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The Drawing Board: By giving Bill Callahan the play-calling duties on offense, will his influence help turn things around for the better deep in the heart of Texas? Now that the Dallas Cowboys have made a decision on who’ll be calling the plays on the offense end, what can we expect to change or will it?
Bill Callahan will be running the offense, an offense unlike the West Coast system that Callahan’s worked under for a good portion of his coaching career. Running different systems is most likely to be a challenge, but Callahan feels comfortable in his own skin on adjusting to Head Coach Jason Garrett’s offense.
“It’s the Dallas Cowboys offense, it’s not my offense, it’s our offense,” Callahan said after the last day of the veteran minicamp. “I think that’s the main thing to understand here, like Jason has talked about, we’ve all mentioned it, it’s a collective effort across the board with the offensive staff. I’m just a guy up in the press box who is calling the play that there’s consensus on, there’s agreement on.”
Callahan hasn’t called offensive plays since 2003 with the Oakland Raiders, a year after he led a high profiled Raiders offense to the super bowl, but got exposed by Tampa Bay’s top-notch defense, a defense that was ran by now Cowboys defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there’s a little rust for not doing this for nearly a decade, but Callahan was brought to Dallas to have influence on the offensive line, an area of the team that has been down-right putrid. Callahan does have a track record of being an offensive line wizard, but how much influence has he had so far? The interior line has been a mess and last offseason, team owner/general manager Jerry Jones spent $30 million on two guards, Mackenzy Bernadeau and Nate Livings.
Word out in the street is that Callahan wanted them both, and in their first season things didn’t change for the better with Bernadeau and Livings aboard. Same problem, same result with no reason to believe they’ll improve. Then you have the big surprise on draft day when the Cowboys took Wisconsin center Travis Frederick who was projected by most scouts to go in the third round. So was Jerry Jones the main man that pulled the trigger on the pick there, or was it Callahan’s influence of being connected with Wisconsin football where he spent time coaching? These are all assumptions and burning questions of an organization that’s stuck in the middle of a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that need to be put in place prompt before things can hit rock bottom.
So, what influence does Callahan need to help change? Well, penalties that have stalled the offense in the red zone, turnovers and Romo from time to time, threading the needle when unnecessary. Understanding the situation and not forcing the issue when unnecessary is what needs to change. Example: On the interception Romo threw against Washington with the division on the line, Romo should’ve taken the sack on a perfectly timed blitz. There was enough time left in the game and his team was only down by three points at the time. It’s the little things across the board on the fundamentals and situational football the Cowboys have yet to mature enough to win these big games. The game of football will always, at some point, throw death like situations in your face.
Callahan also needs to bring a true identity to the table. What offense are you? What plays are you going to run on 3rd and short situations? Are you a run first or a throw first team? And who will get the most touches? That needs to be resolved. We know tight end Jason Witten is a catching machine, but he’s not the playmaker on offense that has potential to score 15 plus touchdowns, or a player that is dangerous in the open field. The player that Callahan and the Cowboys offense needs to centralize the offense around is their best talented option, receiver Dez Bryant. Bryant is clearly the best athlete on the offensive side of the ball.
The running game also needs to improve and running back DeMarco Murray needs to avoid injury, something that has stumped him time and time again. That’s why I like the fact of them drafting Oklahoma State running back Joseph Randle. This gives them a player that can step in should Murray have any set-backs and can still contribute even with Murray healthy. When the offense was ranked 2nd in the league in 09, the Cowboys won the division and their first playoff win since 96. Creating balance is a key factor that I think Callahan is in the midst of trying to get the offensive line to be a precise blocking group to not only give quarterback Tony Romo better protection, but to create running lanes for two running backs that can make things happen in the open field.
All in all, this is an easier said than done type deal, especially when the talent level on the offensive line remains a major concern. Good coaching staffs have the ability to improve players and get them to play to the best of their potential. You can’t have an identity crisis on both sides of the ball. When you start second guessing on what to do in certain situations, the critical moments, that’s when the mistakes start kicking in the door. Bottom line, the move Jerry Jones and gang made to give Callahan the power of influence better start to turn for the better, otherwise the dysfunctional ways within the organization will spread like a killing disease with nothing out there to heal it.
Better shape up quick!