February 13, 2013

Dallas Cowboys coach leaves questions unanswered

Adding new coaches just part of crucial makeover for Cowboys.

IRVING -- Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett talked for roughly 53 minutes Wednesday about the foundation-altering and philosophy-shifting staff changes made over the past six weeks in the wake of the team's 8-8 finish and third consecutive year minus a playoff berth.

Yet, arguably the longest news conference of the Garrett era -- including a presidential 27-minute opening statement and a promise to break through in 2013 -- ended with a host of unanswered questions.

The biggest question was whether he would continue to call plays in 2013 or hand off those duties to offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan.

Garrett initially intimated that he and the front office were on the verge of the latter. He said being head coach and offensive coordinator was like having two full-time jobs and that Callahan needed to have a chance to coach the whole offense.

Garrett said some of the staff moves, including the hiring of Frank Pollack as assistant offensive line coach, were made to allow a move in that direction.

But in the end, Garrett said no decision has been made and might not be made until the start of the preseason.

"We're going to work through the mechanics of that here through the off-season," Garrett said. "I don't want to definitively say that one way or the other. Again, like I said, there's been an evolution here of me trying to delegate a lot of responsibilities I had as an offensive coordinator as I became the head coach. So we're trying to move in that direction. Bill and I have talked about different ways that we can do it."

That Garrett is even at this point speaks to the uncomfortable environment that owner Jerry Jones promised after the disappointing end to last season.

After the season-ending loss at Washington, Garrett said that he would likely remain the play-caller in 2013. He said the most important thing for him is doing what's right for the Cowboys.

"Yeah, I think the biggest thing for me and Line 1 -- and the coaches and players are so tired of hearing me say this -- it's about the team, the team, the team," Garrett said. "There is a lot of responsibility you have as head coach. There are a lot of responsibilities you have as an offensive coordinator and play-caller. So this has been an evolution. We're trying to balance these two things.

"We have to play good offensive football and we want to stay on that path. We've got to get better, and we've got to get better in a lot of different areas. Scheme will help us do that. Personnel will help us do that."

Garrett, however, also pointed out that a number of the most successful offenses in the league in recent years -- Green Bay, Houston, New Orleans and San Diego -- were led by head coaches who called plays.

He said the decision on a play-caller would be ultimately his to make -- no matter the perception that the Cowboys' ever-involved owner had a hand in the staff and philosophical changes.

Garrett acknowledged that many of the decisions were a collected process that included Jones and vice president Stephen Jones.

Those decisions included filling nine coaching staff positions over the past six weeks: special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, offensive/defensive assistant Dave Borgonzi, running backs coach Gary Brown, wide receivers coach Derek Dooley, defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, assistant strength coach Kendall Smith, tight ends coach Wes Phillips, defensive line coach RodMarinelli and Pollack.

"One of the great things about this organization since I've been here is the communication between me as the head coach and the ownership and the decision-makers is really strong, and it's always been strong," said Garrett, when asked if he had final say over the coaching staff changes.

Ironically, one of the reasons Jones had wanted his head coach to be the play-caller on offense or defense was the cachet it carried in the locker room.

Considering Jones' involvement in the staff changes, a move by Garrett to give up play-calling duties would seemingly diminish his presence in the locker room.

Garrett, who admittedly feels an urgency to win, said he has no concerns about perception.

"I think the relationship I have with the coaches and players just speaks for itself," Garrett said. "The time I spend with our guys, and how we run things, and how things are directed on a daily basis -- I think they understand the position that I'm in, and I think they have respect for that."

Clarence E. Hill Jr.


Twitter: @clarencehilljr

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