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Eatman: Hiring This TE Coach All About Developing Escobar

Posted Jan 24, 2014


IRVING, Texas – When the Cowboys officially hired Mike Pope to become the new tight ends coach on Wednesday afternoon, their star player at the position was in Hawaii.

And that’s how it should be, right?  The goal for all positions is to have the best player, or two, in the Pro Bowl. And that’s where Jason Witten was on Wednesday as Pope was named the replacement for Wes Phillips, who is now in Washington with the same position.

I guess if the Redskins can hire a position coach within the division, the Cowboys can do the same. The Cowboys saw Washington grab Phillips and his seven years of his experience and raised them with Pope, who has spent the last 14 with the Giants and 31 overall in the NFL, mostly as a tight ends coach.

So this is arguably one of the best in the business.

Good for Witten, huh? Yes, probably, but that’s not the issue here.

Let’s be honest. I think most of us could coach Jason Witten. In fact, Witten coaches himself. That’s no disrespect to the guys before him who have been his position coach. And he’s had five of them, so that would be a great deal of disrespect. But how much coaching do you need to do with Witten, a guy who pushes himself as hard as any coach could ever push him?

Even Phillips told me last year how Witten makes him a better coach because he studies the game so much that you can’t talk over his head.

But Pope entered the league in 1983 as the Giants tight ends coach for Bill Parcells. Witten had just turned 1. So he can teach him a few things still.

But the real reason Pope is here is for Gavin Escobar, the second-round pick last year who showed some potential now and then, but has a lot of room to grow. First things first, Escobar needs to get bigger and stronger and that’s something Jason Garrett said all last year.

If there’s one thing Pope is known for, it’s his ability to develop young tight ends. Yes, he’s coached 31 years in the league, but he’s still put five tight ends on the All-Rookie team.

Think about that. While five of 31 doesn’t sound that great, remember what it is. He’s molding young rookies who are then playing and have successful careers. It’s not like you’re going to have a top rookie each year.

Guys like Mark Bavaro, Howard Cross and Zeke Mowatt with the Giants, then Tony McGee with the Bengals and, of course, Jeremy Shockey all had stellar rookie seasons under Pope.

And although Martellus Bennett wasn’t a rookie in 2012, he still enjoyed a breakout season with the Giants after his four-year stint in Dallas. Bennett had 55 catches for 626 yards and five touchdowns, which helped him earn another contract with the Bears last year.

And who knows, I’m sure Pope can help develop James Hanna and whoever else the Cowboys bring in as a rookie tight end.

I guess I wrote this because I’ve had several people on twitter comment about this hiring with stuff like “how hard could this job be … throw it to Witten.”

Obviously there’s more to it than that. But the Cowboys drafted Escobar in the second round with thoughts that he could potentially take over for Witten whenever that time comes.

And the hiring of Pope could be the move that allows that to happen.

 

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