Blog Entry

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:29 am
Edited on: October 18, 2011 10:28 am
Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat. (Getty Images)

Posted by Ryan Wilson

Jason Garrett, head coach, Dallas Cowboys. It says it right in the tag line: "Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and 'Wait, what did he just do?!'" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat." Usually, that's the result of something a player, a unit or even an assistant coach did (or didn't do) that cost a team a win. It reflects poorly on the head coach -- and might ultimately get him canned -- but only because the buck stops with him, not because he was the one actually doing the damage.

Garrett, who also serves as the Cowboys offensive coordinator, is the exception this week. He has the unenviable task of calling plays that maximize the team's chances of winning while also minimizing a game-changing Tony Romo interception.

It's a delicate balance. Romo tossed two pick-sixes against the Lions in Week 4, and after taking bye week to regroup, Romo came out and threw another interception in his first series against the Patriots Sunday.

So it's certainly reasonable to think that Garrett's fourth-quarter play-calling was affected by the possibility that Romo might start firing passes at the other team. With Dallas leading 16-13 late in the fourth quarter, that meant running the ball on three straight downs, punting to the Patriots, and hoping for the best. And hope is pretty much all you have when Tom Brady's on the field preparing to mount a late-game comeback.

Predictably, the Cowboys lost. Upside: it wasn't because of a Romo errant pass.

Immediately after the game, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones questioned the "run, run, run, punt" strategy.

“When you get in a situation like that, you’ve got to go for the kill,” Jones said. “I felt like we could’ve been more aggressive. Our defense had been good all day, but you knew Brady had a length-of-the-field drive in him -- so it didn’t surprise me at all when he took them down at the end.”

Put differently: even Jones knew this was doomed.

Week 6 Recap

On Monday, Garrett explained the offensive game plan, particularly the decision turtle up.

"When you look at it, what we were trying to do was really just manage the situation," Garrett said. "Certainly, in that case, you want to make a first down; you want to end the game right there. But we just felt like it was important at that time to try to run the ball, get the clock moving, force them to use their timeouts, and then hopefully get yourself in a manageable third-down situation where you can run it or you can throw it and try to end the game right there by making a first down. Hopefully, you execute the plays early in that sequence to get yourself in a manageable third down. We didn't do that."

No, no you didn't.

By the way, remember back in 2008, when Garrett, then an up-and-coming coordinator with the Cowboys, turned down head coaching gigs with the Ravens and Falcons? Think he regrets that now? Think the Ravens and Falcons regret it? 

Rex Grossman, QB, Redskins. The issue isn't that Grossman tossed four interceptions in Washington's loss to division-rival Philadelphia Sunday. Or that he completed 41 percent of his attempts, or that his passer rating was 23.7 (he's done worse -- on three different occasions!). It's the idea that anybody with a passing interest in football would be surprised that we saw BAD REX.

Before replacing Donovan McNabb for the final quarter of the 2010 season, Grossman never had a passer rating above 75.0 for a season. He also has 46 career touchdowns to 49 career interceptions. If there was ever a case for a game-managing quarterback to get out of his own way long enough for the defense to keep things close, the Redskins are it. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett's unit is a top-5 defense, an effort that was wasted on Grossman Sunday.

But that's part of the problem -- there are no warning signs that BAD REX is on his way. He just shows up, unannounced, wreaking havoc and ruining seasons. And before there's a chance to make a change, the damage is done.

Of course, you could also argue that head coach Mike Shanahan had no business putting Grossman on the field in the first place. When Kurt Coleman, the safety for an Eagles' defense that has been ridiculed for much of the season, intercepts Grossman three times and admits later that "I was able to read Rex all day … I had a great feeling for where he was going to all of his wide receivers," it's probably time to switch things up.

Is it too early to start talking about an undefeated season with the Packers? Is it time for Christian Ponder to take over in Minnesota? Pete Prisco joins Lauren Shehadi to answer those questions and more.

Shanahan might just do that. Then again, he might not. "I believe in Rex, and I believe in [backup QB] John Beck," Shanahan said Monday. "I told you that from Day 1. Both guys, I'm hoping, are going to be here for a long time. … I've been around quarterbacks in the National Football League for a long time, and I know these guys have got what it takes."

That last sentence, perhaps more than any other Shanahan has uttered since taking the 'Skins job, should worry fans most. Because even if there's a hint of truth to the notion that a former first-round flop and a guy who last started an NFL game in 2007 "have what it takes," Washington is in worst shape than we thought.

This could be good news for the 2-4 Eagles, who may not have to worry about the Cowboys (2-3) or the Redskins (3-2) in the NFC East. Both teams seem to be doing a fine job of blowing up their seasons without any assistance.

Miami Dolphins passing offense. Head coach Tony Sparano isn't long for Miami. If that wasn't the case before the Dolphins' Week 5 bye, it is now, after watching what transpired on Monday night against the Jets. If Miami could've scraped together even a mildly awful offense they might've won that game. Instead, we were treated to something a particularly sadistic Mike Martz might draw up in an effort to get his quarterback maimed.

It would be easy to just point the finger at Matt Moore and move on. But he was put in a lose-lose situation (and he delivered), replacing an injured Chad Henne in an offense that was so inept that, by comparison, Mark Sanchez occasionally looked competent.

Dolphins wide receiver Brandon Marshall made some mid-week comments about playing with so much passion he'd probably be ejected by the second quarter of Monday's game.

Neither passion nor ejection happened, though Marshall spent the evening dropping passes (including his fifth dropped touchdown pass on the season), along with just about everybody else on the roster -- Brian Hartline, Charles Clay and Devone Bess even mixed in a fumble.

It didn't help that Moore seemed to seek out Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who ended the night with two interceptions, including a pick-six early in the game that should've given the Dolphins a 6-0 lead at worse (and just about any other team would've been up 14-0 against a reeling Jets outfit). But Moore could have been serviceable if he'd just gotten some help from his pass-catchers. Or the Dolphins pass-rushers, who barely touched Sanchez all night. Or cornerback Sean Smith, who looked like a Miami wideout when he dropped a Sanchez pass in the end zone.

We suppose it was only fitting that the game ended on a Moore sack. Though we wouldn't have been surprised if it had been an incomplete pass.

Minnesota Vikings pass rush. The Vikings are one of the best pass-rushing teams in the league. So, naturally, they were absolutely stymied against the Bears Sunday night. This is the same Bears team that couldn't protect Jay Cutler from tackling dummies in previous weeks. But Sunday, he had gobs of time to find receivers and dutifully played his part in running up the score.

"It's humiliating," Vikings defensive end Brian Robison said. "It's the only word I can think of right now. It's simply humiliating."

"Embarrassing," cornerback Asher Allen added. "After the way we played last week and to have the progress we thought we were making, this came out of nowhere."

It really did. Not so much Minnesota's offense -- we all know that there are plenty of issues there, starting with the quarterback situation. But the inability to get to Cutler (a guy who spends most Sunday's frowning and running for his life who not only looked comfortable in the pocket against the Vikings, but absolutely upbeat about the prospects of dropping back to throw) was a little more than troubling. 

It's one thing to bench McNabb for rookie Christian Ponder. That will quiet the masses, even if it may not have much of an impact on actually winning football games. But if Minnesota is going to be competitive, they'll need their defense -- particularly their pass rush -- to show up. We figured that went without saying. 

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Since: Dec 1, 2009
Posted on: October 20, 2011 10:16 am

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

Cuda, I'm not sure that it's entirely fair to blame Timbow because Denver management is startled every time the mass of Evangelicals stamp their feet as one. Until and unless he begins saying "Bless you, my son" at his pressers, anyway.

Since: Oct 17, 2011
Posted on: October 19, 2011 10:12 am

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

It is pretty easy to say that BAD REX showed up, and is going to ruin the rest of the season...because he is a BAD quarter back, its a more realistic situation to say that the real gamble is when is GOOD REX going to show up, game one and two...then games 3-16 will be failures. Get him out of there, or join the Suck for Luck race.

Since: Sep 11, 2007
Posted on: October 19, 2011 9:10 am

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

Coach killers?  The Vikings' defensive line?  Seriously?  I mean, maybe you didn't watch the game, but NOBODY (well, ok, except for AD, Harvin, and Cook) showed up to play Sunday night.  Pinning the loss on the DL is so ignorant it's arbitrary.  Maybe you want to think before you post next time.

Since: Oct 7, 2007
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:02 pm

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

i would truly like to see all these critics catch that back shoulder pass from Moore. Ball was thrown 100 mph behind marshall from 10 yds away, not an easy catch.. a good qb places that in front of him.. he had revis beat

Since: Aug 10, 2008
Posted on: October 18, 2011 8:23 pm

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

Where's Tim Tebow on the coach killer list?  Or are Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Brandon Lloyd his only victims yet?

Since: Apr 13, 2011
Posted on: October 18, 2011 5:46 pm

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

Mr. Wilson; I must ASSUME that you haven't watched the REST of Jason Garrett's "body of work" to date. Remembering that a coaches job is: to put players in a position to SUCCEED. Over the past four years as the OC he has instead consistently put them in a position to FAIL and then had the GALL to blame THEM for the failure! Case in point: in the blowout loss to  Minnesota, in an effort to beat the pass rush of speed rusher Jarrod Allen; Garrett called a pitchout. Not a bad play IF you use the RIGHT personnel. HOWEVER, the RB in the game at the time WASN'T Felix (at that time uninjured) Jones his FASTEST and most elusive RB of the three he had on the roster. The RB in the game was... Marion Barber; who was not only the SLOWEST RB on the roster to begin with, he was playing with a HOLE IN HIS THIGH! (A fact that Garrett HAD to have KNOWN.) When THAT play (like the REST of his game plan) failed his response after the game was? "WE failed to execute!" Many Cowboys fans who DO know something about the game have been tired of Mr. Garrett's ineptitude for over three years now. I for one am GLAD to see that Jerry Jones is FINALLY waking up to what WE are well aware of by this point! Do NOT assume that Garrett's play calling was prompted by anything morethan his own over reaction to Jerry's complaints LAST WEEK and his own FAILURE to take EITHER the situation, the opponents strengths and weaknesses OR the ACTUAL capabilities of his own personnel into account.

Since: Jun 3, 2007
Posted on: October 18, 2011 4:17 pm

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

So now in Dallas you have an owner who can't fully trust his Head coach and a Head Coach you can't trust his QB. I remember Garrett saying that Dallas would start playing "the cowboy way." Well.. he is certainly starting that legacy if the cowboy way is snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. ........At least they're consistent.

Since: May 22, 2008
Posted on: October 18, 2011 12:06 pm

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

Can  you actually say Romo is the culprate behind Garrett afterall he did throw all the picks the coach is forced to change up I dont know but yo have to wonder if he hadnt thrown 2 pick 6,s in the Detroit game the  leash might have been loser

Since: Aug 18, 2006
Posted on: October 18, 2011 11:41 am

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

If I were Sparano, I'd keep those sunglasses on at night to to hide the crying.

Since: Oct 18, 2011
Posted on: October 18, 2011 10:53 am

Coach Killers, Week 6: self-sabotage in Dallas

What quarterback are you watching?  He has 11 turnovers this year.  That's over two a game.  We are winning inspite of Grossman but for how long?

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