Defensive Play Calling: Who Does It?

SAN ANTONIO -- A weird thing about football: Fans and media go nuts over "who's going to call the plays'' for their offense. (It happened in Dallas just this spring, when O-coordinator Jason Garrett came aboard.) But why doesn't anybody ask the same question about the decision-making process on the other side of the ball?

Who's going to call the plays for the Cowboys defense?

"Wade and I have gone back and forth on that,'' new defensive coordinator Brian Stewart tells "He's used to calling the defensive plays because he's been the coordinator for so long. It'll be hard for him to give that up. So probably, I'll oversee the gameplan and he'll call the plays.''

There's your first scoop of Camp Cowboys – assuming anybody cares as much about defensive play-calling as they do offensive play-calling.

Stewart, a trusted right-hand man of new head coach Wade Phillips, broke down the thought process that goes into the decision.

"I set up the practice plan, and oversee the decisions that we make that go into working the gameplan,'' he says. "What to run on first down? On second down? During the two-minute (drill). We make a list.

"On Sundays it becomes a matter of who calls what, but a lot of it is in place. Me and the assistants have created the list, with Wade's blessing. And he'll run it from there.'' Stewart also said the decision has been made for him to be on the sidelines during games rather than upstairs in the booth.

"I'll be downstairs,'' said Stewart, a first-time coordinator who is learning on the job as the Cowboys begin training camp this week in San Antonio. "When you're a secondary coach (as Stewart was last year in San Diego ), you can be upstairs, you can just watch your unit, and you can easily communicate with them by phone. As a coordinator, you need to be more hands-on with the whole defense, and we think that's easier to do with me downstairs.''

Stewart's "hands-on'' style is very much on display at the Alamodome, where he is enthusiastically overseeing his defense. He is clearly in the mold of Phillips – a "players' coach'' – and while continuing to detail the intellectual side of his job he talks of tolerance for athletes while they learn what's expected of them.

Says Stewart: "Here's how it works: The coaches go into a meeting. We're in there for 10 hours formulating an idea. Then we meet with the players and teach it to them in a 45-minute meeting. Then we go out on the practice field and some guys aren't picking it up, and we say, ‘That guy's an idiot!'

"Well, it took us 10 hours. We're making him do it in 45 minutes! He's not an idiot; it's just that the mental side of football can be demanding.''

At the same time, Stewart bristles at any suggestion that he and Phillips are anything less than demanding, too.

"We might be easy-going away from the field,'' he says. "But we're not running a boys' camp down here. Wade Phillips, Brian Stewart and the rest of this coaching staff will get in your face.''

And in your head. Stewart by organizing the plays and Phillips by calling them.

SPENCER SIGNS: Cowboys first round pick Anthony Spencer has agreed to a five-year contract and is expected to be in San Antonio this afternoon. The deal reportedly totals $9 million and includes $6 million guaranteed. The team remains optimistic that they are on track to get a contract with their remaining unsigned draftee, third-round O-lineman James Marten.

FISHELLANEOUS: During the full-pad morning workout, Greg Ellis was in shorts, limping noticeably while loosening up on the sidelines with injured kids Alonzo Coleman and Isaiah Stanback. … Your starting tackles as of this moment: Pat McQuistan and Jim Molinaro. Which is not exactly the plan. … Marion Barber's running style helped set a pretty physical morning tone. … Tony Romo was not as sharp as he was yesterday, and Keith Davis took advantage, picking off an errant pass in 11-on-11 work.

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