IRVING, Texas – The Cowboys don't appear to be making any changes regarding the head coach or the coordinators this offseason, so it likely makes the tight end position the most significant change, something that occurred Wednesday afternoon.
The Cowboys have officially hired veteran coach Mike Pope to coach the tight ends. Pope, a longtime assistant of the Giants, is considered by many as one of the best in the business at his position.
Pope, who turns 72 in March, coached with the Giants 14 years and was even on staff when Jason Garrett finished up his playing career as a backup quarterback in New York from 2000-03.
Garrett, who called Pope a good friend earlier in the week, is excited about the possibility of adding such a veteran presence to the offensive side of the ball.
"Mike Pope has been one of the great coaches in this league for a long time," said
Garrett. "I had the good fortune of being around him for four years and his influence on me has been significant. He is an outstanding person and a welcome addition to our staff."
Pope replaces Wes Phillips, who had been on the Cowboys' staff since 2007 but spent just one year as the tight ends coach. Phillips' contract expired at the end of the season and he recently joined the Redskins' coaching staff as their tight ends coach.
Ironically enough, just as the Redskins brought in a tight ends coach with knowledge of the NFC East, the Cowboys were able to do the same.
Pope has coached in the NFL for the last 31 seasons, dating back to 1983 when he joined Bill Parcells' staff with the Giants during his first of two stints with New York. He left the Giants following the 1991 season and spent two years with the Cincinnati Bengals, the first as tight ends coach and the second as offensive coordinator. He joined the New England Patriots in 1994 as running backs coach before moving to tight ends coach in 1995. Pope was the Redskins' tight ends coach from 1997-99. [embedded_ad]
Pope has a history of having success with young tight ends. Five times in his career he's placed a tight end on the All-Rookie team. Jeremey Shockey was the last to do so, but Pope also had Zeke Mowatt, Mark Bavaro, Howard Cross and Tony McGee (a former Cowboy) make the All-Rookie team during their careers.
That success could bode well for Gavin Escobar, who just finished his rookie season with the Cowboys but is expected to be a bigger part of the offense next year.
Obviously, Jason Witten will continue to be the focal point of the Cowboys' tight end position. Pope becomes the sixth tight ends coach since Witten joined the Cowboys in 2003. From Tony Sparano, Paul Pasqualoni, Freddie Kitchens, John Garrett, Phillips and now Pope, Witten is on his way to a potential Hall of Fame career, and most certainly a Ring of Honor recognition. Witten is currently in Hawaii for the ninth Pro Bowl selection of his 11-year career.