The Dallas Cowboys tore up the landscape of their coaching staff this offseason, starting with new groundskeeper/head coach Mike McCarthy. With great power comes great responsibility, and part of that includes assembling a group of coaches that can bring this talented roster together and contend for a title. Including McCarthy, this remodel job consists of a total of five former head coaches.
Granted, special teams coach John Fassel only had that title for three games in 2016 after taking over as the interim head coach for the Los Angeles Rams when Jeff Fisher was fired. In fact, a handful of these guys were interim coaches as one point or another.
After three and a half years of being the head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, Mike Nolan was fired mid-season in 2008, with Mike Singletary taking over. Singletary wouldn’t very last long as he was fired with just one game left in the season of 2010. Jim Tomsula, who had been coaching the defensive line, took over as interim coach for that game. The 49ers hired Jim Harbaugh the following season with Tomsula remaining on as the defensive line coach; however Tomsula would get the head coaching gig for real in 2015 after the team parted ways with Harbaugh.
Similar to Nolan, Joe Philbin’s head coaching tenure would end abruptly in his fourth season after his Miami Dolphins started the 2015 season with a 1-3 record. After re-joining the Green Bay Packers in 2018, he was called on to be the interim coach when Mike McCarthy was fired late in the season.
Did you get all that? Talk about a tangled web of coaching connections.
The experience this new crop of coaches brings to the Cowboys not only consists of some valuable head coaching experience, but many of these guys are sharp in their area of expertise. Last week, we talked about how these four stats should have Cowboys fans excited about defensive line coach Jim Tomsula. Today, we take a look at the other side of the ball with new offensive line coach Joe Philbin.
Philbin coached at the college level for 19 years with 17 of them being an offensive line position coach. He joined the Packers coaching staff in 2003 working along the offensive line before McCarthy promoted him to offensive coordinator in 2007. He spent five years as the Packers OC and each time his offense finished in the top 10 in both points scored and yards gained. This includes:
- 2010, where they won the Super Bowl
- 2011, where they scored the most points in the league and finished 15-1
Those accolades were good enough to land him the Dolphins head coaching job the following season. While ultimately things didn’t pan out in Miami, one must keep in mind that we’re talking about the Dolphins, who had only made the playoffs one time in the prior ten years before Philbin showed up. They weren’t a good football team. And during his three full seasons as head coach, the Dolphins finished 7-9, 8-8, and 8-8, so things weren’t all bad.
During his last full season as HC, Miami’s offense finished 11th in scoring. That’s something at least, considering they didn’t have a lot to work with and finished no better than 20th in the previous four seasons.
Philbin’s first ever draft pick with the Dolphins was Ryan Tannehill who was selected eighth overall in the 2012 NFL Draft. Thrown right to the wolves, Tannehill had some rocky moments, but by his third season he was touted as a rising star quarterback. His 4,000+ yard season in 2014 was good enough to land him a four-year, $77 million extension.
By comparison, Tony Romo had fewer passing yards and a higher interception rate than Tannehill that year, and many consider Romo’s 2014 season to be one of the better years of his career. The Dolphins weren’t ready to contend just yet, but Philbin had his young quarterback playing well. Tannehill never eclipsed 3,000 yards under new head coach Adam Gase, and was shipped off to Tennessee last season.
While his leadership and offensive innovation are great things to bring to the team, the Cowboys already have others in place to handle those responsibilities. Philbin won’t have the pressure of being a head coach and the up-and-coming Kellen Moore is back in charge of the squad that led the league in offensive yards leading. Instead, Philbin will focus solely on his area of specialty - the offensive line.
While Philbin has had his work cut out for him in the past, he now inherits a Cowboys offensive line loaded with talent. He’s already proven he can turn poor teams into mediocre teams, and good teams into champions. With Dallas, he’ll get another shot at the latter.