What Cowboys Will Borrow From Patriots Belichick (No, Not Cam Or Cheating)

Mike Fisher

FRISCO - If you're going to borrow, you might as well borrow from the best.

That says it about as well as it can be said when it comes to Dallas Cowboys management's 30,000-feet-up view of what new head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff are charged with accomplishing in the 2020 NFL season.

So, yes. Steal from coach Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots.

No, the Cowboys cannot literally steal Cam Newton, who is joining the Pats as a potential Tom Brady replacement. (In fairness, the concept of getting standout talents "on the outs'' to join a high-profile program is something the Cowboys are actually already pretty skilled at. See Gerald McCoy, Dontari Poe, Daryl Worley, Aldon Smith, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Greg Zuerlein and Andy Dalton as spring-of-2020 examples.)

Can they steal the Patriots' penchant for cheating? Maybe that is something coach Bill Belichick and company are born with, and something that spreads uniquely from New England. (See the recent NFL wrist-slap for the Pats' illegal filming and see Brady's envelope-pushing practices now that he's in Tampa Bay.)

But there is something worth swiping from Foxboro.

The turnover on the Dallas coaching staff has been great. The turnover on the Dallas roster has, too. Now it's a matter of altering the philosophies.

“You want to have flexibility, you want to have great players, you want to be able to scheme against the offense you’re going to play around,” Cowboys COO Stephen Jones said during an appearance on 105.3 The Fan. “A perfect example of that and people who’ve had tremendous success is coach Belichick in New England in terms of how they scheme and how they use different fronts and different schemes in order to have success on the defensive side of the ball.”

The Patriots are known for experiencing roster turnover on defense while at the same time, year after year, making up for the deficiencies on the roster with schematics that rely on cleverness and deception. Does New England run a 3-4? A 4-3? Do they blitz a lot? Do they not blitz at all? Man coverage? Zone coverage?

The answer is ... "yes.''

Of course, saying you wish to imitate Belichick’s prowess is the easy part; if "being New England'' was actually doable, 31 teams would already be doing it.

But McCarthy and defensive coordinator Mike Nolan have already vowed, while suggesting that they'll be a "four-down-lineman front,'' that they'll work to be more deceptive than Dallas was in the 4-3 scheme the Cowboys ran under former defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Three-man fronts? Blitzes? A "Designated Pass-Rusher'' who might be a linebacker? A star defensive end dropping into coverage?

The answer is ... "yes.'' In effort, anyway. The answer in regard to actually achieving Belichickian success? The Cowboys don't need Cam. Maybe they don't even need to cheat. They will need, however, a true overhaul in defensive philosophy - something easier said than done.