This week's GMC Playbook question deals with the craft of the sport.
Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) September 24, 2014
For the Dallas Cowboys, the clearest example is big guys up front on offense. This is not just a homer opinion, but one shared by Bucky Brooks at NFL.com, who calls it the best offensive line in pro football as quoted in the Wednesday news link post..
There are a lot of talented fronts in the NFL, but the Cowboys have assembled a young, athletic offensive line that absolutely dominates opponents at the point of attack.
While a great deal of the success is attributable to the three first-round draft picks the Cowboys have invested recently in Tyron Smith, Travis Fredirick and Zack Martin, credit also has to go to the man who has molded this unit, offensive line coach Bill Callahan. He has taken the materials the team has given him and truly created a thing of football beauty.
Callahan is quite often overlooked since the hiring of Scott Linehan to take over the play-calling duties. At the time, there were more than a few questions about why Dallas did not release Callahan to seek another job after what was clearly a demotion in his responsibilities, but now the reason should be obvious. As a line coach, he is one of the absolute best in the business. Under his guidance, the heavies who normally labor in relative obscurity on NFL teams are becoming true stars. Whether it is Smith owning a standout defensive end like Robert Quinn, or Fredbeard getting 40 yards downfield to throw a block for DeMarco Murray, these big uglies are making a name for themselves.
The craftsman element also enters into the endless work needed to perfect footwork and the use of hands on the part of the players. They have to learn the intricacies of pass protection schemes as well as run blocking. Not only are they responsible for handling big defensive linemen, they also have to pick up blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. Against the Rams, they kept Tony Romo from being sacked once (not counting one play called back due to penalty), a significant achievement in any NFL game, much less against a defense with the talent that the Rams have accumulated lately.
While the skill players get the spotlight most of the time, for the Cowboys, the offensive line is becoming just as recognized by those who truly appreciate the game. The change of the character of the team to a run first offense is completely dependent on how they do their jobs. And so far in 2014, they are doing it very well indeed. For the Cowboys, they and their coach are the true craftsmen of the team.