FRISCO, Texas – Change happens. We know that after all these years covering the Dallas Cowboys.
And not just when things go bad. Remember, after winning Super Bowl XXVII, defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt left to become the Chicago Bears head coach and he took offensive line coach Tony Wise with him. After winning the second of back-to-back Super Bowls the following season, offensive coordinator Norv Turner left to become the Washingtons head coach. And after the 1995 Super Bowl season, defensive coordinator Butch Davis left to become the Cleveland Browns head coach.
Oh, and not to mention head coach Jimmy Johnson and owner Jerry Jones parting ways after the 1992-93 Super Bowl-winning seasons.
So, change on coaching staffs is not limited to just teams with losing records.
And that is what the Cowboys are going through heading toward the 2023 season, and there has been prominent attention paid to Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy now taking over the offense from Kellen Moore and replacing the four-year offensive coordinator with Brian Schottenheimer.
But let's realize there has been significant other changes on this coaching staff, plus a reorganization of the team's analytical department, littered with first-time position assistants having been overlooked.
Obviously, McCarthy is an experienced offensive coach/play caller and Schottenheimer has four other stops in the NFL as an offensive coordinator, another as a passing game coordinator, one more as OC at Georgia and three others as a quarterbacks coach.
And no loss of experience on the offensive line, with Mike Solari taking over for Joe Philbin, Solari spending 23 seasons in the NFL as an offensive line coach, three more as an NFL assistant offensive line coach and two seasons as the Chiefs offensive coordinator.
But after that, the changes in Dallas are short on position-coach experience. The Cowboys replaced 24-year NFL running backs coach Skip Peete with their previous assistant offensive line coach, Jeff Blasko, who has spent his past six seasons in the NFL as an assistant offensive line coach.
Then quarterbacks coach. Doug Nussmeier, with 22 seasons of coaching experience on his résumé in the CFL, NFL and college as a QB coach, OC and tight ends coach two seasons with the Cowboys and three more as the QB coach, was let go. Replacing Nussmeier is Scott Tolzien, a backup QB for McCarthy in Green Bay for four seasons during his seven-year NFL playing career and an offensive assistant for three seasons with the Cowboys. This is Tolzien's first shot heading up the QB room but can lean on Schottenheimer's experience.
And then on defense, gone is George Edwards as the senior defensive assistant over the past three seasons, but in reality, the linebackers coach the past two. Returning to lead the linebacker corps is Scott McCurley, who had spent five seasons with McCarthy in Green Bay as an assistant linebackers coach or defensive assistant before coming with him to the Cowboys in 2020.
And the Cowboys even let assistant defensive line coach Leon Lett go after 12 seasons, replacing him with first-time assistant defensive line coach Shariff Floyd, who spent time coaching with the Cowboys during training camp this past summer.
Lot of change for a team coming off consecutive 12-5 seasons, first and second place finishes in the NFC East and a 1-2 playoff record during both.
- Analyze This: Oh, and two more additions to the football operations staff: John Park, director of strategic football operations, and Sara Mallepalle, strategic football analyst. Park has been with the Colts as director of football research for the past seven seasons and Mallepalle spent the past three years with the Ravens as a player personnel analyst. Their roles are in addition to the football analytic personnel the Cowboys already had in place and replace longtime director of football research Tom Robinson, let go after the draft.
- Close Encounters: The Cowboys had some inside intel on Brandin Cooks before trading for the Houston wide receiver this offseason. Cowboys wide receiver coach Robert Prince had been Cooks' receivers coach during the 2021 season in Houston, saying of what he knows about Cooks, "Obviously, see the speed on the field, great pro and what he brings to the room." But how about this with Schottenheimer, one of those six degrees of separation deals. Once the Cowboys completed the trade for Cooks, Schottenheimer, who spent four years as the quarterback coach in San Diego with Drew Brees, says he immediately gets a text from Brees, who had spent three seasons with Cooks (2014-16) in New Orleans. "And when we made the move to get Brandin, and the very first text I got was from Drew," Shottenheimer said, still remaining close friends with the former Saints QB. "And Drew was like, 'You are going to love this guy.' And Drew is a hard guy to give out a lot of A's, you know, positive reinforcements, but he says you're going to love this guy." Think the Cowboys already do.
- First Pitch: Went to the Texas Rangers game vs. the Los Angeles Angels this past Thursday, the night Shohei Ohtani pitched and hit a home run in the Angels win. And who should stride to the mound to throw out the first pitch but none other than Cowboys' 2022 first-round draft choice Tyler Smith. Remember, Smith played his high school ball at North Crowley in Fort Worth, so somewhat one of those hometown heroes.
- Cowboys Everywhere: You guys remember Thornton Chandler, the Cowboys' sixth-round draft choice in 1986, the tight end from Alabama playing four seasons in Dallas? Well, he was on last week's Season 13 episode of Gordon Ramsay's Master Chef TV show. No, not as one of the South regional contestants, but there supporting his son, Colby, who advanced with five "Yes" votes for his crawfish etouffee, four "Yeas" from the judges, and the fifth coming from Thornton's father also there, the grandfather who taught Colby the recipe growing up. And by the way, the celebrity chef judge was also a DFW local, Tiffany Derry of Roots restaurant in suburban Farmers Branch.
- Off Shoots: For the first time since the 2019 season, the NFL will with have a Supplemental Draft this year on July 11, with Purdue wide receiver Milton Wright confirmed to teams as eligible … Remember the Cowboys used a 1990 first-round pick in the 1989 supplemental draft for Jimmy Johnson to select his former University of Miami quarterback Steve Walsh, even after using the 1989 No. 1 pick in the draft on Troy Aikman … That draft choice used on Walsh ended up forfeiting what would have been the first pick in the 1990 draft after the 1-15 season. That first pick ended up with the Colts, who chose quarterback Jeff George … Had the Cowboys retained the pick, they likely would have used the No. 1 pick on former Johnson Miami defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy. While the Cowboys needed a running back, don't think they would have selected running back Blair Thomas, who went second to the New York Jets … And we thought the Cowboys' Super Bowl XXX ring was massive, estimated to have more than five carats of diamonds. Ha, the Chiefs just unleashed their Super Bowl LVII ring, complete with 613 diamonds, 609 of those suckers round and four more marquise, and oh, don't forget the 35 rubies, a total estimate of 16.1 carats.
Let's go to Micah Parsons for this week's last word since we began this discussion talking about the number of experienced assistant coaches departing this season. And one of those, George Edwards, had taken over the linebacker room ever since the Cowboys made Parsons their 2021 first-round draft choice. Edwards sure took the young linebacker under his wing, and here is what Micah had to say when asked what's it like with Edwards no longer in the room.
"It's completely different. We were talking today, man, I miss George," Parson began. "People used to say George was my dad. It's like even when he wasn't looking, he was watching me, and I kind of miss that person that's always in my head. And I think he always wanted me to be greater. He saw something I never saw, and I'm kind of starting to see it. The part of being great is doing the little things and following the plan because there's always a bigger picture.
"George was like, 'Hey you've just got to do this.' He would advise me, and I'm, 'No, George, I got it.' And you know, the wear and tear goes on, and now when he calls me – he still calls me – and he reminds me now, 'How you doing? Are you doing this?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm doing it, George.' And he's like, 'Yeah, that's good.' Just all the little things a father would tell a son."
Yep, a big change there, too.