IRVING, Texas – The guy on the other sideline this week will certainly look familiar. And not just to Cowboys fans, but to many of the coaches, sideline personnel, and just a few of the players.
While Dan Campbell is trying to make his own mark as the interim head coach of the Dolphins, the former tight end still has plenty of close ties with the Cowboys, including some of the coaches that he respects more than any others.
Campbell played three years in Dallas (2003-05) and was there for the rookie seasons of both Tony Romo and Jason Witten. Over the course of Witten's career, Campbell is the only player to ever start for the Cowboys at tight end ahead of Witten.
But before and after his days with the Cowboys, Campbell had some connections with some of the current Cowboys coaches.
As a player in New York from 1999-2002, Campbell formed a friendship with Jason Garrett, who became the Giants backup quarterback in 2000.
"I love Dan Campbell. We had the good fortune of playing together in New York for a few years, and he's a really good friend of mine and someone that I just have great admiration for and respect for," Garrett said. "He was an outstanding teammate. He's exactly what you want in a teammate and just brought so much to the table in both his performance, and just the way he went about it every day."
Campbell said Garrett reached out to him when he got the job as the interim head coach this season – a position he was familiar with, having been the interim head coach of the Cowboys in 2010 for the last eight games.
Garrett said his call was more congratulatory than offering advice, but knew all along Campbell would make a good coach.
"I was so excited when he got into coaching," Garrett said. "I really believed he could bring a lot to the people around him – not only the coaching staff, but to the young guys he has the opportunity to coach. I'm not surprised one bit that he's had the success that he's had."
While in New York, Campbell's position coach, Mike Pope, now has the same role in Dallas.
"I think he's the reason why I played 11 years," Campbell said. "If it weren't for him, I might have only played three or four."
Campbell also said the majority of the tight end drills he uses in Miami came from Pope, who often uses unorthodox methods to keep his players concentrated while catching the ball. In training camp, Pope will have the tight ends do various things such as dump ice water on a player while making a catch, or lifting up a teammate's legs like a wheel barrel during a catch. He's also had players jump out of a portable toilet to catch the ball.
[embeddedad0]"I learned more about playing that position (from Pope) in drill work that applies to that position than anybody else," Campbell said. "Those are just some of the things he came up with it. I was just a huge believer in the things he did."
When Campbell left the Cowboys in 2005, he went to Detroit where he played for Rod Marinelli, the head coach of the Lions from 2006-08.
"I don't even know where to begin with the man," Campbell said to Dallas-Fort Worth reporters on Wednesday. "You've got one over there who I have the upmost respect for – Rod Marinelli. Nothing is ever too much for him. He just goes to work. That guy, he's the one of the best coaches I've ever had. He's one of the most-positive coaches I've ever been around."
All that being said, make no mistake about Sunday. Campbell will be looking to knock off Garrett, Pope, Marinelli and anyone else he knows on the Cowboys sideline.