Dallas Cowboys Season Preview: Coaching Staff

Derek MajorCorrespondent IMay 25, 2009

IRVING, TX - FEBRUARY 08:  Wade Phillips,  new Dallas Cowboys coach and Jerry Jones, owner  of the Dallas Cowboys walk through the Dallas Cowboys locker room on February 8, 2007 in Irving, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Dallas Cowboys haven't changed their coaching staff much this offseason, and while there won't be any more changes this season, that doesn't mean there won't be a change in the way the Cowboys play. But they better be successful since the coaching staff's jobs are on the hot seat.

Jerry Jones finally listened to his staff and released Terrell Owens. Now, offensive coordinator Jason Garrett will have the freedom to draw up plays for Roy Williams, Patrick Crayton, and the others.

Tony Romo can finally  throw to the open man—instead of eyeing Owens all day.

Jason Witten will still get a ton of balls thrown to him, but watch out for Martellus Bennett, who caught 20 balls for 283 yards and four touchdowns last season. As the season went on, Garrett gained more confidence in Bennett.  So as this season progresses, and if he can put his off-the-field issues past him, he should be a strong contributor.

However, for the Cowboys to be successful they need to run the ball more—a lot more. The Cowboys were 25th in the NFL in rush attempts per game, and of the top 10 teams in that category, only the Washington Redskins, Oakland Raiders, and New England Patriots failed to make the playoffs.

Granted, the injuries to Felix Jones and Marion Barber didn't help much, but it did give the Cowboys a chance to see what Tashard Choice can do on the field—and now Garrett has to be thinking about running the ball more, especially with that huge offensive line in front of them.

Garrett will also want to take some of the pressure off of the receivers, and Romo is the perfect way to do it. After being praised for the Cowboys' explosive offense in 2007 and becoming the highest paid coordinator in the league, the Cowboys faltered in 2008. When Phillips' job was in jeopardy, Garrett's name didn't come up as a possible successor, so now people are wondering if he can run a successful offense—or just a highlight one.

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The Cowboys don't have a defensive coordinator, mostly because the coordinator they had last season, Brian Stewart, wasn't improving the defense. While Stewart was calling the plays, the Cowboys gave up 25+ points in five of the first nine weeks. After head coach Wade Phillips took over, the Cowboys gave up more than 25 twice—the last two weeks of the season.

Stewart expected the Cowboys' front three to generate pressure themselves, and normally played zone defense behind it, which resulted in no pressure and big pass plays for the opposition. That all changed when Phillips took over the team, who brought the house constantly on third downs, resulting in a ton of sacks and DeMarcus Ware leading the NFL with 20.

Now that Phillips has taken over the main defensive responsibilities, expect the pressure to keep coming. Phillips is a very good defensive coach and has improved the unit of every team he's been a part of—you can expect him to make the Cowboys better. 

Speaking of Phillips, this is probably his last strike with the Cowboys. Owner Jerry Jones kept Phillips after the December debacle and after the Eagles ran them over, knocking them out of playoff contention. In Phillips' first two years with the Cowboys they've seen the highest of highs and lowest of lows, but Jones wants consistency and winning to go hand in hand.

Phillips' player-friendly attitude hasn't led to much of either.

Phillips has promised to be harder on his players this season, but he's no Bill Parcells, so yelling and screaming isn't going to work for him. Holding his players accountable and playing those who are performing instead of those with the bigger contract is the right course for Phillips. He needs to get the Cowboys to the playoffs and win this season—just getting there isn't enough anymore. Anything less, especially another December meltdown, will result in Phillips sitting in a pregame studio.