On Thursday, we had a chance to visit with the Cowboys legendary tight end, Jason Witten. Witten does a weekly radio show with us (the Bob and Dan show) during the season, and he is more than willing to break down plays in a Xs and Os fashion from time to time, and I am more than willing to ask him to do it.
That works out great because he offers some incredible insight – check out this one from back in 2014 when he talked us through a cool scenario against the Saints in Week 4 – and on this occasion I wanted to take him back to the Wildcard win against the Detroit Lions.
That game featured the moment that seemed so out of character for Jason Garrett when they went for it on a critical 4th and 6 midway through the 4th quarter in a very critical moment. After the game, he made this now famous statement: “What kept going through my mind was if you get a chance to go play at the Masters, you don’t lay up. You go after it a little bit. (I have) a lot of confidence in the guys to execute it. They play football better than I swing a golf club.”
Here is the setup (taken from “the Morning After” column from the day after the big win):
For me, knowing what I know about Jason Garrett, the one that sticks with me is the 4th and 6 decision from the head coach. There is 6 minutes to go in the game and the Cowboys are down by just a field goal. They face a 4th and 6 from the Detroit 42 and still owned all of their timeouts. They also just witnessed a spot where Jim Caldwell, almost in the same spot on the field, decided to punt on a 4th and 1. All of Garrett’s tendencies from his 72 games as Cowboys coach said he was never going for it in that situation. Statistics show that there is no head coach in the sport who enjoys risks of this magnitude less than Garrett. He almost never decides to “go for it” in situations like this. Yet, he seemed to understand the rarity of the opportunity.
The Cowboys called a timeout and discussed their options and decided to push their chips in on one play. The Lions were in 2-deep, man under and the Cowboys had 3 receivers to the right (Williams wide, Beasley middle, and Witten in tight) and Dez Bryant on his own to the left. At the snap, Williams and Beasley both ran deeper routes, leaving Witten in a 1-on-1 coverage situation underneath with Lions’ veteran safety, James Ihedigbo. Witten, at the top of his stem faked the outside route with perfection and Ihedigbo bought it, leaving #9 and #82 with a throw and catch that looked easy as can be. The 21-yard gain saved the day for the Cowboys with the two veterans who are trying to grab this unpredicted opportunity at post-season glory with both hands.
Forgive me, but Jason Garrett has come a long way as head coach for him to believe in his guys in that situation, and then for them to deliver on that particular play was just perfect.
So that should likely offer you the proper set-up for this conversation from yesterday at training camp. From here, I would ask you simply click on the video below and enjoy his description of the moment as you watch the play that helped secure the Cowboys playoff win from last winter.
Hope you enjoyed that. I could listen to Witten break down plays like that all day long.