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Callahan keeps his focus as coach

By Rick Gosselin The Dallas Morning News

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 3:27 a.m.

OXNARD, Calif. -- Bill Callahan is a football coach.

And coaches coach.

Where doesn't matter. It could be Flagstaff, Ariz., Carbondale, Ill., Lincoln, Neb., Philadelphia, Oakland or Dallas. Callahan has coached there and more.

You are given players, and it's your job to make them better.

That's why Callahan is in Oxnard this summer, still coaching for the Cowboys despite a personally tumultuous offseason.

The Cowboys stripped him of his offensive play-calling responsibilities a year ago. When the Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns tried to throw Callahan a coaching life preserver, the Cowboys refused the two AFC clubs permission to speak with their offensive coordinator.

You've been demoted, the Cowboys told Callahan, and now you must finish out your contract.

Callahan didn't take it personally. Why? Because coaches coach.

And right now, Callahan is coaching in Oxnard. For the Cowboys.

"I'm a team guy," Callahan said matter-of-factly after a practice the other day. "I'll do whatever I can to help the team."

Now, the back story.

The Cowboys put Callahan in an awkward position a year ago. Owner Jerry Jones told coach Jason Garrett he could no longer call the plays on offense. Jones believed it was time for Garrett to focus on being the head coach, not the offensive coach.

So Callahan was given the promotion, titles and responsibilities. The pass-happy Cowboys needed to restore some balance on offense, and Callahan loomed as their best in-house candidate.

When Callahan was head coach at Oakland in 2002, the Raiders led the NFL in total offense and passing on the way to Super Bowl XXXVII but still rushed for 21 touchdowns. When he was an offensive line coach with the Jets, they ran the ball 607 times in 2009 for a franchise-record 2,756 yards and led the NFL in rushing.

But Garrett didn't give up the play-calling by choice. This was still his offensive structure and his playbook, not Callahan's. It was like asking Paul McCartney to perform with Led Zeppelin. Callahan also inherited a quarterback who prefers to audible out of run calls in favor of passes.

So the Cowboys didn't run the ball in 2013. Their 336 carries were second-fewest in the league. When the Cowboys slid from sixth in offense under Garrett in 2012 to 16th under Callahan in 2013 with yet another nonplayoff finish, someone had to take the fall.

It was Callahan.

Garrett hired Scott Linehan, a former mentor, to become the new play-caller. The two worked together with the Miami Dolphins under Nick Saban in 2005. Linehan was the offensive coordinator, Garrett the quarterback coach. They share offensive philosophies and beliefs, so Linehan arrives with a greater trust and comfort level with Garrett.

Callahan went from the loudest voice in the offensive meeting room in 2013 to third-loudest in 2014.

But in the rush to scapegoat Callahan, the Cowboys didn't lose sight of his value on the staff. He remains one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL.

Callahan produced four different Pro Bowl blockers during his time with Oakland and four more during his time with the Jets. He coached first-round draft picks Nick Mangold and D'Brickashaw Fergsuon to Pro Bowls inside of three seasons at New York.

"Bill's an outstanding football coach," Garrett said. "He's one of the best I've ever been around. He's a fantastic coach of offensive linemen."

The Cowboys have made a substantial investment in their offensive line in recent drafts, selecting tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and now guard Zack Martin with first-round picks. The Cowboys need to accelerate their development and make the offensive line the strength of the team in 2014.

And that's why Callahan is in Oxnard this summer. Because coaches coach.

Sports on 07/31/2014

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