In part one we made the case for why the current Dallas Cowboys staff needed to be retained. Part two will flip the script and explain why it is time for Jerry Jones to clean house in Big D.
Will Steele: A reigning coach of the year fired? Yes. The issues that ail the Cowboys stretch far beyond 2017, the one common denominator in them is Jason Garrett. There is a perception out there that says he is a puppet coach, I don’t agree with that narrative. The facts are he is a mediocre head coach; 61-50 overall record as a full-time head coach, 1-2 in the playoffs and many games being outcoached. That’s seven years of futility that has seen this franchise essentially go nowhere. With so many coaches coming in turning franchises around and having huge success immediately, this makes Garrett look even worse. Any other coach not named Marvin Lewis with this resume gets fired.
Big Harb: Jason Garrett has had more than enough time and resources to develop a consistent winner here in Dallas. For all his warts, the Cowboys’ owner is willing to spend on facilities and coaching resources in a way that should give Garrett an advantage that most teams just do not possess. Garrett has proven to be a good strategic coach before the game starts. Conversely, he has also proven time and again that he cannot match his counterpart across the field in making in-game adjustments. He has not, however, shown the tactical agility required to succeed in an NFL game when the strategy isn’t working as well as he hoped. This inability has led to being outscored in the second half across the entirety of the season. This inability to manage in-game tactics was even more pronounced in the third quarter of these games. This is an area where the team must be better in the future. Unfortunately, there is nothing in the past few seasons that indicates Garrett can grow into a better coach in these areas. The time is now for a change at the top.
Tony Iosso: They say numbers never lie. Well, Jason Garrett has coached the Cowboys to an 8-8 record in nearly half of his seasons in Dallas. The playoff teams in 2014 and 2016 were special seasons where nearly everything went right. It almost felt like Dallas was winning and Garrett was just along for the ride. The mark of a great head coach is finding ways to win when things don’t go as planned. During his time in Dallas, Garrett has failed to do this time and time again.
Jordan Newman: Garrett has a demeanor that feeds into the liking of Jerry Jones, that does not drive players or hold them accountable for their on-field actions. Garrett has consistently been outcoached against superior teams and in moments that matter. Struggling to manage games cost them against the Packers in the 2016 playoffs and in week five of this season. Regarding this year’s third quarter problems, the Cowboys are ranked 28th in scoring offense at 3.3 points per third quarter and are dead last in teams averaging 6.5 against them. What is even more troubling, these issues continued to repeat themselves game after game. An 8-8 coach that has been driven by great offensive talent over the years, has not proven to do enough when things are not in his favor.
WS: There may be no more disappointing coordinator than Scott Linehan. Prior to this season many times I spoke up thinking there is no way this offense will just come into year two of Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott and do the same things as he did in 2016 without tweaks. That is exactly what Scott Linehan did.
It may have been the only thing that could derail a young quarterback’s progression or make it stagnant. Did missing some of his best players in Tyron Smith and Elliott play a factor in a bad coaching performance? Sure, but that’s where the coaches get paid to do their job. The buzz word of the year for the Cowboys – adjustments. Linehan made very few of them prior to the season and during the season when adversity struck. Does this offense hum when it has all it elite parts? Absolutely, but it shouldn’t be dreadful when it doesn’t. Prescott will take a big hit this offseason by the media and fans but his coaches did nothing to help him improve. This archaic offense may have run its course in Dallas with this particular set of players. His lack of creative scheming will do nothing but set this offense back.
BH: It is time for Scott Linehan to go. Linehan has years of experience running an NFL offense. He has forgotten more about offensive football than most of us will ever know. He has also outlasted his usefulness for the Dallas Cowboys. His inability to adjust his offensive play calling when faced with unexpected changes to personnel led directly to the total meltdown of the team in 2015 without Tony Romo. It showed up again in 2017 when he was unwilling or unable to adjust his scheme to account for losing Tyron Smith. No organizational leader will have every strength necessary, so their top lieutenants must have complementary strengths to help the leader minimize his or her weaknesses.
This is not the case for Garrett and Linehan as it appears they have the same blind spot when it comes to creating tactics to compensate for strategies that are not working. It is important to have an offensive play caller that Garrett trusts. It is just as important to have one that can be creative and agile when problems arise in implementing the overall strategy. Linehan has made it clear that he is not that guy. New blood in the offensive coaches’ meetings and a more agile thinker in Dak Prescott’s ear can help maximize what Jason Garrett can do with the Cowboys in 2018.
TI: Scott Linehan’s time in Dallas should come to an end. Linehan’s reputation as a pass-happy play caller has taken a back seat over the last few seasons, but it is still his nature at heart. Dallas being built to be a power run-heavy team just doesn’t jive with what Linehan naturally wants to do. Multiple times during his tenure with the Cowboys, Linehan has over complicated situations with his playcalling. Look no further than week 16 with the season on the line against the Seahawks. First and goal from the three-yard line, a fresh Ezekiel Elliott, dominant offensive line, suspect run defense add all those ingredients together and Linehan dials up a pass? That natural instinct to throw the ball surfaces at the most inopportune times for the Cowboys. If Dallas was to head in a different direction on offense, now would be the time to do it, before Prescott wastes another year in this outdated scheme.
JN: For Garrett to receive most of the criticism, Linehan should equally be responsible for the offensive woes. When one player goes down, this system is broken. 2015 was a waste due to not being able to adjust to the loss of Romo. Linehan called an offense in 2017 that failed to score more than 12 points in four games. Run, run, pass became the sequence of a predictable offense. Motioning Terrance Williams to the H-back position with two tight ends on first down meant a run to the strong side. If it’s 3rd and long, Beasley becomes useless with a typical out route as well as Witten on a hook/curl route up the seam. Teams figured Dallas out and no creativity or use of different dynamics of certain players was used. For instance:
WS: Of the three coaches on the hot seat, Rod Marinelli gets the most respect from me. Never given a bunch of pro bowlers, he would keep the defense above water. At times though the defense also had huge meltdowns and couldn’t function without Sean Lee. Schematically it is time to move on from Marinelli, his schematic philosophies are outdated and soft. With the new crop of young blood on this team, it could do well with a more aggressive approach. Where a new coordinator could also do wonders is in the draft and free agency. Marinelli doesn’t put a premium on certain positions due to philosophical differences. This has a huge effect on how the team acquires players. A new face could bring new ideas and ways to use players that Marinelli took for granted.
BH: Rod Marinelli has been passed by as an NFL defensive play caller and he needs to go now. The dogmatic dedication to the techniques and playbook that helped Tampa win a super bowl more than a decade ago have made Marinelli obsolete as a defensive play caller. As good as he has been in teaching his scheme and coaching up his players, he has been equally poor in calling plays during games to stop opponent adjustments to his initial game plan. Like Linehan, Marinelli has been great during the week and bad in the game.
Unlike on offense, Dallas has an excellent defensive mind on staff that may not be here next season. Matt Eberflus survived the debacle that was Rob Ryan’s tenure as defensive coordinator and he appears to have gained a lot of fans inside The Star. The team has given him more responsibility in making him the defensive passing game coordinator under Marinelli, and all signs point to the fact that he has the full confidence of his players and his bosses. Eberflus has a wealth of experience in the 3-4 defense prior to working with the 4-3 under Monte Kiffin and now Marinelli. This is precisely the type of diversity in a scheme that could make the most of the talent on the defensive roster. Eberflus could leave this year for the chance to call his own defense as he is working on an expiring contract. Choosing his creativity and scheme flexibility over one more year of Marinelli should really be a no-brainer.
TI: Rod Marinelli is a very good defensive football coach. However, his schemes and philosophies are simply becoming outdated in 2017’s NFL. The game is different now, and many of Marinelli’s staples in the Tampa 2 defense are no longer as successful as they once were. This is less a knock on Marinelli as it is a testament to how the game is evolving. Father time is undefeated for both players and coaches alike. With the influx of youth on the defensive side of the ball in Dallas, it only makes sense to move to a younger coordinator they can grow with.
JN: A coach who holds his players’ mistakes accountable in a public display, Marinelli needs to be checked as well. His defense leaves way too much space in coverage. Stunts and blitzes are consistently obviously designed in situations that they should not occur in. If a player is not doing well and a team exposes that element, nothing gets changed. Without Sean Lee, this defense becomes close to useless in stopping anyone. He runs a Tampa 2 scheme that does have the certain players (dominant middle linebacker and defensive tackle), to run it. Turnovers are void. Last but not least, as much hate former defensive coordinator Rob Ryan received from fans, how much different is Marinelli?