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Mailbag: Most Underrated Coaching Hire?


Do you think that Joe Philbin and Jim Tomsula are two of the most under-discussed additions to the coaching staff? I can't even begin to imagine how vastly each line unit will improve under their tutelage. — J.M. SMITH / ST. CHARLES, MD

Jonny: I think both of those guys are good, stable coaches who will bring great experience to the team. But their units are full of veterans who I would expect to perform under a lot of coaches. John Fassel is an underrated addition in my opinion. It's hard to make a special teams unit a consistent difference maker and Fassel has a track record of doing just that.

Rob: I wouldn't say they've been under-discussed. Hiring Philbin made a ton of sense. He has worked with Mike McCarthy a long time, and he's a veteran coach for a veteran group. I don't expect him to make major philosophical changes the way Paul Alexander did for half the 2018 season. Aldon Smith's reunion with Tomsula, his position coach early in his career at San Francisco, is a big reason why I think Smith has a real chance for successful comeback season. But McCarthy's staff has really good, experienced coaches across the board, including Skip Peete, Lunda Wells and John Fassel. And the Cowboys are excited about Al Harris molding a young cornerback group.

Many of us are optimistically excited to see Mike Nolan's defense get more turnovers. But I remember feeling the same way when Marinelli came in. Not that the defenses were bad under his tenure, but they just didn't get many INTs in the stats column. Do you think Marinelli met the expectations many had for his defense during his time in Dallas? What expectations do you have for Nolan's defense, INTs in particular? — MARCO ASPAAS / VANCOUVER, WA

Jonny: The expectations for this franchise are always high for this franchise so it's hard to say that Marinelli quite met them. And I think if you place those same high expectations on Nolan in his first year you might be a little disappointed, as well. There are just a lot of questions in the secondary for a season with no preseason. But if you're patient with Nolan, I imagine he's going to produce results.

Rob: Well, I do think you have to look at Coach Marinelli's entire body of work. Before he took over as defensive coordinator in 2014 the Cowboys had the league's last-ranked defense. They gradually added more talent, and the results were solid to very good in most years since. But obviously the organization felt it was time for a change after last season, and takeaways are a major – I mean, major – emphasis for improvement. If they can reach, say, the top 10 in takeaways combined with the talent they have on offense to score touchdowns, the 2020 Cowboys can win a lot of games. I think it starts with pressure up front. The Cowboys have added several veterans who can help there. Schematically, Nolan's plan is still a bit of a mystery, and that could be an advantage when the games start. But I wouldn't be surprised if they're more multiple, and more aggressive, than we've seen in the past.

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