Scott Linehan was made available to the media Friday for first time since being hired as the Dallas Cowboys’ passing-game coordinator and play caller in January.
So let’s cut to the chase.
Is he the pass-happy, run-averse coach he’s labeled to be or will the offense feature some balance with the running of DeMarco Murray behind an offensive line that features three first-round picks?
“You start with running it effectively,” Linehan said on the first day of the rookie minicamp. “You achieve balance in the NFL by playing good football throughout three quarters, gaining that lead and then you’ve got a lead going into the fourth quarter. The teams that run the ball the best, that run the ball balanced as you say, generally are getting a lot of their damage done in that late third, early fourth quarter.
“It’s a good young front. We feel like we can line up and say, hey, if they’re going to drop guys into the box, we still feel like we’ve got the guys that can get it done. That opens everything on the outside of the field.”
Sounds good. And it appears to be an effective plan.
But if history is used as a guide, then the numbers still say that Linehan likes to pass more often than he runs. That’s been the case in each of his coaching stops as a head coach and/or offensive coordinator with Minnesota, Miami, St. Louis and the past five years in Detroit as offensive coordinator.
Linehan said it is more about personnel than personal preference. His Vikings led the league in rushing one year when they had Randy Moss and Cris Carter as receivers. The Lions ran the ball more last year than in his first four years, mainly because they finally got a quality runner in Reggie Bush.
“You just lean to your personnel,” Linehan said. “It’s goes back to the offensive line. We had that in Minnesota. You lean to where you are strong.”
The Cowboys were strong running the ball with Murray in the second half of the season last year behind an improving offensive line. Murray rushed for the third-most yards in the league over the last eight games.
“Murray can do it,” Linehan said. “I like what I see.”
Linehan also likes the Cowboys’ coaching staff and the organization, which has brought him full circle after starting his professional career here briefly as an undrafted free-agent quarterback in 1987.
He is excited about reuniting with head coach Jason Garrett, whom Linehan hired as quarterbacks coach under him in Miami in 2006.
“The Dallas Cowboys,” Linehan said when asked what intrigued him about this job. “That was the first thing. Second was getting a chance to reunite with Jason Garrett. I think so much of him.”
Although he’s taking over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Bill Callahan, Linehan says he has no intentions of completely overhauling the offense. He plans to mesh his ideas to what the Cowboys are already doing successfully.
“How we do things in terms of our meetings, our practices, some of the language is different than it was in the past,” Garrett said. “It’s constant communication. Not only between me and Scott, but also Scott with the other staff members, just making sure everybody’s on the same page.”
And that includes Callahan.
“That’s all in the past,” Callahan said Friday, his first time speaking publicly since his demotion. “My mindset is looking toward the future, what we’re doing here with the offensive line and my role and my responsibilities now. I really don’t look back. I just keep working forward and try to do the best I can.
“I just take on the mindset that things happen for a reason. I live with that and I move on.”
Linehan said this is not a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen situation.
“Very positive. That kind of expertise in one room,” Linehan said. “To have a staff with the qualifications I feel we have is truly a strength.”