Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Decoding Garrett - Week 15 - Data - Philadelphia

When a team decides to throw its game-plan in a trash can and allow its 3rd string QB and 5th string RB to play the rest of the game against a divisional opponent that appears to be playing hard, well, there is just very little we can draw from it in terms of learning about the Dallas Cowboys offense.

Instead, it allows us once again to reflect on the importance of the Quarterback position in the National Football League. We all know how important it is to have one of the good QBs in the league, but perhaps we again saw it come into focus on Saturday. One twist stunt blitz from the Eagles defense and Tony Romo was knocked out of the game by Jason Babin.

That speaks about 2 things: 1) that teams are attacking the interior of the Cowboys offensive line and we should expect more and more of that until Phil Costa and whoever is playing guard next to him demonstrate an ability to sort through the confusion quick enough to pick up the right guy (and at the very least don't let one of the best pass rushers in the sport hit your QB untouched). And 2) how fragile this whole house of cards is for every team in the league. You might be rolling along nicely in your season and one snap later it is laying in a pile on the turf and your year is in the trash bin.

A team must find a QB it can get production from and then use all of its resources to keep it upright. And the Cowboys flirted with disaster in a giant way against the Eagles and it looks like they may have lived to talk about it. We shall see if Romo can be effective on Sunday night at Met Life Stadium in New York.

Meanwhile, let us reflect for just a moment on what we were forced to breakdown from Saturday. Here is a list of games in the "Romo Era" (2006 to present) where the Cowboys had fewer than 240 total yards in a game and the results. Please pay special attention to the QB who was on the job in each situation:

DateOpponentTotal YardsQB
12/24/11L Phil238McGee
11/07/10L GB205Kitna
11/02/08L NY183Johnson
10/26/08W TB172Johnson
12/30/07L Wash147Johnson
12/25/06L Phil201Romo

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As a point of comparison, there were 20 such games between December, 2000 and 2006 (or between Aikman's last game and Romo's first). So, the fact that there have only been 6 games in the last 6 seasons and 5 of them was when Romo was hurt does again speak volumes about the importance of having a QB and then having an offensive line that allows him to do what he does.

I have always had optimism about Stephen McGee as a prospect for the squad. Part of it is founded in being amazed at his toughness and magnetism as a QB in the college ranks and part of it is hoping the Cowboys did not waste another premium draft pick when they took him as the top pick of the 4th Round in the 2009 draft.

But, aside from demonstrating arm strength for the NFL level, it has been hard to see reasons why the Cowboys should stop shopping for an understudy and potential successor to Romo in Dallas. McGee plays a very conservative style of QB with constant check downs and allows the defense to creep closer and closer to the line of scrimmage which makes his check downs even less productive. A theory would be that he has been coached to not show aggression when he is called into a game but rather drive the bus carefully between the curbs and just don't throw interceptions. If that is how he is being coached, then he is doing that well, but that is not helping his stock around the league as a QB prospect of note.

I assume the Cowboys know what they have there, and either they will make him a clear #2 in 2012 or they will cut him loose and begin the process again. Because McGee's contract will come due soon and at that point you will have to have a clear feeling on what you have this many years into his career. It did speak volumes that the Cowboys left camp feeling they still needed Jon Kitna in 2011, despite Kitna having lost his ability to throw the ball down the field and to the sidelines years ago.

Anyway, 238 yards will seldom win anything in the NFL and the Cowboys can thank the injury gods for having mercy on Romo's hand.

Here is the data from Week 15:

First, the Quarterback throw chart. Blue shows completions, red are incompletions, and yellow touchdowns. This week's chart is a bit different, because we have a few Romo throws (black) and everything else will be Stephen McGee throws. Also, I left last week's chart below for anyone that has a hard time appreciating the starting QB around here, they can compare back and forth.

QB vs Philadelphia

QB at Tampa Bay

As you can see, the depth of the throws may not be as different as you might think. It is the accuracy and the quick decision making. McGee still really struggles to pull the trigger when he is in the middle of the play, whereas a veteran QB knows what he wants to do as he is dropping back. Way too many red throws that close the line of scrimmage for McGee against the Eagles.

Data from Week 15 vs Philadelphia

1st Down Run-Pass12-14
2nd Down Avg Distance to Go8.95
2nd Down Run-Pass9-12
3rd Down Avg Distance to Go8.82
3rd Down Run-Pass2-15
3rd Down Conversions6-17, 35%

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This shows you how bad the Cowboys offense can do when it gets behind schedule. Not since Week 7 at Philadelphia have the Cowboys done such a poor job on 1st Down where they faced 8.95 yards to go on their 21 2nd down situations. Then, they barely improved their spot by 3rd Down where they had to deal with 8.82 in 17 3rd Down situations. This makes you 1-dimensional, predictable, and highly susceptible to blitz situations. A very poor combination.

Drive Starters - 1st play of each drive can often reveal the intent of a coach to establish his game plan.

Not much can be learned from Saturday's data here, either. The Cowboys started their 1st 2 drives with runs to Felix Jones, but after that, there is no discernible pattern about their intentions.

Wk 1-At New York Jets: 13 Drives - 5 Run/8 Pass
Wk 2-At San Francisco: 10 Drives - 4 Run/6 Pass
Wk 3-Washington: 11 Drives - 5 Run/6 Pass
Wk 4-Detroit: 14 Drives - 7 Run/7 Pass
Wk 5-At New England: 11 Drives - 4 Run/7 Pass
Wk 6-St Louis: 11 Drives - 8 Run/3 Pass
Wk 7-At Philadelphia - 9 Drives - 2 Run/7 Pass
Wk 8-Seattle - 11 Drives - 4 Run/7 Pass
Wk 9-Buffalo - 10 Drives - 7 Run/3 Pass
Wk 10-At Washington - 14 Drives - 4 Run/10 Pass
Wk 11-Miami - 11 Drives - 5 Run/6 Pass
Wk 12-At Arizona - 11 Drives - 3 Run/8 Pass
Wk 13-New York - 12 Drives - 7 Run/5 Pass
Wk 14-At Tampa - 10 Drives - 5 Run/5 Pass
Wk 15-Philadelphia - 11 Drives - 5 Run/6 Pass
Total: 169 Drives - 75 Run/94 Pass 44% Run

Here is the breakdown by groupings:

Before you study the data below, I would recommend that if the numbers for the groupings are unfamiliar, that you spend some time reading a more expanded definition of the Personnel Groupings here.

Totals by Personnel Groups:
PackagePlays RunYardsRunPass

Table Tutorial

Some amazingly unproductive results from the "under center" offense in this game. I have to believe the Giants will not even look at this film as the Cowboys had all of the conviction that they would in a game in mid-August.

Totals by Personnel Groups on 3rd/4th Down:

Table Tutorial


Shotgun snaps are fine on 3rd Down and in the 2 minute drill. But, we track this stat from week to week to make sure the Cowboys aren't getting too lazy in using it. They are not efficient enough to run it as their base, and with a 15%/85% run/pass split across the league, there is no way the defense respects your running game.

Wk 1 - NYJ: 24/66
Wk 2 - SF: 32/66
Wk 3 - Wash: 27/62
Wk 4 - Det: 29/75
Wk 5 - NE 31/67
Wk 6 - StL 10/60
Wk 7 - Phi 39/49
Wk 8 - Sea 19/59
Wk 9 - Buf 15/61
Wk 10-Was 24/73
Wk 11-Mia 25/58
Wk 12-Arz 29/67
Wk 13-NYG 28/58
Wk 14-TB 26/67
Wk 15-Phi 39/66

Total - 397/953 41.6%

Overall a very difficult game to look at, but the Cowboys clearly did not have any regard for the game, so we shouldn't either. It is all or nothing in Game #16.

And please email me at if you have questions that I may clarify in an upcoming email blog.

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