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 rÃ©sumÃ©, 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.
If you haven’t been following winter league baseball in Venezuela and Mexico — and who hasn’t, really — you may have missed the numbers that Marco Scutaro and Erubiel Durazo are putting up.
Scutaro not only led the entire nation of Venezuela (and its visiting major league ballplayers) in average and on-base percentage in the regular season, but he’s gone 20-for-60 in the oddly long 16 game playoffs. Oh, what I would have given for a playoff that long during the 2001-2004 MLB postseasons. Five games just wasn’t enough… But I digress.
Durazo, fondly known as ol’ alligator arms, has been trashing the Mexican league hurlers. After smashing 18 homers in 63 regular season games with a .344 average, Durazo has stayed hot in the playoffs. In 52 playoff at-bats for the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, Billy Beane’s Holy Grail has hit .308 with two homers. I may be drinking the green-and-gold Kool-Aid (or would that be horchata?), but I’m more and more convinced that Durazo can return to his excellent 2004 form. He’s going to present a big challenge to Dan Johnson in Spring Training.
Competition is always good, though, and if it serves to improve the A’s unsteady offense, I’m all for it.
Is Todd Helton is going to be the newest addition to the Boston Red Sox?
The Colorado Rockies are in high-level talks to trade first baseman Todd Helton to the Boston Red Sox in a deal that could send third baseman Mike Lowell and right-handed reliever Julian Tavarez to Colorado.
The conversation resumed at the ownership level about 10 days ago and has moved forward from there. Both sides are in virtual agreement on the dollars, with the Rockies likely responsible for slightly less than half of Helton’s remaining six-year, $90.1 million guaranteed contract.
In the current proposal, the Red Sox would send Lowell, Tavarez and prospects to the Rockies. But the identity of the prospects could hold up the deal: The Rockies want relief pitchers Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen, while the Red Sox do not want to give up either at this time.
While Helton is not the same offensive force that he was 3 seasons ago, he is still an upgrade over Mike Lowell. Hansen and Delcarmen would be a steep price to pay especially since both of them are expected to pay a big role in this year’s bullpen. As much as I love the thought of getting Todd Helton into this lineup, unless the Sox have a legit bullpen solution, I am not sure they can make this move.
ESPN’s Greg Garber has a long conversation with former Dallas Cowboy teammates Ron Springs and Everson Walls about the lasting bonds that form on the fields of friendly strife. It’s enough to make two middle aged macho men talk about their “love” for one another. And for one to give the other a kidney.
Wade Phillips interviewed yesterday and Norv Turner interview Sunday for the head coaching opening with the Dallas Cowboys created with the retirement of Bill Parcells.
While Phillips said his interview went “good,” FWST beat writer Mac Engel says Turner “appears to be the leading candidate to replace Bill Parcells.”
The San Francisco 49ers reportedly have made a substantial offer to keep Turner, the team’s offensive coordinator, from even interviewing with the Cowboys. But Turner, who is in Mobile, Ala., as a coach in the Senior Bowl today, will still interview with the Cowboys and has emerged as the favorite to coach the team, according to league sources with knowledge of the situation.
Turner has a history with Cowboys owner/general manager Jerry Jones and has been a head coach twice previously in the NFL, with Washington (1994-2000) and Oakland (2004-05).
He was the offensive coordinator for the Cowboys in their Super Bowl-winning seasons of 1992 and 1993 and groomed Troy Aikman. He also coached Jason Garrett as one of the backup quarterbacks in 1993, and Garrett on Thursday was named to the Cowboys’ staff, presumably as the offensive coordinator.
Based on their prior record as head coaches, neither Phillips nor Turner are exactly exciting choices. Still, both are solid coaches with a relationship with Jones and who know what they are getting into.
Engel’s colleague, Jim Reeves, thinks hiring Turner is simply “a no-brainer.”
Everyone knows the knock on Norv. He’s a two-time loser. He couldn’t win in Washington or Oakland. Why would anyone think he could win here, in Dallas?
The question, of course, provides its own answer. Dallas isn’t Washington or Oakland. Jones isn’t, thank heavens, Little Danny Snyder or even Al Davis.
There really are a multitude of reasons why Jones should pick Turner.
They already have a strong relationship. This really is important. Jerry needs to know whom he’s dealing with, and there has to be a mutual trust and respect. Turner has to be able to stand firm against Jerry when the owner/GM wants to do something stupid (like bringing Terrell Owens back, for instance).
Turner isn’t Jimmy, but he is a link to the Cowboys’ heyday of the mid-’90s.
There are no sexy hires to be had out there. Jimmy’s still fishing and isn’t coming back. Bill Cowher is home with the family for a year. Not even Jones will pay to ransom Charlie Weis from Notre Dame. Bob Stoops has vowed to stay at OU, and besides, there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t take him a year or two to get up to speed in the NFL.
Turner, though, at least evokes pleasant thoughts of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin, of great offenses and Super Bowls. Nothing wrong with that picture.
Turner already has a great relationship with Jason Garrett, the Cowboys’ brilliant but raw offensive coordinator. Norv can take Garrett under his wing and school him in the nuances of the job, while also prepping him to be an NFL head coach. The owner stepping in to hire the offensive coordinator before hiring his head coach, who should then hire his own staff, is absolutely backward and typical Jerry, but it works if Turner comes in as Garrett’s boss.
Tony Romo. This is pretty self-explanatory. Turner developed one Hall of Fame quarterback already, and don’t you know that Aikman would happily drop by Valley Ranch for a little one-on-one work with Romo if either Turner or Garrett asked him to do it. With Turner and Garrett right there and Aikman available, Romo couldn’t have a better support system.
It’s time to think offense. Jones hinted at philosophical changes to come late in the season as he expressed his disgust at the waste of time, money, draft picks and effort the Cowboys have put in to build what was supposed to a championship-caliber defense. You have to score points in today’s NFL. Turner knows how to do that.
The window of opportunity is now. Perhaps the most important reason of all to hire Turner is that this is a Cowboys team that’s on the brink. It can go one of two ways. Up, to the next level as a championship contender. Down, as the window closes and age begins to catch up with its wide receivers, etc.
That’s why Jones doesn’t want a college coach here and why he shouldn’t give the job to Garrett, either. This team needs a cool, veteran hand on the throttle. It needs to win now.
A relaxed and confident Turner will bring a breath of fresh air to a tense locker room, where players had the life sucked out of them by the dour Bill Parcells each December.
Jones needs to follow his gut. He needs to hire Norv as the head coach and then allow him to go get the best and brightest young defensive coordinator he can find to put some juice into this Cowboys defense.
It’s not sexy. It’s not complicated. It’s almost too easy.
But it’s the right thing to do.
I’ve got to admit, that makes a lot of sense.
Mickey Spagnola explains why those of us criticizing Jerry Jones for hiring Jason Garrett as offensive coordinator before settling on a head coach are wrong, wrong, wrong.
The Cowboys and then newly-named head coach Dave Campo tried to hire Garrett in 2000 when he became a free agent after spending eight years with the Cowboys. Instead, Garrett decided to make several more millions playing four more season with the Giants.
In 2004, Norv Turner tried to hire Garrett as his quarterbacks coach in Oakland. Garrett decided to milk one more year playing in the NFL, splitting his final year (2004) with Tampa Bay and Miami.
In 2005, Nick Saban quickly added Garrett to his staff when he decided to finally call it quits playing. Then offensive coordinator Scott Linehan tells the story about meeting Garrett for the first time at the Senior Bowl that year, and that 10 hours later they hired him.
In 2006, Linehan, St. Louis’ newly-named head coach, tried to bring Garrett, with just one year of coaching under his belt, with him as offensive coordinator but was denied permission by the Dolphins.
In 2007, after Saban left the Dolphins for the University of Alabama, he wanted Garrett to be the Crimson Tide’s offensive coordinator. Butch Davis wanted him in the same capacity at North Carolina. Les Miles wanted him at LSU. No go, said the Dolphins, who had him under contract for another season and at the time were unsure of how they would fill their head coaching vacancy.
In 2007, Cleveland tried repeatedly to seek permission to speak with Garrett about its offensive coordinator’s position, but the Dolphins told the Browns, hands off.
In 2007, Miami’s newly-named head coach Cam Cameron offered Garrett an extension to his one-remaining year with the Dolphins as the quarterbacks coach, putting a Thursday deadline on Garrett’s decision.
Obviously the Dolphins didn’t have to grant Garrett permission to talk with the Cowboys since he was essentially being interviewed for a lateral move while under contract. But they knew how much time he had spent with the Cowboys. They knew how long his daddy had worked for the Cowboys. They knew they were bringing in Ken Zampese to interview for the offensive coordinator’s spot. They knew how much it would mean to Garrett to return to Dallas.
For that, Garrett said he is eternally grateful to the Dolphins organization to grant him this permission. Said he couldn’t say enough about the people he had worked for the past two years and how classy they were.
Consider Jones and Garrett lucky.
“Jason is someone who is held in high regard as a bright offensive mind throughout the NFL,” Jones said in a statement. “The nature and timing of this hire is unique in that we were dealing with a limited window of time in which to talk to Jason about returning to Dallas.
“We are grateful to the Dolphins for granting the Cowboys permission to explore this opportunity. Jason will now proceed further in our head coaching search as an in-house candidate.”
Not armed with such knowledge, there surely will be some out there criticizing the Cowboys for hiring a potential offensive coordinator or assistant head coach before hiring the head coach. They will be telling you Jones is back to his old tricks, minimizing the power of the head coach now that Bill Parcells has retired by forcing a staff on the new guy.
But hey, when the opportunity knocks, you had better react when good people are involved. I mean, can all these people be wrong? Me, I’m guessing if Garrett was good enough for Campo and Saban and Linehan and Saban and Davis and Miles and Romeo Crennel and Cameron – did I leave anyone out? – then he must be good enough for Cowboys-head-coach-to-be-named-soon. Garrett must have something they all wanted.
[W]e’ll see where all this goes. Just understand what happened on Thursday was an extremely good thing for the Dallas Cowboys.
Bet on it.
That’s pretty comforting, I must admit. And another indication of the graciousness of Dolphins owner Wayne Huizenga, who has handled both Nick Saban’s departure and Jason Garrett’s situation (both, oddly, to teams that I root for) with class.
Jason Witten is going back to the Pro Bowl.
Jason Witten is headed to Hawaii once again. The Cowboys’ 24-year-old tight end will make his third consecutive Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement for the New York Giants’ Jeremy Shockey.
Witten finished second in the NFC and sixth in the league with 64 catches and 754 receiving yards in 2006. He’s the fourth tight end in franchise history to make multiple Pro Bowl appearances, alongside Jay Novacek (5 times), Doug Cosbie (3) and Billy Joe DuPree (3).
Witten is now the fifth Cowboys player headed to the NFL’s all-star game on Feb. 11. Quarterback Tony Romo, linebacker DeMarcus Ware, punter Mat McBriar and safety Roy Williams were selected in December.
That’s a lot of Pro Bowlers for a team that collapsed down the stretch. Still, all but Williams deserve it.
Rob Phillips has the transcript of Bill Parcells’ interview Thursday with New York’s WFAN radio, reflecting back on his career and his time with the Cowboys. A few excerpts that struck me as particularly noteworthy below. They’re in order but several segments of the interview are skipped.
Did your relationship with Cowboys owner-general manager Jerry Jones or wide receiver Terrell Owens factor into your decision?
Parcells: No. I’ll answer a couple parts of that. To the contrary, Jerry Jones and I . . . actually he’s asked me to stay here an extra week to help with the transition. We have a good relationship. He’s been great to me. I think very highly of him and I’ve enjoyed very much my experience working in this organization. And quite frankly, I’ve learned a lot about another way to do business. And it’s an interesting thing and I think I’ve benefited from that experience. But I think at the end of the day this was a mental thing. Physically I know I can do it, but it’s a 12-month job. Really, it’s a 13-month job. There are really no days where you can relax. I’m just at the point mentally where you just don’t want to undertake it again because you know what you have to do. It’s another off-season, draft, mini-camp, training camp, preseason, regular season, just to kick that field goal against Seattle again. I just mentally wasn’t up for it right now.
Did it seem like too much was made of your relationship with Owens?
Parcells: Well, when you get a player on your team, no matter who he is or what he is, as a coach it’s your job to try to utilize that player and your job to try to make it work. And that’s what I tried to do. I tried to make it work as best I could. It wasn’t without a few little things here and there but it never was anything that I felt was insurmountable, or we never had to draw a line in the sand. He did the best he could in his way and I tried to help the best I could and use him the best I could. Now, it wasn’t perfect, but that’s the way it was and it wasn’t as problematic as it was portrayed.
Did quarterback Tony Romo experience too much success too soon?
Parcells: You know, I think you had to be here to witness it. You guys being 1,500 miles away or 2,000 – it was way worse here than it probably was nationally. I don’t know that. I just think that it’s difficult for any player who hasn’t had the experience before to go through it totally smoothly. I think he did the best he could, but I think the last two or three weeks of the season and particularly that last game may serve him well in the future in that regard. Because he’s been at the pinnacle almost already, going to the Pro Bowl. And then he’s been pretty far down in the dumps very quickly. So he’s kind of made the whole cycle and I think it’ll probably serve him well in the future.”
What have you talked to Romo about since the season ended?
Parcells: I’ve spoken with Tony twice, probably once for 45 (minutes) face to face and then probably two days ago for about 15 or 20 minutes. And all I spoke with him about was what I felt like he needed to do in the future. I told him, I said, ‘If you don’t do certain things, that you’re going to fail. And if you do do them, I think you have a high probability of succeeding.’ I felt like I owed that to him because it probably was going to be my last coaching conversation with him. So I kind of listed the things I thought he needed to do and to work on and to make sure that he paid attention to. Because if you look at his numbers, they’re darn good. But there’s some things there that are kind of hidden and he needs to address those. And I think if he does, I think he’s got a chance to be pretty good.
Can players be coached the same way you coached 10 years ago?
Parcells: That’s a hard one. I think there are more peripheral people around the players now than 10-15 years ago. They’re feeding them the cheese left and right. They have an inflated opinion; they come with more inflated opinions of themselves generally. Not all, but generally you get these kids. The draft has become a cottage industry. The recruiting process for agents is another industry. They’ve had attention. It’s like the young basketball player that’s 6-10 when he’s 16 years old and he’s been spoiled ever since he was a teenager. You’re getting a little of that coming into the league. But by and large the kids I think are still pretty highly motivated. I think you can coach them pretty well. I just think the peripheral issues are a little more difficult than they used to be. And of course the salary cap – that’s no excuse for anything, everybody’s on an even ground there – but that is a little constraining from time to time.
Parcells: Hey, I think what he’s done is remarkable. It’s not about being a better coach. We were together 18 or I don’t know how many years, a lot – 18 I think, some number like that. I have a high regard for him and contrary to a lot of publicity, we have a real good relationship. We talk frequently. And I’m proud of what he’s done and what he’s done is remarkable. It’s among the best performances in the history of this league.
Some argue that you never won a Super Bowl without Belichick on your staff. Does that bother you?
Parcells: Doesn’t bother me. We were together a long time. We did a lot of good things together. I think philosophically we’re still on par with what we do. I think we believe in the same things, and like I said, we did a lot of good things together. And I’m proud that he’s gone forward, as I am of a lot of other guys that have been part of the tribe of coaches that we’ve had. There’s a lot of them around the league now. There’s some of them in college football. And that makes me very proud.
Were you surprised by Sean Payton’s success in New Orleans?
Parcells: Well I think you had to be surprised. That was another remarkable thing that was accomplished by Sean. He did a great job and I’m happy for him. I don’t wish bad things on those people that have spent a lot of time with me and worked hard for me. I’m happy with their success. That’s a good thing.
Thoughts on your relationship with Jerry Jones?
Parcells: He’s a very interesting guy. I’ve learned a lot from being around him. I’ve learned a lot about the business acumen of running a pro franchise. It was much different than the approaches taken in other franchises that I worked for. But I have a good personal relationship with him. He’s been very kind to me. And I’ve enjoyed being here in Dallas very, very much. The weather’s good, the Cowboys are important and it’s really a storied franchise. It really is.
Is Jones different because he’s more daring?
Parcells: Oh yeah, he’s definitely a risk-reward guy. There’s no doubt about it. I think he’s willing to take risks and take chances. They don’t always work out, but some of them do. And I learned a little different approach, and really it’s been fun. We were just in here laughing this afternoon about things and talking about the future, and I’m trying the best I can to help him with that. I’ll be very interested and I’m anxious to see what the Cowboys do and look forward to good things for them.
He seems like a different man with the burden of the NFL grind off him. I do believe that this will be his last coaching stop, although I wouldn’t be surprised to see him as a consultant of some sort.
My sense is that the Cowboys are a much more talented team than when he arrived in town and, aside from wide receiver and offensive line, a much younger team. Maybe Jerry will invite him to sit in the owner’s box if his successor takes them to the Super Bowl.
The great debate is not who will win the Super Bowl, whether McGwire and Rose belong in the Hall of Fame, or if Beckham will awaken soccer in the U.S. The great debate is who has the better team? Mavs or Suns. I do not have the time or statistical juggling ability to determine objectively, so I will let you check the experts and their power (rankings.) What exactly makes these rankings powerful? Anyways, here is what the experts are saying.
Marc Stein (ESPN) using the force- Mavs
John Hollinger (ESPN) using statistics- Suns
Steve Kerr (Yahoo) using ex player cache - Mavs
Eddie Johnson (Hoops Hype) using the question: what team would I like to play for? – Suns
Tony Meija (Sportsline) using Fonzi’s cool - Mavs
Marty Burns (SI) using mega-media conglomerate strength - Mavs
Knickerblogger (Courtside Times) using OTTER - Mavs
Sam Blake Hofstetter (NBCsports) using the magic of Bud Collins’ ties – Suns
Bill Simmons (ESPN) using Tivo - Suns
What do you say? Be sure to list your power source.
Paul Finebaum explains that he got a lot of hate mail from Auburn fans after a recent column saying that Nick Saban’s hiring at put Alabama ahead of their cross-state rival in national attention again.
It isn’t so much the hiring of Saban that has some Auburn fans sniveling, but the resiliency of the Alabama Nation. How many times has this Alabama program been knocked down to the canvas since the death of Paul Bryant but somehow, some way, been able to get up, bloody, beaten and battered, to live to see another day? Even to someone from another state and who attended a rival school, it is an extraordinary thing to witness.
Bill Curry, after three straight losses to Auburn, tucks his tail in early 1990 for Kentucky, replaced by a popular but underwhelming choice in Gene Stallings. He loses his first three games. Yet he wins a national championship in 1992 and runs off a streak of 28 games without a loss. In 1995, the Tide program is humiliated with its first NCAA probation, but the next year Stallings wins 10 games and retires with a 5-2 mark against Auburn. Mike DuBose enters, gets caught up in a secretary scandal three years later, is nearly fired, loses to Louisiana Tech (and is days from being fired), and follows up with an overtime win over Florida and then beats the Gators for the SEC title. He goes from preseason No. 3 in the nation to 3-8 in 2000 and is gone. The Albert Means story explodes and Alabama is staring down the barrel of a gun from the NCAA, which is threatening the death penalty. Dennis Franchione has a cup of coffee and bolts; Mike Price, his replacement, goes down in flames (before ever coaching a game); and Mike Shula, who seemingly throws up all over himself for two years, wins 10 games and finishes No. 8 in the nation ahead of Auburn, which should have played for the national championship the year before.
This season, of course, Alabama loses to Mississippi State and nearly everyone else, and gets left at the altar by Rich Rodriguez (and nearly everyone else) in the aftermath of Shula’s bungled firing. The entire college football world, led by Auburn fans, are dancing on Alabama’s grave and guess what? The Tide lands Saban — one the most feared college coaches in recent history.
Yes, I can feel the pain of the Auburn Nation. I can understand its frustration. It’s like, “Dude, what else do we have to do?”
I’m an Alabama alum, so I’m a little biased on this one. Still, I was 14 when I moved to the state and have no animosity toward Auburn; indeed, I wish them well on days they’re not playing ‘Bama.
The bottom line is that, though Auburn’s has almost certainly been the premier football program in the state over the last decade or so, Alabama has a legacy that they will never be able to match. Alabama is The Capstone; Auburn is the ag college. (No matter that Auburn’s academic programs are often more highly ranked nationally.) Alabama has won 12 national football championships; Auburn has only one (although they might have won a couple more had they not been on probation in their undefeated 1993 season and screwed by the BCS system in 2004). The Tide has far more fans statewide and it’s not even close nationally.
These things put Auburn at a substantial competitive disadvantage. It’s really quite amazing that Tommy Tuberville has made them regular championship contenders and beaten the Tide five straight years. That should change now, though, with Bama off probation and with a first rate coach.