Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and coach Jason Garrett are considering resolving their disagreement over who should be the team’s offensive playcaller with a compromise: They’re discussing hiring former Detroit Lions offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, according to league sources.
One source who expects Linehan to be hired speculated he could have the title of passing game coordinator while also being designated the Cowboys’ playcaller. If so, Linehan would become the third different offensive playcaller in three seasons in Dallas, following Garrett and current offensive coordinator Bill Callahan.
In a setup one source described as “strange” and “dysfunctional,” Garrett ceded play-calling authority to Callahan a year ago in what appeared to be a change mandated by Jones, who is also the team’s general manager.
At the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Ala., Jones said Callahan and defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin would both return following a third consecutive 8-8 season in which the Cowboys failed in Week 17 to win the NFC East. While Garrett also said he expected both coordinators to return, he specifically left open the possibility that roles could be changed.
Until last season, Garrett had been the only playcaller for quarterback Tony Romo since Garrett — a former Cowboys backup quarterback — returned to the organization in 2007 under coach Wade Phillips.
According to a source, Garrett attempted to hire Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator and playcaller a year ago when Jones expressed dissatisfaction with Garrett’s performance in the role. But Jones decided against the move late in the process, apparently believing Turner’s offensive philosophy was too similar to that of Garrett. Jones preferred to empower Callahan at the expense of his head coach.
But during the Cowboys’ bye week this season, Garrett moved to ensure he would be directly involved in the play-calling process. He reconfigured game-day coaching responsibilities so that Callahan called the play to Garrett on the sideline — rather than quarterbacks coach Wade Wilson — and then Garrett relayed the call to Romo on the field.
Among the reasons Garrett imposed himself in the communication process was because he wanted to regain a measure of control and felt he didn’t have a significant role on game day without being directly involved, according to sources. Garrett had always communicated with Romo and wanted to interact with his quarterback throughout games as Sean Payton does with Drew Brees in New Orleans and Mike McCarthy with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay.
Linehan was fired along with coach Jim Schwartz following a 7-9 season in Detroit. He was the offensive coordinator for the past five seasons, designing game plans and calling the plays for quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush.
The Lions ranked sixth in total offense last season, third overall in 2012, fifth in ’11, 17th in ’10 and 26th in ’09.
Garrett and Linehan have worked together previously. When Linehan was offensive coordinator of the Dolphins, he hired Garrett as his quarterbacks coach, at least partly on the recommendation of three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Troy Aikman. Linehan later described Garrett as one of the smartest people he’s ever met.
A college quarterback at Idaho, Linehan went to training camp with the Cowboys in 1987 as an undrafted rookie before being released.
Linehan and Cowboys executives did not immediately return phone messages for comment.
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