February 15, 2013

Dallas Cowboys develop trust in Bill Callahan

The offensive coordinator's role is built on a relationship with Jason Garrett and years of NFL and college coaching experience.

IRVING -- In only a year at Valley Ranch, Bill Callahan has made a fast climb.

Hired on Jan. 12, 2012, as the offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, he is on the verge of becoming head coach Jason Garrett's right-hand man and taking over his offense.

Callahan has gained so much trust in the organization, Garrett and owner Jerry Jones openly talk about him taking over as the play-caller on game day, the job Garrett has had for the previous six years.

Even if they won't come out and explicitly announce the transfer of that duty, the Cowboys' trust in Callahan is clear.

"Bill wouldn't be on the staff if we didn't have shared values," Garrett said this week. "My respect for him as a person and a coach is off the charts. ...He's been with us for a year now. He understands what we've done on offense. He's brought a lot of stuff to our offense."

Callahan might not have seemed a no-brainer choice at first for new play-caller. Behind his offensive line last year, the Cowboys ranked 31st in rushing.

But Callahan has a long NFL résumé, dotted with highlights. In Oakland, he produced both a No. 1 passing team (in 2002 with league MVP quarterback Rich Gannon) and a No. 1 rushing team (in 2000, behind 1,000-yard rusher Tyrone Wheatley and backup Napoleon Kaufman).

The Philadelphia Eagles were a top-10 rushing team each year he was their offensive line coach in the mid-1990s.

And under his coaching with the New York Jets, center Nick Mangold went to four Pro Bowls and left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson went to three.

So Callahan has the chops.

If he is confident he can do the job as play-caller, he has reason to be.

"I really felt that a year ago, when I came in here and was introduced to the media and the fans, that we had addressed that," Callahan said. "And I felt very comfortable having been a head coach, a coordinator, calling plays, coaching the line, coaching offense, for my 36 years of coaching."

Callahan came in with confidence, and he has given others confidence in him.

"He's made some adjustments in the way we run the ball and some of the blocking schemes and things like that," quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson said. "He has a lot of background in the league. He has a lot of experience."

Garrett talked this week about giving Callahan chances to coach more of the offense, beyond just the offensive line. It's one reason the Cowboys brought in a former Callahan player, Frank Pollack, as assistant offensive line coach.

"I understand what he's talking about," Callahan said of Garrett's idea. "It's not a secret in terms of getting up in front of the unit and talking a little bit more, maybe introducing a different area of play to the unit. What I've done in my career in terms of run installation, I've gotten up in front of the unit. I've gotten up in front of the unit when it comes to putting in the goal line, the short yardage, we're talking about protections -- I've addressed the unit in that fashion.

"It's not anything that I'm not accustomed to or that I haven't done. I've done a lot of it here, and maybe as we go forward, we do a little bit more, a little bit less. But we'll wait and see."

If Callahan does take a bigger role in shaping the offense, it makes sense that it would look more like the West Coast offense that Rodney Peete and Ricky Watters made shine with the Eagles, and the one Callahan employed with the Raiders and at the University of Nebraska.

But Callahan said he chuckles at the idea that the Cowboys would be remade in the West Coast style.

"Because I've been in so many different systems, I've kind of merged a lot of terms, concepts, schemes, calls, structure into my coaching philosophy," he said. "What I've done is try to share that with our staff. It's not mine. It's ours. It's the Dallas Cowboys' offense. Whatever we do going forward, you can say what you want. But a lot of these plays have a point of origin from years ago from a lot of different systems."

The thing is, Callahan is probably going to get the chance to call those plays on his own.

"It's totally up to Coach and what he wants to do," Callahan said. "Again, I've partaken in play-calling during the games here. I've done it at several places.

"It's a group effort, whether it's collecting thoughts on the sidelines between series as to what plays we'd like to run and getting those ideas from the staff, whether it's doing it while we are online during the course of a series, whether it's on the sidelines and somebody's the primary caller, it really doesn't matter. Because I just harken back to the point I made about preparation of the game plan. It's a group effort. It's a team effort.

"We all know what we're doing."

But nobody more than Callahan, judging from the Cowboys' words.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7760

Twitter @calexmendez

Related content


Sports Videos