Has Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan Made Offense Any Better?

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Has Dallas Cowboys Offensive Coordinator Bill Callahan Made Offense Any Better?
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Over the summer, the Dallas Cowboys awkwardly announced that offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Bill Callahan would be adding offensive play calling to his list of responsibilities.

Two games into the 2013 regular season and I would say that the results have been—well, offensive for the most part.

No, two games does not tell the story of an entire regular season, but in this particular case there is growing concern already that Callahan simply hasn't made any difference.

If you saw Sunday's game against the Kansas City Chiefs, you might have noticed the Dallas offense looked an awful lot like the one-dimensional and ineffective version that head coach Jason Garrett used to offer up from his premature arrival in 2007 until last season.

Callahan's debut against the New York Giants about two weeks ago offered some hope for offensive balance, but it still left plenty of room for improvement where the running game is concerned.

Starting running back DeMarco Murray had a decent performance in gaining 86 yards on 20 carries—an average of 4.3 yard per carry for the third-year veteran.

Remember, however, that Dallas gained only 3.8 yards per carry for the game as running back Phillip Tanner carried just once for two yards and quarterback Tony Romo carried twice for minus-one yard.

Let's just say that things took a sharp and familiar downturn at Arrowhead Stadium against Kansas City last weekend.

With just over two minutes left in the third quarter in a one-point game, Murray took a hand off from Romo and ran up the middle for two yards.

Dallas never ran the ball again.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Tony Romo hands off to DeMarco Murray at Arrowhead Stadium

The Cowboys ran 19 plays following that last Murray rushing attempt, not counting kicks or punts, and didn't bother to run the ball despite the fact that Dallas never trailed by more than four points.

Perhaps most telling was that the Cowboys took the ball for their final meaningful possession at their own 20-yard line with 6:43 left in the game—they trailed by only four points.

Well, I trust that you know that drive ended up. Romo drove Dallas 45 yards, even surviving an Eric Berry interception called back due to his defensive holding.

Things bogged down at the 35-yard line and kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 53-yard field goal to narrow the score to 17-16 in favor of KC—but that was the ballgame.

We've seen this before, haven't we?

I'm talking about Romo passing the ball almost exclusively even though his team is within striking distance of either reducing or eliminating an opponent's slim lead.

Callahan was supposed to be the solution to this problem and perhaps he still will be. For now, the Dallas offense is a real head-scratcher.

But relax: Owner and general manager Jerry Jones doesn't sound the least bit concerned in telling the New School show on 105.3 The Fan (KRLD) that the running game will be fine.

Jon Machota of the Dallas Morning News captured the following this week:

When I look at everything, I see improvement in the future in our running game. The big thing, though, that I’d like to point out is Kansas City’s got a good defensive front. This [Dontari] Poe, we all got real familiar with him. He was the talk of the combine two years ago. He’s a handful. And he did give us fits inside. Hopefully, there won’t be many Poe’s around the corner.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Jerry Jones at Arrowhead Stadium

Yes, Poe was the talk of the combine two years ago but somebody apparently wasn't listening.

Anyway, Jones went on to offer the use of tight ends and play-action passes as further reasoning that the running game will improve.

Right.

Tight ends that can't block and more passes have little to do with running the ball, period.

A further indication that there may not be a dominant running game in the future is an interesting quote from former Tamp Bay Buccaneers head coach Jon Gruden.

Callahan and Gruden obviously have some history together having worked together in Oakland from 1998-2001.

Now the color analyst on ESPN's Monday Night Football, Gruden offered these thoughts during this week's game between the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers.

Machota once again offers the following from SportsDayDFW.com:

When I left the Oakland Raiders, I watched Bill Callahan take over for me. I don’t think he ran the ball one time. He says, ‘Gruden, why do you want me to run it?’ He says, ‘Everything is a two or one yard gain. Let’s throw it every snap.

Now, there is some exaggeration there. Still, it doesn't paint a very pretty picture of Callahan, even if we have only seen two games with him calling the plays in Dallas.

I speculated earlier this year that despite Jones' declaration that Garrett would become the same ''walk-around'' head coach he has actually fired before, the embattled ''prodigy'' might still be calling plays this season.

I know how egos and cronyism work together sometimes and it's not at all uncommon to simply tell people what they want to hear, such as a new play-caller is on the way, while simply continuing to deliver that which isn't working.

If I was more of a conspiracy theorist I might drag this out a lot more.

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The truth is that during the final period in last Sunday's air-it-out loss in KC, I said out loud, “run the ball, Jason'', feeling like a parent who's trying to teach their child to pick up a random mess.

The fourth quarter looked the same, felt the same and even smelled the same as Garrett's distinct brand of one-dimensional football.

Interesting is that Fox's Terry Bradshaw seemed to echo Gruden's assessment of Callahan's play calling following Dallas' first loss of the season.

Barry Horn of the Dallas Morning News offers these comments made on national television in the Fox studio:

I’m extremely disappointed in what I saw in Dallas. I have a feeling we are going to see the up and down of the Cowboys. That’s just the way it’s going to be. Same old weak junk we saw in Oakland. It drives me up a wall, five-yard out routes, five-yard drag routes. You have to take chances. You can’t keep running this short dinky offense.

Yes, Bradshaw threw a few deep balls during his days in the NFL. It's not like he's some blow-hard TV personality who doesn't know much about the game.

Concerning the headline above, the answer is clearly no.

Callahan has changed absolutely nothing about the Dallas offense, at least not to this point.

Perhaps this will change over the course of the season, but it sure doesn't seem like the combination of Garrett and Callahan are going to be bringing any balance to the Cowboys attack moving forward.

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