Dallas Cowboys: Jason Garrett's Coaching Seat Is Red Hot
The Dallas Cowboys are in a great position with Jason Garett as their head coach.
He is highly intelligent, strongly principled, disciplined and detail oriented. His emphasis on what management gurus call “process improvement” and what the Japanese call Kaizen, keeps the Cowboys organization on a steady track of daily improvement.
It may seem like a low-key approach, but it’s an excellent way to build a winning organization.
Yet with only one playoff win in the last 16 years, Dallas fans are beyond impatient.
Watching the Giants hoist the Lombardi trophy for the second time in five years certainly doesn’t help matters much, especially when Giants players seem to enjoy trashing the Cowboys at every turn.
But that is not why Garrett’s chair is beyond warm and cozy this season. The reason can be found in trends for Dallas’ offensive production.
In 2008, Dallas finished 18th in scoring, 13th in total yards, 9th in passing and 21th in rushing.
In 2009, Dallas jumped to 14th in scoring, 2nd in total yards, 6th in passing, and 7th in rushing.
In 2010, Dallas finished 7th in scoring, 7th in total yards, 6th in passing and 16th in rushing. These were remarkable numbers, given that Garrett lost his starting QB with nearly 2/3 of the season remaining.
But in 2011, Garrett approved a dramatic youth movement along the offensive line that backfired. Offensive stats, which had been trending up in the past three years, suddenly dipped.
Dallas fell back to 15th in scoring, 11th in total yards, 7th in passing and 18th in rushing.
As bad as the defensive secondary was, the offense simply didn’t get it done when it had to and therefore shares equal blame for last seasons gut wrenching disappointment.
A team with Tony Romo, Miles Austin, Jason Witten, Dez Bryan, Felix Jones and the emerging star DeMarco Murray simply should not have finished 15th in scoring. Especially when you consider that Laurent Robinson was gifted to them from the Chargers and he kicked in 11 TDs by himself.
The injuries were significant, but every team struggles with injuries during a season. It was the failure to assess what they actually had on the offensive line, especially the interior of that line that led to the offenses woes.
And yet, Dallas will enter training camp without signing a single high-talent offensive lineman. Of the two guards signed in the offseason, one is already injured and will miss part of training camp. The other was a back up. Neither was considered a great signing.
I am very optimistic about the offensive skill positions the Cowboys have added this spring. I think Danny Coale will be an asset for years to come and I think that James Hanna has the tools to develop into a weapon similar to an Aaron Henderson or a Jermichael Finley.
I am also a big believer in Jason Garrett. I think he has what it takes to build and lead a championship team.
But you could fry an egg on Garrett’s coaching seat this season and this offensive line is the unit that is generating the BTU’s.
Dallas has invested a substantial amount to upgrade the defense and all indications are that it will not be “the problem” this year. It is highly likely that Ryan’s men will generate stops and turnovers at a much greater rate in 2012 than we witnessed in 2011.
Which is why all of the critical focus will be on Garrett and the guards he has selected.
To fully appreciate how intense this scrutiny will be and how well they must perform, you need to look at Dallas’ 2012 schedule.
Dallas faces the toughest division of pass rushers in the league, thanks to the Giants and the Eagles and to a lesser extent, the ‘skins. But in addition to that, they have games against the Ravens, the Steelers, the Bengals and the Browns. All of these teams have upper-echelon defenses.
If the offensive line is not substantially improved, Romo will not be able to step up into the pocket and keep his eyes down field. If he can’t do that, the offense will suffer.
Additionally, if the interior of the line can’t run-block with authority, Dallas will struggle to run the ball and will have little success with play-action passes. This will result in more sacks, fewer points and grave problems for Garrett’s tenure.
As much support as Garrett enjoys from his owner, he leads a team with a former head coach on staff that took a team to a Super Bowl (Bill Callahan) and a defensive coordinator who has been extremely vocal about his interest in a head-coaching job.
If the defense does great, but the offense falters, the calls for Garrett’s head and Ryan’s promotion will be deafening.
I believe that Garrett has the right approach to building and leading this team, but I hope he is clear on what, precisely, his guards will be guarding this year. Because if the interior of the line fails, Romo may not be the only one who gets sacked.
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