For years, the Dallas Cowboys boasted one of the best offensive line coaches of all time. I speak of none other than Hudson Houck.
Houck enjoyed two world championships with the Cowboys in 1993 and 1995 but also saw a couple of 5-11 seasons in 2000 and 2001. He finished his second tour of duty in Dallas last season, picking up a playoff win in 2009 during his four-year stay.
Let’s just say that Houck has seen all there is to see as an offensive line coach. He’s one of the few assistant coaches who remained in the same position for virtually his entire career.
Put it this way: Houck has coached offensive lines that paved the way for running backs like Emmitt Smith, LaDainian Tomlinson and Eric Dickerson.
Following Houck’s retirement from coaching in early 2012, the Cowboys reached for perhaps a more recognizable name to fill Houck's big shoes.
Even though Callahan has been coaching in the NFL since 1995, the last season Dallas won a Super Bowl, he certainly doesn’t have the depth of experience that Houck had as an offensive line coach.
If you’ve watched the Cowboys during 2012, you can clearly see that the offensive line is much closer to bad than good, and that’s putting it nicely. Quarterback Tony Romo has been on the run since the season started, except for an opening-night win over the Giants in New York.
Granted, Callahan is coming into a new system that features new interior linemen and tackles who have been flipped from their respective positions a year ago.
Not exactly a recipe for early success, for sure.
But then again, who’s says you can’t be successful early in the NFL these days?
Upon looking at Callahan’s career, I just don’t see anything that makes me believe that he is the advanced specialist we were told by Valley Ranch that he was.
His college experience aside, that one Super Bowl season of 2002 with Oakland is the lone highlight that I can see. Of course, if you watched that game and have any recollection at all, you remember that the outcome was something less than special for the “Men in White” that day.
Fact is this: ESPN broadcaster and former head coach Jon Gruden had put in most of the work in Oakland and had just been hired away the year before to leave the Bay Area for another bay, that one in Tampa, Fla. So Gruden, who himself took over an awesome Buccaneers defense that was already of contending quality, essentially got to play an inferior opponent that he knew backward and forward.
Let’s just say that the final score of 48-21 in favor of the Bucs showed two things.
First, Callahan was definitely overmatched by an NFC opponent that was younger, faster, stronger and certainly more talented than the aging Raiders.
Second, it showed nothing about Callahan’s ability to compete or adjust.
Following a 4-12 regular season in 2003, Callahan was dismissed by the late Al Davis, and you have never heard Callahan’s name mentioned as a head coaching candidate in the NFL again. I’m not sure he would have ever been a head coach had Gruden not been purchased for a ransom by Tampa Bay.
Next for Callahan was his last head coaching stop, but this one in the college ranks. Arriving in Lincoln, Nebraska, for the 2004 regular season, Callahan was the first head coach in four decades to be hired without any previous ties to the Cornhuskers program.
Having won three national championships in the 1990s, expectations were high that Callahan’s NFL experience could get the program back to the top.
Callahan made it four seasons before being canned, at which point he told the media that he had been excellent in every area.
Here’s how excellent he was:
*Two losing seasons in four years.
*Failed to finish ranked three times. The ‘Huskers had only done that once since 1962.
*Presided over a five-game losing streak.
His head coaching ambition likely shelved, Callahan resurfaced in New York as the offensive line coach and assistant head coach of the Jets for the 2008 regular season. In Eric Mangini’s final season as head coach, featuring Brett Favre at quarterback, the Jets went 9-7 and did not make the postseason.
Then came the Rex Ryan regime and Callahan was spared the guillotine, but to what end? Sure, New York earned a wild-card berths before losing AFC Championship games in 2009 and 2010, but nobody will tell you that offense is the reason it got there.
Callahan may not be the most pressing problem with the Dallas offense. In fact, I’ll tell you he is not. But if you’re expecting some kind of dramatic turnaround for the Dallas offensive line this season, you might want to rethink that idea.
The Cowboys are quite fortunate that they are not 1-3 as opposed to 2-2 heading into their bye week. There is absolutely zero evidence so far that Callahan has a single answer.