The 3 Problems That Cripple This Team
I don't have a lot of time as I'm at work, but I've been wanting to write this for a while. It may be somewhat rough or appear to be missing some necessary data or a helpful example, and for that I apologize. I would like to see this as an ongoing discussion, however, and I would be happy to add to my original post later or provide elaboration if needed.
The problems I have seen with this team that continue to plague it this year, in my opinion, can be grouped into 3 areas, and no, a lack of talent isn't one of them. Sure, we still need some better players, but in my opinion that's not a good enough excuse. Championships have been won with less. The difference is what you DO with what you have, and despite some shortcomings, the Cowboys, I believe, have enough to get it done. But they don't. Why? Because they fail at the following:
At this point I have no idea if this is a player issue, coaching issue, culture issue, or what, but this has been an ongoing problem for several years. And it's not just manifested in penalties, althought penalties are a big part of the problem. Every week, and I mean EVERY WEEK, someone on the team either commits a back-breaking penalty, isn't concentrating on the job at hand, isn't thinking about protecting the ball, or can't seem to perform a routine task...and many times these lapses occur at the worst possible moment in the game.
Do you know what Belichick does when Ridley fumbles the ball in a game? He's out. Belichick benched him last year during the AFC Championship and the SB. To me, that is the the way to get a player's attention. Do we see that in Dallas? I realize that benching Bryant for a rookie may not have the desired effect on the field in terms of performance...then again, who knows...but in my opinion, it has to be done. Same for offensive linemen. Same for cornerbacks. At this point, some of these players are costing the team games, so what does it matter if they don't play? Either they lose because a player makes an idiotic mistake, or they lose because the backup isn't as talented. What difference does it make? I'll tell you. You're sending the message that undisciplined play will no longer be tolerated. They will pay for it in the short term, but it will pay dividens in the long run, and frankly, I am so sick of seeing a game lost because one of our players decided to commit an unnecessary holding penalty that gives the other team a fresh set of downs and ultimately the opportunity to score the winning points.
This has been discussed before by the organization...that no one's job is safe, but that was obviously just paying lip service to the idea of accountability. In my opinion, they're not taking this issue seriously...not yet anyway, and to be honest, I don't see anything changing in this regard in the immediate future. Players will continue to make stupid, costly, untimely, game losing mistakes. It's happened in the past, and it continues to this day.
This is the hot topic as of now, but as we ALL are beginning to realize, it's been an issue for quite some time. I'm not usually one for making blanket statements on this forum or posting an opinion that appears absolute, but as of last night, I really think that either Garrett has to make some serious changes to the way he runs the offense, or he has to fully relinquish the OC duties to someone else. To me, it's that simple.
I know...we all know...that the team is having trouble running the ball. We know the offensive line isn't where they, or we, wanted it to be, but come on...that doesn't mean that this team can't score points. Mr. Garrett, YOU FIND A WAY. What he's doing isn't working. I know he wants to stretch the field and run the offense he wants to run, but you can't do that if the offensive line can't pass protect. I've read that the WR routes are full of multiple options, yet Dez doesn't appear to be able to work them effectively. Has anyone seen anything different, scheme wise, in the last several weeks? I haven't. Garrett appears to be trying to run the same offensive scheme week after week with the same difficiencies week after week. Hello? To quote Lombardi, what the hell is going on out there??
Romo asks Garrett to switch it up, to run a faster pace offense because he believes that the team responds better when they play from behind, so why not try to simulate those conditions when they aren't behind? Sounds reasonable to me. Try something different. And what do you know...they go no huddle against the Falcons and score like it's nobody's business. As I mentioned in another thread, this, to me, is a BIG red flag, that Romo might have a better understanding of how to run the offense than Garrett. I'm sure that statement will not sit well with the Garrett admirers, but the evidence speaks for itself. Personally, and I now fully believe this, if Romo were running this offense, this team would not be sitting at 3-5.
Run the hurry up. Give Dez the ball early on short passes, slants, screens, passes where he doesn't have to make adjustments mid route. Can't run the ball. Fine. Get Jones and Murray, when he comes back, the ball on screens out in space. Let Romo rollout more. The guy is deadly when he's out of the pocket. Run out of the spread, not from a damned jumbo formation that NEVER works. Get that going to setup the play action. There is SO MUCH that can be done differently that might actually work if given the chance. But so far, Garrett has yet to do anything significantly different.
3. Situational Football
I've seen this one discussed a few times, but not much. To me it is crystal clear that no one in the organization values situational football. I don't even think they know what it is because they certainly don't show any understanding of it. Time is running out, and Romo completes a pass to setup a game tying or winning score, and no one runs to the line of scrimmage with any urgency whatsoever. Third down and long, and the other team needs a big play to convert and keep the drive alive. All our defense has to do is not give up anything long. So what do they do? Holding, 10 yards, automatic first down. Followed shortly thereafter by a loss. And these aren't just isolated examples. They seem to happen every damned game. It's like no one comprehends the situation the team is facing in close games, what is most important, what they absolutely cannot do. And no one is thinking ahead. What do we do if this doesn't work? What do we do if it does? That's almost as bad! It worked, first down! Uh...now what??
In today's NFL, most games you'll find come down to a couple of decisions made during the game during certain situations or circumstances. The situation you don't think will happen usually does happen, and the teams and coaches that prepare for these situations are going to come out on top more often than the teams and coaches that don't, and from what I've seen in the past couple of years, it's pretty clear to me that the Cowboys are one of the teams that either don't prepare or do little serious preparation for game situations that are stressful and test their mental and physical toughness because all to often the Cowboys fail those tests.
In my opinion, situational football is so important these days that seasons are won and lost because of a team's preparedness for them. We hear it all the time. If the Cowboys had just been more urgent....if they had just called that timeout sooner....if player X had just run out of bounds....we would have won. But they lost multiple games this year directly as a result of poor situational football. Same for last year. Yet nothing changes.
Bilechick is a master at situational football. Is it really any wonder that the Patriots are contenders every year as a result? The players on that team always know what's going on on the field, where they are, what's the situation and what to do in every situation. This team, not so much.