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Cowboys Play-Calling: Addition Does Not Always Cause Subtraction

The question of who is really in charge with the Dallas Cowboys never goes away. Recent statements about the increased role for Tony Romo in gameplanning have just intensified the debate.


There are times I feel like Charlie Brown trying to kick that football, or the Coyote coming up with yet another harebrained scheme to catch that Roadrunner. I see an article about the ongoing emasculation of Jason Garrett as head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and no matter how much I fight the urge, I find myself writing another article about why I disagree so strongly with the whole idea. I know it will not go away, and that to a certain degree it is all a matter of interpretation, but still I feel compelled to take my stand once again.

The latest example of this is a response to all the talk about how Tony Romo is going to be more involved in gameplanning this season. The theory, of course, is that this shows that Romo went over Garrett's head, straight to Jones, and got what he wanted, complete with an acknowledgement that there is just a tad of conspiracy theory involved.

You want a grassy knoll here? This continues the offseason trend of reducing the authority of a head coach who will enter the season on the hot seat.

I have a lot of reasons for seeing this very differently, such as the fact that all the draft picks from the past two years fit a template that seems designed and crafted exactly to Garrett's specifications, but the biggest reason for it is specific to this situation.

I heard about this increase in Romo's role back in January. When the first stories questioning who was going to be the playcaller for the Cowboys came out, I was told, in one of those background conversations I occasionally get to have, that the real direction the team was looking at was for Romo to get this increased say in the design and execution of the game plan. I was not told exactly whose idea it was, but the impression I got was that Garrett and Bill Callahan both has something to do with the change. My inclination is to believe that Romo was approached about it, but I can't be certain. I am pretty sure that this was brought up before the contract negotiations were in full swing. And based on all that, I do expect to see Tony having a lot more freedom to run the offense at his tempo and using the plays he wants to. Based on how the team seemed to perform late in games last season when it went to more of a hurry-up offense with Romo calling things on the field, it seems a logical step to take. It does not look like a demand he forced on the team as part of the contract negotiations. It actually instead might have been part of the conditions stipulated for him by the team.

Jerry Jones' role in all this is unclear. It might have started with him, or it might have been brought to him as a plan. Part of the current situation is that Jones is talking this idea up, a lot. Maybe that means this is something he is taking credit for. But I think there is another aspect brought up in this second article that gets a lot closer to his motivation.

You have to think is Jones trying to justify giving Romo a $108 million contract by saying he will spend long hours at Valley Ranch, watch tape of prospective draft picks and help with the game plan.

Jones always tries to show that he knows what he is doing and that he is deeply involved in every aspect of things, whether these assertions are accurate or not. I am pretty sure this leads to a great deal of obfuscation, which is compounded by Garrett's ability to speak indefinitely and never actually impart any useful information whatsoever. (And people should acknowledge he is hardly the only NFL head coach to have mastered that ability. I think Bill Belichick conducts seminars in the art.)

Appearances and reality often conflict. At Valley Ranch, the two seem to frequently become involved in cage death matches, at least judging by the things you read. In this particular case, I think the differing takes also are driven by expectations. I look for signs that there is a plan and a process in place (I mean an actual process, not a press conference slogan). Other writers who either have developed a hostile attitude or feel frustrated by the difficulty in getting information from the Cowboys, look for signs of failure and despair. We see the same events and have wildly differing interpretations.

Oddly, the next day after deciding that Jason Garrett is being forced to sing soprano, the same writer had a very well done piece on why the Doug Free contract mess is not something you can blame on the Dallas front office. I mention that to make it clear that I am not trying to engage in a contest with any particular writers. I am just pointing out that there is often a lot more going on here when you look deeper. Just because Tony Romo is getting some more responsibility added to his role as the quarterback, it does not mean that power or control is being taken away from Jason Garrett. It just means that a different approach is being taken. It may work to get the team off the 8-8 speed bump and into the playoffs, or it may not. Garrett's job may indeed be at stake this season, which I have long felt, or he may have one more year in Jones' eyes, even if the team fails to make the playoffs again. And maybe this will all work brilliantly, and it won't really matter when Garrett gets a nice contract extension of his own.

But it is not all about who has the most power over whom. At least to me, it is about finding something that works. And if this idea doesn't pan out, then it will be time to try something different.

More Cowboys coverage:

Boom Or Bust: Which Teams Like To Draft Players From Non-BCS Divisions?

Dallas Cowboys Rookie Minicamp Recap: 15 Things We Learned

Garrett Press Conference: Tempo, Talent, Turnovers


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