Gary Brown likes what he sees in Cowboys backfield
Gary Brown has only been the Dallas Cowboys running backs coach for a few months. But in his short time working with starter DeMarco Murray, 2013 fifth-round pick Joseph Randle as well as Dallas-Fort Worth area products like Lance Dunbar of North Texas and Phillip Tanner of Dallas Kimball High School plus undrafted free agent Kendial Lawrence, he definitely has developed quite an appreciation for the stable of players he has been and is currently working with.
"They're great kids. They're great guys. They want to be the best they can be. They're not trying to be anything other than themselves. They want to learn. They practice hard, prepare hard and they're great guys," Brown said. "When they get outside, they're great guys and I think that's key to having a great running back is they're great people that have a singular goal of getting to the Super Bowl no matter how they have to get there, they're willing to do whatever it takes to get there."
Of course, much of the discussion surrounding the Cowboy ground attack is the fact that last season was one where Murray missed some six games with a foot injury and a campaign where Dallas averaged 79.1 yards rushing per game, the lowest in franchise history and second lowest average in the entire NFL.
But with Murray healthy heading into the start of preseason and everyone at Valley Ranch hoping he stays that way for the entire season, a campaign where the expectation is that the Cowboys will run the ball much more with new offensive coordinator Bill Callahan calling the plays than under Jason Garrett, Brown sees a lot to like in the former Sooner who is rightfully regarded as one of the NFL's top runners, when healthy.
"I think he's just a total back," Brown said of Murray. "I think he's the type of back that does everything well. We just want to make sure we get him going in the right direction and help him be the best he can possibly be."
Thanks to him missing much of the off-season workouts due to thumb surgery, Randle is a bit behind the rest of the Dallas running backs and has even slipped to third on the depth chart behind Dunbar early on in training camp, something which can also be directly attributed to the former Oklahoma State standout dropping some passes and muffing some punts.
However, Brown has little to no doubt in what the former OSU star brings to the table and also that by the end of preseason he'll more than likely be No. 2 in the backfield pecking order behind Murray.
"I think he's in the same mold [as Murray]," Brown said of Randle. "He's a young guy that's learning. He has a lot of skill that we have to develop. He's going to be a good player as well."
Prior to coming to Dallas, Brown spent the previous five seasons in Cleveland, where he earned high marks for his work with both former Arkansas star Peyton Hillis, a 1,000-yard rusher for the Browns in 2010 and Trent Richardson, the former Alabama back who tied Cleveland's rookie record of nine touchdowns last season, a mark originally set by the legendary Jim Brown.
And before he got into coaching in the high school ranks in his native Pennsylvania, he spent eight seasons in the NFL, playing for the Oilers, Giants and Chargers. On two occasions, he rushed for at least 1,000 yards after being an eight-round pick in the 1991 NFL Draft.
But before he ever toted the rock in the league, he was at Penn State, which is commonly known as Linebacker U for producing NFL linebackers like current Cowboy Sean Lee, but also has produced its fair share of great running backs.
And it was during his time in Happy Valley while playing for former PSU head coach Joe Paterno that he helped develop a successful approach to coaching, a simple yet effective formula that has served him well since he started coaching back in 1999 in the Keystone State.
"I have a philosophy of being very detailed in your work, being very disciplined in what you do, focus on everything you need to do and then finish every play, finish every meeting, finish every drill, finish everything. So that's probably my philosophy-detail, discipline, focus, finish," Brown said.
And considering how much Garrett constantly extols the virtues of sticking to the process as well as ensuring an incredible attention to every detail, no matter how small or minute, it sounds like Brown's approach is one that will mesh well with how things are currently being done in the Cowboy organization.
"I think it will. I love the way he [Garrett] does things," Brown said. "I love the way he approaches his players. I love the way he approaches us as coaches. I love the way he demands the details. I love that. I thrive on that."
Of course, while having a quality running backs coach does not ensure a successful backfield, having someone with Gary Brown's background, experience and philosophy can only help improve a unit that reached a new low last season. But another way to look at the 2012 Cowboys being the worst in franchise history at running the ball is that this year's group has nowhere to go but up, which is definitely saying something.