Mac Engel

The biggest problems for Cowboys’ OC Linehan are McVay, Kingsbury and Dak

Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, left, has become the subject of intense criticism as his offense is ranked 30th overall in the NFL after three games.
Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, left, has become the subject of intense criticism as his offense is ranked 30th overall in the NFL after three games.

The coach you want to stay is all but gone to South Beach while the coach you want to hit the beach is sticking around in North Texas.

Cowboys passing game coordinator and defensive backs coach Kris Richard is likely going to be the next head coach of the Miami Dolphins while offensive coordinator Scott Linehan is set to return to the Dallas Cowboys.

Both are perfectly acceptable scenarios.

Linehan’s biggest problem as an OC is not a lack of creativity or that he’s some big dummy, but rather Sean McVay, Kliff Kingsbury and Dak Prescott.

No offensive coach in the history of football whose team’s strength is running the ball has ever been considered a great offensive coordinator. “Great offensive minds” belong to those whose team pass it from here to Jupiter.

As long as the Cowboys’ primary weapon is running back Ezekiel Elliott, the perception of Linehan will remain that he’s an unimaginative buffoon who is the reason this team will not win the biggest games.

Linehan is not perfect or without flaw, but he’s good at his job. He’s a pro. If he was fired today, he would be hired as an offensive coordinator tomorrow.


During a chat with a long-time Cowboys’ observer, he said the biggest problem with Linehan isn’t so much play-calling but that his quarterback has missed touchdown throws.

That when the Cowboys have called plays that should have been scores, Dak simply has missed some of the reads, or potential touchdown passes.

Case in point: Early in the second quarter of the Cowboys’ 23-0 loss against the Colts in December, the Cowboys had a third-and-1 from the Colts’ 3-yard line. Dak rolled out and had two receivers wide open; he opted for a short dump pass to fullback Jamize Olawale, but threw the ball basically at his knees.

Olawale, not a bad receiver, was unable to catch a bad ball.

That’s one example, but there are others. The home game against the Eagles is another.

Successful “coordinators” cash in on those plays. There are only so many times an offense goes for the score and they get the right read, and coverage; when those variables align, the passer can’t miss.

No matter, Linehan is a passionate Dak defender.

“I was a big fan of Dak Prescott coming out of college,” Linehan said. “I was the happiest guy in the building the day we drafted him. I’m not saying I knew he was going to be where he is now, but I think we all had the gut feeling he’d be a hell of a player.”

He is ... but ... there is a but. There is a reason why the Cowboys’ passing offense ranked 23rd in the NFL in 2018.

Some of this is because, other than Zeke, prior to the trade for receiver Amari Cooper the Cowboys did not have a lot of quality skill players.

Some of this is because the Cowboys have the second youngest team in the NFL.

“If you look at our season early on, we were an inconsistent team,” Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said. “We won one, we lost one. We were inconsistent week to week, and inconsistent within games.”

Some of this is on the quarterback. Dak finished the season as the 15th ranked passer in the NFL, and had 22 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Hardly terrible. Hardly Patrick Mahomes.

Linehan isn’t perfect, and he has to own some of this 22nd ranked offense, but there is a but.


Sean McVay of the L.A. Rams is the genius who all NFL teams in need of a new coach want to hire as their own. McVay is the reason why former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury, who had a 35-40 record in Lubbock, landed the job as the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals.

Never has someone fallen and failed so effectively.

Teams are infatuated with passing offenses, and Kingsbury is expected to do for Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen what he did with former Red Raiders quarterback Patrick Mahomes.

Coach Bro is expected to do what McVay did with Jared Goff, the former No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

In the last two seasons, both under McVay, Goff and the Rams offense have thrived. The Rams’ offense ranked 10th in ‘17, and second in ‘18.

These are the offensive coordinators who are celebrated and hailed as creative geniuses, while men like Linehan are regarded as archaic, dull and ineffective.


Linehan is signed through the 2019 season, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is more apt to extend Garrett than to fire him. So Linehan is more apt to stay than to leave.

Remember, Linehan was Garrett’s choice to come to the Cowboys as “passing game coordinator” in 2014; the two had worked together with the Dolphins under Nick Saban in ‘05. Linehan was the offensive coordinator and Garrett was the quarterbacks coach.

Garrett’s offensive philosophy and preferences have always aligned with Linehan. Garrett is not likely to run him off.

That’s not what you want to hear, because somehow Linehan has been sold as a problem. That somehow he is holding Dak back, when in fact he’s a big reason why he has done as well as he has in such a short time.

Scott Linehan is a good offensive coordinator who would be hired tomorrow if he was fired today. He’s just not a guru.

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