Everybody has an opinion on what's wrong with the Cowboys offense. It's Romo. It's Garrett. It's the WRs, or lack thereof. It's the pass protection. It's all of the above. Well, sitting here on my couch 2000 miles from Dallas, it's obvious that I don't have the answer either. But since everyone else is doing it, here's my two cents, which I hope is a bit more sophisticated (and accurate) than a "Romo sucks!" chant.
1) The offense is more complicated than the players can handle right now.
Evidence: The delay-of-game penalty in Denver, and the repeated close calls with the playclock. QB reminding guys of where to line up in formations. Poor blitz recognition and pickups. Repeated miscommunications between QBs and receivers.
The Problem: Specifically, Romo has too much going on in his head pre-snap, and he's not doing a good enough job of handling all the reading, reminding, and decision-making. In addition to all of that, he's trying to change his leadership style between snaps and on the sidelines. Blame it on Garrett's scheme and calls, Gurode's poor protection calls, mistakes at WR, or Romo's intelligence, practice habits, or dating life. One way or the other, somebody has to give Romo some breathing room to concentrate on playing his position because the "field general" thing is leading to too many mistakes.
-Simplify the offense. I'm not suggesting going back to the Quincy "half of the field" Carter offense, just not worrying so much about getting the perfect matchups. -Quit calling two plays in the huddle. How many times has Romo gone to the line, scanned the D and killed the first option, only to have the D shift. And part of the run-pass ratio problem is that Romo audibles out of a lot of running plays (which is why we rarely run on first down, I think). I don't know for sure that Dallas is actually calling two plays most of the time, or whether this is common practice throughout the league, and again, I'm making a diagnosis with no knowledge of what's actually going on in the huddle or on audibles. But whether Romo is calling his own plays at the line or just switching to Plan B, it's not working. Audibles can be great at times, but Romo isn't Peyton, and sometimes you've got to just line up and beat the other guys even if they have the right play called against yours.
-Give somebody else the job of calling protection assignments. I can't comment on Gurode's intelligence, but I'm pretty sure that most teams have the center calling the protection schemes and the QB isn't overly involved. If the QB is thinking about getting his protection lined up, he's not thinking about where he's going to throw it. I don't know enough to make an intelligent suggestion of who should be doing this, but it doesn't appear that Gurode's up to the task.
- Throw in a little no-huddle or half-hurried offense from time to time, or at least some rollouts. Not all the time, but just occasionally so that you get Romo to rely on his instincts instead of his head. Most of his turnovers these days are mental breakdowns, not from forcing things like his first few years. Maybe "bad Romo" isn't gone for good, but in chasing him off Garrett has also chased off "good Romo" in the process.
- Patience. Maybe it's just a matter of getting used to the new wrinkles, making some adjustments to what the defense are throwing at them, and getting out of their own way. Maybe time and experience will lead to some growth that will pay off in December and January.
2) Garrett is smarter than he needs to be.
Evidence: Back-to-back endzone fade passes against Carolina. Back-to-back endzone slants to Hurd vs Denver. Overall tendency to go against conventional wisdom--i.e. passing on first downs, second downs, and third downs.
The problem: Garrett's either an idiot, too stupid to realize that you don't succeed by doing the above mentioned things, or he's trying to be smarter than everyone else in the room, thinking that those things will work just because the defense expects him to NOT do them. Now we know that Garrett's not an idiot--he went to Princeton and played QB in the NFL for a long time, and idiots don't do that. So quite simply, Garrett's too smart for his own good sometimes. He plays that annoying "I know that you know that I know what you think I'm thinking" game too often, guessing what the other guys aren't expecting and then trying that. And on top of that, he tries to get the perfect matchup, formation, and play call every time, leading to the above over-complication of the offense.
Suggested Solution: Garrett needs a Sparano to keep him grounded, someone in his ear to check him when he's overthinking things, someone to remind him to run in the second half. I don't know that that guy is on the Cowboys staff right now, but this is what happens when you pay the offensive coordinator a ton of money and tell the Head Coach to keep his nose out of the offense.