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Cowboys QB Tony Romo will be better this season thanks to Scott Linehan

(AP Photo/Gus Ruelas)

New Dallas Cowboys’ passing game coordinator Scott Linehan will be roaming the sidelines alongside Coach Jason Garrett this season, which should help improve an offense that was already 12th in the league in net yards gained per passing attempt.

During his time in Minnesota, where Linehan was the offensive coordinator from 2002 to 2004, only the Indianapolis Colts (7.17) and the Kansas City Chiefs (6.96) had more net yards gained per passing attempt than the Vikings over that span (6.47). Here are the passer ratings for quarterbacks during Linehan’s time in Minnesota (minimum 500 passing attempts):

In 2003, Quarterback Dante Culpepper and wide receiver Randy Moss hooked up for 3,333 yards and 33 touchdowns, including 1,299 yards and 13 touchdowns. Overall, the Vikings’ offense would rack up 6,339 total yards, 4,754 passing yards, and 50 touchdowns that season.

After installing Matthew Stafford as the starter in Detroit in 2011, where Linehan has been the offensive coordinator since 2009, Detroit ranked seventh in net yards gained per passing attempt (6.38) and helped Stafford sit just outside the top 10 in passer rating.

A big factor in Linehan’s success at every stop: He digs the long ball.

As a coordinator in Minnesota, Linehan presided over an offense that featured Daunte Culpepper and one of the NFL’s most dynamic receivers, Randy Moss. In 2002, Linehan’s first season, Culpepper attempted more passes of 20 or more air yards – 85 to be exact – than any quarterback in the league. Three years later, with Linehan pulling the strings, the nomadic Gus Frerotte looked frequently downfield, too. As Miami’s quarterback, Frerotte threw 70 deep passes – the fourth-highest total in the NFL that season.

In St. Louis, where Linehan served as head coach from 2006 to 2008, the Rams relied on their vertical passing game. During Linehan’s inaugural season with the Rams, St. Louis quarterback Marc Bulger led the league with 77 attempts of 21 or more air yards.

Linehan’s next pupil, Detroit’s Matthew Stafford, threw the second-highest number of long passes in the NFL in 2012, when he aired it out 85 times.

“It’s fair to say there’s going to be some deep threat incorporated into every read,” Linehan said. “The coverage will dictate where the ball goes. But we’re going to attack all parts of the field.”

Last season, per Pro Football Focus, Tony Romo targeted receivers just 56 times on passing plays of 20 yards or more downfield, the fourth fewest among quarterbacks taking at least 50 percent of their team’s snaps. But, his eight touchdowns on those passes were tied for sixth most among that group and his accuracy percentage, 42.9 percent, was good for 10th.

At 34 years old, it is very likely that Romo’s best year’s are behind him, however, Linehan’s ability to invigorate an offense could push Romo into the league’s top 10 quarterbacks one more time.

Neil Greenberg analyzes advanced sports statistics for the Fancy Stats blog and prefers to be called a geek rather than a nerd.
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