As the coaching carousel continues to spin merrily in the NFL, with the announced hiring of Chip Kelly by the San Francisco 49ers and that of Ben McAdoo by the New York Giants the latest big headlines, the Dallas Cowboys have decided to buck the trend. After a brief flirtation with Dan Campbell, now hired to coach for the New Orleans Saints, the head office in Dallas is now reportedly trying to bring the entire coaching staff from 2015 back intact. Given the way the team fell so far last season, it is surprising. It also is not the way business is usually done in the NFL.
There should be a very justified debate about just how wise this is. Several possible reasons can be posed, but one thing can be stated. If the team is successful in getting all the coaches back for 2016, it will be a unique opportunity to see just how valuable continuity is for an NFL coaching staff.
Continuity itself seems to be one of the driving arguments for the team. There is a considerable body of evidence that changing head coaches after a bad season or two is not as effective as most owners seem to think it is. Some teams, like the Cleveland Browns, just go from one bad year to another despite frequent upheaval on the staff. Others, like the Philadelphia Eagles, seem to suffer from buyers' remorse after dumping a coach like Andy Reid who has had success in the past when a patch of bad seasons comes along. But Jerry and Stephen Jones have shown a lot of faith in Jason Garrett despite the severe reversal of fortune from 2014 to 2015. It is reasonable to assume that Garrett in turn had a lot of input in the decision to retain his entire staff. Garrett is a strong proponent of continuity as part of his now infamous process.
This is also a nod to the impact that injuries had on the Cowboys. This has been covered ad nauseum here at BTB and elsewhere. It shows that the ownership accepts the theory that no amount of coaching could overcome the kinds of losses the Cowboys had, at least to a large extent.
Most importantly, it is an admission that many of the issues that plagued Dallas last season can be laid at the feet of the Joneses and their personnel staff. The lack of a viable backup quarterback behind Tony Romo and a wide receiver who could step up for Dez Bryant, the early season issues with running back, and the less than anticipated impact of signing Greg Hardy and bringing back Rolando McClain all played significant parts in what befell the Cowboys, and those are less on the coaches than the front office. It is speculative, but it is likely that Garrett was not fully supportive of some of the decisions about personnel, particularly Hardy. That may have built some credibility for the argument to give the coaching staff something of a Mulligan on 2015.
There is also the fact that the players never showed any signs of giving up on the team. With the frustrations of going 4-12, that is no small accomplishment. It is one indication that Garrett and his coaches did not lose the faith of the team in what they were trying to do, even when it did not work out on the field.
Still, this flies in the face of all conventional wisdom about holding coaches responsible for the failures of teams, at least as it is widely perceived. It is possibly an outgrowth of the unique role that Jerry and Stephen Jones play with the Cowboys as both owners and a kind of joint general manager. That probably led to more willingness to accept responsibility for what happened than would happen with any other team in the league. Now we get the coming season to see just how well that will work out.
Memories tend to be short for fans, but you might want to make a point of remembering this next year. How well or poorly the Cowboys perform, especially if they can avoid as many serious injury issues as they had last season, will give us a good measuring stick of just how effective keeping the coaching staff intact actually is. Just relying on memory, I cannot remember any situation quite like this. It is no secret that I have been a strong supporter of Jason Garrett and the larger dynamic of how he works with the Jones family, particularly Jerry. The 2016 season is going to provide some hard evidence of just how valid that stance is. A successful campaign will be a strong argument in its favor. Another losing season will largely undermine that idea, and will almost certainly lead to a different approach. Not only is Garrett now coaching for his job, but his entire staff is going to be just as much under the gun. At the least, it should focus their attention very clearly.
It will make for a very illustrative study in the philosophy of both ownership and coaches. Whatever your opinion of the Jones and the coaches for the Cowboys, you should be hoping that it works out, unless you are just completely dedicated to the need to clean house.