It takes a lot for me to get to this point. But it has happened.
Somebody needs to be fired. Whether it was Bill Callahan who called the plays, or Jason Garrett for allowing them to be called, whoever was responsible for repeatedly putting the ball up in the air when the running game was going so well needs to be given their walking papers. Tomorrow. They have proven once again that they are incapable of thinking rationally during the heat of an NFL game.
There are already those who want to blame Tony Romo. Others may put a lot on the defense. But a few stats should make it clear where some of the problem was.
Dallas managed 7.4 yards per rush.
They rushed 18 times and threw it 48. In the second half, when they led the game by as much as 23 points, they ran the ball 8 times (One play was nullified by a penalty, so only 7 counted). When they needed to move the ball and burn up clock in the fourth quarter, they ran it three times.
Jason Garrett, who was obviously angry about things, was pointing fingers, which should give you an idea of how bad things are going.
Garrett just said that Romo changed the play on the last interception...should have been a run call.— Bryan Broaddus (@BryanBroaddus) December 16, 2013
Garrett was saying the 2nd and 6 INT Austin was the run, audible, which I buy given the zone blocking that left 52 unblocked. When up 36-31.— Bob Sturm (@SportsSturm) December 16, 2013
That is one play that went disastrously wrong. But even if Romo takes the hit for that, the offensive playcaller, whoever it really is, should take the hit for the second half. And there is some more fingerpointing from the head coach.
"Bill calls the plays," Jason Garrett on the playcalling at the end of the game. #leadership— Newy Scruggs (@newyscruggs) December 16, 2013
Some have pointed out that the Cowboys had a lot of open receivers and the pass calls were just trying to capitalize on them. Well, how many times do we have to see the team and Tony Romo fail in that situation to realize that RUNNING THE BALL MAY BE SMARTER?
I'm sorry. I usually don't yell in all caps but this has just pushed me too far. The Cowboys have become too enamored of the pass. Pass on all downs. Pass when you need a yard. Pass when you are ahead. Pass when you are behind. Ignore the percentages that you are more likely to lose the ball when you have a lead and give the other team a chance. Never look at an effective running game and decide to ride that. No, look at the other team having eight or nine in the box and throw the ball. Take what they give you.
Even if what they give you is a trap, jump right in there and grab it.
Let's assume that Garrett is being straight here. (Assume, because I cannot offer any proof.) Because of the offseason decision to take the playcalling out of his hands, he is more or less constrained by the guy who signs his paycheck to keep on letting Callahan call the plays. If that is so, and there is a lot of reason to think it is, then I think Jerry Jones needs to make a decision:
Fire Callahan and give Garrett the playsheet back for the last two games of the season. Then see how Garret does in a return to the OC position. What is happening now is just pitiful. Time and time again this long and tiring season, the Dallas OC (just to leave a bit of a window for doubt) has outsmarted himself by throwing the ball in a situation that absolutely called for a run. If it's the case that Romo is calling audibles out of runs, then that resides with Garrett to stop it.
I have heard that the Cowboys do not believe in having an analytic department that works up percentages and probabilities for a multitude of game situations the way many other teams now do. If true, this looks like proof that they are making a horrendous mistake. For whatever reason, there is an appalling lack of situational awareness. And a loathing to run the ball.
The defense was doing quite well in the first half before Justin Durant and Ernie Sims both went out with injuries. The offensive play-caller knew what had happened with them. He knew the team needed to hang onto the ball and keep the defense off the field as much as possible.
There is one play that stands out, because it was a high risk/high reward play at a time when it was the last thing that was needed. Clinging to a 36-31 lead, and with 4:17 on the clock, the Cowboys needed the four minute offense. Move down the field, burn up time, get at least a field goal and leave the opponent with very little clock to work with. Instead, on first and 10 from the 20, they dialed up a deep pass to Dez Bryant. High reward if it works, but if it fails you are at second and 10. at your own 20. And it failed, with Romo under-throwing the ball, one of a few inaccurate passes that hurt the team. I think this put the team under more pressure than it needed to. Interceptions ensued, and the game was lost.
Yes, the players needed to execute better. But why keep putting them in situations where they have done poorly in the past, instead of, oh, running the ball because it has been working the entire game?
Jerry Jones can't call the plays himself (and, no, we don't want him to). But it is time to get serious. From the looks of things, I think Bill Callahan needs to go.
If the team can't beat the Washington Redskins next week and the Eagles win, then the team should seriously consider benching Tony Romo for the last game. The team can't fire him with his new contract, but he needs to realize he has to be smarter than he was today, as well. And that he is accountable for those mistakes.
As for the defense, that's a whole other article that someone will write soon.
Maybe I will feel differently when I have had time to think about this.
But probably not.