Over the years, I have detailed much of the predictability within Jason Garrett’s play-calling. Everyone here knows about the frequency of strong-side dives from “Double Tight Strong,” the lack of efficient play-action passes, the predictable second down play-calling, and so on. I often discuss how the goal of any offensive coordinator is to fool the defense and ultimately exploit a mismatch, and predictability can really kill one’s ability to do that.
One thing I do not discuss as often, however, is how predictability can be useful to an offense. When used properly, an offensive coordinator can take advantage of previous tendencies to garner big plays for his team. Well, I took a look at this idea in a recent article for Advanced NFL Stats. Head over there to take a gander, and feel free to comment there or here.
As it relates to Dallas, Garrett does not seem to take advantage of his tendencies. He has dialed up a deep pass on less than five percent of passes from “Double Tight Strong” over the past 39 games, and only eight (EIGHT!) play-action passes since the start of the 2009 season have come with 1-4 yards to go for a first down—a time when defenses are likely anticipating a run. Actually, more play-action passes (11) have come with 20-plus yards to go.
Garrett is surely leaving a lot of potential yards out there due to an inability to capitalize on specific scenarios which create favorable defensive expectations.
“Double Tight Strong” and other run-oriented formations are specifically good options from which to pass. A play-action look from the formation on 2nd-and-1, for example, forces the defense to line up with base or “heavier” personnel, perhaps call a play to stop the run, think the run is coming due to the play-action look, and then potentially get beat deep...except Garrett isn’t calling play-action passes from the formation.
The goal of NFL coaches is to maximize the chance of success for their team, and until Garrett abandons the concept that his players are so well-coached and talented that they can execute any play at any time, the Cowboys will continue to lose football games they should be winning.