Cowboys' new OC has serious credentials
Either Cowboys owner Jerry Jones or head coach Jason Garrett threw the organization's loyal fans a bone when Bill Callahan was hired to take over as offensive line coach/offensive coordinator last week. This isn't an earthshattering move, but it does feel like an admission that Garrett could use a little help on the sideline.
And knowing how loyal Garrett was to longtime offensive line coach Hudson Houck, this couldn't have been an easy decision for him. You've read Houck's quotes about his "retirement," but I know the man well enough to believe he wasn't entertaining the idea of walking away a couple months ago.
Houck did a tremendous job during his 13 seasons with the Cowboys, but the Cowboys needed a different type of offensive line coach. They wanted former assistant Tony Sparano to return to that post, but he was offered play-calling duties with the New York Jets. The Cowboys took the logical next step and hired Callahan, who had reportedly turned down two different contract extension offers from the Jets.
Callahan won't take over play-calling duties from Garrett, but he will likely have a lot more influence in the game-planning process than Houck. Callahan has been a head coach with the Oakland Raiders and Nebraska Cornhuskers, so he knows a thing or two about game management. He didn't call plays with the Jets, but sources have told me that he had a tremendous amount of influence on the game plan. And former offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wasn't afraid to bounce ideas off him during games.
"He will do well with Garrett," said one Jets assistant coach. "He is not a grab bag play caller. There is a reason for everything he does. He's just a very calculated and cerebral guy."
The way Garrett handled the final minute of regulation against the Cardinals and his handling of the fallout cast a shadow over him the rest of the season. Sources have even told me that one Cowboys assistant coach blew up on the sideline when Garrett inexplicably allowed the clock to tick down before attempting a 49-yard field to win the game.
Having called plays in the past, Callahan has a great feel for how to change up protection schemes to go with whatever Garrett wants to do. Several coaches called me following the Cowboys' 44-6 loss to the Eagles at the end of the '08 season and said that quarterback Tony Romo never had a chance in that game because the protection schemes were never adjusted.
We've seen successful head coaches such as Sean Payton give up their play-calling duties at times so they can oversee all phases of the team. Payton's hand was forced because of an injury he suffered during a game, but he didn't immediately yank the responsibilities away from Pete Carmichael Jr. upon his return to the sideline.
Bill Parcells turned over the play-calling duties in Dallas to Payton and then Tony Sparano, but he never hesitated to overrule them if something wasn't to his liking. Jerry Jones has this misguided belief that players respond more to a head coach who has play-calling duties on one side of the ball. But this theory has been blowing up in his face for years. And it goes directly against what worked when the Cowboys won three Super Bowls in the 1990s.
Let's hope that Garrett's the one who decided that it would be helpful to have an offensive coordinator on staff. If this was forced upon him by Jones it would just reinforce the idea that the owner's pulling all the strings.
Callahan oversaw some of the league's top rushing attacks with the Raiders and Jets, so he should be able to do some new things with DeMarco Murray and Felix Jones. I talked to two longtime offensive line coaches in the league who couldn't stop praising Callahan's ability to influence the running game.
And if you're looking for a little more good news this afternoon, here's what one of those offensive line coaches from an AFC team said about the Cowboys' new secondary coach Jerome Henderson.
"He is outstanding," said the coach. "He will be a defensive coordinator one day soon. I would make him my defensive coordinator today."
Cowboys fans are obviously still upset about last season, as evidenced by the fact Rob Ryan nearly got booed out of the AAC during a Stars game Tuesday. But maybe they can take solace in the fact that Callahan seems like an excellent hire.