DallasCowboys.com is taking a look at coaches that have been added to the staff or significantly changed responsibilities this offseason.
Things are beginning to look a lot like New England, circa 1996, for new Cowboys quarterbacks coach Chris Palmer, and judging by his success a decade ago, that’s a good thing.
In 1996, when the Patriots advanced to Super Bowl XXXI, Palmer was the team’s quarterbacks coach, and responsible for tutoring Drew Bledsoe, the Cowboys’ current starting quarterback who was the Patriots starter back then. And in 1996 Palmer was also working under fourth-year Pats head coach Bill Parcells . . . and now Parcells is entering his fourth year in Dallas.
If history continues to repeat itself, does this all mean Palmer, Bledsoe and Parcells will be leading the Cowboys to the, uh, Super Bowl?
After one of the Cowboys’ June mini-camp practices, Jason Witten asked linebackers coach Paul Pasqualoni for some advice on a tight end technique, staying late while other players and coaches were heading for the locker room. This might seem strange, a Pro Bowl tight end asking the linebackers coach for help, but evidently Witten feels he lost a good teacher over the off-season when Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells switched Pasqualoni to his new defensive role.
But Pasqualoni’s coaching talents will likely be best served at linebacker, he says, though that doesn’t mean he necessarily wanted to leave the tight ends behind. “I really enjoyed my year with the tight ends,” said Pasqualoni, the former Syracuse head coach who spent his first year coaching in the NFL last year with the Cowboys. “They were just an outstanding group, big-league class guys. They came to work every single day. “They were outstanding in meetings, outstanding on the practice field, outstanding in the games.”
Pasqualoni already realizes the linebackers are much the same way: High character players who love football. That always makes a coach’s job easier, and Pasqualoni is hoping the similar personalities at the two positions will ease his transition.
Coaching the Meadowcreek High School Mustangs is a lot different from coaching the Dallas Cowboys, new linebackers coach Vincent Brown admits, but he isn’t balking at the challenging jump. Before being named Cowboys inside linebackers coach on Feb. 15, Brown had served as an assistant coach at the Norcross, Ga., school for four years. Last year he was Meadowcreek’s athletic director. But that’s it, the extent of his coaching resume.
“It is a huge difference,” Brown said of the jump from high school to the NFL. “In terms of just the preparation and the detail, and now it’s 100 percent football; there are no outside distractions, no classes to teach, none of that stuff. “It’s just all football.”
Meet Freddie Kitchens, the former University of Alabama quarterback back in his day, a guy until about six months ago Parcells didn’t know from Adam. He now is in charge of the Cowboys’ tight ends, a fairly important responsibility since the Cowboys plan on using more two-tight end sets this year in their offense. “We’ve spent the first two or three months running the offense, so I’m starting to feel confident,” said Kitchens, who quarterbacked the Crimson Tide from 1995-97. “The attention to detail in the NFL is a little more strict, but as far as on the field is concerned, coaching is coaching.”
Kitchens, still just 31, had spent the past two years at Mississippi State as an assistant coach. The previous three years he was just up the road at North Texas coaching running backs. And perhaps the most interesting entry on his rÃ©sumÃ© is the year he spent as a grad assistant at LSU (2000) under current Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban, who’s offensive and defensive schemes have often been compared to those of Parcells.
Parcells said he had no previous experience with Kitchens, but that Mississippi State head coach and friend Sylvester Croom highly recommended his aid after Kitchens’ name was passed along to the Cowboys head coach by his scouting staff as a young, up-and-coming college assistant to keep an eye on.
About a week before the final Cowboys mini-camp began, a moving van pulled up next door to Tony Sparano’s house. Understand, Sparano has been a football coach the past 22 years. Of those, 15 were spent in college and the past seven in the NFL, including the past three with the Dallas Cowboys. He is used to moving around. His family, wife Jeanette and three kids, is used to moving around. In fact, for a three year stretch there, from 2000-2002, the staffs Sparano was on, Cleveland, Washington and Jacksonville, were all fired, counting head coaches Chris Palmer, Marty Schottenheimer and Tom Coughlin. “My kids just start wondering when’s the next time,” Sparano says. So excuse the missus if she got a tad paranoid that day in late May when looking outside she saw a moving van perilously close to her latest house, and factor in she hadn’t talked to her husband all day. Bad karma.
Still under contract with the Cowboys, former assistant head coach Sean Payton asked for permission to talk with Sparano once he became the New Orleans Saints head coach. Payton wanted to hire Sparano as his offensive coordinator after the former Cowboys passing game coordinator worked closely this past year with the one-time New Haven center who was the Cowboys’ running game coordinator. Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells said, nothing doing. Keep your mitts off my guy.
But you got to figure Sparano was devastated. Here was his chance to be an NFL offensive coordinator, yet he was being denied permission to even talk, relegating him to his offensive line and running game-coordinator duties with the Cowboys. Plus, who knows how long Parcells will hang around.
Hence the genesis of the next Cowboys assistant head coach, which he was promoted to once Parcells repaired his staff following the losses of Payton and linebackers coach Gary Gibbs. Even Parcells admitted, “We had a little domestic misunderstanding here during the off-season. You know, these young coaches think the way to get ahead is get a title and get someone to recognize it – I’m being serious, because it’s a frame of the way they have grown up. So titles have become a lot more important in the NFL from an assistant coaches’ point of view than in actuality they really are in my opinion. “And in Tony’s case, Payton is trying to get him down there to be the offensive coordinator, but who do you think is going to be calling the plays in New Orleans? He was doing that to try (to) get him, so I was trying to accommodate people.”
Mike MacIntyre’s been around a while, working mostly with young players, no matter if it’s been coaching in college or with the Dallas Cowboys. And those young players have been mainly defensive backs, a position experience would be most helpful, but one the Cowboys have very little at once again this year.
Nevertheless, MacIntyre embraces the challenge now that he’s the safeties coach for the Cowboys, promoted after spending three years with the team as an assistant secondary coach, along with handling the defensive quality control responsibilities. But to hear him, not much has changed, other than his title. “I guess the only thing is there might be more criticism if something doesn’t go right,” MacIntyre said. “I’m held a little more accountable for what the safeties do – it’s not like I’m coming in new or anything like that.”
Todd Haley would like to be better known for becoming the Cowboys’ passing game coordinator. He’d probably like to be known as the guy who turned Patrick Crayton from an NAIA Jack-of-all-trades into an NFL receiver. Heck, he’d probably not even mind if everyone recognized him for being the son of Dick Haley, long-time NFL personnel guy with the Steelers and Jets.
But no, bring up the name Todd Haley, and it’s like, “Isn’t he the guy Parcells punched on the sideline?”
Nice claim to fame.
“That was a love tap,” Haley says of the fourth-quarter incident in last season’s Seattle game, precipitated by voicing his displeasure with an official’s call a little too vehemently, evidently irritating Cowboys head coach Bill Parcells, who was doing a nice enough job of voicing his own opinion at the time.
But then that’s Haley, opinionated, outspoken and head-strong – a tad edgy – and why many might have been surprised when Parcells decided to upgrade the responsibilities of this third-year Cowboys wide receiver coach to also include that of the all-important passing coordinator following the departure of Sean Payton.
Confusing as it may be, a Parcells kind of guy.
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