Daryl Johnston is a former Dallas Cowboys Pro Bowl fullback and is a present Fox analyst. His Cowboys relationships run deep. ... but so does his talent and commitment to broadcasting. So he wears multiple hats here ... and acknowledges that it is a juggling act as he goes one-on-one with Blogging The Boys to evaluate:
*A Cowboys team that he says "should've beaten Green Bay.''
*Dallas offensive coordinator Jason Garrett, a close pal of Johnston's who D.J. nevertheless says ought to dump the over-reliance on the Shotgun.
*The Cowboys' chance of success in the NFC East and in the NFC overall: "They're going to be fine,'' he says. "If you are 6-4 or better, you are going to be fine. You are solid. If you are 5-5, it's going to be tough to catch up.''
Read on for BTB's visit with Daryl "Moose'' Johnston:
On Jason Garrett and the Cowboys offense:
"The problem with using the Shotgun is that it voluntarily makes your offense more one-dimensional,'' Johnston says. "I'm hearing criticism of what (Garrett) did in Green Bay because of how frequently the Cowboys were in the Shotgun and generally speaking, I think the criticism is fair.
"One of the number-one goals of a defense is to force an offensive into being one-dimensional. When the Cowboys go into the Shotgun, they are volunteering to be one-dimensional. Obviously, you can run out of it. But it takes a lot of extra practice, a lot of extra time and a lot of extra timing to do it. Plus, it's a personnel thing. I think Felix Jones has the skills to be effective in it. I don't know that Barber and Choice are good fits for it.
"When we played (Johnston at fullback, Garrett as a backup QB to Troy Aikman), we didn't use the Shotgun. Having Troy under center gave us the run/pass option to make the call at the line of scrimmage. That's harder to do in the Shotgun. You have limited yourself just by the virtue of your formation.
"The Shotgun simply makes the defense's job that much easier,'' Johnston says, "and in my opinion, they'd be better and Tony Romo would be better if he was under center more.''
On the loss at Green Bay:
"They should've beaten Green Bay,'' Johnston says. "It's fine for the media and for fans to say, ‘Oh, now they're awful.' But the team cannot do that. Players and staff can't do that. They've got to see it as a learning experience and I'll give you an example: Charles Woodson and Al Harris combine to play a different style of cornerback than most everybody else. Their technique is different, their pressure is different. So Miles Austin got to play against that. He'll be a better player for having done that.''
And, D.J. says, a little credit ought to go to the Packers for that 17-7 result.
"That was a desperate team at home,'' he says. "Plus, they had a players-only meeting before the game. It's the only time in the recorded history of professional football that a players-only meeting worked!''
On the NFC playoff picture:
Johnston worked the Fox broadcast last week when the Falcons lost at Carolina. This week he gets Atlanta at the New York Giants in the Meadowlands. He views the Falcons as a contender for a playoff spot (he believes Arizona will win the West and that that New Orleans and Minnesota will win their divisions) but I was mostly interested in his view of the slumping Giants.
"They've gone from 5-0 to 5-4 with that loss to New Orleans that started their slide,'' Johnston says. "Some people think New Orleans created a map to beat them. I don't know if that's the case. I know they keep missing opportunities. I know they built that 5-0 on the strength of beating Washington, Kansas City,Tampa Bay and Oakland - not a contender among them. And I know they now have a reputation on offense as a team where Eli Manning just kind of throws it up. In those first five games, Steve Smith was the leading receiver in the NFL because he went up and got everything. Now? We don't know about the Giants' quality.''
On where the Cowboys fit into that race and the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry:
"Again, beating Green Bay could've really put Dallas in a position where they would feel they have answers about themselves, and now we don't have all those answers,'' he says. "But that can change in a week. You get wins in the NFC East, you've accomplished something. This has almost never been a division where a team - even so many of the great ones that have come out of the NFC East - is going to go 16-0 or 14-2. They beat each other up. It's a game of attrition. Our (Cowboys) rivalry with Philly was huge. The Giants, they don't like anybody. And Cowboys-Redskins? We're talking about playoff games and championship games.
Johnston believes the attention on the Washington-Dallas game typifies what the NFC East is all about ... even though the Redskins are not a contender. (Indeed, the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry fueled the sponsorship of Johnston's media availability here; he's working to promote Bank of America Cowboys Banking, personalized debit MasterCard with the Cowboys logo (or the Redskins, we suppose!) and participation in Bank of America's Keep the Change savings program and the 20-percent discount given to cardholders at NFL Shop.com.
"I don't think there is another rivalry in the NFL that would be a better (promotion),'' Johnston says. "It's got to be the NFC East. There's a reason that when they did realignment, they kept Dallas in the East even though it doesn't make geographic sense. It makes football sense. ... and because of all that, I don't think there is another division that can match the NFC East. If you win it, if you come out of the East, that's an accomplishment.''
Johnston, by the way, has a very personal reason for acknowledging the significance of Cowboys-Redskins Week. In 1989, he was part of his first NFL victory (and the first victory of the Jones/Johnson Era, and of course, the team's only win that season) in a game in Washington. And in 1999, he played his final professional snap in Week 1 when he broke his neck ... in Washington.
"It's meaningful to me, for a lot of reasons,'' Johnston said of the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry. "But it's also traditionally a game that has importance to the whole league.''