Let me first acknowledge that this was an incredibly frustrating game. Not only was a game-winning touchdown negated by penalty but the only touchdown allowed was due to an incomprehensible coaching decision. Throw in a gift 1st down in the red zone on a special-teams penalty and multiple big plays being negated by penalties and it was plain infuriating.
I also understand the need to vent because that's what I'm about to do. So here's what liked and didn't like and why:
***What I liked***
1. Jason Garrett's game plan
-Tony Romo was only sacked one time
-the game plan produced 380 yards of offense with 2 backup offensive lineman, good for 5th in the NFL
-I liked that Jason Garrett had the ball come out quickly. Quick plays that I especially liked: the screen pass to Felix Jones, the slant to Miles Austin, the back shoulder throw to Dez, and the three-step streak to Dez. All of these plays required a high level of skill and were executed perfectly. I also like what appears to be a new play where Romo makes a quick throw downfield to where the receiver will be after a 1 or 3 step drop.
-I would also remind people that Garrett used the screen pass to burn the Philly blitzes very effectively. I am okay with the screens because I'm confident that the Dallas receivers will produce big plays if teams allow them to get into one-on-one matchups with defensive backs.
-I liked the option play. If Choice had pitched the ball I think that's a touchdown. I think some Dallas fans are seriously underestimating Garrett's creativity.
2. The progress that I observed on the field.
-Last year after the Kansas City game I made a similar point. I suggested that instead of looking solely at the results it makes more sense to look at the process. Warren Buffett has made a similar point about investing and uses the example of a farm to illustrate. Buffett has pointed out that if you invest in a farm it doesn't make sense to look at the price of the land on a day-to-day basis but rather to look at the production of farm. Using the same logic I would suggest that makes sense to look at the production of the team rather than the final score. On that measure I am encouraged. Going into the season the key question was how Doug Free would play. Free had an excellent game which bodes well for the season. In addition Dez Bryant looked excellent. I'm encouraged that with the addition of those 2 players Dallas could have an unstoppable offense.
3. Dez Bryant
-I loved what I saw from Dez Bryant. I could not be more excited. I'm pretty sure I cannot remember a wide receiver trying to body slam NFL defenders. I believe it bodes well that Dez Bryant looks like a man among boys in the NFL. I honestly cannot think of a receiver I’ve ever seen that looks that strong.
4. The allocation of cap dollars
-if Dallas spends big dollars on offensive lineman then that money cannot be spent on other positions. Adam Scheffer made this point regarding a potential Logan Mankins trade. You can't have everything. I tend to agree with the strategy of investing the bulk of the team’s money on the skill position players rather than the offensive line.
***What I didn't Like***
1. Jason Garrett's decision not to kneel at the end of the 1st half.
-This call is simply indefensible. How many teams have attempted a Hail Mary from their own 36 yard line? None. For a Hail Mary to be successful the ball needs to be at a height of 8 to 10 feet a yard or 2 deep in the end zone. That means that the ball will probably need to land somewhere around 5 yards deep in the end zone. The distance from the line of scrimmage to the end zone was 64 yards. Add another 10 yards because Romo has to throw from 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and the ball needs to go 5 yards into the end zone. Therefore you're asking for a 75 yard throw. It was just a terrible terrible call. That call is Jason Garrett's responsibility.
2. Jerry Jones
--to the extent that there are problems with the offensive line I believe the responsibility (as I explain below) principally lies with Jerry Jones. Jones is responsible for the offensive line coach and the drafting.
3. Hudson Houck
-Hudson Houck is one of the highest paid offensive line coaches in the NFL. Hudson was hand-picked by Jerry Jones. Hudson Houck is responsible for making sure that the offensive line doesn't commit penalties.
4. Joe Decamillis
-the kickoff coverage was poor (wasn't that why Dallas kept Church and McCray). Buehler missed a field goal. Church allowed a punt the bounce into the end zone and the special teams gave Washington a first down in the red zone.
5. People who blame Jason Garrett for the offensive line problems
-I believe the responsibility for the offensive line problems rest with Hudson Houck. As explained above, I do not believe that Jason Garrett was allowed to choose the offensive line coach. Logic tells me it is a Jerry Jones decision when the offensive line coach from the 1990s Super Bowl teams is brought back.
-Logic also tells me that choosing Sean Lee instead of trading for either Jamaal Brown or Jared Gaither (who were both supposedly available for a second-round pick) was a Jerry Jones/Wade Phillips decision, not a Jason Garrett decision.
6. The offense making the same mistakes
-I hated the delay of game penalty on Tony Romo. This was an epidemic 2 years ago when Dallas didn't get out of the huddle quickly enough. Last year Romo made a concerted effort to get to the line faster so he wasn't right up against the play clock.
-The offensive interference on the goal line screen pass. I'm not clear on how this penalty works. I believe that the wide receiver isn't allowed to block until the ball is caught (that's how it was explained in the Philadelphia game last year, however the announcer suggested in the Washington game that it was because Dez was holding the defensive back). Dallas was penalized for this exact infraction last year against Philadelphia. If the rule is that the blocking cannot occur until the ball is caught then I don't see how this play works; it will always produce an offensive pass interference.
7. People who are mad and/or surprised by Alex Barron
-for anyone who is surprised by Alex Barron I would suggest reading the fable of the frog and the scorpion.
8. People who are calling for players to be cut
-I think it is safe to assume that the coaches chose to play the best players. Hence it is likely that Brewster would be even worse than Barron and cutting Barron would only make the situation worse. For example, consider whether you are still happy that Dallas cut Flozell Adams. Dallas could have Adams as their backup tackle instead of Barron.
9. Calls for trades
-no good deal has ever been made out of necessity (Ben Franklin via Squidlo hat tip). If you're not convinced take a minute and visualize the football bouncing off of Roy Williams facemask. If that doesn't cool you on making panic trade I suspect nothing will.
10. People who are surprised that Dallas lost
-if you are surprised that Dallas lost you haven't been paying attention to when Dallas loses. Dallas tends to lose when they have injuries (e.g. Colombo in Green Bay, Flozell in Minnesota, Romo out in Tampa Bay). With 2 offensive lineman missing the loss is not a surprise. I'm never happy when Dallas loses. However, in the context of playing with 2 linemen missing it's a little easier to understand.