Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Jerry Jones must try not to think his team is better than it is for 2015-16 not to suck. Part 1: Coach retention.

I will start with a disclaimer. I thought the Dallas Cowboys would win 4 games this year.

I thought DeMarco Murray would go down after 4 games and with no running attack, Romo would be beaten down and be out after 6 games and the Cowboys lead by the worst backup QB in the league would go 0-10 it's last ten games.

Obviously, I was wrong.

In a contract year, Murray finally stayed healthy.  The Cowboys' new offensive coordinator surprised everyone by running the damned ball all year.  Hits on Romo were reduced to a minimum and both Murray and Romo lasted all season.  The team controlled the clock and kept the defense off the field.

It is very Jerry to think that will happen again next year.

Don't fall for it Mr. Jones.

Head Coach Jason Garrett may be resigned, but the Cowboys could lose any of 3 very good coaches

Garrett makes about $5 Million a year as a head coach which puts him in the middle of the pack as an NFL head coach.  The thought locally is that he would get a pay bump up to Chip Kelly range (~$7 Million annually), which would put him in the top 3 in the NFL.

I think Garrett ought to meet the Cowboys halfway for a couple years.  The reality is that Garrett was a .500 coach until this season.  By my thinking that means he was paid VERY appropriately.  This year his staff delivered a hell of a coaching job, but that doesn't mean he deserves to be one of the three highest paid coach in the league.

Further Garrett should realize that his coaches played a HUGE role in the team's success this year.  If Garrett asks for $7 Million this year, Jerry is likely going to lowball at least one of the three assistants who made this possible.

To my thinking it is far better for Garrett to say, "give me an appropriate $5.5M per year with bonuses that bump up my base salary in the remaining years by $500K each time we make the playoffs."

What does that do?  In the immediate future, it gives Garrett the ability to tell Jerry that the $1.5 Million dollar savings he is essentially giving Jerry this year is designed to help Jerry keep Garrett's three key assistants.

Jason Garrett needs to realize---he has tons of money, but NFL success is hard to come by.  He has magic in a bottle with this staff.  He needs to do what he can to keep them.

Defensive Coordinator Rod Marinelli is rumored to be looking to join Lovie Smith's staff in Tampa Bay.  Marinelli earned a big raise in Dallas, and Garrett leaving some money on the table could make Jerry more likely to retain Marinelli.

I like Marinelli, but to me it isn't the end of the world if Marinelli leaves as Dallas has now transitioned back to a 4-3 defense that plays some man coverage.   They are again playing a scheme that fits their personnel. Butch Davis and Dave Wannstedt would probably eagerly take the DC job and do an equally credible job if money cannot sway Marinelli.

Still it is optimal that Marinelli stays as there is no doubt he "coaches players up" and this defense is likely not quite as good as it appeared --- especially on the defensive line.

Passing Game Coordinator Scott Linehan was a great hire.  I do not think he is the world's greatest offensive coordinator, but he is someone Garrett trusts which was absolutely necessary to get Garrett to let go of play calling.  Linehan is very competent and to his credit he absolutely saw that everything (strong OL, injured QB, and RB in a contract year) all pointed to a heavy does of ball control, but he isn't the second coming.  It is unlikely he would be interested in a college job and I don't think anyone is going to hire him to be their NFL head coach at this point, but he may need a small raise and it is possible titles may have to be shuffled.   He may have to have the OC title. If the right crap team (Cleveland?  Buffalo?) offers Linehan a position as OC/assistant head coach, would Dallas be able to keep him?

Last year after stripping Bill Callahan of his play calling duties, Jerry Jones held the OL coach (and offensive coordinator in name only) to his contract rather than letting him take offensive coordinator jobs in the league.  Now a great season can soothe a lot of ills , but I would still be hacked off about that if I were Callahan.  Maybe Jerry can keep him if he smacks him with a lot of money, but I wouldn't be surprised if he leaves over the principle of the thing.

If you have to replace Callahan, you need to either hire someone who can develop star players on the OL like a Callahan (or a Hudson Houck back in the day) or someone who can get an OL to play well together and exceed their likely production as a group like a Tony Wise-type  and then draft to back up that thought process.

It is tough to find a player building OL coach of Bill Callahan's caliber.  It is IMO a short list. Should he leave, I would strongly look at Tennessee OL coach Bob Bostad.  Bostad coached a slew of collegiate linemen at Wisconsin into first round picks.  To my point of view he was the best OL coach in college from 2008-2011.  He coached center Travis Fredrick in college.  Dallas will likely still need to develop at least one more young offensive lineman, so a guy with collegiate experience makes sense.

Could a huge roll of money and a title like "running game coordinator/offensive line coach" make that happen?  I think additionally sliding Tennessee a lower pick like a fifth rounder would be acceptable "grease" to apply there if needed.

I happen to also like UTEP offensive line coach Spencer Leftwich a lot as well.  Leftwich was UNT's offensive line coach for a number of years and did a fantastic job there.  UTEP is coached by Sean Kugler who was well known as a very good NFL offensive line coach.  That Kugler selected Leftwich to me validates my opinions on Leftwich.  I think he is a young Tony Wise.  Leftwich hasn't produced anyone, but his OLs are always among the best in the conference.

I think what Jerry Jones has to remember is that everything broke right for the Cowboys last year and it had everything to do with coaching.  Next year won't be like that.  I will discuss the players tomorrow.

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