Cowboys second-year cornerback Morris Claiborne is in a bad way right now because he’s lost his confidence and can’t cover anyone. This is the same player that Jerry Jones said reminded him of Deion Sanders after the Cowboys moved up eight spots in the first round to select him.
But Claiborne made one of the cardinal errors in sports Tuesday when he offered a lame and pathetic excuse for his poor play. He blamed his problems on the Cowboys’ scheme change.
“Now we’re basically a zone team,” he said on his weekly show on ESPNDallas 103.3 FM. “You have to play within that zone. Everything is new to everybody. When guys come in and hit those big dig routes in between the zones, then of course the corner’s there, so they’re going to say, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the corner.’
“It’s still a transition. When we were in press, just faced man-to-man, they only hit one ball on me. But overall, I think all my big plays come within the zone.”
Claiborne may be exactly right on some of this, but this is no time to offering explanations. I’ll give Claiborne a little grace because he’s playing through a shoulder injury. But when you start bringing up scheme changes, that’s the quickest way to get yourself in trouble with with coaches and teammates. And I don’t think fans care for that type of anything either.
What I hope happened today at Valley Ranch is that Garrett called Claiborne into his office and told him to keep his thoughts to himself. All Claiborne did was make a bad situation worse.
I turned on a national TV show Wednesday and saw the headline “Clai-BURN” on the bottom of the screen. This isn’t a guy who needs to be offering alibis. He was asked Tuesday if his confidence has suffered.
“I feel like it’s high, but it’s not where it needs to be to be able to play corner,” Claiborne said. “We’re not the type of team that we were last year. We’re not assigned (receivers) and you go wherever he goes, you follow him wherever he goes, and that’s your man. We’re not in that. We don’t do that anymore.”
Claiborne has the ability to be a successful cornerback in this for many years. But hopefully he learns a hard lesson that you can’t blame poor play on scheme changes unless you want to develop a bad reputation. By every statistical measure (Pro Football Focus), Claiborne has been one of the worst corners in the league this season.
But we’re only four games into this thing. He could pick off Peyton Manning this Sunday and quickly regain his confidence.
What he has to do immediately is stop offering excuses. This scheme requires a corner to be physical with wide receivers and make tackles in the open field. If he doesn’t like that, Orlando Scandrick will continue to enjoy taking his spot in the starting lineup.