Will stripping coach Jason Garrett's play-calling duties help the Cowboys?
By MIKE FISHERFS Southwest
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Bill Callahan is being elevated to the position of offensive playcaller for the 2013 season. And whether you view that as castrating strip of responsibilities of head coach Jason Garrett or the offering of some help for an overloaded young coach that frees Garrett to be a "walk-around'' head coach really depends on whether you are a glass-is-half-empty or -full Cowboys observer.
And either way, you're opinion doesn't matter nearly those of Garrett and his shot-calling boss, team owner Jerry Jones.
This move -- and an assortment of others -- can end up a positive for Garrett. But the Cowboys could help themselves here, in terms of credibility, by not pretending that Garrett is completely convinced of that.
"It's not a step back for Jason. It's actually a step forward for Jason in my mind," Jones told reporters on Tuesday in Mobile, Ala. for the Senior Bowl. "Make no mistake about it, when I hired Jason to come into the organization as a coach he was hired specifically for his skills for his abilities to call the plays. When he became the head coach, it was at my insistence that he continue to call the plays. It was not at Jason's insistence. It is not a step back for the Cowboys or a step back individually for him to change the way we basically are putting our game plan together or are calling the plays on the offensive side of the ball. As you well know, differences in opinion can frankly be a step in a better direction."
And know this: There were differences of opinion.
Had Garrett gotten his way, he would've retained playcalling responsibilities. Period.
Still, as he noted Tuesday, "I've never been a guy where it's been hell-or-high-water that I'm going to call the plays."
And so Garrett took the urging from his boss, owner/GM Jones, and went about the business of rebuilding the staff. Dallas next year will have new leadership on special teams, defense and offense.
Monte Kiffin is the newly-hired defensive coordinator. His right-hand will be newly-hired Rod Marinelli. I'm told Rich Bisaccia -- like those two, a man with ties to a Buccaneers team once overseen by Jon Gruden -- is the focus of the search for the special-teams coordinator. (More on the Gruden angle in a moment.) I'm also told that Sam Gash is close to being hired as the running backs coach, that Hue Jackson is a candidate to be brought in to coach wide receivers and that Wes Phillips is likely to take over offensive line duties. That leaves tight ends coach as the soon-to-be lone vacancy on a remade staff ... and a re-assigned staff, with Garrett as the walk-around boss.
"I've been on teams where it's worked a lot of differerent ways,'' Garrett said. "We've come back in a lot of games and handled game situations really well and sometimes we haven't handled them as well. It's my responsibility and I have to make sure we do it better. Watch the games. Coaches who don't call the plays don't have the (market cornered) on handling game situations the right way. But having said that, that's an added responsibility that you have during games that you have to manage and work through."
Callahan, a former NFL head coach in Oakland, has ties with Gruden, presently not in coaching and working in broadcasting. Bisaccia, Marinelli and Kiffin share those ties (though Kiffin and Gruden parted from Tampa uncomfortably.) That Gruden shadow likely lurks over Garrett's shoulder -- if only because of media and fan perception -- much like Sean Payton's did last season.
But done properly, the new guys will be Garrett's guys. Callahan, who had the title of offensive coordinator last year and also oversaw the offensive line, might add some of his West Coast Offense components to Garrett's existing playbook. But it's still Garrett's playbook.
"It gives you the opportunity to step back a little bit and engage in the other two aspects (defense and special teams),'' said Garrett of shifting to "walk-around'' head coach. "Obviously, my role as the head coach, if I'm not the playcaller, will be significant.''
And obviously, Jerry Jones' role as the shot-caller is significant, too.