Jason Garrett has never been one to succumb to outside pressures on how to run his offense. Since taking over as offensive coordinator for the Dallas Cowboys in 2007, Garrett has operated one of the most prolific offenses in the NFL yet still faces doubts regarding his gameplanning and strategic playcalling.
Perhaps Garrett's offenses have looked good because of the enormous talent at his disposal; any offensive coordinator can look like a genius if he has a top-5 quarterback and three starting-caliber running backs on his team. Even the best players need the right offense to operate in and Garrett has shown the ability to mold his offense to fit the abilities of his best players.
Heading into what some hope to be a championship season for the Cowboys, the pressures on Garrett and the offense are even greater. For the first time since being in Dallas the offense has more question areas than the defense and many are worried that it will be his offense that will hold the Cowboys back from contending this season. After two preseason games and several failed drives by the starting offense those doubts have yet to be assuaged and instead the questions loom ever larger.
The only way to ease the doubting look in every fan's eye is simple: just score.
The fears and doubts surrounding the offense haven't cropped up out of the ether during the offseason. During the team's most successful season in well over a decade the Cowboys boasted an offense that could move the ball better than any other team in the NFL. When it came to the stat that really matters, points, the Cowboys were pedestrian at best and better than just half the league.The one area that truly hurt the Cowboys in that area was their execution in the red zone, a topic that was much discussed and debated over the summer.
After two games, the offense has yet to show any improvement in their red zone scoring ability and in fact have looked -- at times -- much more sloppy than we're used to from Romo and Garrett in the preseason.
Going back and watching the starting offense in last year's preseason, there is a stark contrast to what we've seen so far this season. In the first two games of the preseason the starting offense smartly moved the ball down the field before promptly scoring a red zone touchdown. Of particular note is the fact that the Cowboys scored twice from the 1-yard line, with both Marion Barber and Felix Jones getting a touchdown from the goal line.
Now, it's tough to compare last year's preseason directly to this year's, as the Cowboys' schedule this preseason is incredibly out of whack. You almost have to think about just ignoring the Oakland game altogether, based on travel and practice time before the actual game. The Cowboys still have three games left this preseason and we've yet to see the starting offense play more than two series in a game, still plenty of time left for this offense to show they've improved.
Jason Garrett and Tony Romo both contend that the offense is incredibly vanilla in these games and that they've worked on some specific formations down near the end zone that haven't paid off. While that's certainly understandable, the lack of overall execution by the offense is what has been most troubling.
Forget the doubts of the fans and the media. Should the Cowboys make a much more concerted focus on scoring against San Diego? While scoring isn't exactly the most important part of preseason games, if the offense is successful then it builds confidence moving forward into the season. Just like with a hitter in a slump at the plate, just getting that one hit could be enough to open the floodgates and getting back to the high level of performance everyone is used to. That confidence and that winning mentality is incredibly important, even in the preseason, and is built upon once the season starts.
The offense will likely just play a quarter -- perhaps the first half -- and should be able to actually get into a rhythm this time around. While you respect Garrett's plan of not giving away the offense in the preseason and not gameplanning for a defense, perhaps showing a few wrinkles here and there on the way to a touchdown will be more valuable than playing the secretive offensive coordinator.
I wrote this article before Kyle Kosier's injury, but the points above are still just as valid. I know there some speculation that perhaps the Cowboys should sit Romo against the Chargers (although that seemed to come from just one guy at ESPN), but that's the last thing this offense needs. Despite everything the team has been saying the past few weeks about not being worried and not giving the offense away, you have to think that proving to themselves that the can still execute in a game situation would do wonders for the team's overall confidence.
Although with a team with Tony Romo leading the offense, I'm sure that a lack of confidence isn't their issue anyway. It would still be nice to put all the doubts to rest.
One touchdown by the offense, hopefully from the red zone, will be enough to put our minds at ease. Judging by what the players have been saying the past week I'm sure it will help them as well.