Most of the national media attending the NFL combine in Indianapolis focused on Miami Dolphin head coach Joe Philbin’s news conference Thursday. Philbin basically said the buck stopped with him in the Richie Incognito bullying scandal, which makes him one of the most oblivious coaches in NFL history.
All the hoopla over the Dolphins provided cover for those under-the-radar Dallas Cowboys. Stephen Jones and Jason Garrett have addressed reporters, but there’s been no sign of Jerry to this point. Stephen has attempted to shed light on the team’s draft strategy, although he hasn’t exactly inspired confidence. In trying to explain why Florida defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd was ranked so high on the Cowboys’ draft board last April, Stephen said it’s something that "slipped through the cracks."
To be clear, he wasn’t suggesting the player slipped through the cracks in terms of the Cowboys not selecting him. Stephen was referring to the fact that Floyd shouldn’t have been ranked so high if the Cowboys didn’t believe he was a good fit for their 4-3 defensive scheme. It doesn’t take a lot of reading between the lines to see that Jones is saying there was a huge disconnect between the club’s scouting department and the coaches. I applaud Stephen for being candid on this issue, but in doing so he reinforced the perception the Cowboys are a disorganized mess.
Stephen also told reporters that Jerry isn’t acting alone on these picks "most" of the time. I like the fact that he didn’t completely rule out the scenario that has his father acting as the lone wolf. I mean, how do you think Quincy Carter got to the Cowboys? I don’t think a lot of scouts were standing on the table arguing for the Georgia quarterback.
The good news is the Cowboys appeared to hit on both center Travis Frederick and wide receiver Terrance Williams in last year’s draft. Not selecting Floyd may have been the right decision, but the process was still flawed.
The Cowboys will enter this season with a lame-duck head coach who at least got to choose his own play caller for 2014. Garrett addressed his job status while addressing reporters Thursday.
"We really didn’t have conversations about that," Garrett said. "…My focus is on being the best coach I can be each and every day. That’s what I think about and that’s what my focus is."
Garrett should feel much better putting his offense in the hands of Scott Linehan. Garrett worked for Linehan when the two were assistants with the Miami Dolphins. They have a similar philosophy, which should help the Cowboys avoid the confusing playcalling operation that occurred last season.
"He’s done this for a number of years both at the college level and the NFL level," Garrett said of Linehan. "If you look at his track record, he’s had success. He’s had success as an offensive coordinator calling plays, putting his plan together and our philosophies are very similar. His quarterbacks have always played well. He’s had teams where his runners, they’ve been a top-five rushing team. He seems to always get a big-play receiver to play very well for him. So we feel like philosophically we are on the same page. We’ve worked together. We’ve worked well together. I understand what he’s trying to get accomplished, how he works day to day, how he calls a game. So for a lot of reasons, we felt this was a really good fit for us."
Jerry put Garrett in a bad situation last season by forcing him to put the playcalling in the hands of Bill Callahan. It was a marriage of convenience, in part because Jones didn’t want to spring for another assistant coach. Not allowing Callahan to pursue other coaching opportunities might seem cruel on the surface, but the Cowboys wanted him to remain as the offensive line coach.
This will be a strange coaching staff due to the demotions of Callahan and Kiffin, but that’s just how this organization operates. The only form of consistency is the team’s uncanny knack for finishing .500.