Cowboys Collapse To Packers: This One Comes Back To The Head Coach

Ronald Martinez

No matter who was calling the actual plays, and no matter how much they deflect through the course of the week after the game, this loss falls on the head coach.

The score is 29-17, Dallas is in the lead and has just received a kick off following the Packers second touchdown in as many third quarter drives, and there is just over one minute left before the start of the fourth quarter. At this point the Cowboys were facing two adversaries, the Green Bay Packers, and the 16+ minutes left on the game clock. By this time the Cowboys defense had surrendered 14 points in the first 14 minutes of the third quarter, and with Kyle Wilber, DeVonte Holloman, and Cameron Lawrence playing linebacker, (with Holloman at Mike with no headset), showed no signs of being able to stop the Green Bay Packers. This is when your head coach proves his worth.

Throughout the night on Sunday, and throughout the day Monday, you have seen and heard excuses and explanations about why certain things happened certain ways, and how the Packers were able to come back and win. But regardless of all of those excuses, this loss falls on the head coach. People will blame Tony Romo for throwing two fourth quarter interceptions, or Bill Callahan for calling plays the way he did, and there will be speculation about how many times the quarterback checked out of running plays into passes, and talk about how many times Romo under-threw the ball. But the onus falls on the coach, especially when his boss passed the play-calling responsibility over to his offensive coordinator so the head coach could manage the games better as a "walk around" head coach.

At some point the head coach has a responsibility to his players, his staff, his owner, and the fans to lead the team in the right direction. His job is to make sure that everything that happens on the field puts his team in the best position to win and he failed his team in that aspect against the Packers. At some point he needs to look around and see a sixth-round pick, an undrafted free agent and a former defensive end playing linebacker, and your defense giving up yards and points in bunches, and you have to think about what is best for the team as a whole. You have to get on your headset and tell your offensive coordinator, "Bill, I don’t care what the field position is, we need to run the ball twice when we get out there," and if his quarterback tries to check out of plays, you need to grab him by his face mask, pull him close and make him look you in the eyes, and tell him, that if he checks out of a first down run again Kyle Orton is going to finish the game.

I’ll break the situation down for you this way, and I’ll look at two plays in particular.

  • 1st & 10 - 15 yd line – 1:09 left in the 3rd Quarter – Incomplete to flat to DeMarco Murray

  • 1st & 10 – 20 yd line – 4:17 left in the 4th Quarter – Incomplete deep to Dez Bryant

If you run the ball on those two plays, statistically in that game, you’re going to gain ~7.5 yards on each of those plays, but even if you gain zero yards, the clock is running, and you run 40 seconds off the clock on the first play, hopefully starting a 8 minute 85 yard scoring drive, and on the second, you likely force Green Bay to use their first timeout or see 40 more seconds run off the clock. Then when the Packers call two more timeouts over the course of the next three plays, they are out of time outs, and when the Cowboys have 2nd and 6 with 2:18 left (because of the extra time off the clock), with no time outs left, there’s almost zero chance there’s any option to throw on the play. Then at worst, you have 3rd and ~6 to go at the two-minute warning, and even if you don’t get the first, you’re punting the ball to the Packers, leaving them 70-80 yards to drive with 1:15 on the clock, and no option to run the ball which was the best thing they did in the 2nd half.

It is the head coach’s job to understand what his team needs, and how to manage situations like those above to put them in position to win, and as has happened before, this head coach failed them in that area.

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