Cowboys Steal New Tight Ends Coach From Hated Rival: Report

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Getty Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

On a day where former head coach Jason Garrett is interviewing for the New York Giants‘ offensive coordinator vacancy, the Dallas Cowboys plucked an assistant from their NFC East nemesis.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday that Dallas is hiring Giants tight ends coach Lunda Wells to serve in the same capacity. He’ll replace Doug Nussmeier, a holdover from the Garrett regime who reportedly was promoted to quarterbacks coach by new HC Mike McCarthy.

Wells had been with Big Blue since 2012, first as an offensive assistant, then assistant offensive line coach (2013-17), and finally, TEs coach (2018-19). Before breaking into the NFL, he was employed by LSU as an OL assistant (2008-09) and assistant special teams coach/assistant to the head coach (2010-11).

In New York, Wells oversaw the development of TE Evan Engram, the 23rd overall pick of the 2017 draft. Supremely talented but equally-injury prone, Engram totaled 89 receptions for 1,044 yards and six touchdowns across two seasons — 19 appearances and 14 starts — under Wells’ watchful eye.

More impressively, Wells coaxed production out of little-known rookie Kaden Smith, who notched 268 yards and three TDs on 31 catches in 2019, filling in for Engram. The Stanford product impressed Wells with his work ethic, and Wells’ easily-digestible teaching tools catalyzed Smith’s development.

“I’ve said it before, when you’re coaching a group, whether or not it’s deep or whether or not it’s thin, you coach the back end of the room, meaning you coach the guys who are not necessarily playing,” Wells told reporters last month, per the Giants’ official website. “When you’re in that meeting room, you’re not just talking to Evan (Engram) and Rhett (Ellison), I’m talking to Garrett (Dickerson), I’m talking to Scott (Simonson), I’m talking to Kaden. I’m asking those guys the questions, keeping them involved when they’re not on the field because getting the guys when they’re playing, they’re getting experience on the field. It’s the guys that are not on the field that you’ve got to really do a nice job paying attention on the meetings, coaching those guys, coaching the room through those guys so that they get it so that when they step on the field, you’re not coaching twice.”

Wells inherits a collective question mark in Dallas, as 37-year-old veteran Jason Witten — an impending unrestricted free agent — mulls (permanent) retirement and a potential foray into coaching. The team also must choose whether to bring back restricted free agent Blake Jarwin, who many believe should have started over Witten. The only tight end under contract for 2020 is third-stringer Dalton Schultz.

It’s entirely possible, if not probable, given the arrival of McCarthy and Wells and the presence of Nussmeier, the Cowboys prioritize the position this offseason.

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Updated Look at Revamped Coaching Staff

On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Dallas is hiring former Rams running backs coach Skip Peete for the same role. Peete returns to North Texas following an original tour of duty from 2007-12 which spanned the Wade Phillips and Garrett eras.

The team has yet to make official any of their numerous staff moves, although McCarthy has quickly rid himself of Garrett’s people — all but one (Nussmeier), as of this writing. Even longtime strength and conditioning coach Mike Woicik opted to retire when he learned the Cowboys wouldn’t retain him.

Below is the latest look at the completely overhauled but still-incomplete staff, based on various media reports over the past week:

Head coach: Mike McCarthy

Offensive coordinator: Kellen Moore

Defensive coordinator: Mike Nolan

Special teams coordinator: John Fassel

QB coach: Doug Nussmeier

RB coach: Skip Peete

TE coach: Lunda Wells

Offensive line coach/assistant HC: Joe Philbin

Defensive line coach: Jim Tomsula

Secondary coach: Maurice Linguist


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Follow Zack Kelberman on Twitter: @KelbermanNFL