Don't Get Your Hopes Up: Jason Garrett Will Never Learn to Run Consistently

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Don't Get Your Hopes Up: Jason Garrett Will Never Learn to Run Consistently
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

The breaking point might be 26.5. Since 2007, when Jason Garrett starting running the Dallas Cowboys offense, nine NFL teams have run the ball fewer than 26.5 times per game. 

Dallas is, predictably, one of those nine teams. Excluding the Cowboys, the only three teams that have winning records during that span and are part of that group are the Saints, Colts and Packers, who for the majority of that stretch have been quarterbacked by three of the top five pivots in the game, future Hall of Famers Drew Brees, Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers.

New Orleans, Indy and Green Bay have also been to Super Bowls during that time, with two championships to show for it. They don't typically have to explain themselves. 

The other five teams that have run the ball fewer than 26.5 times per game since '07 have all done so because they've been playing catchup. Cleveland, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, Detroit and Arizona are a combined 201-349 during that stretch, and the Browns, Rams and Lions have been the league's three worst teams, record-wise. 

Dallas is the team that truly doesn't belong—the only team with a winning record that hasn't been dominant nor terrible but still has refused to run the ball.

The 'Boys are also the only team on that list that ranks in the top 12 in the NFL in yards per carry during that time period. They've averaged a very respectable 4.3 yards per rush, but they've ditched the run more than almost everyone else in football.

Teams that have run fewer than 26.5X per game since '07
Yards/attempt NFL YPA rank
1. Dallas Cowboys 4.3 11th
2. Tampa Bay Bucs 4.2 17th
3. New Orleans Saints 4.2 18th
4. Green Bay Packers 4.1 21st
5. St. Louis Rams 4.1 23rd
6. Detroit Lions 4.0 24th
7. Cleveland Browns 4.0 27th
8. Indianapolis Colts 3.8 30th
9. Arizona Cardinals 3.8 32nd

Pro Football Reference

Overall since 2007, only the Lions and Cardinals have run it less than the Cowboys. Since 2010, when Garrett took over as head coach, only Arizona has run it less. 

In Dallas' defense, it is one of 11 teams under the 26.5-rush mark since 2010, but the 'Boys are one of only three teams on that list averaging more than 4.15 yards per attempt. 

And then there's the 2013 season.

You'd think Garrett would have learned his lesson. Hell, it looked like he had when he turned the play-calling duties over to Bill Callahan—an offensive line coach—in the offseason. But Garrett is still accountable for the process and should be held responsible for a shameful lack of balance. 

This season, only the 4-10 Falcons have run it less than Dallas, yet the Cowboys rank sixth in the NFL with 4.6 yards per carry. In fact, among backs with at least 100 carries, Dallas running back DeMarco Murray leads the NFL with 5.5 yards per rush. 

Dallas has thrown the ball on 64.9 percent of its offensive snaps this season, something only it, Cleveland and Atlanta are guilty of. The NFL median in that area is 59 percent. 

Sure, there's a chance the team's per-rush average would drop slightly if it ran more frequently, but can anyone make a semi-reasonable argument that doing so wouldn't pay off? During the Garrett era, not one NFL team has been more adversely affected by its own play-calling than the Dallas Cowboys.  

Of course, this all came to a head Sunday as the Cowboys blew a 23-point second-half lead against the Green Bay Packers.

DeMarco Murray: Quarter by quarter vs. Packers
Carries Yards YPA
1st quarter 7 77 11.0
2nd quarter 4 16 4.0
3rd quarter 4 17 4.3
4th quarter 3 24 8.0

Pro Football Reference

As you can see, with Dallas trying to protect its lead in the second half, the 'Boys totally forgot about Murray. He was still running well, averaging 8.0 yards per carry on only three fourth-quarter attempts. In one of the biggest second-half collapses in NFL history, an amazing 13 of their final 14 plays from scrimmage were passes.

If you're Garrett and Callahan, that's a fireable offense.

"The offensive line and myself would definitely have liked the opportunity to close out the game for us," Murray said this week, per The Dallas Morning News. "I think that’s kind of what you want to do. As an offensive line and the way we’ve been running, we feel like we can close the game out."

He's probably used to it by now, and he probably knows he and everyone else asking for answers will get nothing more than lip service from Garrett. After all...

Jason Garrett on a local Dallas-area radio station this week, via ESPN.com:

"We were running it effectively. It does chew up some more clock. It wasn’t like we weren’t able to run it and, boy, the only way we could move this football is to throw it. I felt like we had good balance in the first half, made a lot of plays in the passing game, but DeMarco was running the ball well. I think in hindsight you look back on it and say we should have run the ball more, and tried to maintain our balance."

Jason Garrett in his post-game press conference after Murray received just four carries against Minnesota on Nov. 23, 2013, via ESPN.com:

"You'd certainly like to have more balance than that, obviously. We'll keep striving for that. We did run the ball a little bit fairly well early on. DeMarco looked like he was going to have a good day, but as it wore on there were some minus runs that happened that got us behind the sticks a little bit. Hard for us to get into a rhythm." 

Jason Garrett in his Monday press conference a day after Murray ran just 12 times in a one-point loss to the Chiefs on Sept. 15, 2013, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

"We have to run the ball more than 16 times in the game, and we have to be able to run it throughout the game. We just simply have to do a better job of that. We didn’t run the ball very well. Sixteen carries for 37 yards for just over 2 yards an attempt is not good enough."

Jason Garrett at his introductory press conference as head coach in November, 2010, via The Dallas Morning News:

"We haven’t run it consistently well enough, so we need to get back to doing that. We need to run the ball better and we need to defend the run better. We need to be more balanced on the offensive side of the ball and we need to do the things that contribute to winning. We turn the ball over too much and we haven’t been physical enough in the running game to control the game enough. We need to continue to make that an emphasis, and hopefully it will show up on Sunday."

How many times are we going to let the guy cry wolf? Garrett either can't change or doesn't want to change, and as a result, this offense won't truly be successful until Jerry Jones makes a much bigger change by hiring a new head coach and offensive coordinator. 

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