With Scott Linehan, Jason Garrett's ability to 'walk around' took root

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones loves the term "walk-around head coach."

In 2013, he made Jason Garrett a walk-around head coach -- meaning he does not call the plays for the defense or offense. Jones forced Bill Callahan to be the playcaller. There was one problem with the move (and it was no fault of Callahan's): Garrett didn't trust him with his offense.

Coming into the 2014 season, Garrett hired Scott Linehan as his offensive playcaller, and the walk-around thing worked a lot better.

If not for the Miami Dolphins, maybe that never happens.

In 2005, Garrett was in his first year as a coach, working as the Dolphins' quarterbacks coach, and Linehan was the coordinator. For hours and hours, they worked closely together. There was almost a game between the Dolphins' assistant coaches to get to the office before Nick Saban. Even a hurricane couldn't stop Saban. When others could not get down their streets, Saban somehow made it to work early.

Linehan and Garrett built a bond that lasted.

"I think at that time, I had a lot of philosophies about football from growing up in a football family, from playing football at this level for a number of years and being influenced by lot a of different guys," Garrett said. "But that was my first opportunity as a coach to be influenced, and his influence was significant, and in many ways it crystallized my thoughts about how I felt about offensive football and football in general."

In 2013, Garrett could not divorce himself from the offense. Jones' arranged marriage failed because Callahan was not familiar with the passing game. He ran a West Coast system. Football is football, but the differences in systems lead to nuances in playcalling.

When Linehan was made available after the Detroit Lions fired Jim Schwartz, Garrett had his guy. He was still the new guy around a lot of guys who had been in the same system and on the staff for at least a few years.

"I thought he did a great job coming in here and dealing with the staff that was in place, a system that was in place, a lot of players who knew how to do things a certain way," Garrett said. "All that stuff in place, and he did a great job kind of maximizing the way it was, the people, the system and then adding to it and making it better."

Garrett was still involved with the offense with Linehan on board, but it was more in an advisory role. In practices, he spent more time with the defense. In meetings, he spent more time with defense.

By being more well-rounded, Garrett became a better coach.

"Maybe one of the most underutilized opportunities in coaching is the communication between offensive guys, defensive guys and special teams guys," Garrett said. "One of the things that we have done in the past is you break each other down. The offensive line coach is talking with the defensive line coach. What are you doing? What are you looking at here? Why is he in that kind of stance? Why is he so wide? Sometimes you sit on one side of the ball and say, 'If we do this, they're going to do this.' The defensive guy says, 'They ain't doing that. This is why they're doing that.'

"Just opening up those lines of communication, I think they're really, really important. So one of the things I tried to do for the defensive guys is provide an offensive perspective. 'This is what they're trying to get accomplished here. This is how we run that play. This is how we block that.' Maybe give them some insights, and obviously learning more about what we're doing and being able to communicate and coach better was a big a part of the process for me as well."

With Linehan returning in 2015, Garrett can continue to walk around and continue to grow.

"Hopefully, I'm better than I was yesterday," Garrett said. "That's really the way I look at it, and the culture we're trying to create here is that everybody is striving to get better each and every day. That applies to me too. This is a good structure that we have in place right now. It certainly affords me the opportunity to be more involved in a lot of different parts of our team. We have people in place who I trust to do those jobs well in the structure that we have them, so I think those are all positives.

"You can be more involved in the defense, more involved in the kicking game, more involved in the offense, more involved with personnel, how the roster is put together, and I think those are all positive things for a head coach to be able to do."