Posted: 9:00 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013
By Tom Ryle
Joe Bussell is a former employee of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he worked in operations. While his job was primarily concerned with logistics and getting the team to away games, he also turned it into a year's intensive education in the real world of the NFL. Having been caught up in a complete housecleaning when the head coach was fired which cost him his dream job, he has now become NFL Philosophy, someone I think is one of the best sources of honest, intelligent, unbiased football goodness anywhere. You can sample his battle for truth, justice, and a Tebow-free league at NFLPhilosophy.com or by following him @NFLosophy on Twitter.
He agreed to answer some questions about the Cowboys and the upcoming NFL season.
1. In your NFC East preview, you picked the Cowboys to make the playoffs. Since then, they have signed Brian Waters in an attempt to address the issues they have at offensive guard. How do you see the Waters signing, and how much do you think he will be able to bring to the team?
Brian Waters is a good player and I think this is evident in the fact that the Patriots waited over a year to release him after he didn't report for camp in 2012. Taking a year off is concerning in terms of his preparation and conditioning but I don't think playing on the offensive line is something he's forgotten how to do. I would expect that conditioning is something the Cowboys tested in Waters' workout with the team. There's no doubt he's an obvious improvement even if he is 36 years old. There's some familiarity with Waters in the league and that makes it easier on Dallas to integrate him into the offensive line, but only snaps in games will determine if he's still got what it takes to hold up against guys like Cullen Jenkins, Linval Joseph, Shaun Rogers, Fletcher Cox, Isaac Sopoaga, and Barry Cofield.
2. One of the big stories in the offseason was how Jason Garrett was more or less pushed out of the offensive playcalling role. Although opinions differ on just how hard the push involved was, all indications are that he is not only adapting to being a walk-around head coach, but finding it very enjoyable. What is your opinion on a head coach and his role? Is the walk-around job a better idea, or is it more a matter of the individuals involved?
I think this is probably a bit overblown. Garrett is still the head coach and will be very much involved in the architecture and scheme of the offense. The head coach position is much more a manager than anything else. He manages people, personalities, meetings, schedules, and gameplans. Tony Dungy always said that the higher up the coaching chain he got, the less actual "coaching" he did. This type of role may actually suit Garrett better. Bill Callahan may be calling the plays on Sundays but it's still an offense that he and Garrett, and Romo to an extent, have devised and are comfortable with.
3. Obviously one connection between your old team and the Cowboys is Monte Kiffin. I was wondering how you see his chances for success in Dallas, and especially how you see the ongoing injury issues with the defensive line as affecting things for his 4-3 scheme?
I had the chance to meet Monte, briefly, at Derrick Brooks' retirement party one night. The guy still has the fire for football. His football intelligence isn't of this universe. I love that he's gotten the old band back together in terms of his coaches. This group of coaches will really put the Cowboys' defense in much better positions to be successful. Kiffin's scheme is all about getting pressure with the front four and supporting it with strong linebacker play while the secondary keeps everything in front of them. The Cowboys should be fine in rushing the passer with DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer bookending that line. Backup DE George Selvie has always had the tools to be very good but never seemed to put it together. With Rod Marianelli coaching him every day, he seems to be putting it all together. Where the Cowboys may struggle is on the interior of the defensive line. They need some big guys in there to basically just clog up the middle and let the linebackers come free to the ball carrier. I expect the Cowboys to have some serious problems stopping the run. One final note, I really don't expect this to be a strict Tampa-2 scheme from Kiffin. I think he's brilliant enough to realize that Claiborne and Carr are much more versatile and will take more risks accordingly.
4. You seem to have similar take to most of us at Blogging The Boys in that Tony Romo is not the problem with this team. This year there was a stated emphasis on making the Cowboys a more Romo friendly team. How far do you think the team can go if he has the right teammates around him?
Tony Romo has suffered from a lot of bad luck around him. The Cowboys always seem to have significant players hurt on both sides of the ball. Last year, Tony had to overcompensate for a defense that was giving up a massive amount of points. I like Romo a lot but there are very few QBs in the NFL that can carry a team on their arm for nearly an entire season. Romo tried and I think that's where a lot of his mistakes come in. By keeping players healthy, that's where Tony will find more comfort within the offense. If the defense isn't giving up 25 points per game (9th worst in NFL last season) then he'll be able to not have to try to do so much every game. One of the biggest keys to that offense to me is DeMarco Murray. When the Cowboys are able to run the ball with authority it opens up so much more for them and makes that offense pretty lethal.
5. You have a unique insight from having actually worked for an NFL team, and we all hate you for it. No, not really, it's just mindless envy. But Dallas has its own unique situation in the inimitable Jerry Jones. I just want your impressions of the Cowboys' owner and GM.
Jerry Jones is obviously a very intelligent man or else he wouldn't be where he is. He seems to get a bad rap in regards to his role as General Manager but it's pretty unfounded. This is a talented team on both sides of the ball. There's some depth issues at certain positions but overall, this is one of the more talented teams in the league and I think it's hard to argue against that. Jerry Jones should be given credit for that. But when someone is in the spotlight as much as Jerry is, and loves the spotlight as much as Jerry does, there will always be critics. In the few interactions I've had with Cowboys' scouts and staff members, they love the environment that the Joneses have created. I've maintained for a long time that the identity of an franchise and team stems from its leadership. That personality has a trickle down effect that permeates the entire organization. Simply put, the Cowboys are a team people either love or hate because of their flashiness and gaudiness. The same goes for Jerry Jones. But when you strip away all the ancillary muck and look at the teams Jerry Jones and his staff puts on the field every Sunday, he's done a great job over a very long period of time.