After finishing the 2012 regular season with a record of 8-8 and missing the playoffs, the Dallas Cowboys were once again forced to face the question of whether or not their window to win a championship was closing, or was already closed.
Coming into this season, however, the Cowboys don’t feel like their window is closing at all, despite playing in a very tough NFC conference. In fact, the Cowboys made some drastic changes to their coaching staff this offseason, which they hope will give the organization added consistency and effectiveness, something that the team has lacked in recent years.
But the team certainly has not lacked talent on the field. The Cowboys locked up Tony Romo to a long-term deal in the offseason, which was smart because Romo is, at this point in his career, undoubtedly a franchise quarterback. The defense is also extremely talented, with a good mix of veterans such as DeMarcus Ware and young talent such as cornerback Morris Claiborne and linebacker Sean Lee.
So what exactly did the Cowboys do to improve? They addressed what they thought was the problem – the coaching staff.
ICONHead coach Jason Garrett has gone 21-19 since taking over for Wade Phillips in 2010.
The biggest move owner Jerry Jones made was firing Rob Ryan and hiring mastermind defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin in the offseason. It was obvious at times last season that Ryan’s schemes were too complex and plays weren’t executed well. Jones and his son, Stephen Jones, recognized this and went after Kiffin, whose Tampa 2 defense really emphasizes the fundamentals. In essence, the Tampa 2 is an alteration of a standard Cover-2 scheme, in which the middle linebacker frequently must drop into coverage. The system is quite simple compared to other defensive blueprints, which should benefit the Cowboys. In addition to the simplicity of Kiffin’s defense, the argument could be made that the players the Cowboys have on defense are better suited for the new scheme.
Kiffin’s defense places a premium on speed at every position. Ware, for instance, is destined to excel because the idea in the new defense is to make sure the Pro Bowl sack artist is free to rush the passer as much as possible by utilizing his quickness to the maximum. And middle linebacker Sean Lee ideally fits the system, as he has the ability to cover short routes from the weak-side linebacker position, or drop into deep coverage from the middle linebacker position.
In making this change, the Cowboys are hoping to more effectively utilize the talent they have at multiple positions on the defensive side of the ball, which in turn, should lead to more turnovers. That’s exactly what Kiffin and head coach Jason Garrett will be looking for.
As for Garrett, he finally made the ultimate sacrifice as the head coach and relinquished the play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Callahan. Callahan is mostly seen as an offensive line guru, but he appears to be the right choice for the offensive coordinator position and will be much more efficient calling the plays than Garrett was. Garrett, as the head coach, often seemed overwhelmed when he was forced to call the offensive plays while also overseeing the defense and special teams. Through no fault of his own, Garrett was simply unable to do so many things at once and having Callahan call the plays will take a decent chunk of that weight off his shoulders.
Having Callahan calling the plays will help build chemistry with Romo, and the hope is that it will also lead to more consistent play from the newly minted quarterback. Consistency will be key for the entire team, however, and with Garrett now able to devote an equal amount of time to all three facets of the game, it will be much easier for the entire Cowboys squad to develop a certain rhythm on a weekly basis.
But while the Cowboys certainly recognized that the chaos invoked by the coaching staff did cause certain issues and confusion in past seasons, at the end of the day, the coaches will only be able to do so much. And with all the talent the Cowboys have on this year’s roster, the players will have to be the ones to step up and get it done on Sundays.
Follow Max on Twitter: @MaxLuckan
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