ARLINGTON TX - NOVEMBER 21: Head coach Jason Garrett of the Dallas Cowboys leads his team against the Detroit Lions late in the fourth quarter at Cowboys Stadium on November 21 2010 in Arlington Texas. The Cowboys beat the Lions 35-19. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
There's a really good article by David Moore in the DMN examining the offense since Jason Garrett has been promoted to head coach. It details several areas that the Cowboys have improved upon, including the run game and big plays. The big number, the easy one to look at, is the Cowboys scoring. In the first eight games they averaged just over 20 points per game, since Garret's promotion they're averaging over 32 points a game. That's a huge difference.
So now comes the speculation as to why. Of course, there is the conspiracy theory that pooped up that Garrett was sandbagging Wade Phillips in some way in order to get the top job. I dismiss that one immediately. Garrett is too much of a professional to do that, and if he did try it, it would have been known inside the organization.
Nope, I think what's really happening is a combination of things. One, the players were woken up from their season-long coma when Wade Phillips was fired and understood the status quo was no longer acceptable. They realized that there were consequences for their shoddy play, that their job could be on the line, too. Second, Garrett has reinforced that idea by changing the culture. Garrett has installed a work ethic, and energy, a tempo to things that says the lazy way the Cowboys were going about things is over.
Take the running game. Previously I, along with many others, accused Garrett of abandoning the run much too quickly. Now, there's seems to be some balance. So why wasn't Garrett producing this balance when he was offensive coordinator? He keeps pointing to the games being close allowing the Cowboys to run more. To me, that doesn't add up. There were plenty of close games earlier in the year and the balance wasn't there. So what gives?
One, the offensive line is blocking better. This can be attested to in the effectiveness of the running game and by the protection Jon Kitna is receiving. The Cowboys coaches didn't secretly and miraculously come up with better teaching techniques when Garrett was promoted. More likely, the line was woken up by the coaching change, and they're executing better because of the culture change, the expectations placed on them by Garrett, and - as Hudson Houck says - the Wednesday practices in full pads.
So with the running game working better, Garrett is more inclined to utilize it. I would also submit there may be another factor in play. When Garrett was coordinator, he probably felt extra-pressure to score when Dallas fell behind because he didn't want his offense to be the reason the Cowboys lost. He wasn't in charge, so he was feeling the pressure for his part of the game to produce, and he knew that passing was the easiest route for Dallas to put up points. Now that he's responsible for all of the team, he may be looking at the overall picture and trying to game plan for that.
Whatever the case, it's working and not just in the running game. The Cowboys sacks allowed are down, turnovers are down, penalties are down, and big plays by the offense are up. This didn't happen by magic. Some of it was the coaching change, but most of it is the new culture, the new expectations, the new energy and tempo Garrett has installed, not just on game day, but all through the week.
There's no better symbol of this change than a change in hardware around Valley Ranch. Jason Garret has changed the clocks from the old analog types to a new digital type that flashes bright red.
"You know those schoolhouse clocks, there was a nice touch to them," Garrett said. "They were charming. But sometimes they weren't that accurate. We're looking for accuracy."
Wade Phillips had a certain charm about him as a coach. Jason Garrett has no need for charm, he wants precision, he wants accuracy, and he's getting it.