Monday, July 29, 2013

Cowboy 2012 - The Offense That Needed To Change

I was asked by one of you to review the final results of Decoding Garrett 2012.  For those new to this space, you may be interested in knowing that since 2008, we have catalogued each offensive snap of the Cowboys from a standpoint of personnel group and then what type of play it was (run or pass).  This helps us track the progress of the offense in greater detail than your average analysis piece, but more importantly, it helps us compare apples to apples when looking at how the team is doing offensively.

Given that play calling has been delegated to Bill Callahan in 2013, we do have the opportunity to re-name this study, but I do think since Garrett is still the mastermind behind the offense and the man sitting at the head of the table when game plans are designed, we likely will keep it just the same.

For those who are new, the reason we look at the offense from a personnel grouping point of view, is that it replicates the actual discussions that the coaches actually have - rather than this fantasy football viewpoint that many fans obsess over this time of year.  If you play fantasy football, that is all fine - millions do, but it has very little use from a "real football" standpoint.

Teams do not care about personal statistics and they understand how a player drawing coverage is just as valuable to the big picture as his teammate who is making all of the catches as a direct beneficiary of the player who is drawing the coverage.  Dez Bryant, in other words, can really help the team with a 2-catch performance, but his fantasy owners will be angry.  Here, in this space, we don't care at all about fantasy football implications.  There are plenty of places on the internet for you to get that information and analysis.

Here, we are attempting to see what the real performances mean, what Jason Witten's coverage means to Bryant, what play-action passing does to the safeties, and what a real running game could do to the linebackers in helping free up the shallow routes.  

It also keeps us from getting caught up in the raw numbers of statistics and how misleading the Cowboys yardage totals were in 2012 and how meaningless they truly were in terms of the win-loss totals.

Garrett cannot believe that his offense was one of the more productive offenses in the NFL.  There is simply no way he believes that. 
Incidentally, the 376 points they scored in 2012 ranks them 10th in the NFC out of 16 teams.  That is 1 point better than the Bears, 4 points better than the Lions.  And exceedingly more productive than the Panthers, Rams, Eagles, or Cardinals.  So there is that. 
They were 6th in the entire NFL in yardage, but I think most of us watched enough Cowboys football this year to see that much of that came during abnormally long stretches of "garbage time" football that the Cowboys offered in a number of home blowout losses.

Regardless of the results of 2012 and the reasons the Cowboys compiled impressive and hollow production numbers, the point is that they did move the ball with the effectiveness of a playoff team, and yet missed the playoffs.  Most times and in most places, it then is time to blame the defense.  Not here.  We remained steadfast in the idea that the Cowboys offense - with very acceptable levels of health all season - was as frustrating and ineffective as it has been under Garrett.

They had garbage time yards and that was pretty much the sum total of the year.  More from what we wrote in February:

 overall, with roughly 3 games where you say the offense did what it needed to do (at NY, at Balt, and Pittsburgh) and 13 other games where the offense needed to show more than what it did to get good grades, I have very little use for hearing where it ranked in yards and points.  Granted, in some of those 13, the Cowboys showed great grit and determination, but nobody would confuse will with a fantastic offensive performance.  And least they shouldn't.  
This offense was almost completely spared of injuries (comparatively speaking) and yet did not live up to the resources invested in it by any stretch of the imagination.  Looking at boxscores and totaling numbers is fun, but meaningless if you are constantly falling behind and then facing prevents to catch up.  Those numbers don't matter at all. 
I appreciate the man defending his performance and thereby, his job security, but I found his optimistic appraisal of 2012 and the offense's performance to be misleading and I bet he would agree once he dug a little deeper - which I know he has in private.

Below are the final numbers from a standpoint of production per personnel grouping.  I assume everyone is up to speed on the definition of each of the groups, but if you are not, please click on this link and read up.

Granted, that is a lot of numbers.  And without explanation, it can certainly be confusing.  So, just direct your attention to "S11" which is their default setting for the 2-minute drill, 3rd Down offense, and of course, the "we are way behind and need to pass every down to have any chance" offense.  And, as you can see, that was nearly half of their snaps and over half of their production from last year.  

And that is very bad.

Now, let's look at the same chart from above, except below, we will show you the yards per play in each category to show the production levels for each situation.

PackagePlaysYardsRun - AvgPass - Avg
117235948 - 4.8524 - 5.25
1214376765 - 3.8678 - 6.62
132712519 - 4.428 - 5.13
2112182066 - 4.3355 - 9.71
227327258 - 2.8415 - 7.13
23355731 - 1.714 - 1.00
S01281590 - 0.0028 - 5.68
S10100 - 0.001 - 10.00
S11479314146 - 4.09433 - 6.82
S12422551 - -1.0041 - 6.24
Totals10295967335 - 3.75694 - 6.82

"Now this shows the performances with a bit better clarity. If you look at the running averages in the "21", "22", and "23" packages, where the Cowboys ran 155 runs for only 504 yards for only 3.25 yards per run, you now see why they don't have use for a fullback anymore. They were awful running with a fullback. Not saying it is all Lawrence Vickers fault, but rather that defenses would stack the line when Vickers was in the game and the Cowboys OL had no answer for the physical run defenses."

They also spent very little time in an "under center" offense, which then prevents from ever using play action passing or a balanced offense at all.

So, there is a review of the 2012 offense.  Don't be fooled by the rankings or the yardages or the fantasy football points.  This offense was very poor and needs to get better.

They know this and now look forward to their all new and hopefully improved look in 2013.


catch_22 said...

Wouldn't you want to look at 21, 22, 23 for sets with a fullback rather than 12, 22, 23?

Brian Siebel said...

Thanks, Bob. I believe I'm the person who asked you for this. It really helps understand what's been going on.

What I don't know is how to reach you with mailbag questions. Where can I find your email?

My email is Could you email me where I can send future questions?

Thank you,

Brian Siebel