News  

 

Dallas owner Jones must give Garrett room to lead turnaround

  • By Pat Kirwan NFL.com
More Columns >

The Cowboys are the only team to fire their coach this season and wound up with an immediate result after the move, a road win over the Giants.

Wade Phillips was the fall guy for a team that just didn't play up to expectations, the talent on the roster or with the sense of urgency every team has to have if they want to win.

As interim coach Jason Garrett said after the game, "The players understood the quick transition required to turn this around."

Owner Jerry Jones said he was hopeful the team could look to Garrett in the future, but for now, it was good for the fans to see a change. It's easy to say firing Phillips was just what the doctor ordered. Let's take a look at this game vs. the rest to see where things were different.

How Cowboys fared in some key categories
Season to date
Category
Vs. the Giants
16
Average points scored on road
33
9.6
Penalties per game
5
9
Offensive mistakes per game
6
3
Number of big plays (20-plus yards) per game
9
35 percent
Percentage of first-down runs
55 percent
3.86
Yards per first-down run
4.22
19 percent
Percentage of drives ending in TD
30 percent
10 percent
Percentage of drives ending in field goal
17 percent
37 percent
Percentage of drives ending in a punt
30 percent
19 percent
Percentage of drive ending in a turnover
8 percent
27-yard line
Average starting point for offense
35-yard line
2
Sacks given up per game
1
33-yard line
Average starting point for defense
26-yard line
7
Yards to go on third-down defense
8.8
30
Yards per offensive drive
35

What makes the study interesting is the game was on the road against the top team in the NFC that had already beaten the Cowboys in Week 7. Maybe the most impressive issue the Cowboys addressed was their production on first down. On 20 first down calls, Dallas gained 208 yards on 11 runs and nine passes.

The improvement went beyond that, however. Jon Kitna played with emotion and it appeared contagious. He seemed to inspire receiver Dez Bryant and running back Felix Jones, among others.

Call it a sense of urgency, a risk of losing your job, professional pride, a wakeup call or anything you want, but the Cowboys played better and the numbers indicate just where the team improved. Don't forget, they did it against an offense and defense ranked among the top five in each category. In one week, Dallas reduced penalties, mistakes, created better field position, extended drives and scored twice as many points as they usually do on the road.

The Cowboys looked like they concentrated, did the little things and refused to shoot themselves in the foot. The credit for the turnaround needs to go to Garrett more than anyone else. Jones has to keep a low profile and let Garrett stand in front of this team and convince the players he's the boss.

Go watch the game again and realize the team called 23 run plays and 27 pass plays, which is much more balanced than in previous games. The offensive line did a much better job, giving up just one sack against one of the best pass-rushing units in the NFL.

Cowboys show what's been missing
The Cowboys looked dreadful en route to a 1-7 start that led to Wade Phillips being fired, but that all changed in a victory over the rival Giants, says Bucky Brooks. More ...

While the defense held the Giants to 20 points, it still needs to get a better pass rush among other things. The defense did a nice job of not letting 10-plus play drives end in touchdowns. The Giants had three such drives, two ended in interceptions and one in a field goal. That is a bend-but-don't-break philosophy that can be the foundation of the future for new defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni.

The Cowboys didn't wait for the Giants to lose the game. Instead, they went out and took the win. To revert back to bad habits is not an option, and if the film review indicates there are still guys not playing up to Garrett's standards, I trust he will show them the bench.

If Garrett can keep the Cowboys running the ball, minimizing mistakes, playing better pass defense and make sure they practice in pads for the rest of the season, they will succeed.

Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson kept the pressure on the Cowboys players and never let up. Garrett knows how to do it if left alone. Dallas has a chance at respectability and, more importantly, stability. This was just one game and no reasonable football person will convince themselves all is well. But going forward, nothing less than the Week 10 performance is acceptable.

Headlines

The previous element was an advertisement.

NFL Shop

NFL News
CONTENT
15