On hiring Derek Dooley to coach wide receivers:
Yeah, I’m really excited about Derek. I’ve known him for a number of years. When I was playing with the Cowboys in the ’90s, he was the receiver coach at SMU. We did some camps together and we go back that far. But we were on the staff together in Miami in ’05 and ’06 for coach Sabin. He coached the tight ends, I coached the quarterbacks. We’ve known each other for a long time. He was obviously the head coach at Louisiana Tech and Tennessee. When he was available, he was certainly a guy we targeted. It is great to have him on our staff. He’s a very smart football guy. His dad is obviously Vince Dooley, so he grew up in the game and can really coach a lot of different receives. I think he’s most natural coaching receivers. We are really excited to have him on our staff.
On why Dooley is most natural coaching receivers:
He played receiver. He was a receiver at the University of Virginia. During the early part of his career that’s what he coached. I think often times, the position you played is the one you are probably the most natural coaching because you have been in those situations.
On whether it’s difficult to transition to scouting players at the combine after hiring so many new assistants:
Oh, I think it’s a really positive thing. I firmly believe you want to hire people that are smarter than you are. And you want to get as much input from them as you can and we really try to get our staff invested in what we are doing, and I really encourage them to share ideas with me. Certainly, football ideas, scheme ideas, ideas about personnel, but also just the way they’ve done things different ways. When you have guys who have been in those situations, making those decisions, we believe that you can make those decisions better as a staff. And they are certainly great people, the guys who have been head coaches and coordinators on our staff, so you get a lot of input from them and you certainly want to use the information and the knowledge that they have to make our team better.
On his final assessment of the offensive line in 2012:
I don’t know if you ever make a final assessment. You are always trying to get better in ever phase of your team. You have heard me say this before – we have nothing down pat, so now you are always wanting guys to be better. I think in some ways we played well in the offensive line and in other ways we didn’t. One of the things we believe strongly in is creating competition throughout the football team. We try to do that in our offensive line from a personnel standpoint. And then we will evaluate the schemes we use and what was effective for us and what wasn’t and continue to try to build on that as well.
On whether he can at least label the offensive line as an area of concern:
Well, certainly it is an area that we have to get better in. Whenever you are near the bottom of the league in rushing the football, you want to improve that area. It starts with the offensive line. We believe strongly that other people contribute to running the football. Certainly, the tight ends, the fullbacks and the runners themselves. So we have to get better running the football. It starts up front. So we will try to create competition there to try to make our team better.
On whether Anthony Spencer fits better in the 3-4 or the 4-3:
It’s a great question because when Spence was coming out of Purdue, he was a 4-3 defensive end. We converted him to an outside linebacker in a 3-4 defense. I think what’s natural to him is what he did growing up, but he certainly made a great transition to be a Sam linebacker in the defense we played. Like a lot of 3-4 teams in this league, we played a lot of four-down line and typically the four down linemen were two of our interior linemen but also DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer as the defensive ends. So he certainly has a comfort level from his past and he certainly has done a lot of it here in the National Football League. So he is just a damn good football player and he showed us that this year and over the past four or five years. He can do a lot of different things. We are certainly confident he can play a lot of different schemes really, really well.
On how difficult is it to evaluate roster at end of season and scout college prospects and then go to combine with new assistants:
It’s actually been a good experience for us because obviously we have a ton of coaches who have been with us, and the evaluation of our current team we did immediately after the season and then when you bring some new coaches in on both sides of the ball, you get an opportunity to see these players maybe with some fresh eyes. So we try to take advantage of that opportunity as we continue to evaluate our team and we will continue to do that as we watch the cutups. You find out more and more as you go back and you watch the schemes on offense and defense and the kicking game and you find out more from a personnel standpoint as well. But the combination of guys who have been around these players and the new eyes is really beneficial to our evaluations.
Chip Kelly in Philly:
Well, obviously, Andy Reid is one of the great coaches in this league and he’s a great person and a great program was in place for 14 years really because of his leadership and they have been an outstanding team and a great competitor of ours, so we wish him well in Kansas City. And certainly the challenges that Chip Kelly presents are obvious. Certainly, a great track record at Oregon. He’s just a darn good football coach, and he’s bringing that style of football to the NFL. I think we have seen glimpses of that the last couple of years where there has been a trickle up of college offenses to the NFL. And they are challenging. And his style is even different than some of the things we have seen. We are going to do a lot of studying of what he’s done to make sure we are ready for it because I think it’s different. It’s different from what a lot of teams have seen. We are going to get a chance to face him twice and we know what the challenges are and we have to get ready to go.
More on preparing for Kelly:
Often times when coaches move from staff to staff in the league what you will try to do is go back and see what they did at their previous team. It is a little bit more challenging when you have a college coach coming in, but we’ve found ourselves watching college tape in the past when a similar transition happened. So we will do our best to do our due diligence on this stuff and get as ready as we can be.
On whether you have to re-train your eyes for evaluating players in a 4-3:
I don’t know that you re-train your eyes. I just think you come up with different criteria. We talk a lot about the makeup of a player, the critical factors of a player at each position and then the position’s specific skills. So when you go from a 3-4 style of defense , you talk about what you want from those three defensive linemen and what you want from the linebackers and you go through everything from the size that they have, their speed, their arm length and really what you are looking for physically as well as the traits they have once the play starts. And you just have to kind of re-work those and say, Now we’re talking about a defensive end in a 4-3 defense – how is that different from a defensive end in a 4-3 defense. We go through those parameters and we’re in the process of doing that right now and certainly that will help our evaluations of the players and the free agents that might be available to us.
On Rob Ryan:
I think Rob’s an outstanding football coach. And he certainly is a great person and we made strides on defense. If you think about where our defense was in the 2010 season, we got better in 2011, we got better in 2012. I think a lot of that has to do with Rob Ryan’s leadership. He has coached a long time in this league and I think his record speaks for him. I think one of the things that I was most impressed with Rob is we had a lot of different injuries on defense but we just had starting players who weren’t playing for us and a lot of combinations played and it kind of kept everybody hanging in there and we played pretty decent defense throughout most of the year. It didn’t surprise me one bit that he’d get a job. I think it’s a great fit for Sean Payton down there in New Orleans. Rob will do a great job for him and knowing both those guys fairly well I think the match is really a good one.
On whether he expects Jay Ratliff to be part of the team in 2013:
Absolutely. On building depth across the defensive line: It’s interesting. When we looked at our team – and this was a really important thing for us to do right after the season – we talked about going to a 4-3 style of defense is that we wanted to look at the players on our roster and see how quickly we can make this transition. And your really go down your roster – Can this guy do this? Can this guy do this? Where do you think this guy can play? And what we found were there a lot of really good fits with our starting players but also with some of our backup players. Maybe a guy was a 4-3 defensive end in college and we were making him into a 3-4 defensive end or he was playing another spot for us. You really had to go through each guy with a critical eye and see what their history was, see what their physical traits are and see if they can fit and we felt pretty comfortable about that – not only with our top line players but also with our backup guys.
On Lee and Carter’s roles:
Well, we felt great about how those guys fit into it. They both did a really good job as 3-4 inside linebackers and I think we have a really good tandem playing the inside there. But if you look at those guys and their history, they have been guys who have been protected by defensive linemen like you are in a 4-3 style of defense. They both run to the ball really well. They make a lot of plays so we feel the transition at that second level will be fairly comfortable for those guys.
On who will be the middle linebacker:
We’re still working through that but both guys are capable of doing it and I think Sean Lee will probably get the first crack at it. But we’ll see how it fits once we get on the football field.
On looking at how the corners will be used:
The great misnomer about Tampa 2 defenses, and it’s something as an offensive coordinator we talked about on Wednesday morning when you’re getting ready to play a so-called Tampa 2 team, they play a lot more single-high defense than they do Tampa 2. And that’s been that way for a long, long time. But what those guys want to do is get you in those passing situations by defending the run and then letting those guys rush up front and play coverage behind them. That’s been their history for a long, long time. Anybody who has ever played in a Tampa 2 style defense also has to play a single-high style of defense. And certainly some of the things Seattle has done from a front standpoint, playing some of their eight-man fronts and some of their pressures, are similar to what Monte has done in the past., I think what they’ve tried to do is fit their scheme to what their personnel is. And we’ll certainly try to do the same thing.
On addressing the offensive guard positions:
I think for us, like every position, you’re just trying to create competition. We believe we have to get better throughout our football team. We believe we have to get better on the offensive line. And Bill Callahan will be coaching the offensive line for a second year and he’s done an outstanding job with those guys. They’ve grown. A lot of different combinations of guys played for us last year. So a number of those guys will be back competing for spots. And we feel like we have to inject those positions with guys, whether it is in the draft or free agency or somehow, some way, to create some competition. We do have some young guys we feel good about who can create some competition as well. I think that’s going to help everybody.
Chip Kelly first year coach?
Yeah, he’s a great coach. There’s a lot of tape, and a lot of successful tape he has that we can look at. We don’t look at it like this guy has never coached in the NFL. We look at it like this is a heck of a challenge for our team. We have to do as much preparation work as we can with the film that we have from Oregon – great program, they’ve been outstanding. So the challenge is certainly there. And if you turn the tape on, you can see it. So we have to get ourselves up to snuff on how to stop those guys.
Monte saw them at USC but didn’t stop them…
I don’t know that many defenses had a whole lot of success against what they did there. If you look at the track record, he was there for four years .. they were pretty good week in and week out and year in and year out. Again, the challenges will be there. We’re going to do our best to study it, understand what they’re doing the best we can and get ourselves ready to go.
Excited about Ratliff moving to 4-3?
Jay Ratliff is an outstanding football player. He’s been a pro bowl player for us. He plays with a great demeanor for us, great desire and passion for the game. he’s been playing in the 4-3 style of defense. But if you look at how he’s played through these years, he’s never been one what we call a zero nose tackle playing dead over the center and two gap… he’s always been an up-the-field guy and played on a shade and done a great job disrupting opposing offenses. We’ll see where he fits as we go through the spring and training camp but he’s a great football player. We missed him last year. I think he only played in four or five ballgames, and made an impact. But we’ve got to get him healthy. We’re excited to get him going in this scheme.
But it was a rocky year for Ratliff… turned the corner?
Again, the biggest thing with Jay is just to get him healthy, first and foremost and get him back to playing the way he’s capable of playing. The real positive thing is, in the games he played, he really played like Jay Ratliff plays. He’s really excited about that – what he did on tape. We’ve just got to get him healthy and going again.
Dez exploded down the stretch.. what changed for him?
Dez is a very talented guy. Guys who have been around me have heard me say, there’s a correlation in the growth and development as a person and the growth and development of the player. I think what he’s done more than anything else is just simply mature and it has a lot to do with the approach that he’s taken. I think the first couple of years in the league, he was a very productive player for a rookie receiver and a second-year receiver, he made big impacts on games, but he wasn’t as consistent as he needed to be. I think his practice habits, his commitment to getting better on the details of the game just continued to improve. I think he saw the results on how that led to him having success on Sunday afternoons. And that fosters itself. He’s got a great passion for the game. he loves football. Nobody catches more balls in a practice than Dez Bryant. He’s got me throwing them. He’s got all the offensive coaches throwing them. He’s got the backup quarterbacks throwing them. He’s got the trainers throwing them. He loves this game. I think anyone who has watched him play sees that and I think he’s grown more as a person and it’s reflective in his play.
Matured now or still worrying about Dez in offseason?
I think our approach as a team is to always provide a structure and system to all of our players. The offseasons are a little different these days. We’re not going to see the players until the middle of April. And there is some time they’ll be away from our building. Again, we have to get them to understand that we’re there for them and we’ll help them in any way we can and hopefully we’ve given them some guidance along the way to understand their responsibility to themselves, their families and to the Dallas Cowboys and the National Football League and to do the right thing and hopefully when they come back they’ll be ready to go to help us be a good football team in 2013.
Free agency predicated on Romo’s deal?
That’s certainly part of the conversation. There’s math involved in this deal. Everyone has to get under the cap and a number of teams are making these types of decisions so we do have an opportunity to restructure Tony’s contract and we believe very strongly in Tony Romo as our quarterback. So we need to make sure we get that business done to help our football team be as good as it could be. We do have to address some things with personnel and freeing up some of that money will allow us to do that.
Keep Murray healthy?
It’s a good question. He makes a big impact on our football team and the last couple of years at different times he’s been out of the lineup. And I think our team was hurt by that. We have to make sure he’s doing everything he can in the offseason to prepare himself, evaluate what he’s doing… he’s a very hard worker and very committed to getting himself right. We have to keep looking at what he’s’ doing. In general, if you look at his injuries, the injuries he’s had are not ones you can prevent. It’s really the nature of football. So as best we can, we’re going to get him in the kind of shape that will allow him to play 16 games. And we’re going to rely on him. He’s a darn good football player. He takes some pressure off everyone on our offense and throughout our team when he’s going good. We have to make sure we can get him in that frame of mind and that physical state for the whole season.