Losing Cowboys' Play-Calling Duties Is the Worst Thing for Jason Garrett

Chris Trapasso@ChrisTrapassoAnalyst IJune 4, 2013

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has once again stepped in to make a football decision for his team.

Newly appointed offensive coordinator Bill Callahan will take over as the offensive play-caller this upcoming season, a job current head coach Jason Garrett has had with Dallas since 2007.

Cowboys beat writer Clarence Hill Jr. broke the news and ESPN Dallas' Calvin Watkins confirmed the play-calling change a few minutes later on Twitter:

Jerry jones says Callahan will be play caller. Decision made weeks ago, per jones

— Clarence Hill (@clarencehilljr) June 4, 2013

Over at ESPN Insider (subscription required), Tim Kavanagh wrote on what should be expected of the Cowboys' new play-caller: 

Callahan's primary objective now is to get the running game back to being a productive piece of the offense. In 2012, the Cowboys were near the bottom of the league in both YPA and yards per game. He's also tasked with improving the efficiency of the passing attack. 

Kavanagh cited an article by Jonathan Bales of The Dallas Morning News, which dug up the offensive ranks of Callahan's Oakland Raiders teams from 1999 to 2002. Bales discovered the following rankings: 

  • Net yards-per-attempt: 6th (Best: 3rd, Worst: 8th)
  • Yards-per-carry: 12th (Best: 3rd, Worst: 26th)
  • Points: 4th (Best: 2nd, Worst: 8th)
  • Giveaways: 6th (Best: 2nd, Worst: 12th)

What's most interesting about Jones' decision is the fact that the Cowboys offenses were actually very efficient under Garrett during his time as the play-calling head coach. Here's a table depicting where Garrett's offenses ranked on a per-drive basis over the last two years: 

2011 32.73 (11) 2.02 (8) .212 (10)

Yards Per Drive / Ranking

Points Per Drive / Ranking TD's Per Drive / Ranking
2012 34.01 (8)
2.01 (10)
.215 (11)

(Figures courtesy of FootballOutsiders.com)

However, when it came to running the football and turning it over, Garrett's offenses were not nearly as effective: 

Year Rushing YPG / Ranking Rushing YPC / Ranking TO's Per Game / Ranking
2011 112.9 (18) 4.4 (9) 1.3 (6)
2012 79.1 (31) 3.6 (30) 1.8 (25)

It's important to remember that these tables aren't accounting for the difference in personnel between Callahan's Raiders and Garrett's Cowboys, or the myriad of injuries Dallas dealt with over the last two campaigns.

The 47-year-old Garrett was once dubbed an offensive play-calling guru and took over head coach duties after Wade Phillips was fired in the middle of the 2010 season. But now Garrett has been relegated to clock manager, and...well, it's not really known what else. 

While he directed relatively high-powered, pass-happy offenses, the running game was subpar, and most importantly, the Cowboys haven't made the playoffs since 2009, with Garrett's teams finishing third in the NFC East three consecutive years.

Although Jerry Jones told NFL.com's Albert Breer that "Garrett isn't coaching for his job" (per NFL Network's Jeremy Ryan) in 2013, Garrett has basically become Jones' sideline puppet. Being stripped of the opportunity to deploy his once-renowned offensive genius on Sundays—let's call it a mini-demotion—is a telling setback for Garrett, however.

There's a chance the Garrett-Callahan dynamic will work in Dallas, but reducing the head coach's power is rarely a positive sign for that coach.


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