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Everything you need to know about new Cowboys OL coach Mike Solari

What the new offensive line coach might mean for the Cowboys offense moving forward.

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Cowboys made a fairly surprising decision to move on from offensive line coach Joe Philbin, a longtime associate of Mike McCarthy, after the season ended. Since then, it’s been revealed that McCarthy will take over calling the plays on offense, with Kellen Moore departing for the Chargers in the same role.

Wednesday brought a little more clarity to the still muddy picture of what this offense will look like in 2023. The Cowboys officially hired veteran coach Mike Solari to work with their offensive line.

First of all, it’s crazy to think that a coach in 2023 can say they also coached under Tom Landry. Not only is that a cool thing to be able to say, but it hammers home an important aspect about Solari: he is a seasoned coach. And he’s not seasoned with just salt and pepper, either; we’re talking garlic powder, cayenne, and some truffle thrown in for good measure. In short, he’s got the goods.

Solari’s résumé is about as diverse as the assortment of seasonings he represents, too. In terms of the blocking schemes Solari prefers, he is the definition of multiple. Offensive lines coached by Solari have shown a keen ability to use a wide variety of blocking schemes with effectiveness.

Perhaps Solari’s most productive stint was as the offensive line coach for the 49ers under Jim Harbaugh. There, Solari paired with offensive coordinator Greg Roman to create one of the most physical and varied offenses in the NFL at the time, and he also coached up some incredible talent including the likes of Anthony Davis, Alex Boone, Mike Iupati, and Joe Staley. In San Francisco, Solari’s units used a ton of power blocking concepts to field an efficient running game centered around Frank Gore, but they also employed zone blocking concepts with some regularity.

Solari has ties to McCarthy, having assisted the offensive line for a season with the Packers in 2015, but the connection goes further than that. Solari joined the Chiefs as their offensive line coach in 1997, the first season of what turned out to be 11 years in Kansas City. But the Chiefs quarterbacks coach for Solari’s first two seasons there was none other than McCarthy. Solari also coached the Giants offensive line for two seasons under head coach Ben McAdoo, who hails from the McCarthy coaching tree.

But McCarthy isn’t the only one on the Cowboys staff with a connection to Solari. When the offensive line coach’s tenure with the Chiefs came to an end, he spent the 2008 and 2009 seasons with the Seahawks. There, Solari’s unit frequently sparred in practice with the defensive line that was coached by Dan Quinn, who also held the title of assistant head coach.

Solari later reunited with the Seahawks for the 2018 season, replacing a coach who had almost exclusively run a zone blocking scheme. His hiring coincided with new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who introduced a varied running scheme that relied on the multiple schemes that Solari has excelled in throughout his extensive career.

That’s especially notable because Schottenheimer spent the past season as a coaching consultant for the Cowboys - and many of his run concepts found their way into the Cowboys offense - and has been floated as a candidate for the now vacant offensive coordinator role in Dallas. Solari remained in Seattle for the 2021 season, after Schottenheimer was let go, but found himself pushed out just one year later as the Seahawks sought to fully embrace the zone based offense of new coordinator Shane Waldron.

Solari replaces Philbin, who also primarily ran a zone blocking scheme. Bringing in Solari now likely signals a change in direction for the Cowboys’ offensive line, including a more varied type of blocking scheme. It also likely hints at Schottenheimer’s growing influence within the building, and possibly foreshadows his promotion to the coordinator role.

Solari has also built a reputation as a very technical teacher who has brought an attitude to every offensive line he’s coached. Perennial Pro Bowl tackle Duane Brown worked with Solari for all three seasons in Seattle and had this to say about how Solari helped that unit make strides under his watch:

“I think Mike Solari brought an attitude, a very very good work ethic. He’s big on details and technique, and that was great for myself being a veteran player, and it was really good for a lot of younger players who hadn’t really been as defined in their technique.

And I think he just brought a grit, we really had a grit as a group. We weren’t going to be denied, and I think we went against some very tough defenses and held our own. We got one of the best D-linemen that I think the game has ever seen (Aaron Donald) in our division and we were able to run the ball pretty effectively on him as well. It’s just a testament to the kind of attitude and kind of work ethic he brought to the team.”

That will be music to the ears of many Cowboys fans who feel that the offensive line at times was the less physical group on the field, and especially in the playoff loss to the 49ers both seasons.

Solari will have plenty to work with, too: Tyron Smith and Zack Martin are future Hall of Famers, Tyler Biadasz just got named to his first Pro Bowl, Terence Steele was emerging as a top tier right tackle before his injury, and Tyler Smith turned plenty of heads as a rookie. This is a very good hire with the potential to significantly upgrade this offensive line as a whole.

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