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The Complex Case Of The Cowboys' Coaching Staff

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Jason Garrett has had ample time to prove himself and get results, while his coordinators have not. But if things don't change soon, all three will be out. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.
Jason Garrett has had ample time to prove himself and get results, while his coordinators have not. But if things don't change soon, all three will be out. Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images.

Following the team’s Week 10 blowout in New Orleans, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones re-affirmed his faith in the coaching staff, assuring their job security and justifying its performance via injuries and divisional mediocrity. It’s a tired, familiar act. And with the team sitting at 5-5, wallowing in awful defensive numbers and sputtering on offense, this kind of talk only makes it easier to jump on the anti-Jerry bandwagon, decry his moves as general manager and call for another overhaul in Dallas.

But it’s not that simple, and the rationale has nothing to do with injuries. Porous as Monte Kiffin’s scheme has proven and ineffective as Bill Callahan’s play-calling has been, their styles and strategies may just need more time and snaps to improve. Both are first-year coordinators. Kiffin’s had to make huge adjustments for injuries, and Callahan’s had to introduce a core group that’s played together for three years to new play-calling. They need a bigger sample size before their work can be conclusively judged.

Garrett, however, doesn’t have that luxury. He’s done if Dallas misses the playoffs, and Kiffin and Callahan will be too. So it might help the Cowboy coaches if Jerry did turn up the heat; fear inspires change. But calling for pink slips just adds more distraction and negative energy.

Each case is different, but they’re all connected. Kiffin’s turnover-first style has failed week in and week out; his secondary consistently bends in both man and zone coverage. In today’s league, the better units boast the better pass defenses. And with equally bad numbers against the run, his design and implementation simply aren’t working, whether he has nine starters or four.

But, in all likelihood, Jones won’t fire two defensive coordinators in one year, which brings us to Callahan, a West Coast man whose assumption of the play-calling was supposed to usher in a stronger running game. Only once this year have the Cowboys rushed for 100 yards or more. But when DeMarco Murray is healthy, it usually gives Romo a little breathing room. Callahan’s play-calling has only seen Dez Bryant targeted 19 times over the last three games, but with Miles Austin returning this week against an equally bad Giant secondary, the Cowboys’ passing game should get back on track.

So, basically, Callahan doesn’t deserve the hot seat the way Kiffin does. But because the defense is irreparably bad and depleted and the team’s playoff hopes reside entirely with the offense, Kiffin won’t get the hot seat the way Callahan will.

And what about Garrett, the team general? He should be coaching for his job right now, and that goes double for his lieutenants. If they don’t figure out workable solutions in time for the playoffs, it’s hard to imagine any of them sticking around.

So that’s the future. As for the present, you can couch it any way you want, but Cowboy fans are sick of the negative perspective and prognoses. Though Philadelphia has overtaken them in the NFC East and appears to be gelling at the right time, the Cowboys are far from eliminated. Four of their five losses have come against playoff teams, and three were very tightly contested battles. They wanted to expand Tony Romo’s contributions to the offense, and for the first eight games, Dallas had a Top 5 passing attack.

On the flip side, the defense has been undeniably abysmal against the run (29th) and pass (32nd). The offense suffers from terrible third-down numbers. On both sides of the ball, we’ve seen inabilities to mesh player talent and scheme.

Time may be the cure for the Cowboys’ coaching concerns. But it’s also a privilege the owner has abused for years, and one that can no longer be afforded. It’s time to string together some wins and close the division or clean house all over again.