Monday, January 10, 2011

2 Assistant Coaches:

Plenty of good NFL Playoff football this weekend without the presence of the Dallas Cowboys. However, 2 different threads inspired my blogging for this morning from different places, so let's get to it:

1) Ray Sherman Out as Cowboys' WR Coach

This one is obviously the one that has generated the most email with me over the weekend, so it makes sense to start here. I have to tell you, it shocks me that the prevailing theme of my emails is disbelief. Let me summarize about 2 dozen: "How could he be interviewed for 3 hours for the head coaching job during the week, and then at the end of the week he doesn't even get to keep his position coach job?"

Easy. And if you are a believer in what I believe in, this should actually be considered a step in the right direction.

Think about it. He interviews for the Head Coach position with Jerry Jones. Whether this was a legitimate opportunity to coach the Cowboys or following the "Rooney Rule" is open for debate, but Jerry decided he wanted to visit with Sherman, and took 3 hours to do so. Jerry Jones wants to talk with a guy who has a number of ideas. Let me now jump to conclusions and assume that part of the 3 hours is "his side of the story" on all of the events that have happened that may have put Sherman and Jason Garrett on opposite sides of a debate.

Now, Garrett gets the job on Wednesday/Thursday and the theme for the better part of Thursday afternoon is that "Garrett has the full and final say of who is on his staff". I personally believe that he did not have final say on his offensive coaches - despite being their immediate superior as offensive coordinator - until this week. For 4 years, those who served under him were not appointed by him, and for all we know, not approved by him.

So, part of Garrett's negotiation is surely his leverage that he received by being the hot name across the NFL, and perhaps as we suggested a week ago, he used some of his muscle in the negotiations to do something that has to be done in most coaching situations. He had to have complete say on his staff. Why? Because, as a guy who has been a part of the Cowboys organization through one way or another since his Dad accepted a job in 1987 with the team, Garrett knows that the cancer that slowly can kill a coach's regime is if his assistant coaches do not buy in.

Assistant coaches who serve the head coach are required for success. You cannot have 5 agendas on a coaching staff in a healthy environment. Or 2. Why? Simply put, the players can sniff that out in a second. If a head coach is saying something, but their position coach doesn't have the HC's back in their closed door meetings, then you can see the fracture. A simple roll of the eyes is all it takes.

I honestly don't know if that is the case here. But, I do remember December of 2008. One of the most embarrassing times in the recent history of this team, when there was a major rift in the Cowboys locker-room involving the key members of the offense. Reports indicated Terrell Owens and Tony Romo had a major divide. Accusations of Romo and Jason Witten creating plays on the side and the Wide Receivers were hopping mad and demanding a meeting with Jason Garrett. How much of that was true is still a matter of great debate, but if you are telling me the WRs were involved in some manner of a revolt against the Offensive Coordinator and they demanded answers, well then it doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and realize that the OC would have a word or two with their position coach after the smoke cleared. Garrett and Sherman might not have been on great terms - and knew the day would come when one would have to go.

I realize I am making a mighty leap here with this conclusion, but to take it a step further, the second one of them was given control of whether the other was safe, is it crazy to assume the other might be in trouble?

Loyalty matters on coaching staffs. Trust me. And if your loyalty is questioned, you need to go.

So, here is the good news: In my opinion, this shows that Garrett really is in charge. It is strictly immaterial to me that Sherman was interesting to Jerry Jones as a Head Coach candidate. If Jones is the head coach, this might be curious. He is not. Garrett is the head coach, and therefore, the only person that should tell us if he is comfortable with the guys on his staff. And if he is to be given a fair chance, I need everyone at Valley Ranch in full solidarity of the man to see this thing work. I cannot have eye-rolling or under-cutting or anything else that allows things to slide like they did in 2008. I need a coach who is in charge and the players and assistants know it is "his way or the highway".

Will it work? I have no idea. But it has to be this way. There are many WR coaches available. Ray Sherman is a fine position coach, but if he has an issue with his new boss (or the other way around) then this had to happen.

2) Dom Capers and the 3-4

I was also asked yesterday about potential coordinators for both offense and defense, and it reminded me of the Dom Capers story in 2008. Just as a little background, Capers is leading that Green Bay 3-4 defense to absurd results this season given how that defense has been their achilles heel in the last few years. Last season, they gave up 51 points to Arizona in the playoffs, after allowing Pittsburgh to put up 37 against them in December, while Minnesota and Tampa Bay had both scored 38 against Green Bay during the season as well. It was the first year in the 3-4 under Capers, and obviously they still had to work out some of the bugs.

But, this year, the Packers defense has been leading them, and while it helps to have Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews, many are crediting Capers and his aggressive scheme for the success they have found in 2010 - including a win in Philadelphia yesterday in which Michael Vick and his gang never were able to really get their footing.

As we now know, not all 3-4's are created equal. You can run an insanely aggressive 3-4, or a very passive 3-4. Dick LeBeau and Dom Capers seem to roll the bones out and create pressure from everywhere. I think the Cowboys need to get back to that posthaste.

Now, about the Cowboys connection with Dom Capers. You may recall that he was almost named to this staff in 2008 - before one of the more inexplicable stories of that crazy year broke: Brian Stewart wasn't comfortable with Capers on the staff!

From Jean Jacques Taylor's Story on Feb 13, 2008:

If you know anything about Dom Capers, you can’t be surprised that he turned down the Cowboys’ offer to be a defensive consultant.

Capers, according to those who know him best, believes loyalty is one of the most important traits a man can have. So when defensive coordinator Brian Stewart said he wouldn’t feel comfortable with Capers on the staff, the veteran coach obliged.

Now, it helps that he’s still being paid by Miami this season since the Dolphins fired him. But it also speaks to his character, especially since he’s close to Jason Garrett , who wanted him to be his defensive coordinator in Baltimore or Atlanta.

And if Garrett takes over next year, as many think he will, then Capers can join the staff next season.

The Cowboys certainly could’ve used Capers’ defensive expertise this season, but it’s more important to have a staff with chemistry and cohesion. Capers, a former head coach, understood this.

That’s the reason he asked Stewart’s opinion in the first place. It was a class move by the man who gave Stewart his first NFL job.

Let's look past the fact that Stewart was allowed to veto Capers (which seems insane - given that Stewart had such little authority over anything when he was "defensive coordinator"), and focus on this:

Loyalty. And close to Garrett. Hmmmm...

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