What Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should have learned from old coach to avoid play-calling imbroglio

A head coach having control over the decision to hire a play-caller wouldn’t qualify as news in most NFL cities. But in Dallas things are a bit abnormal.

That explains why there was surprise when it was revealed head coach Jason Garrett made the choice to add Scott Linehan and demote offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.

Up until the last few weeks, many believed Jerry Jones, the face of the organization he owns, would orchestrate the coaching changes behind his gossamer curtain. After all, that’s what Jones did last season when he all but yanked the play-calling role away from Garrett, promoted Callahan, canned Rob Ryan and foisted the ancient Monte Kiffin on his head coach.

Many wondered then why Jones didn’t take a hands-off approach and let Garrett have full autonomy as he retooled his staff.

But this is Jerry Jones. And one of the most influential figures in Jones’ life was his former college coach Frank Broyles, the Arkansas legend who became the meddler of all meddlers as an athletic director.

“He’s a real role model for me,” Jones once said.

Broyles, as forward-thinking as he was from a business standpoint, was known for being hard on his coaches. In the late-1980s, he once told Nolan Richardson to visit Bobby Knight to get a few pointers about how to teach defense.

The hallmark of Richardson’s teams, of course, was their attacking full-court press that generated plenty of turnovers and eventually many, many wins. Not long after making a suggestion that would sting Richardson forever, Broyles turned up the heat on football coach Ken Hatfield. In 1987, the Razorbacks finished 9-4  and were annihilated by Miami, 51-7. The Hurricanes were led by one of Broyles’ former players, Jimmy Johnson, the future Cowboys coach. In 1983, Johnson had interviewed with Broyles for the Arkansas job that Hatfield, his former college teammate, was given.

Four years later, Johnson’s Miami team not only proved to be superior than Hatfield’s Razorbacks; The Hurricanes also had a more exciting offense that dominated Arkansas. Broyles, unsatisfied with the both the results and Hatfield’s conservative style, suggested he fire three assistants after the season. Hatfield, a loyal man who considered Tom Landry his idol, refused. But the tension never calmed. Embittered, Hatfield left his alma mater in 1990 to become the head coach at Clemson.

Broyles remained, and he would continue to poke his nose in situations he felt necessitated his involvement.

One such instance occurred in 2005, when the Razorbacks were coming off two consecutive losing seasons. Houston Nutt was the coach. For the first eight years of his tenure in Fayetteville he called his own offensive plays. When the team started to lose, many fans blamed the lack of success on the absence of a threatening passing game and creativity in the playbook. Aware of the disenchantment, Broyles suggested or insisted, depending on the account, that Nutt hire an offensive coordinator. He did, and that man was Gus Malzahn, an innovator and the best high school coach in the state at the time. Malzahn, who almost led Auburn to a national championship this past season, was believed to have been forced on Nutt. After all, the philosophies of Malzahn and Nutt didn’t exactly align.

And despite the Razorbacks winning 10 games in 2006, the program was soon splintered by a soap opera that would push Malzahn to leave for Tulsa the following off-season. In the wake of Malzahn’s departure, Nutt reeled in David Lee, a Cowboys assistant he had worked with previously and was more in tune with his offensive beliefs.

If all of this sounds rather familiar, it should.

Years later, a similarly awkward situation played out at Valley Ranch, when Jones decided he wanted Garrett to remove himself from the offense he had run for the previous six seasons. With Garrett’s hands tied following back-to-back 8-8 seasons Jones gave Callahan, a West Coast disciple, the play-calling role in Garrett’s Don Coryell-style timing-based system. Garrett felt uncomfortable with that arrangement, and after yet another .500 season he made the same move Nutt once did: He hired a former colleague, Linehan, who shared his offensive philosophy.

Jones should have seen this coming from a mile away, as he was keenly aware of what happened at Arkansas almost 10 years ago. But as the old saying goes, those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. And in Jones’ case, he made the honest mistake of using the methods employed by his old coach.
What Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should have learned from old coach to avoid play-calling imbroglio What Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones should have learned from old coach to avoid play-calling imbroglio Reviewed by Mr. DCStands4 on 3:43:00 PM Rating: 5

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