A Cowboys conversation with Campo

"It's probably as big a rivalry as we've had over the course of the time that I've been here in 14 years. I feel a little something special when we play San Francisco because of all the history behind it. I was fortunate enough to be here in the mid '90s and early '90s when every time we played San Francisco, it was for something big. It does mean a little something more when you play this type of a ball game."

Q: How are things going with the Cowboys?

Campo: We're doing alright. Obviously, after coming off a couple of wins, we're feeling a little bit better that we're making some progress, but it's been few and far between this year, so we're happy that we are at least showing some improvement.

Q: How much has Chad Hutchinson figured into those victories?

Campo: He's a guy that we are looking really strongly at, as far as what he can do at the quarterback position for the future for us. He certainly has shown a lot of the things you look for when you look for an NFL quarterback. He's smart, he's tough, he's very physical, he's very competitive, he has accuracy, and he's shown us a lot of those things. The thing that he is having to do is shake off the rust of feeling the rush and things around him and when to do certain things. He's been very positive. I think the continuity of our offensive line has been the most important aspect of the improvement.

Q: How difficult was it for you guys to make that transition…you guys selected Quincy Carter in the second round and now a year later, it's Chad's job?

Campo: We felt that we were very patient with Quincy. Right along when we decided to go with the young quarterback last year with Quincy at the start of the year, we made a decision that we were looking at quarterbacks, not quarterback. We needed to find one that we could go forward with. We felt we were patient with Quincy. He made some improvement, but he got to a point where there was not a consistent week to week improvement in the areas where we felt there should be. Not necessarily in terms of wins and losses or big things, but in little things that coaching should bring out of a guy. So the decision was made to go with Chad and we're going to be just as patient with Chad, as far as giving him every opportunity to show what he can do.

Q: Have you already seen the week to week consistency and improvement from Chad?

Campo: Yeah, that is what we are seeing right now. I've made this statement a couple of times to our local media about the fact that everybody now is saying that, ‘You won two in a row and things are looking up, this might be the guy, he's doing really well in certain areas.' Really, starting back from the first game he started, the football team was seeing little things that gave him promise. Things that he was progressing with in practice and in games that we lost, which we felt were positive and things that show us that he's got a chance to improve. We're seeing consistency. He's one of those guys who wants to be on the field all the time. He's got a tremendous work ethic. All of those things are really positive.

Q: Is it fair, at this point, that he drawing comparisons to Troy Aikman and some of the other Cowboy great quarterbacks?

Campo: I think that is natural. I think people in this community look back and see the great quarterbacks that we've had in the past here. Going back to Roger Staubach, Don Meredith, you name it. I think that it might be a natural thing. I don't think it is fair, from the standpoint that, we're not saying anything like that, as far as our coaching staff and our organization because that is really unfair to Troy Aikman and the quarterbacks that have been here. This young man has a lot of comparisons because he's got the size, he's got the arm strength, and he seems to be able to handle the leadership qualities that it takes. It is way too early to be even close to saying anything like that.

Q: How much has ability to perform, a little more impressively the last two weeks, have to do with the fact that you are running the ball pretty well?

Campo: I think that running the ball has a lot to do with it and that is our offensive line. We have had offensive line problems from the day we walked into training camp. For about eight weeks or nine weeks, we had a different offensive line combination every week. You certainly can't do that and be successful. Guys around here have asked me, ‘when are we going to see progress with the offense?' I said, ‘when we get more continuity in our offensive line.' We've had three or four weeks here where they've played together for the most part and that gives our quarterback a chance to be more successful and it also means, in the running game, we're getting more continuity. There is no question that the offense that we run, the running game is an important part of it.

Q: As you head into the final four games of the season, will you change at all what you've been doing with your running backs, or will it pretty much stay the same?

Campo: It's going to stay pretty much the same. We made a decision, actually before Emmitt reached the record, in which we were going to use a change of pace at our running back spot with Emmitt and Troy Hambrick. Troy Hambrick is a good young prospect and we certainly wanted to see a little bit more of him and we're doing it basically on series, rather than specific numbers of carries or numbers of plays and those kind of things. Troy's involved not only in the standard package, but he's involved in some of our sub-packages. In some cases, the way the game is going dictates that he may actually have more snaps than Emmitt because of his play on third downs and sub-packages. The difficult thing for us is that we feel that Emmitt can still win for us, which was evident against the Redskins, but we also want to see a little of Hambrick. It's not like basketball, where you could say that you are going to play this point guard for ten minutes and that point guard for ten minutes. You know he's going to handle the ball for all ten minutes. In football, Emmitt last week was in on a series that had a fifteen play drive in it and he carried the ball about eight or nine times in that drive. We're going to go with who is doing well and the series is going to dictate how many carries each back will get.

Q: When the Cowboys meet the 49ers, do you see that as a rivalry situation?

Campo: I really do. It's probably as big a rivalry as we've had over the course of the time that I've been here in 14 years. Obviously, the Redskins are division opponents and things are special in those games. But, I feel a little something special when we play San Francisco because of all the history behind it. I was fortunate enough to be here in the mid '90s and early '90s when every time we played San Francisco, it was for something big. I think the veterans, during those kind of weeks, have the tendency to want to talk to the team more and tell them, ‘remember when we did this or do you remember when this happened in 95.' It does mean a little something more when you play this type of a ball game.

Q: Now that you are a couple months removed from the whole Hard Knocks Project, what kind of impact do think it had on the start of your season and would you do it again?

Campo: I don't think it was a negative by any stretch of the imagination. I thought our guys handled it well. From a learning standpoint with a lot of young guys, if we do get back to where we want to be and we think we will eventually, the media crunch that you have when you are a Super Bowl candidate is a hundred times bigger than what we had in the Hard Knocks series. From that standpoint, I thought it was ok. At times, it gets a little tedious with the cameras on you all the time, but I think it gets performance out of athletes when they are in front of the camera that you sometimes don't get when they are off camera. The thing that I look back to during training camp was the loss of our offensive lineman. Having five of our best guys standing behind watching practice was far more of a problem than the Hard Knocks series was.

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