Sometimes you just have to ask yourself why. Why must the Dallas Cowboys be the most wildly inconsistent team in the NFL? Why do they exhibit moments of excellence only to be undone by periods of idiocy? How is it possible to be so bad and so good and so mediocre, sometimes within the confines of one series of downs? It's baffling, but most of all, for Cowboys fans, it's painful to watch.
I'd almost rather have a terrible 1-6 team on its way to a high draft choice that to watch the way Dallas has wasted this season (so far). That's not really true, I'd rather deal with some hope than total destruction, but it's more frustrating this way. It's time for the Cowboys to make some in-season changes - and the person who has to implement those changes is Jason Garrett.
Garrett did a good job of rescuing the Cowboys from the Wade Phillips scrap heap, but that time has passed. Garrett has to prove he has the in-game chops to win at the big-boy level. Process is fine, results are better. Right now, the results are swinging wildly across board, but in the only measure that matters, the Cowboys are a very pedestrian 3-4. They could be so much more.
Beyond the problems with time management at the end of games, Garrett has to impose some discipline on this club, he has to understand who can be trusted, and he needs to examine his own play-calling process. Almost everything that is wrong with the Cowboys is on offense, and surprisingly, it's not really the offensive line. It's Tony Romo, the Cowboys receivers, and Jason Garrett.
Let's start with Romo. You can dissect his play in a variety of ways, you can assign blame for his turnover problem in different ways, but the simple fact of the matter is he has to play better. You can always blame a receiver for not being where you expect him to be, but Romo has eyes, he has to know the safety is in position to make a play. On the first interception, you can say the Bryant should have crossed the face of the safety, but even if he does it's still a dicey play. Maybe you just don't throw it downfield and take a safer route. The point is not to get into the dynamics of this one play, but to say that eventually, he has to take the blame for his throws. If need be, Garrett needs to take away deep throws for a while, something they should have done at the start of the game. Once the Cowboys started going underneath the coverage to Witten and Austin, they were killing the Giants defense. Romo and Garrett got greedy to start the game, and it cost them. The JPP pick-6? I don't even want to touch that one, but Romo has to be better than that.
Speaking of Witten and Austin, they are the guys to be trusted right now. Once DeMarco Murray comes back, those three are the Trinity, the only people Garrett and Romo should have faith in. Those three should get 90% of the play-calls, everybody else should get the leftovers, the second or third reads in a progression, the busted coverage I-have-to-throw-it-to-you type plays. After a brilliant opening game, Kevin Ogletree has been a mess. Garrett should start seeing if Dwayne Harris, Cole Beasley or Andre Holmes can be of any help.
A lot of what I describe above would limit the offense somewhat, taking the shorter routes, targeting a limited number of players, but that's exactly what Dallas needs right now. Why? Because their defense is playing is so well. Games like the 19-14 win over the Panthers last week should become the norm. The Cowboys defense stifled the Giants most of the day, just a decent effort by the offense could have won this game.
Finally, Garrett needs to assert himself, but in the right way. He also needs to learn from mistakes. We've chronicled the time management problem from previous games, but the play-calling is also suspect. One particular, game-changing moment, was disastrous. Second and 1 at the Giants 19, closing minutes of the game. Three straight passes, including the crucial 3rd down pass to Kevin Ogletree in the endzone. How is that even remotely the right call? We all get the run game wasn't working, but surely we could get a yard by rolling Romo, or even sneaking Romo. It was a crushing mistake.
Garrett needs to rein in Tony Romo, he needs to gear his offense for Witten, Austin and Murray almost exclusively, he needs to forget the vertical passing game for a while, and he needs to start curtailing playing time for repeat offenders. He needs to take a serious look at his in-game process. It's not working, but it could.
The Cowboys have the talent to win, you can see it. With this defense, with the offensive line playing adequate and the skill-players they have, there's no reason they shouldn't be competing for the playoffs. At this point, it isn't happening. So I have to ask why?