Goodbye to Hudson Houck, Dave Campo, and Hanging on to the 1990s

Several of us hold the 1990s dynasty in higher esteem than others do. One of my very first posts in 2006 was about the team showing a drive to win for the first time since the mid-1990s. Moreover, one of my favorite forums has been the Classic Cowboys Forum at the True Blue Fan Club, and many posts there are about the 1990s Cowboys.

There would appear to be some logic to base decisions on “it worked during the 1990s.” In fact, one of Jerry’s first decisions of the 2000s was to try to rekindle dynasty magic by firing head coach Chan Gailey and hiring defensive coordinator Dave Campo, who had been an assistant throughout the 1990s. Jerry brought in offensive coordinator in Jack Reilly to run the timing-based offense that had been so successful less than a decade earlier. Dallas traded two first-round picks to Seattle to get a receiver to make up for the loss of Michael Irvin.

We all know that the strategy bombed. It felt as if Campo was even more of a puppet than Chan Gailey had been. Reilly was awful, and the timing-based system didn’t work. The Galloway trade was possibly the worst in team history.

Jerry changed a bit, and almost all of the remnants of the dynasty save a few players left with the arrival of Bill Parcells in 2003. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck had moved on to San Diego in 2002, and Campo had relatively unsuccessful assistant coaching stops at Cleveland and Jacksonville.

Of course, the Parcells’ experiment was not the ultimate success that we hoped it would be, and Jerry turned back to the 1990s to take this team to the promised land. In 2007, he gave former backup QB Jason Garrett a $3 million contract to serve as offensive coordinator. In 2008, Parcells had fired Houck from the Miami Dolphins, so Jerry brought Houck back to Dallas. Also returning that year was Campo. The result of the Campo hiring was that he not only looked like a fool in the 2002 season of HBO’s Hard Knocks (I have some memory of him playing with dolphins, but I refuse to look it up), but he also looked foolish in the 2008 season (having a defensive back yank his shorts down during a drill—another clip I won’t try to find).

The Cowboys put together a large offensive line, which was a reminder of the dominant 1990s line. Never mind that the Cowboys ran an offense that probably needed more athletic linemen. This line made up of Pro Bowl selections made us remember the great years of Larry Allen, Nate Newton, Mark Stepnoski, Erik Williams, and Mark Tuinei.

Dallas grabbed a cornerback named Mike Jenkins in the first round of the 2008 draft and also acquired Pacman Jones. The promise was that Dave Campo could work with this new talent along with safety Roy Williams and cornerback Terence Newman and bring this secondary to the heights of those glory years. After all, Campo coached the likes of Woodson, Kevin Smith, Larry Brown, James Washington, Thomas Everett, and eventually Deion Sanders.

Even Garrett provides reminders of the 1990s, often having the offense line up in the I-formation and running lead draws.

I probably don’t need to write this, but the stuff that worked in the 1990s usually hasn’t worked since then. The jury is still out on Garrett, and perhaps he will continue to find success with DeMarco Murray running the lead draw in 2012. However, Garrett’s reliance on the power running game with Felix Jones late in the season didn’t help the Dallas offense down the stretch, and several have argued that Garrett needs to use a system more similar to the Saints, Packers, and Patriots.

Houck bowed out today, announcing his retirement. I won’t debate whether he deserves the tag of legendary, because he does based on his entire body of work, but I was always puzzled that his offensive lines could tend to be undisciplined. Does anyone else recall the frustration of watching Erik Williams being called for the Erik Williams’ Rule? Moreover, Flozell Adams played his first four seasons under Houck, and we all know that Adams often didn’t bother to listen to the snap count. Houck deserves credit for the early development of Tyron Smith. However, does Houck take some blame for Doug Free’s lack of development?

Campo is also gone. His defenses of the 1990s were often very good, but it was no secret that Deion Sanders shut down half the field when Campo was defensive coordinator. Without having Deion or someone like Deion, Campo has not had the same success. Sure, the secondary played well late in the 2009 season, but it was also the secondary that the Vikings blew up in the Cowboys’ last playoff game after the 2009 season. The secondary was a definite weakness in 2010 and 2011, and that must have led to Campo’s departure.

Yes, I should write something more positive about Houck and Campo today, but those stories were written more than a decade ago. My attitude is not what have you done for us lately, but rather, we aren’t going to go anywhere trying to reach back into the past. I know others will disagree. Please do.

  • Anonymous

    spot on, esp on Camps dismissal, LONG overdue.

  • Krl97a

    You can use different types of plays with it but I love the I formation and didn’t think they were running enough out of it in recent years.  I think the NFL prematurely moved away from the concept of a lead blocker because of the focus on maximizing the receiving game, but that teams could have a lot of success running if they go back to it. I was ecstatic to see Dallas finally employ a real lead blocker with a talented RB this season, at least while it lasted.

  • Anonymous

    I do agree that the lead draw and similar plays from the I worked very well when Dallas has Murray and Fiammetta in there. My problem was that Garrett stuck with those plays when Felix had to take over at the end of the season, and Felix just doesn’t have the running style that works very well in that type of formation.

  • Anonymous

    His stock seemed to be in decline when he came back here in ’08. Nobody ever brought his name up for defensive coordinator jobs. I am not sure how many head coaches have ever returned to their former teams as position coaches. It would be sort of like Jimmy Johnson coming back to coach linebackers.