A few months ago on bleacherreport.com, I wrote an article theorizing JG's short-term plan for success this season. That article can be found here.
After watching some of the more successful plays Dallas had in the last half of 2010, seeing us hire Rob Ryan as D-coordinator, then drafting a RB like Demarco Murray, who JG described as "versatile" and capable of either lining up in the slot or catching the ball out of the backfield, I felt that I finally came to understand JG's blueprint for 2011:
When you compare today's Cowboys and the 2009 Saints, the similarities are too profound to ignore. Jason Garrett is an offensive minded coach like Sean Payton. Rob Ryan runs a pressure defense like Gregg Williams (although one runs a 3-4 and the other a 4-3), who also has a link to Buddy Ryan. Both teams have a talented, vertical passing attack and like to get the ball to their RB's in space.
In the months since that post, I've often wondered how accurate my theory was. After all, I'm not privy to the same information as the Cowboys' staff. So I thought I'd revisit my article and see if the information gleaned from training camp and the first preseason game continued to support my conclusion.
In a post from early this month, OCC quoted an answer JG gave to the question: What are the two or three stats on offense you pay attention to most?
The stats that we emphasize for our football team more than anything else is the turnover differential. The correlation between turnover differential and winning in the NFL is significant.
The Saints defense of 2009 wasn't all that noticeable except for two important statistics. That defense gave up their fair share of yards and points, and weren't even that good versus the run, but they made up for those deficiencies with turnovers (3rd in INT) and defensive TDs (1st).
A popular way of increasing turnovers is to apply more pressure on defense. JG brought in Rob Ryan for that very purpose. Ryan, much like the Saints' Gregg Williams, likes to use complex schemes to get at the QB.
So far, my theory continues to hold up. But defensive turnovers are only part of the equation. There's still the matter of the offense.
The players, coaches, and depth issues for both the Saints and Cowboys are very different, but their concepts very similar. The Cowboys are capable of throwing the ball anywhere on the field, just like New Orleans. We also have a specific dimension to our passing attack that's already a staple in the Saints offense.
JG views Felix (and ultimately Demarco Murray when/if he gets on the field) as a playmaker, you get him the ball in space and just let him run. A common way to accomplish this is through the screen pass. That's a play no team in 2009 could execute as well as the Saints could.
If you've been keeping up with the training camp chats like the one on ESPN Dallas, then you might remember that the Cowboys almost always open up their team drills with a series of screen passes. As an example, click here and head to time index 3:54. Also, one of our starting offense's best plays vs Denver was on a screen to Felix (1:09). It's obvious we'll be seeing a lot of this given the amount of time the offense has been working on it.
After following the team through training camp and with their second preseason game only hours away, the path for 2011 seems clear to me:
Jason Garrett is sure to have a long-term plan for success, but his short-term formula is clear. You take an explosive offense and supplement it with an opportunistic defense, one that takes risks and lives off turnovers and big plays. The result, hoped for by JG and fans alike, is a super bowl run.
I'm not saying they'll get there. As fan, I obviously hope they do. But JG's blueprint for success has me excited that they could.
You can follow my blog here.