IRVING (105.3 THE FAN) – Last year’s Dallas Cowboys coordinators were on “shaky ground,’’ we wrote the day after the end of the 2013 regular season.
Now the ground has shaken … and Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan have been jostled … sideways.
Kiffin is being named “assistant head coach/defense” with his trusted lieutenant Rod Marinelli being promoted to defensive coordinator. And Callahan is staying on with the title of “offensive coordinator” — maybe not entirely happily — while the club adds Scott Linehan as the “passing-game coordinator/play-caller.”
The defensive switch is logical and can be smooth. The Cowboys switched from the 3-4 to the 4-3 scheme under Kiffin. It was a statistical failure; Dallas finished last in the NFL in defense. But the organization believes the right teachers are in place. So Marinelli moves from defensive-line coach to the top position while mentor Kiffin accepts an invented role alongside him.
“Rod Marinelli’s production in terms of creating turnovers and changing field position as a defensive coordinator is well documented,” coach Jason Garrett said in a statement from the Cowboys. “Monte Kiffin’s overall knowledge and understanding of this defensive scheme will be put to use in mentoring all of the players and coaches on the defensive side of the ball. Monte was brought here to direct a transition in philosophy to the 4-3 scheme, and he will continue to oversee the development of our defense in this scheme.”
The offensive alterations are far more complicated.
Linehan will take over the play-calling duties from Callahan, who Garrett reluctantly gave the job to in 2013. Callahan — who sources say has been seeking an escape from Valley Ranch since learning of Garrett’s interest in Linehan — has one year remaining on his contract and barring a chance will continue to hold the “offensive coordinator” title while also overseeing the offensive line with help from Frank Pollard.
But Linehan is a “Garrett Guy”; they worked together on the 2005 Dolphins staff under Nick Saban. He’s the head coach’s hand-picked aide to help guide the offense in what is Garrett’s final contractual year. Callahan’s relationship with Garrett is not nearly as sound, and now his authority is greatly lessened, titles notwithstanding.
“The opportunity to add someone of Scott Linehan’s expertise and experience will benefit our offensive unit,” Garrett said, “and we believe the combination of him and Bill Callahan working closely together will give us a great chance to build upon the strides we made offensively last year.”
The Cowboys are not afraid of change; Linehan will be the Cowboys’ third play-caller in three years and Marinelli will be their third defensive coordinator in three years. What Cowboys owner Jerry Jones obviously does not wish to do is to fire anybody. Sources say that option was considered but dismissed with Kiffin and Callahan.
All of this leaves a lot of chefs in the Cowboys’ kitchen, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Garrett now has on his staff in Linehan, Callahan, Marinelli and Derek Dooley assistants with big-time head-coaching experience. Kiffin is a coaching icon with 43 years of experience in the business. Quaterback coach Wade Wilson and QB Tony Romo also have powerful voices in the offensive meeting room.
Guys are being asked to shift down a chair and there is suddenly a wealth of brainpower at Valley Ranch.
Maybe not enough chairs. But lots of brainpower.
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