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Cowboys assistant coaching search showing some positive trends

We have to see how it all works when complete, but some things look less worrisome.

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The interest in Ray Horton is one good sign.

Ah, there is nothing like the overreaction of fans, and few fans overreact like those of the Dallas Cowboys. Just days ago, there was general wailing and gnashing of teeth at the exodus of so many assistant coaches, aggravated by the many rumors that all the vacancies were going to be filled by promoting current staff or bringing Kellen Moore into the coaching ranks. But that came quickly to a halt, and now the Cowboys are moving to bring in some experienced talent from outside the Star. Of course, that creates new concerns about the people chosen. Still, there are some definite positives in what has been done, and what appears to be ongoing.

So far, two hires have been made, offensive line coach Paul Alexander and wide receivers coach Sanjay Lal. There are the usual complaints about how they did with their previous teams, but there are also a lot of people who have demonstrated a good grasp of things that think both are decent to good hires. What is noteworthy about both of them is that they certainly bring some new perspectives and ideas to the Cowboys. One of the biggest complaints about the coaching in 2017 was the predictability of things, particularly on offense. Alexander and Lal certainly represent the “new blood” idea. With 2018 shaping up to be a year where the futures of Jason Garrett and Scott Linehan with Dallas may be determined, it is reasonable to expect that the head coach and offensive coordinator are going to be open to hearing what the new additions bring to the table. Hopefully, that was one of the driving factors in their hires.

It also shoots down that whole “stacking the deck” notion about Linehan. While he certainly gains some power by virtue of being one of the few tenured coaches left on offense (once things all shake out), it is pretty clear that control of how the staff is being rebuilt does not rest solely with him, and he may have been pushed back a bit as reaction to the perceptions that he was trying to put his chosen coaches in place. That is something we will likely never know for sure, but at this point, things look a lot healthier.

But the biggest news on Thursday was that Ray Horton had his interview with the team.

It is interesting that Marinelli was in the meetings, which certainly indicates that he is involved with the process and on board with the plans the team has. The team has need of a new secondary coach, which could be a fit for Horton. Or he could be a candidate to replace Matt Eberflus, still widely believed to be headed out of Dallas to join Josh McDaniels with the Indianapolis Colts. With Horton’s experience as a defensive coordinator, he may be the new plan for eventually replacing Marinelli when he finally decides to hang up his whistle. He also has his ties to the Cowboys as a player, something that management values. And he also is widely traveled, with exposure to many different head coaches and philosophies, making him another strong “new blood” candidate.

There was no contract offer made yet, and the Cowboys were scheduled to interview John Pagano on Friday. The team looks to be waiting to get that done before they make any decisions, but could also be looking at trying to hire both. Pagano is also a former defensive coordinator, and has a strong history of coaching linebackers. Perhaps he’s in the running to replace Eberflus directly. They would have to figure out how they both fit, and of course would have to find out what each would accept. And they may want to bring in some other candidates as well.

To use a Garrettism, the process is working. That doesn’t mean it will come up with the right answers, of course, but the recent developments offer encouragement that they could get things righted. And there are still several more positions to fill. The Cowboys are competing with all the other teams looking to hire new staff, and they have to balance investing enough time to find and attract their targets with not letting the best candidates all land somewhere else before they make offers.

It’s not as exciting as the draft or free agency, but coaching hires are a crucial part of building the team. After having a very stable staff for several years, the Cowboys now are one of the big shoppers in the coaching market. They have the advantages of being a glamour franchise with incredible facilities and an owner willing to open up his checkbook to get deals done. The biggest negative they have is the question of just how long the current staff has left, which of course depends mostly on the results in 2018.

We’ll keep you appraised of what is happening.