Despite the fact that the Cowboys’ are on a brutal losing streak, both coordinators, Scott Linehan and Rod Marinelli, are not ready to switch up their playcalling methods. A curious stance since the Cowboys have been terrible as they’ve been blown out in three straight games.
Scott Linehan, the offensive coordinator, has been under some fire recently as the Cowboys’ have failed to score at least ten points in each of the last three games. That’s after the Cowboys’ scored at least 28 or more points in the six straight games prior. Suddenly, with some injuries and absences, the Cowboys’ offense hasn’t sputtered, it’s completely stopped. Linehan would rather not focus on what they’ve been doing wrong:
“You got to find the solution. You got to be part of the solution, not focused on the problem. ... You learn as a young coach when you go through it. You learn the wrong way is to focus on things that aren’t going well and you’re just putting Band-Aids on things. The best way to do it and the right way to do it is just believe in what you believe, go out and coach the same way you coached three weeks ago when you won three straight, and do a better job coaching, and then the same advice to the players, do the same thing. That’s our focus.”
Instead, Linehan is looking for how to build on things that they are doing well, which isn’t much.
“We just got to get in better rhythm. We are still doing some things good as far as our third-down conversions, when we do get in the red zone. I think the biggest thing we got to do is eliminate negative plays and create more explosive plays.
Those are two things that are hurting our ability to be the offense we are capable of being and scoring the points we need to score. We do those things, two things, we create more explosive plays and eliminate the negative plays and penalties, then you get much better on offense.”
Here’s the thing, his comments aren’t wrong and though folks are up in arms about them, he has to maintain that philosophy. We all wish we lived in a world where coaches would express the same frustrations we have when watching an awful product but it’s not in their nature or best interest. Scott Linehan has been successful at calling offenses, just look at last year’s numbers where they racked up over 6,000 yards and piled up over 400 points. To Linehan’s third-down conversions point, he may want to check how bad they are on first and second down before he toots his horn.
The issue to take is that the Cowboys have been a dull offense with minimal creativity and that’s something they must fix. We’re talking about a team that less than a month ago was scoring 3.5 touchdowns a game, which was third in the NFL. In the last three, they’ve scored 0.7 touchdowns per game, 32nd in the NFL. That has obviously dropped their season total to 2.7 per game, which ranks them eighth overall.
Just about every single offensive category has seen major dropoffs in production with the greatest damage coming in the passing game. To say Linehan is garbage is silly based on his resumé but to say he sometimes doesn’t know how to adjust his offense to his player’s strengths is pretty fair.
For example, this league is about mismatches, correct? If that’s the case, why not use Dez Bryant more in the slot instead of forcing your quarterback to throw so many 50-50 balls on the outside? Why not put Ryan Switzer and Cole Beasley on the field more and get the short-intermediate routes with high completion percentage going? Without Ezekiel Elliott, the running game has been fair but there’s one big problem, Alfred Morris doesn’t put the ball in the end zone. Creativity is needed on offense but you can change things up and still “stick” with your philosophies. It’s just a bit stubborn to keep doing the exact same things and expect different results.
Defensively speaking, Rod Marinelli is a big advocate of his scheme much like all coaches tend to be. I actually can agree more with Marinelli’s comments than Linehan’s.
“We know it works and we know how to do it. We know how to teach it, got great conviction, and now we’ve got to help them play faster and the things that hurt us last week, all correctable,” Marinelli said. “We self-destructed as coaches and players. There was some self-destruction. You look at that and you watch the tape, as we go through it, we can see if we did this. So you teach them how to do it, and sometimes the last thing to show in a successful business is profit. Every year we start a new business here with a new group of men, so the thing is you start vacillating or putting this here or this here, it doesn’t work. I just don’t believe in that.”
A lot that is going on with Marinelli’s defense doesn’t seem to be scheme problems. The talent is just simply not good enough to get the kind of production he’s looking for. The pass rush has seen a steep drop off and the secondary has struggled to cover. That’s what happens when you have a lot of youth and inexperience back there. It’s also exacerbated by the fact that guys you were counting on: Byron Jones, Orlando Scandrick, Anthony Brown, and Jeff Heath just aren’t playing well.
The defense was always going to be suspect but they’ve also shown you some things to hang your hat on. For instance, they stopped Philadelphia’s high-octane offense six different times and the offense never cashed in. They stopped the Chargers twice before they finally scored three points before the half. The Cowboys offense didn’t show up on Thanksgiving either. When you continuously place your defense out on the field because the offense is so lackluster, it’s only a matter of time before the bend-don’t-break bends and breaks.
To their credit, the defense is switching some things up on their back end and demoting guys while promoting others. The defense was always going to take some time after watching some veterans walk. Though it was a needed refresh, it comes with growing pains that we’re seeing right now.
The Cowboys have five games left and if the last three are any indicator, it may not get much better. Though nobody wants to hear these coordinators talk about staying the course, it’s in their nature to do so. However, if you read through the context of what they are saying, you can see that they aren’t exactly sitting on their hands. At least they shouldn’t be because as safe as Jerry Jones has claimed the head coach is, he’s made no assurances of loyalty to these coordinators.