The coaching search is starting to get serious for the Dallas Cowboys, with recent word that the team is now looking outside the organization, at least for a new offensive line coach. This indicates that a perceived attempt to stack the staff by offensive coordinator Scott Linehan may have had the brakes applied from on high.
The person or person stepping on the brakes almost certainly was Jerry Jones and/or Jason Garrett. However it happened, it is certainly a needed move to ensure that the staff, particularly on offense, is not just a bunch of loyalists, but people who will stand up for what they think needs to be done.
Last year, when the wheels largely fell off during the season, there was a lot of focus on the lack of adjustments during games. That was something that came to mind during the recent, very exciting (outside of the Georgia Bulldogs fan base) CFB National Champoinship game. There was a lot of praise for the coaching genius of Nick Saban in benching his starter in favor of freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who led the team back to win.
But was that really brilliance, or a desperation move forced by the fact that Saban’s normal approach was failing miserably? What choice did Saban have at that point other than just throwing in the towel?
It was a quintessential college move, something you can do when you aren’t dealing with eight-figure quarterback salaries and have much bigger rosters and yearly turnovers. But it was also a rare success in making such a decision. And that takes us back to the current coaching search going on in Dallas. The job of the coaches is mostly done during the time before the game, when game plans are devised, communicated to the team, and installed. That process has far more impact on the outcome of the game than on-the-fly adjustments.
We probably will never fully grasp the internal dynamics of how the 2018 staff will eventually be built for the Cowboys, but that has never stopped writers or the fan base from trying to figure things out. In this case, the developments on the offensive side appear to have been a move by Linehan to put together a staff largely, if not completely, composed of coaches he had trained and molded to get a unified approach to things shaped and controlled by him. That has some advantages, but also obvious risks in groupthink and falling too quickly in line with one man’s vision. The directive to step back and take a wider look at available coaching talent was a wise one. This is especially true in light of the multiple failings by the coaching staff last season, especially with what is now known (at least to some of us) as the Chaz Green double debacle. There is clearly reason to question whether a group of coaches that participated in that would come up with better solutions going forward without some new thoughts from new faces.
While there is a tacit acknowledgement that the coaching staff failed, the personnel department is going forward without any real change now that Will McClay has decided to remain with the organization. One Cool Customer has provided an excellent overview of what McClay looks for in acquiring talent. The team is showing it feels the problem is not with the talent of the roster, but in how it is used and how preparations are made for injury/suspension replacements.
While there still may be some internal sourcing for some of the vacancies, we should hope that some actual new blood is added to the mix. Given the way the Cowboys build their offense on the ability of the line, the line coach is a very good place to start.
All this does raise the question of just how serious the apparent power struggle is. However, given the confidence the team has placed in Linehan and his scheme, there is a reasonable hope that it will be handled successfully.
There is no reason to think that the team cannot continue to “grow their own”. All this is really demonstrating is that the most important voices on the team want to focus on getting the right coaches and not just the ones that are favored by Linehan.
The biggest factor is going to be the ability of the eventual staff to work together in concert. They have to correctly identify the strengths and weaknesses of the roster, let the personnel guys know when they see a need for other players to be brought in and what kind of players those should be, develop a game plan that will put those players in the best position to win, and make sure they understand their assignments and responsibilities during the game. All that takes place during practices and meetings. It can’t wait until game day. There are not levers the coaches can pull to suddenly change things if the right foundation has not been laid preparing for the matchups with the opponent.
All in all, the fact the coaching search is now wider than we had been led to believe in the past few days should be a relief to fans. Now we just need to hope they make the right decisions with whomever they hire or promote.