IRVING, Texas – The coaching additions aren’t nearly as surprising as the coaching constants.
So, the Cowboys replaced the two coordinators many thought would go after the season ended, given the continual defensive struggles and the criticism of the play-calling and lack of clarity on that whole process.
That makes sense, but this isn’t typically a business where coaches get demoted and have to stay on board. It’s peculiar to see a team make changes for results they weren’t satisfied with, then keep on the coaches who they deemed responsible for those results in different roles.
That’s what’s taking place in Dallas, as Bill Callahan stays on as the offensive coordinator/offensive line coach while Scott Linehan takes his job as the play-caller and also becomes the “passing game coordinator.” Meanwhile, Monte Kiffin stays on as the “assistant head coach/defense,” while Rod Marinelli takes his job as defensive coordinator.
Now, everybody get along and find a way to make this process smoother and get back on the right side of the 8-8 rut.
"Our responsibility is to bring quality people into our organization and find the best fit for them,” said head coach Jason Garrett in a statement. “That applies to players, and it applies to coaches.”
It’s an ideal thought, but it sounds more like a setting for awkwardness and uncomfortable relationships as the coaches’ box gets filled to the brim with people whose responsibilities just got diminished.
The decision to make Marinelli the defensive coordinator is logical and well-reasoned, given his past success and familiarity with the scheme. Even the choice to keep Kiffin – who sounds like he’ll serve more in a mentoring role and likely wouldn’t have had many more opportunities after this stop – is much less befuddling than the decision to keep Callahan in a lesser role, particularly after reports that other teams wanted the chance to interview him for the job he had here last season.
It’s hard to surmise reasons why the Cowboys would make Callahan stay even if he was under contract:
1) They now have a new play-caller.
2) They have an offensive-minded coach in Garrett who used to call the plays and whose system has and will likely continue to stay in place.
3) They brought in an assistant offensive line coach last year who taught many of the same principles. Callahan admitted even before the season began that his increased role in the offense meant Frank Pollack would have a more immediate impact on teaching the offensive line, which became one of the strengths of the team as the season progressed.
“You kind of blend in Frank Pollack, who really is handling the majority of the offensive line coaching in the room and on the field, and I’m basically becoming more like his assistant just helping him,” Callahan said in September, before the season began. “We’ve kind of reversed roles in some sense.”
I have no reason to believe Callahan wouldn’t handle his new role professionally and perform it to the best of his ability, helping construct the offensive plan during the week, but the scenario he’s been put in could feasibly lead to discourse and clutter.
People like to use the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen” to describe what’s going on with the offensive staff. You could make the case that was even occurring last year, as questions abounded after last-minute losses whether play-calling decisions were made by Garrett, Callahan or
This isn’t a slight at Callahan, who clearly was still valued in the minds of other teams who reportedly wanted to interview him. It’s just confusing trying to determine the point in keeping some of these coaches on board after decisions were made to go a different direction.
The Dallas coaches’ nebulous titles and the refusal to paint clear, succinct pictures of their exact roles the last few years lead me to believe the answers to these questions will be just as ambiguous.