Monday, December 20, 2010

Morning After: Cowboys 33, Washington 30 Part 1

The Cowboys won a game that I felt was a "must win" for the Jason Garrett regime on Sunday. And yet, it felt a tad a bit disappointing.

Perhaps, it had more to do with the manner in which things went south again in the late stages of the game. After a 27-7 lead had completely disappeared, they required some pretty significant stops late to retain their dignity on a game that they simply could not afford to lose.

The Redskins are an amazing mess. But, for much of the 2nd half, they, with a back-up QB who had been left for dead, pushed the Cowboys to the limit. To suggest the Cowboys were close to a shocking 7th home loss would be an understatement.

But, they won again. For the 4th time in 6 games under Jason Garrett, the Cowboys closed the deal on victory, and remain impressive in their overall battle and competitiveness.

I want to be careful when I write daily here for the DMN to not give you the impression that all is lost for the Cowboys franchise with what I feel is a number of issues for this team. It is true that I believe they need to upgrade at a number of spots on this team in the off-season, but it is also true that this team - even with a number of flaws - can make a case that it could easily be 6-0 since the coaching change.

And that is why you cannot get too carried away in either direction. I believe both statements are mostly true: This team isn't that far away from being good and this team has many flaws that need to be addressed.

On Sunday, we saw those flaws again; The defense allowed 30 points for the 7th time in 9 games. They now draw within 9 points of being the most scored upon defense in the 51-year history of the franchise. Let that soak in for a moment.

The defense continues to look more impressive in the 1st half than in the 2nd half of games this season. And also continues to have this very unwanted ability to make any QB who comes to Arlington look like a combination of Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas.

Did you know that the Cowboys have already conceded 31 TD passes against this season? The composite passer numbers against the Cowboys this season are so utterly shocking that you have to rub your eyes to believe it:

31 TDs; 17 INTs; 66.7% Completions; 3806 yards; 97.5 Passer Rating.

5 times this season in 14 games the Cowboys have allowed the opponents to have a passer rating over 100. 11 times this season the Cowboys have allowed the opponents to have a passer rating over 85. (The NFL Average passer rating is 84.5). The only 3 times the Cowboys kept the opposing QBs under the league average were 3 road games: At Wash, At Hou, and At Indy.

So, to break it down to these 8 home games in Arlington, the Cowboys allow an opponent passer rating of 104.7 and a TD/INT ratio of an insane 22/9. In fact, look at this shocking statistic:

TeamTD Passes Allowed in Home Games
32. Dallas22
31. Houston17
30. New England14

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Why are the Cowboys so bad defensively? And why are they even more awful defensively in Arlington? I wish I had a great theory for you, but I really just don't have a good idea.

Jay Cutler, Vince Young, Eli Manning, David Garrard, Shaun Hill, Drew Brees, Michael Vick, and Rex Grossman have been the 8 QBs who have rolled in here, and the Cowboys have barely made any of them sweat.

Back to the main topic then. If this 4-2 record under Jason Garrett gets to 5-3 by the end of the year, I think most of us admit that will likely be what he needs to get this job on a permanent basis. He will have done everything in his power to produce quick results and a fighting spirit in a team that had no results and no spirit when he took over.

Heck, to make it more amazing, the offensive mind has taken his offense from 20.1 ppg in the 1st half of the year to 32.2 since he has been made head coach. All of that with a backup QB and a group of skill position guys who is diminishing in depth and talent every single week. To put up 33 points against the Redskins took some awfully fortunate circumstances (field position, turnovers) but given that he had almost no Wide Receivers active besides Miles Austin that had done anything all year, I think we should be pretty impressed with 32.2 ppg and 33 yesterday.

So, some good things and some bad things to sort through for Jerry Jones.

And he is the wild card, isn't he? Is he satisfied that he has seen what he needed to see or is he shopping even as we speak? I seem to remember that Dec 21, 2002 was the date that Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells met on a tarmac in New Jersey to discuss taking over for Dave Campo. Today is Dec 20, so we do have precedent that Jerry does sometimes Christmas shop for his franchise this time of year. And then, yesterday, Bill Cowher's name pops up as rumors are starting to churn. The Cowboys are not on his rumored "wish list" and I know he would recoil at Jerry's personnel hobby, but everyone has a price, right?

I think Jason Garrett would be a fine head coach. I think I have seen everything I have to see to know he is capable and if there is not a smarter option out there, I am comfortable with him being hired.

But, I also still have this strong feeling that my Head Coach must help add personnel this offseason and that the most important hire this year would be a General Manager who is very skilled. But, I know Jerry is NOT shopping for a new GM. That is why I am still awfully intrigued at the idea of a Coach who would only come if he has final say in personnel matters.

Garrett will not be allowed to "buy his own groceries". Early indications are already somewhat disturbing that he has not made any drastic playing time decisions to guys who are likely out the door (Barber, Brooking) unless injury makes it for him. If Garrett had changed a few things as it pertains to playing time - maybe getting Sean Lee a start or deactivating a healthy Barber - I might believe things are going to operate differently. But, in that all-important department, I can not point to one solitary decision that has Garrett's fingerprints on it in now in 6 weeks.

So is he a fine coach? Yes. But, is he the guy who would get Jerry to stand down at decision time in the war room? Doubtful.

That is why I still am interested in a December meeting on a tarmac.

That may be largely impossible, but we can all have our Christmas wishes, right?

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