The Dallas Cowboys choked away a huge opportunity yesterday against the Green Bay Packers, blowing a 26-3 halftime lead to lose 37-36. The loss leaves the Cowboys a game behind the Philadelphia Eagles in the NFC East, and it means that they have no margin for error if they want to make the playoffs. Much of the discussion this week will focus on the two late interceptions thrown by Tony Romo and the general failure of the defense, but the coaching staff deserves a ton of blame for this loss as well.
The Cowboys had been extremely successful on the ground for the entire game, with DeMarco Murray carrying the ball 18 times for 134 yards and a touchdown, averaging a ridiculous 7.4 YPC. However, the Cowboys inexplicably abandoned the run game in the fourth quarter, giving Murray only three carries when they should have trying to run out the clock. After the Packers cut the lead to 5, the Cowboys only ran once out of four plays on their ensuing drive, when they should have been in a four minute offense trying to end the game. Romo threw his first interception, and the Packers drove for the game winning score.
Bill Callahan is the Cowboys’ play caller, but everything runs through head coach Jason Garrett. Garrett should have made it extremely clear to Callahan that the Cowboys needed to focus on the run game in the fourth quarter and try to control the clock and end the game. This was especially important when the Cowboys were leading 36-31 with 4:17 left, and Garrett’s failure to recognize the game situation is unacceptable.
Garrett is now 28-26 as Cowboys head coach, and it appears Dallas is on their way to their fourth straight season without a playoff appearance under Garrett. Much has been made about Romo’s late season struggles, but the Cowboys are only 7-10 under Garrett in December and January, and he deserves as much of the blame for their late season failures as Romo. Garrett and the Cowboys have been one the NFL’s most pass heavy teams in recent seasons, and their inability to establish a balanced offense has crippled them. Making matters worse is that they have the ability to be effective on the ground but they simply choose not to run, which is a big reason why they lost yesterday.
Four seasons with no playoffs is enough to get any coach fired, and Garrett should be no different. The Cowboys have simply not been good enough under his watch, and many of their problems can be directly attributed to poor coaching. If the Cowboys don’t find a way to sneak into the postseason this year, Garrett should be shown the door.