The big­gest prob­lems for Line­han are McVay, Kings­bury and Dak

Star-Telegram - - Sports - BY MAC EN­GEL ten­[email protected]­

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.


Dal­las Cow­boys Of­fen­sive Co­or­di­na­tor Scott Line­han

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