Jason Garrett's decision to punt rather than go for it on 4th-and-1 last night is drawing heavy criticism today. The overtime loss to the Houston Texans has put the Cowboys head coach in the crosshairs perhaps more than ever before, and even his owner and quarterback have had their say.
We've broken down Garrett's decision plenty already. You can click here for Kevin Brady's statistical analysis of the move, or here for my opinion of Jason's choice and the Cowboys' current overall direction.
Now, let's look at what Jerry Jones and Dak Prescott have had to say about the head coach's decision. What do these comments tells us about Garrett's support and job security as of today?
First, courtesy of CBS Sports' Ryan Wilson, here's what Jason himself said about his choice:
"Yeah, it was a long one," he said after the game. "You know, we had a 3rd-and-2 and we didn't make much on it and we just felt like at that point in the game, the way our defense was playing, the idea was to pin them down there."
Again, you can check out my article earlier today for what I think of Garrett's logic there. While there's some merit to what he said about the issues with the running game yesterday, the situation was just the wrong time to stop trusting your best players.
In overtime, in opposing territory, it wasn't a time to shy away from risk. We've seen Jason make aggressive calls before, but last night he shrunk back.
His boss didn't agree.
Cowboys Jerry Jones on Garrett not going for it on 4th-&-1: 'Not second-guessing, But ... We just were being outplayed. It's time for risk at that particular time.'
Sorry Jerry, but that IS second-guessing.
The Cowboys' owner and general manager was right to do so. Most onlookers, both fans and professionals, criticized the move at the time and certainly have in hindsight.
During his post-game comments with media, QB Dak Prescott was asked if he'd have gone for it:
"Yeah, I mean, I would but in that case you don't question the coach's decision..."
Sorry Dak, but you just did.
The three most important professional relationships for any NFL head coach are with his owner, general manager, and his starting quarterback. In the Cowboys organization, 2/3 of that is Jerry Jones and some combination of Stephen Jones and Will McClay.
We know Garrett has a strong bond with the front office, but this is now his eighth full season as the team's head coach. The goodwill built from the playoffs runs in 2014 and 2016 is wearing off quickly.
Jason hasn't been able to help a lot of the team's problems during his tenure. He inherited a bad cap situation. If anything, keeping the team at 8-8 during those early rebuilding years was impressive.
Garrett also didn't have anything to do with major injuries or suspensions to key players. Dallas has had their fair share of these problems since 2011.
But last night, the head coach made the call. He didn't put faith in his star running back, All-Pro offensive linemen, or his starting QB to go make a 4th-and-1 play. He went conservative.
Some would even argue he went scared.
When a coach is close to being fired, you'll start hearing stuff like "players have tuned him out" or "he's lost the locker room." I don't think we're there yet with Jason Garrett.
But last night didn't help on any level. Jason made the wrong move and has been called out, however politely, by both his owner and his starting QB for it.
Those decisions having last effects. Players remember when a coach didn't put faith in them. You could argue that he did put faith in the defense, but even some of them are likely disappointed in his choice.
Don't get me wrong; I like Jason. He seems like a genuinely good person and a great leader. But too often, and for too long, we've seen him make the wrong move with football strategy. We've seen him waver too much between conservative and aggressive, and many times leaning the wrong way.
No matter what else happens this year, I don't think Jerry would fire Garrett in the middle of the season. He's not handing the job to proven head-coaching failures like Scott Linehan or Rod Marinelli, and Kris Richard isn't vaulting from a position coach to the big chair.
But with the team seeming to regress from its 2016 success, Jason's methods and leadership are rightfully questioned. And if Jerry and Dak's comments are any indication, he may be starting to lose the support of his most important allies.
Cowboys, Redskins Week 7 Injury Report
Though it's still early in the 2018 season, the lead in the NFC East is up for grabs when the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins meet this Sunday. Both teams would like their full roster available for the game, but the Week 7 injury reports indicate that won't be the case.
Here are the players either confirmed to be out of action tomorrow or are otherwise listed by Dallas and Washington:
- WR Tavon Austin (groin) - OUT
- LB Joe Thomas (foot) - OUT
- CB Chidobe Awuzie (ankle) - Questionable
The Cowboys are getting healthier, with Sean Lee finally off the injury report and set to return to action. Not only will Dallas get their elite linebacker back, but it means a deeper rotation while the team remains without Joe Thomas.
Tavon Austin elected to skip season-ending surgery on his injured groin, but his should be out a few weeks. That will put Cole Beasley on punt returns and perhaps create more offensive opportunities for Deonte Thompson and Brice Butler.
Awuzie remains limited in practice but has played the last few weeks despite the ankle injury. There is no reason to think he won't suit up in Washington.
- WR Jamison Crowder (ankle) - OUT
- WR Paul Richardson (shoulder, knee) - Doubtful
- S Troy Apke (hamstring) - Doubtful
- RB Adrian Peterson (ankle, shoulder) - Questionable
- RB Chris Thompson (rib, knee) - Questionable
- G Shawn Lauvao (calf) - Questionable
- CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) - Questionable
- CB Danny Johnson (forearm) - Questionable
It's a rough time for Washington's offensive weapons. They will definitely be without slot receiver Jamison Crowder and likely starter Paul Richardson, who current lead all WRs in receptions. Josh Doctson will put into a major role, as will veteran Brian Quick off the bench.
Peterson and Thompson both practiced this week and should play, but have nagging injuries that could slow them down. Washington is already missing Rob Kelley and rookie Derrius Guice, who are both on injured reserve.
Starting left guard Shawn Lauvao is also nursing a lower leg injury, but practiced in a limited capacity all week. His backup is undrafted rookie Casey Dunn out of Auburn.
In the defensive backfield, starting CB Quinton Dunbar was a Friday addition to the injury report with a shin injury. He did practice with it, though, so will likely play. Backup safety Troy Apke is doubtful with a hamstring issue.
Cowboys Focused on Improved Communication to Solve Road Woes at Redskins
The Dallas Cowboys are 0-3 on the road this season. Not only do you already know this, but they do as well, needing to build off a 40-7 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 6 at AT&T Stadium to claim first place in the NFC East at the Washington Redskins.
Although the Cowboys were given Monday and Tuesday off, they are focused on addressing one alarming reason why the team has struggled so much on the road -- particularly on offense.
Running Back Ezekiel Elliott pointed out the Cowboys lack of communication in early season losses at Carolina, Seattle, and Houston. "Seeing the same thing," was the issue Elliott addressed when discussing the Cowboys knowing their assignments in hostile territory.
Yesterday, Quarterback Dak Prescott told the media of a meeting between players and coaches that addressed this specifically.
Dak Prescott said players & coaches held a meeting before today's practice to "address the elephant in the room," which is poor communication among the offense on the road. "I know we'll take a lot from that conversation," The QB said.
Unlike Prescott's remarks about new "wrinkles" in the Cowboys offense prior to a 26-24 home win over the Lions, this has a tangible sign of progress for an offense that made scoring 40 on the Jaguars look impossibly easy. The Cowboys season high in total yards remains the 414 amassed against Detroit, after which Prescott confessed that he simply tells the media "things" that aren't necessarily true.
The Cowboys didn't necessarily do anything new against the Lions, but they most assuredly will this week against the Redskins, at least by way of signaling and remaining in sync on offense.
Prescott and Elliott's leadership is on full display here, and their on-field impact can be attributed as closely to the Cowboys successes or failures as any duo in the NFL.
Missing is a similar impact from Center Travis Frederick, who remains sidelined as he deals with GSB.
Joe Looney's play at center has been good enough to pave the way for Elliott's 586 rushing yards so far, second to Todd Gurley at 623 yards, but his ability to call checks for the offense is understandably much more limited.
Looney deserves all the credit in the world for his strong play in place of Frederick. The Cowboys have never asked for him to be anything he isn't, a reliable depth option that earned a second contract and with it the starting center job for the time being in Dallas.
He has the full support of his teammates, Frederick included. All of this is lovely to put down in writing until Looney and the Cowboys have been forced to step on the field with the crowd against them and attempt to sustain a drive, something Frederick will unfortunately not be a part of for a long while.
If the Cowboys offense isn't going to unveil new wrinkles in the scheme, there is one wrinkle worth mentioning that's new to the team's communication on offense this season. With Offensive Coordinator Scott Linehan up in the box, his play calls are sent down to first-year Quarterback Coach Kellen Moore, who has been in the ear of Prescott ever since playing with him from 2016-17.
Sure, these are things that could've been addressed before the Cowboys managed only eight points in week one, turned the ball over three times in week three, or punted away their best chance at victory in week five. The best teams in the league likely already have these things down to routine, and few would consider the Cowboys anywhere near the upper echelon of the NFL.
Following sixty minutes of football at a division rival they've won four in a row against, with an even more impressive five game win streak at the Redskins, the Cowboys could control their own path atop the NFC East.
That feels truly incredible for such a young team faced with a steep learning curve early in the season, adjusting to it on the fly as they prepare to leave everything on the field before a bye week.
#WASvsDAL: Why This Game Holds Increased Importance
It feels incredibly cliche to call the week 7 match-up between the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins a "must win." Especially for someone like me who values statistics, logic, and analytics in sports.
But when the analytics agree with the narratives, those narratives do tend to get my attention. And this week that would appear to be the case.
According to Brian Burke of ESPN, the Cowboys's week 7 game has the highest playoff probability leverage in the entire NFC, and is second to only the Houston Texans' big game with Jacksonville around the entire league.
Playoff leverage for week 7. DAL, WAS, PHI, CAR, MIN, CHI with a lot on the line in the NFC. HOU, CIN, and JAX in the AFC.
What does this mean? Well playoff probability leverage is pretty intuitive. Basically it is the difference between a win this week and a loss this week in terms of probability to make the playoffs.
For the Cowboys that number is at 27%, with a win over Washington catapulting their playoff probability over 50%. On the other hand, a loss would take a big hit to their playoff hopes just 7 games into the NFL season.
As you might expect, this game means a lot to the Redskins' playoff probability as well. Their playoff leverage this week is at 14%, but a win would mean "more" to Dallas than Washington based on the probabilities.
Fellow NFC East foe, the Philadelphia Eagles, also have a lot to gain/lose this Sunday, with their leverage sitting at 22%. According to Burke's model, the Eagles and Cowboys have the best chances of making the playoffs at this point, but if each team wins Sunday the Eagles will still have a higher percentage.
Of course a lot can and will change week to week, despite what the metrics say. The Cowboys still have two games remaining with the NFC East favorite Eagles this year, and will get another crack at Washington at home later in the season. Plus the Cowboys have a few NFC wild card and playoff contenders remaining on their schedule, such as the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. (Yes, the 2-4 Falcons are very much alive in this crazy conference).
Still, the difference between 4-3 (2-0 in the division) and 3-4 (1-1 in the division) is huge, as is shown by Brian Burke's playoff probability leverage metric.
Star Blog2 weeks ago
If Jason Garrett’s Out, Who’s In? Potential HC Candidates
Star Blog7 days ago
Should the Dallas Cowboys Trade for These 2 Oakland Raiders?
Player News2 weeks ago
Leighton Vander Esch Lands on List of NFL’s Top 10 Rookies
Star Blog1 week ago
Is Jason Garrett Losing the Cowboys Locker Room?
Player News5 days ago
Oakland Raiders’ Wide Receiver Amari Cooper On the Trade Block
Dallas Cowboys5 days ago
Report: Jason Garrett “Not Going Anywhere” with Possible Extension Coming Soon
Game Notes1 week ago
Jaylon Smith Looks Healthy, And The NFL Should Be Terrified
Player News4 days ago
Michael Gallup Showing Signs of a Breakout