When the Dallas Cowboys (3-4) return from the bye for practice Wednesday, they will have a new man heading the disappointing offensive line.
The team announced the firing of offensive line coach Paul Alexander and the promotion of top assistant Marc Colombo into the lead position Monday.
Former long-time offensive line coach Hudson Houck will be brought back in an advisory role to work with Colombo and the offensive staff.
“While approaching the midpoint of the season, and going through an overall evaluation of our entire operation during the bye week, we felt that this move would serve the best interests of our team moving forward,” coach Jason Garrett said in a statement released by the team.
“We have great respect and admiration for Paul and what he has accomplished in a very successful career in the NFL. These are not easy decisions to make at any time of the year, but we will move ahead with the utmost confidence in what Marc Colombo and Hudson Houck will bring to our team in their new roles.”
Colombo, who played 10 years in the NFL, including six with the Cowboys, has been the assistant offensive line coach since 2016.
Houck coached the Cowboys’ offensive line from 1993-2001 and 2008-11.
Alexander’s dismissal is a quick admission of a mistake that was made in the offseason when the Cowboys fired Frank Pollack and hired Alexander in his place.
Alexander, who had been with the Cincinnati Bengals for 24 years, was brought in to help improve the offensive line after a down season in 2017 but the line has regressed in 2018.
It goes deeper than the loss of center Travis Frederick, who has been sidelined since training camp with Guillain Barre Syndrome.
Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith and right tackle La’el Collins have struggled with the new techniques taught by Alexander.
“Some guys have picked it up immediately,” Alexander said last week when asked about the techniques. “Some guys a little longer. Some guys haven’t wanted to mess with it. Nothing ever happens as fast as you want it to. “
It hasn’t been fast enough.
A healthy Smith has looked nothing like the dominant performer of past years. Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin has also played less than his best and rookie left guard Connor Williams has been up and down, at best.
The one thing the Cowboys counted on coming into the season was that they would be strong up front. But the unit has struggled to open holes for running back Ezekiel Elliott on the ground and it has failed to consistently protect quarterback Dak Prescott.
Prescott has been sacked 23 times in seven games. He was sacked 25 and 32 times in 16 games in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
The Cowboys have blamed communication breakdowns for their blocking issues, especially on the road.
Now, it appears they have identified Alexander and new his techniques as the source of the problem.
This is the first in-season coaching change Garrett has made since he took over for Wade Phillips midway through the 2010 season.
It is the eighth change since the end of last season. In addition to Pollack, the Cowboys parted ways with receivers coach Derek Dooley, quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson, special teams coach Rich Bisaccia, tight ends coach Steve Loney, linebackers coach Matt Eberflus and secondary coach Joe Baker.
The Cowboys host the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5. at AT&T Stadium.