Move over, Andy Reid. There’s a new NFC East game management bungler in town. 31 games into Jason Garrett’s head coaching career, and the end of half gaffes are adding up. Let’s just get right to them:
Pre-Garrett as the head coach – The Tashard Choice debacle at the end of the first half, Week 1, 2010, Redskins
Week 1, 2010, Cowboys at Redskins, Redskins leading 3-0, 2nd Quarter, :04 left on the clock, Cowboys ball on their own 36. What do you do if you’re Dallas? If you’re sane, you kneel on the football, write off a crappy first half of football, and try to regroup. What did the Cowboys do? They called a Hail Mary… from 64 yards away! Mistakes #1 and #2 go to Jason Garrett for calling the play, and head coach Wade Phillips for not saying “Are you serious? Kneel on the football.”
Tony Romo drops back to pass, the Redskins get a little bit of a pass rush, and the play is cooked. Rather than aborting the play, sliding down and heading into the locker room, Romo commits mistake #3. He throws this weird, totally ill-advised backhanded lateral shovel pass to Choice, which was insanely risky (stupid) considering there was basically no reward whatsoever. And then of course, Choice commits the final mistake as he gets mugged by DeAngelo Hall, who rips the ball free, scoops it up and runs in for a back-breaker of a TD with no time left on the clock. 10-0 Redskins going into the half, eventually winning the game, and setting the stage for an abysmal Cowboys season.
Garrett’s 1st game – End of the 2nd half, Week 10, 2010 Giants
1st and 10 at their own 37. Tony Romo hands to Felix Jones, who gets 9. Cowboys now out to their own 46. With a 2nd and 1, the Cowboys should be aggressive and hurry up. Nope. Jones is tackled with 1:13 left, the Cowboys huddle up, and don’t get the next snap off until there’s 47 seconds left. 26 seconds in between plays while the clock is running. That’s terrible. The Cowboys run, pick up a few, and get the first down out to 49, and burn their first timeout.
On first and 10, Jon Kitna checks down to Jones, who is tackled in bounds at the Giants’ 49 with 37 seconds left. The Cowboys still have two timeouts, but the clock keeps rolling. They don’t huddle up this time, but it still takes them 21 seconds to get the next play off with 16 seconds to go. Roy Williams makes the catch at the 44 and is tackled in bounds. Cowboys call timeout #2 with 10 seconds.
After a false start, the Cowboys call what looks like a Hail Mary of sorts from the Giants’ 49. They call this despite needing just 15 yards to get into realistic FG range. Kitna gets pressure, then throws it away.
With two seconds left and a 1-7 record, instead of trying a Hail Mary, the Cowboys kneel it. What?!?
Perhaps Garrett was still thinking about the Tashard Choice debacle and letting it affect his better judgement?
Garrett’s 10th game – End of regulation, Week 2, 2011, 49ers
With the Cowboys down 3, and 4:03 left to play, the Cowboys drive 35 yards down to the 49ers’ 28 yard line. In the process, they take more than 3 minutes off the clock. Then, for some reason they line up Miles Austin in the backfield as a RB and pitch him the ball on 3rd and 2. Because when you absolutely have to have that crucial first down with the game on the game, you have to pitch it to your fragile WR. Odd play call. Austin fumbles, but the Cowboys are fortunate to recover it before kicking the game-tying FG.
Garrett’s 20th game – End of regulation, Week 13, 2011, Cardinals
With the score tied, the Cowboys are driving. They have 2 timeouts and are facing a 3rd and long in a hurry-up situation, which they convert to Dez Bryant with 25 seconds left down to the Cardinals’ 31. Time out! Time out! Right? Tick tick tick… Time out!!!! TIME EFFING OUT!!!!! Nope. Garrett is content to kick a 49 yarder instead of trying to pick up additional yardage for an easier attempt.
The clock ticks down to :07, when Tony Romo spikes the ball. Garrett sends out Dan Bailey to kick the long game winner, then proceeds to call a timeout just before the snap. Bailey’s kick is good, but it doesn’t count.
On the re-try, Bailey misses. Unreal.
Garrett’s 29th game – End of the first half, Week 6, 2012, Ravens
0:35 to go. Cowboys trailing by 7. The Ravens just squib kicked the ball after scoring a TD, which Lawrence Vickers returns to the 30 yard line. The Ravens and Cowboys each have 1 timeout.
Assuming you trust your QB not to make a dumb decision and throw a pick, the worst case scenario here is that you throw an incomplete pass, stopping the clock. You can still simply just run the ball twice, burning off the Ravens’ remaining timeout on the first run, and then taking it to halftime with the second run.
What do the Cowboys do? With their best runner out, they run the ball out of the shotgun formation with their backup RB, which goes nowhere, and take it to the locker room. What?!?
The Cowboys employ Tony Romo, Dez Bryant, Miles Austin, and Jason Witten, who to my knowledge are all healthy. Granted, the OL has not played well this season, but so far in this game, they had. This line of play calling is either extremely conservative, or an indication of a complete lack of trust in your offense.
I have no data to back up the following claim, but I have to believe that the likelihood of getting 40 yards in 0:35 with one timeout and kicking a FG far outweighs the likelihood of some kind of turnover and points going the other way. I can see if the Cowboys were playing with the lead against a bad team or something, but not when you have a 7 point deficit and the opposing team’s best CB is out of the game.
Take a shot.
Garrett’s 29th game – End of regulation, Week 6, 2012, Ravens
Cowboys down 2. After covering an onsides kick, the Cowboys get a pass interference call, which stops the clock and puts them at the Ravens 33 with 26 seconds to go. Cowboys have 1 timeout. Romo hits Bryant for a gain of 1, but he’s tackled in bounds with 21 seconds left. Tick tick tick. It’s not like the Cowboys have to run down the field here. The referees spot the ball, and the Cowboys players just kind of stand around looking at each other. Spike it! Tick tick tick… EFFING SPIKE IT!!! Tick tick…
The clock runs all the way down to 5 seconds, and the Cowboys call time out, content to set up for a long FG attempt instead of trying to get more yards.
Miss. Game. Fail.
Garrett’s 31st game – End of regulation, Week 8, 2012, Giants
2nd and 1, ball on the Giants 19, Cowboys down 5, 1:23 to go, Cowboys have all 3 time outs. Incomplete to Witten. OK, no problem. It’s 3rd and 1 now. The Giants are going to be playing the pass, so get the 1st down. If you score quickly, fine. If some clock runs along the way, even better.
What do the Cowboys do? Deep ball to Kevin Ogletree? Seriously? Even if you score there, you’re giving the ball back to Eli Manning with more than a minute to go. He’s only been converting those situations over the last two years like he’s Joe Montana.
4th and 1, another pass. INT. The Cowboys would wind up getting the ball back and almost pulling off a miraculous win, but this was extremely questionable play calling, to say the least.