One of the most surprising discoveries for Cowboys fans this season must be the revelation that this coaching staff has provided a clear and obvious advantage most weeks.
Now, there is no way to say that without sounding offensive and condescending to some very wise football men. But hopefully they can understand the cynicism after a 2015 season where they seemed to have almost no answers for the questions that were being asked of them.
The job Scott Linehan has done with the offense has been as top notch as any Cowboys offense in recent memory. Combined with the job Rod Marinelli continues to do with his rather anonymous personnel on the defensive side of the ball, the Cowboys appear well-coordinated and organized. Then, Jason Garrett ties it together with some rather uncharacteristic ruthlessness and aggressiveness.
Linehan could not make heads or tails of his challenging personnel issues last year and the offense could not execute on even the most basic levels. Garrett then reacted to this and reeled in everything to a level of conservatism that made Cowboys games slightly less entertaining than the peeling of paint. Marinelli’s squad fought hard but ultimately collapsed under the pressure late in games.
By the end, it seemed that a side with less patience might decide that the coaching staff required a major overhaul and that fresh eyes might do better in charge of this roster.
But, to the credit of all involved, the boss himself did not even think of changing his coach. This is notable because, to be honest, very few head coaches get to their seventh season without anything more to show for it than a solitary Wild Card win in year five (to be fair, the fourth full year).
So the coaches and the front office went to work. And to their credit, they worked feverishly to conceive of some plans that would withstand the potential of attrition once again offering major changes. Football is a game of attrition. Injuries will occur. You will lose important pieces. So, any design that requires the presence of Tony Romo and otherwise would collapse without him is a poor design as Romo tried to begin his second decade under center. They had to begin to plan for life without him. Surely they had time, but it was speeding in their direction.
It turned out they didn’t have time. Romo was hurt immediately.
Week after week in 2016 -- all without Romo, most without Dez Bryant -- this offense has been characterized by its design. It has base plays that are effective. It then has change-ups off that design that have been impressive. Now, with things like last week when they showed several new ideas, they showed change-ups off the change-ups. Same formations, same pre-snap movements, but then as many as four or five different options are executed off the same look. Most offenses have this in theory. Scott Linehan has demonstrated they will use them all on game day, and the opposing defenses have looked overwhelmed.
Oh, and all with a rookie QB who required almost no investment to acquire. And a rookie RB who has already fulfilled the incredibly high level of promise that preceded him.
That is the story here in the bye week.
Not that this team has a QB controversy or a surprising start, but that this team is consistently outcoaching its opponent. With the same staff that was looking pretty feeble last fall.
Chances are they are the same coaches as they ever were. But, now, things have finally come together to let them prove it here.
Patience appears to be paying off for the Cowboys.