Sports Outside the Beltway

Cowboys Coaching Staff: Back to the Future

It’s looking like the Dallas Cowboys coaching staff will be headed up by three very familiar faces: Norv Turner, Dave Campo, and Jason Garrett.

Garrett, who spent years as Troy Aikman’s backup/sounding board was hired last week as the offensive coordinator, although he’s apparently being considered for the top slot. The reporters reading the tea leaves think Garrett is being groomed for Coach of the Future, with Norv Turner, the offensive coordinator during the 1990s Glory Days, as doing the grooming. And the defense may well be headed up by Dave Campo, who had a long run as a very successful defensive coach under Jimmy Johnson and his successors, until a not-so-successful stint as one of those successors.

Randy Galloway thinks this makes great sense.

All Garrett needs is seasoning. All the other tools appear to be there, but his coaching experience at the moment consists of two years as the quarterbacks coach in the quarterback Death Valley known as Miami.

Turner may be the best offensive coordinator in the business, and without question he’s the best at grooming a quarterback.

Head coach? Well, you know the record in Washington. Not outstanding, but not that bad. Oakland? Turner is still kicking himself for being stupid enough to take that job.

But one year after being fired by the Raiders, he landed across the bay with the 49ers. In just a season, quarterback Alex Smith went from hopeless as a rookie to much improved. And the San Francisco running game with Frank Gore suddenly jumped. Turner is excellent at coordinating a passing and running game. For every Heath Shuler on his résumé, there are a half-dozen success stories.

Whatever Garrett’s future as a head coach might be, he could not learn from anyone better than Turner. The same goes for Romo.

OK, the next problem.

If Turner is the head coach, what does he do about that defensive collapse of December? Got the answer right here: Dave Campo.

No, I’m not attempting to re-create the early ’90s. But Campo, who never had a prayer to succeed here as head coach, cannot be questioned as a defensive coordinator. He’s currently the secondary coach with the Jaguars, loves the North Texas area and even plans to make this his permanent residence when he’s finished coaching.

What, however, about the 3-4 philosophy the Cowboys now use on defense? Campo is a 4-3 guy.
Well, one great fallacy, according to NFL people I talked to last week, is that the Cowboys are married to the 3-4 due to personnel. One respected AFC defensive coordinator cursed loudly when asked about it last week. Cleaning up the comments, he said, “Give me a month with DeMarcus Ware, and he’ll be Jason Taylor.”


The only area of concern among coaches in the 3-4, 4-3 discussion was “some” of the Cowboys’ linebackers. Of interest, not one had lost faith in safety Roy Williams, despite his coverage problems this season.

Jennifer Floyd Engel thinks it’s a huge mistake.

Norv is not a bad guy or a bad coach. Quite the opposite. He is actually a great offensive coordinator, exactly the kind of guy you want tutoring Tony Romo in what may be a defining season for him.

What is slightly confounding is why nobody seems to recognize this is exactly what already-hired offensive coordinator Jason Garrett was touted for. If anything, Norv sounds like an older more scarred version of Garrett.

I mean, seriously, how many gurus does Romo need? And was anybody actually paying attention in December?

If an excess of experts, gurus and possibly faith healers are needed for any Cowboys, look at the 11-plus lost souls on defense. They were the group that absolutely cratered in crunch time, giving up an NFL-worst 152 points in December.

In the words of one Cowboys insider, “This defense is broken.” Not irreparable but definitely broken — in spirit, in scheme and in talent in a few areas.

In my world, a defense in shambles, plus Garrett already employed, equals a strong case for the Cowboys’ next coach to be a defensive guy.

But a great defensive coordinator would be more likely to fix the defense than a head coach distracted with having to run the whole show. And there’s simply no question Campo can coach up a defense. Or that he and Turner can get along, with each other and with Jerry.

A Turner-Campo-Garrett matchup sounds quite appealing to me.

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