The Dallas Cowboys bye week shake ups continued Monday with their first coaching change of 2018. First year Offensive Line Coach Paul Alexander lasted seven games with his new team, as the Cowboys fired Alexander in favor of Marc Colombo. The former Cowboys starting tackle from 2005-10 had been serving as Alexander’s assistant.
Beneath Colombo, the Cowboys brought back Hudson Houck, who has two previous stints as the team’s offensive line coach. Houck was most recently in the league in 2011, his 28th year coaching at the NFL level.
The Cowboys offensive line is in good hands moving forward, primarily because of their talent level as well as desire for Colombo to lead their room. It took the Cowboys admitting to another offseason failure that may still cause this season to fall short of the playoffs, but the Cowboys readily admitting their mistake to hire Alexander — who shifted the team’s blocking focus from zone to power — is a step in the right direction.
This move could easily be too little too late for Dallas as well. Even with the incompatible Alexander leading the way, the Cowboys offensive line has given Quarterback Dak Prescott the third highest average time to throw at 3.04 seconds and paved the way for Running Back Ezekiel Elliott to rush for 619 yards, despite seeing eight or more defenders in the box on over 24% of his runs.
Expecting to squeeze even more out of this group, hardly playing at full strength with Travis Frederick sidelined and rookie Connor Williams getting acclimated at left guard, feels like a desperate way for the Cowboys to convince themselves they’re in the NFC East race at 3-4.
As a long-term move though, the Cowboys offensive line needs to remain the strength of the team for this roster to find any success. Hiring a former player that’s worked with revered OL coaches like Frank Pollack and Bill Callahan is a move that had to be made. It’s one fortified by the absurd talent level of Tyron Smith, Zack Martin, and La’el Collins, who can be asked to change technique mid-season and expected to handle it just fine.
The 2017 Cowboys finished with a winning record of 9-7 and began shaking up the coaching staff below Jason Garrett, Scott Linehan, and Rod Marinelli. As Defensive Coordinator, Marinelli has effectively handed his tasks to first-year Passing Game Coordinator Kris Richard.
Both Garrett and Linehan have survived frequent calls to lose their jobs through just seven games this season, all it took for the Cowboys to give both their Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator even less of an excuse for post-bye-week struggles.
Alexander being shown the door at The Star should send a message to Keith O’Quinn, Ben Bloom, Kellen Moore, Sanjay Lal, and Doug Nussmeier – the remaining first year position coaches for the Cowboys. All five are being held to a very high standard, one Garrett must maintain at the helm of a desperate team that hasn’t won consecutive games since last December.
The Cowboys promoting Colombo is certainly not as flashy a move as trading for Wide Receiver Amari Cooper, but both moves during their week off signal that Dallas is doing everything they can to play up to their potential on offense.
If the Cowboys are able to do so in support of a defense that ranks third in total yards allowed per game, third against the pass, and ninth against the run, this team has a real case for best in the NFC East.
Such a title currently belongs to the Washington Redskins, who followed up their miraculous home win against the Cowboys two weeks ago with a win at the lowly Giants on Sunday, perhaps cementing the fact that all of these Cowboys moves will be about looking ahead to 2019 – spending the rest of this season admitting to even more offseason miscues, two of which have been realized in a big way over the last nine days.