The Staff That Plays Together, Stays Together

far as to say it's one of the best staffs he's ever had, and Phillips stating at the start of camp he couldn't be happier with the group. And former Cowboys director of scouting Larry Lacewell went even further, saying, "It's the best coaching staff the Cowboys have had in a long time."

He's factoring in experience, since you got Campo, a former head coach and defensive coordinator, now just a position coach; Houck, one of the most respected line coaches in the NFL; Grantham, a former defensive coordinator, now the defensive line coach; and Herring, a former college defensive coordinator, now just the linebackers coach. And while Maxie is just the assistant secondary coach, the former NFL player has been coaching in the league for nine seasons, so it's not like he's some intern learning on the job.

Maybe the most noticeable difference has been on the defensive staff. Remember, last year's new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart, hand-picked by Phillips to be his right-hand defensive man, inherited an entire staff. And two of the guys, Bowles and Pasqualoni, certainly had designs on being named coordinator.

To say there was some uncomfortable moments last year would not be going out on a limb. And as Campo suggests, the mere body language of assistant coaches not totally buying into what the coordinator or head coach want done can send the wrong message to players.

When asked what it's been like so far transitioning into basically an entirely new staff, save assistant linebackers coach Dat Nguyen, Stewart didn't hesitate to say, "Actually it's been awesome; it's been a great situation. When you look at it, two guys I've worked with before (Grantham and Herring). I know their personalities. I know how they coach and we cut our teeth in the same system. And then you got a guy like Brett Maxie, who cut his teeth in the same system. And then you've got Campo . . ."

Say no more. Campo is happier to be back with the Cowboys than a 10-year-old at Christmas.

Nothing could be finer.

And see, not so much from an X's and O's standpoint, but from the standpoint these new defensive guys are beholden to not only Phillips for hiring them, but also to their immediate boss, Stewart. And as for the other guys, Campo is just beholden to the Cowboys and don't forget Houck had previously worked with offensive coordinator Jason Garrett. There is nothing better than the player-coach relationship they once had with the Cowboys.

There will be some natural cohesiveness.

Because as I remember, it wasn't long into the season last year that word started seeping around that Stewart had a hard time running a meeting. Great.  Well, it was his first time doing so, and no doubt there probably was some awkwardness on his part, knowing his staff knew each other better than they knew him. But Phillips brought him aboard to help with the defense since he had been with the new head coach in San Diego, understanding the defense and making sure there was a voice in those meetings beholden to Phillips. Evidently for good reason.

Yeah, it's only 1½ weeks into training camp, but Stewart seems much more confident - maybe a little less self-conscious - coaching in practice and telling players what to do. I'm guessing it's the same in meetings, too. Maybe "Hard Knocks" will begin verifying as much at 9:00 p.m. (CDT) Wednesday with the premiere episode on   HBO - 10:00 p.m. out here.

Just a better all-around coaching atmosphere these days.

"They don't take it personal, they aren't on-guard when sitting in meetings, and they understand we're all in this together," Stewart said of his new staff. "I think that's a huge thing, them feeling comfortable and knowing they're comfortable with the way I'm coaching."

Which says volumes.

"This group likes each other," Campo said. "That's important. You know me, good chemistry and good people are important whether it's a team or whatever it is."

If you think not, and you don't believe him. Or you don't believe Jones or Lacewell or Phillips. Then just go ask Jimmy.

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