Surveying the Home Stretch: What the Dallas Cowboys Must Do for a Playoff Berth
The Cowboys have reached the midway mark of the 2012 season and it's become clear that things have not gone how one would have envisioned. The Cowboys are in third place among their NFC East foes and slipping further into the abyss of the NFC. While they aren’t mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, they have a full deck stacked against them.
Quite frankly, if the Cowboys fail to get a much needed victory against Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles, the topic of conversation in Dallas will range from the draft, changing head coaches, Jerry Jones' role as GM and playing time for younger players. And, oh yeah, there might possibly be just a little bit more dissension, frustration and unfiltered anger among the fan base.
So what does all this mean for Jason Garrett's squad and Jerry Jones' team? I don't foresee the Cowboys giving up and neither should the fans, but let's resume playoff talk for a second and figure this thing out. Jerry Jones has always taken a macro or big picture approach when it comes to expectations and that's basically where the problem starts.
For starters, Jason Garrett will not be fired during the season, no matter how bad it can potentially get, so I would take that off the table as a solution for getting to the playoffs. Any drastic measures at this point would be pointless if the Cowboys are going to really make a playoff push. What the Cowboys must do is take a step back from the big picture approach and focus on these less glamorous remedies.
Reprioritize Goals and Win Small Battles First
The amount of inherent pressure on the Dallas Cowboys along with the expectations is pretty enormous whether Jerry Jones adds to it or not. Every team needs to believe they have a chance every year especially in the parity-driven NFL that we live in. The Cowboys certainly are at the top of that list every year and, unfortunately, it does start with their owner.
But while that makes for good offseason hype, marketing and drama, the Cowboys are 3-5 right now and it only makes Jones look even more foolish. In that statement lies a reality and it's one that needs to be accompanied by a remedy. The first solution is to forget about the 3-5 record and what the expectations were supposed to be.
Through a players-only meeting (yes Jerry, that means that the door will be locked) the leaders on this team need to step up in a major way. The message is simple and it's one that focuses on blocking out all the nonsense that follows this team either from Jerry or the media hordes that hover. Go back to having fun, make each game a one-game season and win each quarter.
Create a scenario where everyone focuses on the battle within the battle and that is a major step for this team before they even take another step forward. Smaller goals and a narrower focus might help this team execute better.
Fully Utilize This Roster Now
This is not the time for a full-blown youth movement because that would entail scrapping this year's plan. But can the coaches and management honestly think they are going to get different results without a change in behavior? They are delusional if they think the same style of play is suddenly going to turn things around.
The Cowboys need to create a fear factor right now and not just a sense of urgency in order to get a win. This has been a problem with the Cowboys for quite some time and it focuses on not getting a good enough assessment of the roster. There are still receivers running wrong routes, there are players missing tackles, there are players banged up and there are players getting tired.
The Cowboys' depth is being tested by the number of injuries they've sustained and it keeps getting worse. So while this presents an opportunity for some players to shine, it also means that the pro personnel department is working overtime. What I can't understand is how players like Cole Beasley, James Hanna, Andre Holmes, Tyrone Crawford and Dwayne Harris don't see the field for significant minutes while adding new wrinkles.
The Cowboys need to realize that these are the same opportunities other teams use in order to find out about depth while finding the best players to put on the field. Isn't that what it's all about, putting the best players on the field? Maybe this will allow the light bulb to go off in Dez Bryant's head by watching Beasley line up in the slot.
Run the No-Huddle Please !!!
Whether you like Tony Romo or not, watching him run the no-huddle offense is a thing of beauty. He seems to flourish in that setting, it plays to his strengths and the Cowboys have the talent to execute it to the point that it should be installed more often. Right now with the running game suffering from injury and inconsistency, the timing could not be more perfect for the adoption of the no-huddle into a weekly game plan.
By doing so, this would also allow for expanded personnel to be used like a Hanna or Beasley and it would also present problems for opponents in the coming weeks. With little margin for error and a favorable schedule ahead, why not put the throttle all the way down and stress opposing defenses. Time is running out and it's time for something new.
Jason Garrett Has to Delegate
Garrett doesn't have to relinquish play-calling duties completely but he really needs to lean more on Bill Callahan and possibly Wade Wilson in order to be more efficient as a head coach. Garrett is doing the right thing in his approach to coaching the Cowboys but he's not doing things right. And there is a difference. It seems that he's effective at times but not efficient enough and that's holding this team back.
Garrett has to be the eyes and ears of this franchise in terms of all things done on the field. Unfortunately, there have been too many questions, mishaps, poor play-calls and not enough progress made towards maximizing his efficiency. The time to delegate is now because whether Garrett believes it or not, he is probably coaching for his job. He needs to be locked in and so does this team.
The playoffs are depending on it whether it's achievable or not. In order for the Cowboys to get there this season, reality has to override reason and drastic change won't get them there.
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