NFL: Cowboys’ problems not on the field

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett has once again come under fire as his team dropped their match to Baltimore this morning. A defensively strong Cowboys unit couldn’t stop the Ravens in defense and on special teams, as they walked away with their 14th straight home win. For Dallas, it must be seen as a huge learning curve, and a missed opportunity.

There were a couple of key catalysts that broke apart the Cowboys hopes for a fairy-tale win at M&T Bank Stadium. The most important perhaps, was time management.

After being gifted another life with the recovery of an onside kick late in the last, QB Tony Romo completed a pass to Dez Bryant with 20 seconds remaining in the game. He did not go out of bounds, and therefore the clock kept ticking down, and the offense were sluggish in getting to the line after Bryant argued the call.

They could have called their last timeout then and there, and then gone for the air and sideline to get kicker Dan Bailey closer. They could have spiked the ball and made another attempt to get into safer field goal territory, but they didn’t. Instead Garrett called time with just 5 seconds remaining, so that Bailey could attempt a 51 yard field goal. Up until today, his longest attempt was just 39 yards.

Like the Cowboys seem to do, they lost another winnable game. Their fans must be suffering from induced bi-polar disorder after the last few season. For today’s game, you cannot blame the kicker, you can’t blame the offense, or the defense as all played really quite well.

The Cowboys ran the football today, and it was a beautiful thing to watch. A huge 227 yards of powerful, patient and skilled running, and apart from handing the Ravens defense their largest running total allowed for some time, Dallas used four different backs throughout the course of the game.

DeMarco Murray was outstanding in the first half, however a foot injury curbed his influence in the second. Felix Jones then ran in the second half for 92 yards and a well earned TD. Cameos from Phillip Tanner and Lance Dunbar also came at much needed times.

Jason Witten found his mojo, and his hands. Dez Bryant caught two TDs but dropped the two point conversion to tie the game late in the fouth. Dez is Dallas’ barometer. However he plays, it seems, the Cowboys play. Unfortunately for Dallas, Bryant is a Jekyll & Hyde figure at Cowboys Stadium.

It seems that all the pieces are falling into place on field for the Cowboys. Yes, Romo is ageing, as is Witten and now DeMarcus Ware, but they will still be more than useful for years to come, and there are guys coming through. Bryant, Murray, Sean Lee, Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys, as a shell, are a competent unit.

So that leaves the coaching staff. Jason Garrett was brought in midway through 2010 after Wade Phillips was fired. It was an interim position that was filled by a former player and favourite son. They’re always harder to let go, and there will always be bitterness or resentment that follows. It’s not like an outsider that under performs where there is no prior connection. With Garrett, there is. This is a combination that will always go wrong. Especially for a team in the spotlight such as the Dallas Cowboys.

Jason Garrett in Baltimore. (Photo: Rob Carr/Getty Images North America)

His play calling and refusal (before today) to run the ball has confused many. Last week, he wrongly threw a challenge flag. Today he mucked up the time management late in a very winnable game.

Having no prior head coaching experience, it seems that owner Jerry Jones may have wanted Garrett to last only the remainder of the 2010/11 season. However, he impressed enough to get the full time contract.

For a team with the names that the Cowboys possess, a barely .500 winning record might not be good enough for Garrett moving forward. The Cowboys, by all preseason expectations, should have won against the Bears and Seahawks. Of course, their records this year are great – even surprising to some – but the Cowboys could also be in that position.

With Rob Ryan and Bill Callahan in the defensive and offensive coordinating roles respectively, Dallas may just need a head coach with experience to match for them to take the next step and become a great team. They have the cattle, excuse the pun, sometimes the brains trust is just a little bit behind.

Matt Walsh is a first year Bachelor of Journalism (Sport) student at La Trobe University, Melbourne. Find his Twitter: @MattWalshMedia

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