Cowboys placing faith in Linehan

Cowboys coach Jason Garrett was trying to sell the idea of Scott Linehan saving the Dallas offense. Statistics are one thing, but wins may continue to be a problem for the Cowboys.

There isn't a statute of limitations on hyperbole in the NFL.

While those covering the Scouting Combine, 32 teams are creating 3,200 stories.

One of them came from beleaguered Dallas head coach Jason Garrett. December is a month of giving for most faiths. In Cowboy Country, it's become an unexpected rite of passage.

Over the last three seasons, the Cowboys have been a lot more talk than walk. Garrett's staff has taken the hit. But as the Cowboys prepare for one more (last?) ride with the current regime, they do so looking to energize the fan base.

So it was that Garrett spoke to his own version of the assembled media about former Vikings offensive coordinator Scott Linehan being the O.C. in Big D.

The line of questioning dealt with the Cowboys recent penchant for eliminating the run at critical times of games and putting the onus on Tony Romo. Garrett said that would all change because of Linehan, who has experience with rushing offense and keeping things balanced.

"Scott's been around teams that have run the ball really well," Garrett said. "All those years when they had Daunte Culpepper and Randy Moss, they always ran the ball very, very well. You like to get to a point where you can do that, where you have the kind of balance. You can be really productive in the passing game, but you can control the game by running the football."

The genesis of the conversation was based on the Cowboys finishing in the bottom 10 of the league in rushing attempts, although they finished in the top 10 in rushing average per attempt. Linehan has supplanted Bill Callahan in calling plays for the Cowboys, but the in timeframe Garrett references, the Vikings had a prolific offense, but it didn't translate into success.

Linehan was the offensive coordinator for the Vikings from 2002-04. While his reference to the Vikings of that era – an enigmatic quarterback and a playmaking wide receiver – correlate with Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, his selling point on Linehan being the new play-caller on offense was to say that, despite passing talent, the Vikings were a top-five rushing team in two of those three seasons.

That's true.

What is also true is that, in those three seasons, the Vikings had a record of 23-25, and the only season in which they made the playoffs they were 8-8.

If the Cowboys intend to go 8-8 once again, it would seem that Garrett is saying all the right things. But if they go 8-8 again, Garrett will be gone. Linehan's stock is another story, but it would seem that a selling point of football success doesn't necessarily equate to rushing yardage. It hasn't for the Cowboys in recent years. It didn't for the Vikings when Linehan was the offensive coordinator.

There are 3,200 other Combine coaching interview stories out there, but, Garrett's promotion of Linehan's offense makes sense to those who use statistics to make decisions on success or failure. For those who base success on wins and losses, it would seem that Garrett and Linehan have one thing in common – a career record hovering around .500 – which is unacceptable for longevity in the current era of the NFL.


John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.

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