There are no adjectives strong enough to describe the level of unintelligence shown by the Dallas Cowboys‘ coaching staff from week to week in the NFL. It’s been half a season since Jason Garrett gave up the offensive play-calling duties and supposedly took a harder approach to ensuring his team’s mental toughness, yet this is the same Cowboys team that has choked away every opportunity and snatched defeat from the jaws of victory so many times for the better part of the last two decades. Nothing has changed.
The Cowboys’ 31-30 loss to the Detroit Lions in Week 8 was dominated by two things: Calvin Johnson‘s incredible 329 receiving yards and Dez Bryant‘s sideline outburst. Those are the only elements that will be remembered and discussed from Sunday, although they were two of the most minuscule factors in the contest. Everyone knew the Cowboys weren’t going to slow down Johnson’s historic season and the game was over when Bryant started pitching a fit on the sideline.
The real aspect the Cowboys should take away from this game is their horrific play-calling, which embodies the main problem this franchise has had for years: lack of mental toughness. Garrett preaches it all the time, yet he certainly doesn’t show this must-have NFL quality, so why should his players? Or his coaches?
The latter was again the biggest problem in Week 8, as it was when the Cowboys lost by one to the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Coincidence? Absolutely not.
The Cowboys converted three of 13 third-down attempts against the Lions, a measly 27 percent success rate. The overlying issue is five of those 10 failed attempts were pathetic; they were all pass plays with at least five yards to go and each time, Bill Callahan called a pass play that did not include a primary route beyond the first-down marker. Again, there are no words to describe the lack of intelligence there.
Some folks will argue that short, quick passes on third down work all the time in the NFL for teams like the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots, which is correct. However, that’s not the whole truth: Those plays work for every team when the first-down marker is two yards from the line of scrimmage. You may be shocked to know that doesn’t work when the marker is at least five yards away.
Four times on at least third-and-five, the Cowboys threw an incomplete pass that was at least two yards short of the marker. The one completed pass was for one yard on third-and-nine. This has been a problem for the Cowboys since Garrett became the play-caller in 2007 and even now with Callahan supposedly calling the plays, Garrett’s ignorant influence still shines through.
What’s worse is these two coaching geniuses apparently don’t know which players on their team are true weapons. Tony Romo didn’t even attempt a pass to Jason Witten on third down and the only one he threw to Bryant in such a situation resulted in a touchdown. Again, coincidence? Heck no.
Now, the Cowboys’ lack of a running game certainly didn’t help, but Joseph Randle proved before Week 8 he can’t handle the lead back duties, yet Callahan fed him 14 times for a whopping 1.9 yards-per-carry average and didn’t think to maybe try Lance Dunbar or Phillip Tanner a few more times. Are you starting to see the pattern here?
The Cowboys’ lack of mental toughness starts at the top and clearly isn’t getting better, regardless of what Garrett stutters after each gut-wrenching loss. Until something is actually done about that, it will never change.