some believe, Scott Linehan has a history of utilizing his running backs when he has capable ones. Over his tenure as an offensive coordinator and head coach in the National Football League Linehan's RB's have contributed five 1,000 yard seasons out of the dozen that he has coached. It is more a matter of him having a strong horse to ride than it is a case of him not employing the running game. In DeMarco Murray, Linehan has a Pro Bowl caliber horse and if he can stay healthy in 2014, I would not be surprised to see DMM eclipse the 1,000 yard barrier again. In addition, with Linehan's fondness for using RB's in the passing game, it bodes well for both Murray and change of pace back Lance Dunbar to see a lot of opportunities to get involved in the passing game.

2002 Minnesota Vikings Michael Bennett 255 rushes for 1,296 yards, 5 td, & 37 catches for 351 yards and 1 td
2003 Minnesota Vikings Moe Williams 174 rushes for 745 yards, 5 td, & 65 catches for 644 yards and 3 td
2004 Minnesota Vikings Michael Bennett 70 rushes for 276 yards, 1 td, & 21 catches for 207 yards and 1 td
2005 Miami Dolphins Ronnie Brown 207 rushes for 907 yards, 4 td, & 32 catches for 232 yards and 1 td
2006 St Louis Rams Steven Jackson 346 rushes for 1,528 yards, 13 td, & 90 catches for 806 yards and 3 td
2007 St Louis Rams Steven Jackson 237 rushes for 1,002 yards, 5 td, & 38 catches for 271 yards and 1 td
2008 St Louis Rams Steven Jackson 253 rushes for 1,042 yards, 7 td, & 40 catches for 379 yards and 1 td
2009 Detroit Lions Kevin Smith 217 rushes for 747 yards, 4 td, & 41 catches for 415 yards and 1 td
2010 Detroit Lions Jahvid Best 171 rushes for 555 yards, 4 td, & 58 catches for 487 yards and 2 td
Maurice Morris 90 rushes for 336 yards, 5 td, & 25 catches for 170 yards and 0 td
2011 Detroit Lions Jahvid Best Starter lost due to concussions-RB by committee throughout season
2012 Detroit Lions Mikal Leshoure 215 rushes for 798 yards, 9 td, & 34 catches for 214 yards and 0 td
2013 Detroit Lions Reggie Bush 223 rushes for 1,006 yards, 4 td, & 54 catches for 506 yards and 3 td

As you can see from the above table, far from being strictly a "throw it deep" and take your chances kind of coach, Scott Linehan has proven in every place that he has coached that he is willing, and more importantly able, to use all the weapons in his arsenal to move the ball. Even though his official title is going to be passing game coordinator, Linehan is adapt at providing the offense with opportunities both in the air and on the ground. From my point of view, the Scott Linehan hire is a move in the right direction to bring back the explosive nature of the "Air Coryell" offensive philosophy of Jason Garrett and the Dallas Cowboys.

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