The Dallas Cowboys have fired offensive coordinator Scott Linehan less than a week after coach Jason Garrett initially promised there would be no staff changes for 2019 before walking back those comments a few hours later.
A few days of discussions about the future of the Cowboys offense, which finished No. 22 in the league in both total offense and scoring offense, averaging just 21.2 points per game in 2018, resulted in Linehan’s departure after five seasons.
It was Garrett’s decision to make the move, according to sources.
He issued a statement on the decision Friday afternoon.
“This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person,” Garrett said. “He and I had some really positive, substantive and open discussions which took place in the latter part of this week, and we ultimately agreed that it would be in the best interest of all of the parties involved if we were to make a change at this (offensive coordinator) position. This was very much a mutual decision, and there was a great deal of common ground and shared understanding between both of us during our meetings. Scott has had an incredibly positive impact on our football team. He has been instrumental in the development and success of a significant number of our veteran and younger players. He is an outstanding football coach, a great friend and we wish him and his family nothing but the absolute best moving forward.”
Linehan came to the Cowboys in 2014 and oversaw an offense that sparked a 12-4 season, featured the league’s leading rusher in DeMarco Murray, an MVP-caliber season from quarterback Tony Romo and an All-Pro season from receiver Dez Bryant.
It was equally impressive in 2016 when Dak Prescott replaced an injured Romo and fashioned the finest rookie season of any quarterback in NFL history, which, combined with NFL leading-rusher Ezekiel Elliott, led the Cowboys to a 13-3 season.
But the offense has struggled the past two seasons, finishing 14th in scoring and yards in 2017 before bottoming out in 2018.
Despite finishing 10-6, the Cowboys scored just 339 points, the lowest total in 13 years.
“As Jason expressed, we met on Wednesday and had a good, direct talk. At the end, we resolved that a fresh start was probably best for both of us,” Linehan said in a press release.
“The Dallas Cowboys have been nothing but great to me, first class all the way. There’s a reason that they are the most valuable sports franchise on the planet. And I’ll always respect Jason as a coach, and I consider him a good friend. I’ll miss my fellow coaches and my players a great deal. But life is about change and growth, and I very much look forward to my next challenge.”
It is not lost on the Cowboys that the four teams playing for conference titles on Sunday are the highest scoring teams in the league.
The question now is where do the Cowboys go from here.
Tight ends coach Doug Nussmeier is a possibility, but the Cowboys might be looking at an assistant in the conference championship games, featuring the New Orleans Saints, Los Angeles Rams, Kansas City Chiefs and the New England Patriots.
Owner Jerry Jones intimated as much earlier this week when he was noncommittal about Linehan’s future.
“Why would I put some kind of statement out that says this is what we’re going to do when we might have an opportunity here next week?,” Jones said on his radio show on 105.3 The Fan. “This is the time when these things are thought about. This is the time when they’re chewed on. This is the time when you may see an opportunity next week you didn’t know existed this week in the area of personnel or in the area of coaching. And I’m not trying to be cute here. I’m just saying that one of the advantages that we have is that we can operate with that kind of flexibility.”
The Cowboys front office will head to the Senior Bowl next week, an understood market place for coaching hires, while Garrett and the rest of the staff will head to the Pro Bowl.
Whatever the Cowboys do, they will have to make a decision with Prescott in mind. He just finished his third season and the team said they are committed to him long-term.
The next coordinator will have to run an offense that gets the full development out of Prescott.
This the fourth move the Cowboys have made with the staff since last Saturday’s 30-22 loss to the Rams in the NFC divisional playoffs. They signed offensive line coach Marc Colombo and defensive line coach Leon Lett to contract extensions, and parted ways with assistant special teams coach Doug Colman.