Dallas’ new defensive coordinator is one tough guy
AP Pro Football Writer
IRVING, Texas (AP) – The new defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys is known for his intensity. He gives orders with all the subtlety of a punch to the gut.
Paul Pasqualoni will never be confused with predecessor Wade Phillips.
Phillips was fired Monday as coach and defensive coordinator of the Cowboys, his easygoing style seemingly having backfired. Players loved him but weren’t responding. If anything, they may have taken advantage of his loyalty and gotten too comfortable.
That won’t happen under Pasqualoni.
“Coach P is in your face, let’s get it done and that’s the way it is,” said defensive end Stephen Bowen, punching his palm for emphasis with each descriptive phrase. “Everybody is pretty much fired up. It’s a good change.”
Linebacker Keith Brooking came to Dallas to play for Phillips, and is going to miss him as much as anyone. But he already likes what he’s seen from Pasqualoni, the 61-year-old longtime Syracuse coach who spent the last two seasons as defensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.
Here’s how Brooking explained being won over by Pasqualoni: Brooking showed up to work Wednesday a bit groggy because his wife gave birth early that morning. He’s already “beat up from the feet up” because this is his 13th season, and he’s worn out mentally by the Cowboys being 1-7. But after hearing Pasqualoni’s inaugural address to the defense, “I was ready to strap it on and get after it.”
“It’s something we can feed off,” Brooking said. “You’ve got to keep going but when a guy like that stands up in front of you, it’s a great motivating factor for all of us.”
The change in style makes for a great story. But can it really make a difference on the scoreboard?
After all, the Dallas defense is still running the 3-4 scheme Phillips put together. The roster is built to win now, loaded with high-priced veterans. There can’t be a youth movement because there are few youngsters waiting in the wings. And, this week, a starting defensive end went on injured reserve and a backup is out with a groin injury.
Oh, one more thing. Up next for the Cowboys are the Giants, who are 6-2, leading the NFC East, coming off a 41-7 thrashing of Seattle and, in their previous game, beat these same Cowboys 41-35.
Maybe that challenge explains why Pasqualoni hasn’t been available for an interview since his promotion.
The challenge also is why it may take time for Pasqualoni’s impact to show up. Yet players are confident it eventually will. Just look at what happened in practice Wednesday – Pasqualoni told his guys to come up with more fumbles and interceptions, and they did.
“I had the most turnovers I had all season,” cornerback Mike Jenkins said. “So I’m loving it.”
A lack of turnovers was a problem for Dallas last season, too, but little else was. The Cowboys gave up the fewest points in the NFC, second-fewest in the NFL. They were among the stingiest in yards allowed and loaded up on sacks.
This season, Dallas doesn’t have a strength on defense. Teams are running, throwing and scoring against the Cowboys at will, which is why the coaching change was made.
Offensive coordinator Jason Garrett is the interim head coach and he’s glad to have Pasqualoni as his sidekick.
Pasqualoni arrived in Dallas from Syracuse, starting as a tight ends coach. He was working with the linebackers when Garrett arrived in 2007, and they got to know each other a little. They became more acquainted this season under somewhat unusual circumstances.
“From where my office is to where the bathroom is, I walk past his office,” Garrett said. “Probably a handful of times every day since he’s been back, I poke my head in and say ‘Hey, coach, tell me about this?’ He’ll tell me some Syracuse stories, some scheme things that can help. He’ll talk about personnel. He’s a football guy. Has been for a long time. That’s his reputation. And we’re awfully fortunate to have him here on staff running the defense.”
Garrett also laughed about Pasqualoni’s famed ferocity.
“He’s got juice, there’s no question about that,” Garrett said. “It’s fun for me as a coach to see how the other players imitate him. They’ve all got a Pasqualoni imitation. They try to get that voice going – ‘Let’s go!’
“He brings it every day,” Garrett continued. “What we’re asking our players to do is bring it every day, and certainly our coaching staff as well. He does that.”