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Handing Over The Cowboys' Offensive Play Sheet: Solution Or Not?

With the season teetering on the edge of another failure, there is a train of thought that Jason Garrett needs to reclaim the job of calling the offense - and it is picking up a head of steam. But it may be chugging down the wrong track entirely.


No one is going to argue that the next six games aren't crucial to the Dallas Cowboys, and not just in the sense that the outcome of those games will determine whether the team gets to the playoffs or not. It is generally believed that the way the team bounces back from the mugging on the Mississippi, or doesn't, will determine the future of several members of the coaching staff with the Cowboys. I wrote earlier about the possible decisions that Jerry Jones may feel he has to make about his head coach and the offensive and defensive coordinators. One of the possible solutions that has been proposed is for Jason Garrett to take back the play-calling duties. His job is certainly one that is on the line, and resuming the job he held until this season is one way to take control of his own fate. It has been proposed by Joey Ickes here at BTB, and Jean-Jaques Taylor laid out his rationale for it at ESPN, and they are just a sample of those supporting that view.

Garrett has stated that he is not going to do this. I think he is right, because I don't think it would help.

The problem the past few games has not been play selection. It has been execution, and this applies on both sides of the line of scrimmage. I don't have to do much research on this, because Dave Halprin already covered this in not one, but two articles over the past couple of weeks. He looked at the overall poor execution by the offense against the Minnesota Vikings, and then he dissected the dismal performance put up by Tony Romo during the New Orleans Saints atrocity, which is just a continuation of a trend that has been going on for several weeks. It shouldn't come as any surprise that I am on board with Dave's take on this, because I wrote about much the same thing concerning Romo.

Based on the strange way things have gone this season, including the shootout against the Denver Broncos and the almost flawless drive to score the winning touchdown against the Vikings, I don't think there is a ton of evidence that Bill Callahan's play-calling is the real issue here. To me, the real problem is that the offense is not able to carry out the plays. When the team goes 0 for 9 on third down plays, like it did during the embarrassment in the Big Easy, then there is a lot of evidence that it doesn't matter what plays are called. They are going to fail anyway.

I'm sure that Garrett and Callahan are going to be searching hard to find plays that can move the ball and score some points, and there is no doubt things can be improved. But until the offense starts executing better, it will not matter. It might be different if the passes were being completed and the runs were not getting blown up in the backfield, but the reality is that the play has, for the most part, been awful. You can't tell much about your play-calling under those circumstances.

Additionally, Garrett did not have any marked success the past few years when he did have the play sheet clutched in his fingers. And he is out of practice. I don't think this is like riding a bicycle. Frankly, I would expect the head coach to do a worse job if he tried to pick things up again. He would likely take at least two or three games to get back into his rhythm - and by then it would be too late.

It probably seems counter-intuitive, but keeping things the way they are as far as how the plays get called is probably the best chance the team has to fight its way into the playoffs. Garrett can make his input in the planning beforehand. If the offense can get its act together - and this includes the line, the running backs, and the receivers as well as the quarterback - then Callahan can run things well enough. That would be half the job taken care of, and the defensive half is hopefully going to get a boost as injured players get back into the lineup after the bye week, and then the long week after the annual Thanksgiving Day game will also let some healing happen. I think yanking the play-sheet out of Callahan's grasp would be exactly what Garrett said it would be, an overreaction. Let's fix the real problem, the play on the field.


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