When Jason Garrett first took over as interim head coach, we caught a glimpse of his plans for this Cowboys team. He brought an aura of strong leadership, instilled a higher level of accountability and toughness to a team that yearned for it.
Now, with a new defensive coordinator and rookie class in tow, it's easy to deduce his short-term formula for bringing this team its sixth Lombardi Trophy: turn today's Dallas Cowboys into yesterday's New Orleans Saints.
It's been said so many times that people take the phrase for granted, but the NFL is a “copy cat league.” Take the best of another team's success and use it to your own advantage. The Cowboys have the personnel and coaches to do precisely that.
In the few years before the Saints won the super bowl, they were known for having a great offense, but no defense. Before the 2009 season, Sean Payton hired Gregg Williams as defensive coordinator (read what Payton said about the hire here). The intent was to bring in someone who could turn around the Saints' defense through aggressive pressure packages and turnovers.
Jason Garrett has had one of the league's better offenses since he was hired in 2007. But with the exception of the 2009 season, the Cowboys defense has been lacking in consistency and turnover production. So what does JG do? He hires Rob Ryan, a defensive coordinator known for creating pressure through complex schemes that can result in numerous turnovers. You can see what JG thinks about Rob Ryan here.
Notice any similarities? If you click on the link for each coordinator, you'll see that they share a word-for-word commonality: “aggressive” and “fundamentally sound.” If you dig a little deeper, you'll find that Gregg Williams worked with Buddy Ryan, Rob Ryan's father, as a member of the Houston Oilers staff.
Now let's look on the other side of the ball. Can you name one of the hallmarks of the Saints offense?
If you said the screen pass, then we're on the same page. In addition to their vertical passing game, New Orleans used the screen pass with great effectiveness in 2009. They had versatile and explosive RB's that could catch the ball out of the backfield. It continues to be a staple of their offensive attack.
And what about Dallas? With Felix Jones and the newly acquired DeMarco Murray, they also have versatile and explosive RB's who can catch the ball out of the backfield. In fact, the Cowboys showed a growing proficiency with the screen pass during the second half of 2010. See video examples of that here.
When you compare today's Cowboys and the 2009 Saints, the similarities are too profound to ignore. Jason Garrett is an offensive minded coach like Sean Payton. Rob Ryan runs a pressure defense like Gregg Williams (although one runs a 3-4 and the other a 4-3), who also has a link to Buddy Ryan. Both teams have a talented, vertical passing attack and like to get the ball to their RB's in space.
Jason Garrett is sure to have a long-term plan for success, but his short-term formula is clear. You take an explosive offense and supplement it with an opportunistic defense, one that takes risks and lives off turnovers and big plays. The result, hoped for by JG and fans alike, is a super bowl run.
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