FRISCO, Texas – After nearly a week of speculation, the Cowboys made their call.
The team announced on Friday that they had parted ways with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, coming in a statement from head coach Jason Garrett. Garrett said in the statement the decision was mutual.
“This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person. He and I had some really positive, substantive and open discussions which took place in the latter part of this week, and we ultimately agreed that it would be in the best interest of all of the parties involved if we were to make a change at this position,” Garrett said. “This was very much a mutual decision, and there was a great deal of common ground and shared understanding between both of us during our meetings. Scott has had an incredibly positive impact on our football team. He has been instrumental in the development and success of a significant number of our veteran and younger players. He is an outstanding football coach, a great friend and we wish him and his family nothing but the absolute best moving forward.”
Linehan became a lightning rod for criticism during a 2018 season that saw the Cowboys’ offense slump to one of its worst performances in recent memory. The unit finished No. 22 in the league in both total offense and scoring offense, averaging a measly 21.2 points per game.
The struggles were enough to spark a firestorm earlier this week, as Garrett and other Cowboys officials were questioned intensely on whether or not they needed to make a change at the position.
That debate was briefly put to rest on Tuesday morning by team owner/general manager Jerry Jones, who emphasized that he intended to keep all his options open when weighing whether or not to make changes to his coaching staff.
“Why would I put some kind of statement out that says this is what we’re going to do when we might have an opportunity here next week? This is the time when these things are thought about,” Jones said. “This is the time when they are chewed on. This is when you may see an opportunity that you didn’t know existed this week in the area of personnel or in the area of coaching.”
Turns out, it didn’t take Jones a full week to make that decision.
This conversation isn’t a new subplot. Going back to the early stages of the season, the offense’s performance has been a hot topic, and Garrett was asked on numerous occasions if he was satisfied with the performance of his offense.
Following a 24-13 loss in Seattle on Sept. 23, Garrett was asked if he had any intention of taking over play calling duties to help an offense that – to that point – was averaging just 13.6 points per game.
“We’re not going to go down that road right now,” Garrett said at the time. “I have a lot of confidence in Scott Linehan. He has been an outstanding coordinator in this league for a long time. He’s been an outstanding coordinator for us.”
There is some validity to that, to be fair. Since Linehan arrived in 2014 as the Cowboys’ passing game coordinator, he oversaw some impressive offenses. The Cowboys finished No. 7 in total offense during that 2014 season, and they were fifth in both offense and scoring in 2016.
The past two years have seen a significant downturn, though. The Cowboys finished 14th in offense and scoring in 2017, and both of those numbers dropped this subsequent season.
In fact, the Cowboys’ final tally of 339 points this season is their second-lowest in 13 years – with the lowest being 2015, when Tony Romo missed most of the season with collar bone injuries.
No corresponding hire has been announced, but it’ll be interesting to see what this means for the Cowboys going forward. Prescott is entering the fourth year of his rookie contract and is widely expected to receive a contract extension at some point in the future. It’s a logical guess that the next offensive coordinator will be expected to develop a strong rapport with Prescott, who has worked with Linehan for the entirety of his pro career.
That will undoubtedly unfold in the coming weeks. The Cowboys’ front office will spend time at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., next week, along with the vast majority of the NFL coaching world. Their coaching staff is also working next week’s Pro Bowl, which is another hotbed for NFL networking.
There’s also the possibility the Cowboys promote from within – a strategy they have favored in recent years.
It’s too early to say how they’ll go about filling the void. But, after weighing their options, the Cowboys opted for change.