The first time I met Bill Callahan was when he was coaching on Barry Alvarez's staff at the University of Wisconsin. Bill was working with the offensive line at the time, and the Badgers were beginning to turn the corner with their program in 1992.
On our Packers staff at the time was a young coach named Jon Gruden, who was just beginning his NFL career as an assistant for Mike Holmgren. The reason for the get together, which was known as the Packer–Badger Steak Fry, was to give the two programs the opportunity to promote the University in the area. But what the coaches used it for was a chance to get together and exchange ideas.
Callahan and Gruden were instant friends, and for good reason, they both were young go-getter types who lived to be on the field working with players. I would later cross paths with Gruden and Callahan again when Callahan went to work with Gruden as his offensive line coach with the Eagles.
While I was in the scouting department, I would enjoy going onto the practice field and watching these two guys coach. I had never been with two guys who coached as hard as Callahan and Gruden. We didn't have great talent on our roster in Philadelphia, but they got everything out of the players that they could. To watch them coach gave you hope that things would be better.
I moved on to Jacksonville, while Gruden and Callahan went on to a great run with the Oakland Raiders. I have always been a big Callahan fan and followed his career wherever he went. When Hudson Houck retired after last season, Jason Garrett made a very important hire, bringing Callahan to the Cowboys. In my mind, he couldn't have made a better decision from what my experiences were with him.
In yesterday's State of the Cowboys address, Garrett couldn't have been more passionate about what the hiring of Callahan means to this team. His work ethic and dedication to his craft was unmatched. Monday morning I made a call and asked Gruden to give me some of his thoughts on Callahan.
"Great coach, master of offensive line fundamentals, insane work ethic," Gruden said, also calling Callahan "Creative - he can teach and scheme with the best of them."
Teach and scheme with the best of them . . . when you are talking about getting five guys to mesh, guys switching positions and guys who are new to the organization, this is a very important thing. How quickly Callahan can get this line to come together could set the tone for the season.
Gruden also spoke of how Callahan could help Jason Garrett the head coach.
"Bill is a big picture guy," Gruden said. "He has been a head coach, he understands the passing game and has a broad view of the running game. He will be able to carry all components of the game. Power gap, zone, perimeter toss, draws and traps."
Callahan can help Garrett with his game management, but more importantly he can help Garrett make adjustments throughout the game. Look at the fronts the Cowboys play against this season - the Eagles, Giants, Ravens, and Steelers. You had better be able to adjust to the different looks you are going to get throughout a game, or these teams will run you out of the stadium.
Gruden's final thought was this:
"Bill is a great guy, and Dallas is lucky to have him."
Coach, I couldn't agree more.