IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones promised “uncomfortable” and he promised “change.” Five assistants being moved out since the season ended at 8-8 constitutes exactly that. And the Cowboys are not done.
From inside Cowboys HQ, a position-by-position look at head coach Jason Garrett’s staff … featuring names as they appear now and might appear at week’s end when the team is done working the Senior Bowl:
Head coach: The nonsensical rumors persist from national media outlets that Jones and Garrett are involved in a “power struggle” that might even include a conspiratorial plan by the owner to trick the coach into quitting. Garrett is a devoted Cowboy and a Princeton-educated man; folks waiting on him to quit a job he believes he’s doing well and a job that includes two contractual years likely worth between $10 and $12 million probably don’t have that same level of education.
Defensive coordinator: Rob Ryan is out (and interviewing for the same job in St. Louis). He was let go while he was on a family vacation, and while Garrett made the phone call to Ryan, Jones almost certainly made the call here. (The timing of the firing does not represent Garrett’s style. And while the coach probably didn’t try to stand in the way of this move, it was in fact Garrett who hired Ryan two years ago, largely on the recommendation of mutual friend Norv Turner.
Monte Kiffin, 72, is Ryan’s replacement, and brings with him a switch to a 4-3 defense. The Cowboys briefly considered other, younger candidates but quickly opted to “hire the teacher instead of his students.”
By the way, reports that Dallas coveted Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer are false. He remains in the Valley Ranch Rolodex as someone to court someday. But the former Dallas assistant re-upped his Bengals contract just last summer and wasn’t going to be available this time around.
Defensive line coach: Long-time Monte Kiffin associate Rod Marinelli is on board. The former Lions head coach (that didn’t go well; he was 0-16) is a 4-3 master and is a coup of a hire. The Bears DC last year, he could’ve been a coordinator elsewhere but was drawn to this job by Kiffin. Marinelli, a Vietnam War vet, replaces defensive line coach Brian Baker. The status of line assistant Leon Lett, the former Cowboys standout, is not yet clear. Volunteer assistant Charles Haley, this year a Hall-of-Fame finalist, is well liked by the players.
Linebackers coach: Matt Eberflus, a trusted Ryan aide, is on staff and staying. Young Ben Bloom is also likely to stay in some capacity. Kiffin contacted USC linebackers coach Scottie Hazelton but there might not be room to bring him aboard. There was talk of contacting Joe Berry, the Chargers LB coach and Marinelli’s son-in-law, but he’s staying in San Diego.
Defensive backs coach: Jerome Henderson will remain in place.
Special teams coordinator: Joe DeCamillis was allowed to leave for a similar job in Chicago. Ex-Cowboys assistant Steve Hoffman (the first kicking coach ion the NFL two decades ago and last year fired by Oakland) is a logical name. Another name in the mix could be Rich Bisaccia, who worked in San Diego under Turner and who has Tampa Bay connections (as do Kiffin and Marinelli.) Bisaccia, however, just left the Chargers for the assistant head coach job at Auburn.
One keeper, one way or the other, is present kicking coach Chris Boniol. His contract is up. But his special work discovering and training kicker Dan Bailey and punter Chris Jones gives him unique value.
Offensive coordinator: Jason Garrett has been the playcaller in his time in charge. Jones and Garrett have met to discuss reining that in — or giving Garrett help. A compelling name: Jeremy Bates, who called plays a few years ago in Denver and has a good reputation as a QB coach despite being ousted in Chicago last week. (Jeremy’s father Jim is a former Cowboys assistant.) Sources say Dallas has three names on its list of candidates; the leader of those is staffer Bill Callahan, who last year oversaw the offensive line but before that was the head coach and playcaller for a Super Bowl team in Oakland. In the increasingly likely event that Callahan takes the wheel here — something he would like to do — the organization will need to decide whether Callahan will simply call plays from Garrett’s existing offense or whether there will be a West Coast Offense influence (Callahan’s offense in Oakland.)
Offensive line coach: Callahan could retain responsibilities here. Or, staffer Wes Phillips could be elevated to this spot. Another possibility: Former aide Tony Sparano, who worked here under Bill Parcells.
Tight ends coach: John Garrett, Jason’s brother and trusted sounding board, was invited by management to find another job. He’s now with Tampa. Phillips or Sparano could help here.
Wide receivers coach: Jimmy Robinson handles this group and also has the title of assistant head coach. There are whispers of him considering retirement.
Running backs coach: Skip Peete was let go and landed in Chicago. Some of the aforementioned candidates (Sparano, Phillips) could qualify. So could former college coach Houston Nutt, who interviewed at Valley Ranch last week. Nutt — who has deep Jones family connections — helped popularize the Wildcat in college football. His interview here, though, may qualify as a “courtesy” visit at this stage.
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