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Eatman: Figuring Out Coaching Staff Roles Never Been Harder

Posted Feb 25, 2014

One of the toughest parts of our job – and it happens probably a dozen or so times a year – is finishing up with a Jerry Jones interview and trying to figure out what was said.

No, we heard what just came out of his mouth. But what did he really say? Better yet, what did he mean?

One thing I’ve learned a long time, if you listen closely to Jerry, you’re going to find out something you didn’t already know. He’s going to drop a hint here, or a clue there.

And this past weekend, he talked once again for more than two hours on his bus at the scouting combine in Indianapolis. I wasn’t there this time but I have seen the video and read the transcripts. Like always, it takes a legal team to really sift through what he said.

The part that keeps me scratching my head involves the play-calling and the coordinator situations. Jerry basically said Jason Garrett was the offensive coordinator last year but he expects him to be more involved with the defense this year.

Before you think Garrett will be dialing up blitzes, I have to believe that statement is more about the head coach evolving into the walk-around coach Jerry has wanted him to be.

I guess that was the plan last year but once the offense started to struggle early on, Garrett had to take over once again. Now we were told numerous times that Garrett never called the plays but he did take over the communication relay later in the season.

So it sounds like they’re going to try it again. But this will only work if Scott Linehan proves to be the right choice calling the plays offensively.

Remember, Bill Callahan was supposed to provide better structure on offense.  He was supposed to use his experienced expertise to help the offense run the ball more and more effectively. That actually happened with an improved running game that saw DeMarco Murray make the Pro Bowl and eclipse 1,000 yards for the first time in his career.

And the offense also improved dramatically in the red-zone, finishing the year fourth in the NFL in touchdown efficiency.

What about scoring? Yeah, the Cowboys ranked fourth in the league in that department, scoring XXX points per game.

And they did all of this with little help from a defense that proved to be one of the worst in NFL history and certainly the worst in the league last year.

Yet, they’re changing up the offense?

Don’t get me wrong, every part of this team can improve, other than maybe the kicker. Well, I guess Dan Bailey could make all seven of his 50-yard attempts instead of only six.

But you get the point. The offense can stand to get better. The running game was good at times, but still has short-yardage issues. And the passing game could stand to get the ball down the field more.

Plus, Dez Bryant turned the corner and had a Pro Bowl year, but the Cowboys need to figure out how to get him more involved consistently. Maybe Linehan, who found ways to get the ball to Calvin Johnson on a weekly basis, can help in that regard and others.

But here’s what I can’t get out of my head. Yes, Linehan is here and that means Callahan will likely assume the offensive line duties again, although his OC title hasn’t changed. But do we know this offense is automatically going to be better?

Linehan brings in his terminology over and you’ve got a quarterback who probably won’t be out there all summer because of his back rehab. Now, you’ve got young receivers like Bryant, Terrance Williams, Dwayne Harris and Cole Beasley and whoever else they bring in having to learn new lingo and probably a new offense, although the philosophy should be similar.

My point is this –we think this move is going to change things and allow Garrett to be more involved in all aspects of the team. But what happens if we get five games into the year, the Cowboys are 1-4 and can’t run the ball again and have a below-average they can’t rely on?

The logical answer is they simply fight through it and get better. 

So whether we thought it happened last year or not, this year – this 2014 season – will be the first time Jason Garrett has not be the real offensive coordinator for this offense since 2006 when Bill Parcells was the head coach.

That part is clear. Then again, the actually offensive coordinator is really the offensive line coach and the passing game coordinator is really the offensive coordinator and play-caller, while the head coach was the OC last year but now is going to be more involved with the defense.

On second thought, nothing is really clear – only that the Cowboys are putting their offensive eggs in Linehan’s basket. Let’s see if they stay there the entire season this time.

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