Jason Garrett defends Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after woefully inept start
The Cowboys are struggling offensively and there's plenty of blame to go around
Two seasons after Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott powered the Cowboys to the NFC's top seed, the Cowboys offense is sputtering. Through the first three games of the season, the Cowboys have scored the second-fewest points (13.7 per game) and gained the third-fewest yards (277.7 per game). As a result, they're sitting at 1-2 with a minus-12 point differential.
Despite their struggles, the Cowboys aren't considering making any major changes to the offense. At least that's what Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said on Monday, a day after their 24-13 loss to the Seahawks. He's not considering replacing his playcaller, offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.
"I think it would be false for me to say this is about playcalling," Garrett said, per ESPN's Todd Archer. "This is about everything we're doing offensively, we have to do better. We have to coach better. We have to play better. We have to run it better. We have to throw it better. We have to protect better. We have to do all the things good offenses do and we have to do all of those things better."
Linehan has been with the Cowboys since 2014, when he served as the team's passing-game coordinator. Since 2015, he's been the offensive coordinator. With Linehan as the architect of the Cowboys' offense, they've finished fifth, 31st, fifth, and 14th in scoring. His job moving forward is apparently safe.
"We're not going to go down that road right now," Garrett said. "I have a lot of confidence in Scott Linehan. He's been an outstanding coordinator in this league for a long time. He's been an outstanding coordinator for us. And he's been an outstanding playcaller for us.
"What we need to do is get better on offense and we have to constantly look at ourselves as coaches first at the positions we're putting our players in with our game plans."
Nobody should be surprised the Cowboys are struggling to score points. Their top pass-catcher in terms of targets is Elliott, but Elliott's averaging 3.4 yards per catch. Their top pass-catcher who's actually a receiver is Cole Beasley (12 catches for 132 yards). He's trailed by Deonte Thompson (nine catches for 83 yards). All throughout draft season, after the Cowboys cut Dez Bryant and watched Jason Witten retire, most pundits predicted that they'd use their first-round pick on a receiver. Instead, they picked linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, even with receivers like D.J. Moore and Calvin Ridley still on the board.
The Cowboys don't have any weapons outside of Elliott, who is averaging a career-best 5.7 yards per carry. Since his electric rookie year, Prescott hasn't continued his ascent. Of course, it doesn't help that he's got no legitimate threats to target downfield. Personnel is one reason why the Cowboys' offense has stalled. Another reason is Prescott himself.
But that doesn't mean the playcaller should be absolved of blame. According to Warren Sharp, the Cowboys have been the fourth-most run-heavy team in the first half, running the ball on first down 61 percent of the time with a 40 percent rate of success, which is leading to long yardage second and third down situations. Sharp goes deep into the Cowboys' offensive issues below and it's definitely worth a watch:
In short, there's plenty of blame to go around. Prescott hasn't been good. Linehan hasn't been helping Prescott be good with his play-calling. And Garrett deserves blame because he's the offensive-minded head coach who used to be the Cowboys' playcaller. He might not be calling the plays anymore, but this is his offense.
Next up for the Cowboys is a home game against the Lions. It's only Week 4, but it's already starting to feel like a must-win kind of game for the Cowboys. At the very least, they need to show signs of life on the offensive side of the ball. Otherwise, they're likely dead in the NFC East.
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