- The Washington Times - Friday, September 15, 2000

Dave Campo has seen the Dallas Cowboys climb from the NFL's pits to its summit and then slide back into mediocrity. He has served under three head coaches and two defensive coordinators and worked alongside 37 assistants.

During his 11 seasons as a Cowboys assistant, Campo watched colleagues Dave Shula, Dave Wannstedt, Norv Turner, Butch Davis and John Blake leave for head coaching jobs while he remained in Big D. Campo stayed loyal in 1997 when the Cowboys bypassed him although he was coordinator for the NFL's third-ranked defense and hired Chan Gailey, an assistant from the Pittsburgh team Dallas had beaten in the 1995 Super Bowl.

But in January, after Gailey had been dismissed and owner Jerry Jones popped the question, Campo didn't hesitate. The Cowboys might have been 24-26 the past three years. Longtime star receiver Michael Irvin was on the verge of retirement and All-Pro cornerback Deion Sanders was unlikely to return, but Campo finally was getting the reward for all the hours watching film and recruiting someone else's leftovers for such outposts as Central Connecticut State, Albany State, Bridgeport, Boise State and Weber State and for enduring the 1-15 horror of that first year in Dallas.

"Once I had been in the league for a while, I wanted to have this opportunity," said Campo, 53, an assistant at 11 colleges before coming to Dallas in 1989 with his University of Miami boss, Jimmy Johnson. "You never know if that's going to happen. You have to be in the right place at the right time."

Of course, the relentlessly upbeat Campo has been there all along, including the three Super Bowl seasons from 1992 to 1995. And unlike Gailey and predecessor Barry Switzer, Campo also knew what to expect from the meddlesome Jones, who also is the Cowboys' general manager.

"It's an advantage having been here," Campo said. "I understand the expectations. Jerry has a tremendous passion about winning, and he's willing to do whatever to give you the opportunity to do that. Jerry's a typical general manager in that he's involved in the day-to-day operations of the team. He sees practice and sits in on some meetings looking at personnel. We have a great relationship. We can talk to each other; we understand each other."

After playing under two straight outsiders, 11th-year halfback Emmitt Smith was glad Jones looked in-house for a coach this time.

"Dave deserved to have an opportunity to be a head coach," Smith said. "He's a good leader. Dave knows the heartbeats of the team. He knows the players, the personalities, the strengths and the weaknesses of this team. He knows who he can count on and areas we have to build upon. He doesn't have to rely on people to tell him things, because he knows. When he makes a decision, you can understand why."

Turner called Campo "a high-energy coach. Dave's extremely thorough. He's a guy who can get the most out of his players."

But those players haven't given Campo much so far. Coming off its eighth playoff berth in nine years, Dallas opened the season with a humiliating 41-14 home loss to 1999 NFC East cellar-dweller Philadelphia. Campo's defense surrendered a franchise-record 306 rushing yards while the offense lost top receiver Joey Galloway for the year and six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Troy Aikman for 10 days.

And after Dallas rebounded from that disaster to take a 24-13 lead last Sunday, Arizona rallied for a 32-31 victory. So Campo comes to Washington for Monday night's showdown with former colleague Turner and the defending NFC East champion Redskins still looking for his first victory.

"Anytime you get your butt kicked like we did [by the Eagles], you start to look at the thing and say, 'Man. We did a lot of work [in preparation]. What happened?' " Campo said. "We have some inexperienced guys on defense, and the game got out of hand right away.

"I have a 24-hour rule. After 24 hours, I'm on to the next game. I'm not happy being 0-2 and we probably shouldn't be, but I am comfortable that we're making some progress. I love coaching football. I can't think of a better place to be than in Dallas coaching the Cowboys."

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