On Wednesday it was reported that Mike McCarthy was set to hire Skip Peete as the new running backs coach for the Cowboys. Peete, who has spent the last four seasons in the same role with the Rams, was also the Cowboys running backs coach from 2007 to 2012.
Many fans were hoping Gary Brown might return to the team, and others were intrigued by Stan Drayton, current running backs coach at Texas who also worked with Ezekiel Elliott at Ohio State. But in the end, McCarthy went with Peete, a name that’s familiar to many in the Dallas area.
Since Peete’s time in Dallas coincided with both the Wade Phillips and Jason Garrett eras, it’d be understandable to be underwhelmed by Peete’s return. However, a perusal of Peete’s track record hints that his return might solve one of the offense’s bigger struggles of last year: finding a balance between Elliott and Tony Pollard.
Make no mistake about it, Zeke will still get fed plenty; this isn’t going to be a situation where Pollard gets as many touches as Zeke does, but finding some consistency with how they use Pollard should be a focus for this staff. After all, Pollard never had five or more carries in consecutive weeks despite averaging over five yards a carry.
After starting his coaching career in the college ranks, Peete found his way to the Raiders, where he coached running backs from 1998 to 2006. There, Peete helped establish several different rushing tandems with solid success. In five of his first six years in Oakland, Peete fielded a 900+ yard rusher and a 400+ yard rusher at the same time, and frequently gave his second running back close to 120 carries a year (Pollard had just 86 in 2019).
Peete’s last three years in Oakland featured two different head coaches, both of whom preferred more of a workhorse back system, so the tandem streak ended there. Then Peete left for Dallas in 2007, where he was asked to do the same. With Marion Barber and Julius Jones, Peete helped create a dynamic rushing attack, with Barber getting 975 yards on 204 carries and Jones getting 588 yards on 164 carries.
The next year saw Peete implement more of a rotation between Barber and two newcomers, Tashard Choice and Felix Jones. In 2008, Barber had 885 yards on 238 carries, Choice had 472 yards on 92 carries, and Jones had 266 yards on 30 carries. That continued into 2009 as well, but the disaster of the 2010 season curtailed the running game.
In 2011 and 2012, Peete also saw successful rushing tandems between Jones and DeMarco Murray, but as Garrett made the decision to feature Murray as a workhorse back, Peete found himself replaced by Brown. Of course, Brown was very successful in turning Murray into a star, as well as Zeke.
But now, in an interesting turn, Peete replaces the guy who replaced him. Peete comes to Dallas having spent four years with the Rams, where Todd Gurley was the unquestioned workhorse back. While Peete is no doubt going to continue to focus on Elliott as the top running back in Dallas, he has an extensive background in being able to get both backs involved effectively.
With the talent that Pollard flashed in his rookie year, going over 100 yards in two separate games, the Cowboys should know that they need to get him more involved next year. While Zeke should absolutely still get the lion’s share of the carries, Peete should be able to bring a greater balance to this new running back tandem the Cowboys have.