Dallas Cowboys

Cowboys working to keep coaching staff mostly intact

The Cowboys are hoping to keep offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, center, after quarterback Tony Romo, left, had an MVP-caliber season.
The Cowboys are hoping to keep offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, center, after quarterback Tony Romo, left, had an MVP-caliber season. AP

Change is common among coaching staffs.

A successful team is in a position where other teams will try and poach their top assistants, while struggling teams typically make moves to improve.

Well, for the first time under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys find themselves in the former position where teams have expressed interest in their assistants. That’s why they worked quickly on handing Garrett a new five-year contract, and also agreed to a three-year deal with defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli.

They reached a deal with play-caller Scott Linehan late Wednesday night, too, according to a source. They’d also like to keep offensive coordinator/line coach Bill Callahan, but a source said Callahan has informed the organization he’d like to explore other opportunities that include play-calling duties.

Callahan was stripped of that duty last off-season when the team brought in Linehan, and the organization blocked him from pursuing other jobs. Callahan is now a free agent and reportedly has multiple teams interested in him, including Cleveland and Jacksonville. Assistant offensive line coach Frank Pollack would be a candidate to replace Callahan as the team’s offensive line coach should that position open up.

But, outside of Callahan’s potential departure, signs suggest the Cowboys will keep most of their staff in place. After all, why else would they agree to coach the Pro Bowl if they felt otherwise?

“It’s important to try to have systems of offense, defense and kicking game in place, stuff that we believe in, stuff that we can improve upon,” Garrett said at his season-ending news conference Tuesday. “I think that’s an important piece of the puzzle.”

Garrett had his best season yet with the staff he assembled. The Cowboys broke the dreaded 8-8 trend by going 12-4, winning the NFC East title and a wild-card round playoff game over Detroit. They were eliminated by Green Bay in the divisional round Sunday.

Much credit goes to Garrett and the staff. Marinelli worked his magic in turning what was the third-worst defense in NFL history a year ago into a respectable unit. And Linehan’s influence could be felt throughout the offense as DeMarco Murray set the franchise’s single-season rushing record and Tony Romo had an MVP-caliber season.

Callahan also played a part in it, overseeing what became one of the top offensive lines in the league.

Keeping the core staff together was a priority for the Cowboys, who have seen plenty of changes under Garrett.

Garrett handled play-calling duties when he took over in November 2010 through the 2012 season. He relinquished that when Callahan joined the organization for the 2013 season.

On the defensive side, Paul Pasqualoni was promoted to defensive coordinator for the remainder of the 2010 season when Garrett took over. Then Rob Ryan served two seasons in that role in 2011-12 before the team turned to Monte Kiffin for 2013. Marinelli was part of Kiffin’s staff, and assumed the title last off-season.

“Hopefully we can get everything resolved with me and our staff members and get back to work as quickly as we can,” Garrett said.

Murray honored

DeMarco Murray was named the offensive player of the year by the Professional Football Writers of America on Wednesday.

Murray had plenty of support after being the NFL’s leading rusher with 1,845 yards and breaking Emmitt Smith’s franchise record for rushing yards in a single season. Murray also had an NFL-leading 13 rushing TDs and 392 carries.

“He had a fantastic year obviously,” Garrett said. “He’s a complete back. He’s a great runner, receiver, blocker, all the things that you want a running back to do.”

Murray is a free agent.

Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers was named the MVP, and Houston’s J.J. Watt was the defensive player of the year.

Off-season surgeries

Doug Free and Jeremy Mincey will undergo off-season surgeries, according to a source.

Mincey played in every game, leading the Cowboys with six sacks. But he’ll undergo arthroscopic surgery Thursday to clean up his right elbow. His rehab should finish in time for the off-season program in April.

Free missed the final five games, including both postseason games, with a left ankle injury. He’ll undergo surgery next week to remove bone spurs and clean up a stress fracture.

Free and his backup, Jermey Parnell, both are scheduled to become free agents.

Drew Davison, 817-390-7760

Twitter: @drewdavison

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