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Breaking Down The Numbers Under Scott Linehan
IRVING, Texas – Two similar philosophies will reunite as Scott Linehan rejoins Jason Garrett in Dallas, nine years after their time together in Miami.
The 2005 season with the Dolphins was the last time Linehan, who’s now the play-caller and passing game coordinator in Dallas, was on the same coaching staff as Garrett. Linehan served as the offensive coordinator, while Garrett was the quarterbacks coach in Miami.
Linehan and Garrett helped turn the Gus Frerotte-led Miami offense into the No. 14 total offense in the league. The Dolphins ranked No. 16 in passing offense and, surprisingly, given both coaches’ affinity for throwing in recent years, No. 12 in rushing offense that season.
Both Linehan and Garrett have developed more pass-heavy offenses since departing for other teams, which may have something to do with the personnel at their disposal. Most people are familiar with Garrett’s philosophy and history, but fewer may be aware of Linehan’s past with the Lions, where he spent each of the last five seasons as the team’s offensive coordinator.
Linehan’s hire makes sense from Garrett’s perspective. The Dallas head coach, in his final season under contract, brought in a person whose beliefs and offensive philosophies he’s familiar with.
The former Detroit offensive coordinator made his rounds throughout the NFL, serving first as the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach in Minnesota from 2002-04 before going to Miami for a season and teaming with Garrett. He then served as the head coach for the Rams for three years before joining the Lions in 2009.
Those hoping the Cowboys would turn to a more run-oriented, smash-mouth offense after finding a renewed strength in the rushing attack last season might be dissatisfied. Linehan never finished in the top half of the league in rushing during his tenure in Detroit. However, once Reggie Bush was added to the fold in 2013, Linehan’s offense did finish in the top half of the league in rushing attempts per game for the first time as coordinator of the Lions.
Linehan’s Lions finished in the top six in the league in total offense each of the last three years, which can be attributed mostly to the passing attack. The Lions finished No. 1 in passing attempts in both 2011 and 2012 and finished in the top five in the league in that category each of Linehan’s final four seasons with the team. They also finished in the top five in passing yards each of his final three seasons.
The Cowboys finally fixed most of their red zone issues last year, and the same went for Linehan in Detroit. The Lions were second in the league in passing yards per game in 2012 but finished with just 18 passing touchdowns. This past year, the Lions finished third in the league in passing yards and managed to go airborne to reach the end zone with eight passing touchdowns, while still ending the year at No. 10 in rushing touchdowns. Despite his propensity for throwing, Linehan’s offense finished in the top 10 in the league in rushing touchdowns each of the past two years.
Bush’s presence helped make Linehan’s offense more balanced last year than it had been in the coach’s previous four seasons with the team. Linehan led an offense that finished No. 6 in yards, No. 13 in points, No. 14 in rushing attempts and No. 8 in passing attempts.
Linehan prefers to go to the air, as most teams would with Calvin Johnson available, but he let his running backs make more plays with Bush and backup Joique Bell at his disposal. Bush finished with the second-most rushing attempts (223) and rushing yards (1,006) in his career despite missing two games, all while Bell finished with 650 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns.
Despite boasting one of the most electric running backs in the game, Linehan wasn’t afraid to mix Bell in after the backup demonstrated his worth. That could be good news for Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle, depending on how the two develop in the offseason and training camp.
The addition of Linehan could also be beneficial for Dez Bryant. The Cowboys have been criticized for not looking his way more often throughout his development. No player draws more exotic looks and multiple defenders than Megatron, who finished with eight or more targets in 12 of the 14 games he played in 2013. Johnson had more than 200 targets the year prior.
By contrast, Bryant, who played in all 16 games in 2013, recorded four games with fewer than eight targets. The Cowboys went 1-3 in those games, including a loss to the Lions, when Johnson blew up for 14 receptions, 329 yards and a touchdown. Linehan, Matthew Stafford and the Lions recognized a mismatch and kept going to it.
Ideally, there won’t be many games where Bryant goes ignored. Johnson finished in the top three in receiving each of the past three years in Detroit, and it’s possible Linehan could help Bryant reach that upper echelon after his first Pro Bowl year.