Dallas Cowboys: What the Coaches Said and What Questions Remain After Media Day
Finally, The Cowboys coaching staff has been completed.
It has been an exciting month for Cowboys fans. You watched an “uncomfortable” offseason bring many firings and many new additions to “America’s Team.”
For the first time since any of the hirings, the Cowboys coaches were available for media interviews.
With so many questions swirling around the Cowboys this offseason, this promised to be the day that provided long awaited answers.
Who is going to do the offensive play calling?
What is the plan for the Cowboys to make a transition to the 4-3?
How will the Cowboys add players and who will be cut to make cap room?
All these questions and more are the ones that #CowboysNation has been wondering.
Were they answered? Let's find out.
Lets look at what’s been said and what has been left unsaid.
Head Coach: Jason Garrett
Jason Garrett spoke for about an hour and provided a ton of quotable material. However, instead of quoting everything newsworthy, I’d like to just recap the basis of what was said.
For all intents and purposes, you can count me among the few that believe that Garrett had a very large part in hiring this particular staff.
The first 25 minutes of the presser was spent talking about the immense respect that Garrett has for Monte Kiffin and Rod Marinelli. Those relationships stemmed from his playing days and he provided many stories supporting the stories.
Garrett made sure to let everyone know that Kiffin and Marinelli were big reasons that Garrett is the football mind that he is today.
After the first 25 minutes of expressing his reasoning for hiring the new coaches, he fielded questions.
The biggest question, of course, was about play calling. That situation hasn’t cleared up any. Garrett kept insisting that the team will continue to call plays in a “collective effort” and that there is no urgency to name a play caller.
Garrett continues to talk about the “mechanics” of the offensive game planning and said that Bill Callahan and all the offensive coaches all had a big hand in securing that game plan.
For the most part, Garrett left much be to desired after his presser. However, I believe if he did anything, he convinced the more level-headed media guys and fans that this is still his team and he’s preparing it for the long-term.
What Questions Remain
Like I said earlier, serious questions remain about who will be calling the plays offensively.
Garrett is a competent head coach and offensive coordinator but he isn’t competent at both. He kept talking about Norv Turner and Sean Payton having success doing both, but he has to realize he is not one of those guys.
For better or worse, Garrett is a head coach. I believe he can thrive as one but if he continues to place all his effort into the offense then he’ll find he’s going to be unsuccessful throughout his career.
Defensive Coordinator: Monte Kiffin
Kiffin is a long-winded man. He seems to be quite the interviewee and will likely keep people entertained for a while.
While a lot of his interview was what I would call “fluff,” he did have some great things to walk away with.
Kiffin began by talking about the allure of being at the Dallas Cowboys. He clearly respects the tradition of “America’s Team” and is excited to be coaching a team of this stature.
Kiffin then began immediately fielding questions.
The most prevalent was the one question that people wanted to know: How would this team transition to the 4-3?
Kiffin responded by saying, “Believe it or not, you actually do have some people that can play the 4-3.” He went on to add that the team is focused on being successful immediately and was also far ahead of what the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were when he arrived.
Kiffin went on to acknowledge the urgency put on this coaching staff and embraced it. He continued to talk about the team transition, saying you only needed three things on defense. He said that his players needed to “play hard, play fast and play together. It’s a team game!”
This is nice to hear after watching a team that was confused on a lot of snaps in 2012. If Kiffin can get this team to play with heart and unity, the talent suggests it could be dangerous.
What Questions Remain
I was surprised that there wasn’t more attention put on how players fit the scheme.
There was a question asked briefly about 3-technique position and how that will be filled. However, besides that, there wasn’t any reference to what players will fill what roles.
In the first real interview since the hiring I think fans were expecting some more concrete answers about roles. These questions will continue to linger and assumptions will continue to made until some key roles are defined.
Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator: Bill Callahan
Bill Callahan was all business in his media interview and didn’t waste any time with any other subjects than what we all want to know.
Who is going to call the plays in Dallas?
Callahan echoed what Jason Garrett said, stating that the staff operates collectively and that he has a significant impact on the game plan.
He went on to reference his extensive experience as a coach in many different areas and the success he has had with that.
Callahan figures to be a huge part of the offensive equation next year, but his focus seems to be more on how the offensive line and running game will improve, a point he took full responsibility for.
What Questions Remain
Until the Cowboys come up with a definitive answer, Callahan will continue to be linked to the offensive play-caller position in Dallas.
That doesn’t erase the other glaring questions that are his responsibility.
Callahan quickly needs to fix the offensive line before Tony Romo ends up dead. Additionally, as the run game coordinator, he needs to figure out how to get that aspect into gear.
The Cowboys focus heavily on a run-balanced offensive attack. If the run game isn’t producing, the Cowboys won’t be either.
Defensive Line Coach: Rod Marinelli
Rod Marinelli’s interview was short and sweet.
Marinelli went right to business talking about how important his defensive line will be in the Tampa 2 defense. This scheme relies on the defensive lineman to create pressure.
The biggest reason for the change of defensive philosophy is because Jason Garrett wanted more turnovers. Marinelli expects his defensive line will help with that saying, “60 percent of [turnovers] come from the pocket.” Whether that’s the quarterback fumbling or the pressure created from the pocket collapsing.
He’s not wrong; this has been an emphasis for the Cowboys for the past two years with minimal success.
Lastly, Marinelli spoke about his relationship with Kiffin and how their experiences coaching defenses together will give them a good reference point. He stated that he still has all his old tapes from their days coaching in Tampa Bay together. He believes those tapes will provide the defensive staff good reference points on where to start moving forward.
What Questions Remain
Who’s who in this new defensive scheme? That’s the biggest question.
The Cowboys coaches will need to figure out quickly who is going to fit where. The NFL draft isn’t too far ahead and they need to identify who really fits this scheme and who needs to be replaced.
This isn’t the year where the Cowboys can go out and spend big, so they need to be smart and choosy with the acquisitions they can make.
Tight Ends Coach: Wes Phillips
Wes Phillips has really been a great addition to this staff and has finally been promoted to tight ends coach.
As Phillips started his short media interview, he began by talking about the difficulty of watching his dad fired and the team transition to Jason Garrett.
I believe he handled that in a very professional manner for such a personal question.
Next he just spoke about the excitement of having to work with a future Hall of Fame player in Jason Witten.
Then Phillips addressed the development of James Hanna and how Kyle Orton has spent time teaching Hanna how to be a professional. The expectations are high for Hanna, who is expected to be second on the depth chart.
What Questions Remain
There really aren’t many questions at this position. You have a legendary player at the position that epitomizes what it means to be professional, on and off the field.
The only thing to watch here is who they target for depth. Hanna is a pure receiving tight end and while he has improved his blocking, the Cowboys will be looking for a pure blocking tight end to add to the depth chart.
Defensive Backs Coach: Jerome Henderson
Jerome Henderson isn’t a new coach for the Dallas Cowboys. However, he did make himself available on Thursday and had a lot to say
When asked about the injuries that plagued the defense last season, Henderson immediately went to the loss of Orlando Scandrick.
Henderson said that the Cowboys really missed Scandrick’s ability to read receivers in the slot and shut down slot corners. Henderson said of Scandrick, “He prepares and study’s so hard at his aspect of the game. He knows those looks, knows those routes and a lot of times he’ll get everyone on the same page.” It’s no question that Henderson believes that this unit will be improved with Scandrick returning this season.
Barry Church was another player that the Cowboys lost early in the season and Henderson found that to be very disappointing. He would go on to say that Church is a player that he’s excited about. Not only was Church making plays in the box but also down field, which was a great sign for his development.
Henderson also addressed the new defensive scheme and said he believed it would probably lead to more turnovers.
Lastly, Henderson addressed the play and future of Morris Claiborne. Claiborne spent the preseason battling injuries and had his play suffer because of that learning curve. Henderson had this to say about Claiborne: “He missed opportunities to get stronger and build himself physically. He missed the opportunity to have reps and to cement his technique and you saw it show up during the season.”
Henderson did follow that up by saying that he believe that Claiborne is going to dedicate himself this offseason by “working his butt off” and cementing this skill set. There are high expectations for Claiborne’s sophomore season.
What Questions Remain
The things that weren’t addressed were actually really large concerns with the secondary transitioning to the Tampa 2 defense.
What is Gerald Sensabaugh and Matt Johnson’s future outlook and will the Cowboys pursue a more coverage savvy safety?
How will Claiborne and Brandon Carr transition to the Cowboys Tampa 2 scheme?
These are serious questions that will need answers sooner than later.